The sum of all of her parts were held together by this carefully curated facade. I don't know what it was that initially drew her to me like a small child to a shiny object. Still don't. She had something real once when she still had her independence, when that independence was forced upon her. The girl got her nails dirty and had to work for what she wanted. Sometimes she couldn't get it at all. She suddenly understood what it means to give without hidden intent. She learned to be selfless for a moment. The self-entitlement that was rooted in her upbringing abated for a bit. There lit a small fire that burned brighter than it ever had. She developed an extreme hunger for all the things that she could no longer have.

And when this period of self imposed probation was over, she'd no sooner returned to her old life than a dreamer begs to continue dreaming.

When we met again I could hardly recognized her. My greeting was nervous and unsure. I was unable to exchange more than a couple substantial sentences between the alcohol, the smoke, and the general numbness of how easy things had become. The fire was out, but what took its place was an empty void that can only be filled with more emptiness, more instant gratification that fades as soon as the sun rises, shining on her haggard face. She no longer sees herself in the mirror but only the reflection in which she has recreated. She does not know that we all knew. Everyone knew, but they continue to amuse her.

She was a master at keeping the illusion going. She wanted everyone to see that she was 'living the life.' Even herself. I don't know where the lines blurred any more between reality and what she was working desperately to keep up. And I couldn't tell her because her very existence depended on us believing her illusions.

What's that old warning about how it's bad to wake a sleepwalker in the midst of their haunt? I was scared to wake her because I was scared to shatter her. Maybe I was scared that if she knew that I knew what she really was, we could no longer continue as friends because it was all a lie.

Deep down, we both knew that she was gone a long time ago.