"What do you aspire to be?"
The odd question echoed over the noise in Sasha's head.
Raina waited as patiently as a therapist.
Sasha waited too. She tucked her errant curls behind her ears. She crossed her legs under the table. She waited for an answer to come. The question made her want to laugh. Aspire? I'm not sure I remember the meaning of the verb.
Raina finished waiting. "You know I love you, right?"
She nodded. "That's usually what you say before you tell me I'm a fool."
"You're a fool."
She did laugh a little then, and it felt like the first time she'd breathed today.
"You made me promise to tell you when you're being a fool, ever since you almost switched universities to follow that chump Carter."
"Carter was not a chump."
"Carter couldn't spell chump."
Sasha stared at her chicken entree, fighting a smile.
"His brain tree was more of a shrub."
There was no helping the laughter now. She caught her breath. "Mother of pearl, he was hot though."
Raina smirked over her glass of iced tea. Drops of condensation fell to the table as she took a drink.
They sat on the patio of their favorite pub. Sasha had called the emergency convocation over her dilemma. When in doubt, consult Raina. It'd been her policy since sophomore year - the year of the infamous Carter. Raina never failed her in the seven years since.
"So, my fool of a friend, whats your answer?"
Sasha paused, her fork hovering at her lips. "Answer to what?"
"What do you aspire to be?"
"That's a job interview question."
Raina shook her head. The ends of her sleek amber hair swung in unison around the base of her neck. Her eyes moved from Sasha to the view across the street. A mist floated over the bay tonight, not thick enough to be called a fog. The oscillating lamp of the lighthouse cut through the mist to the open water. An empty fishing trawler, tied to the dock, bobbed on each swell and fall of the water in a hypnotic rhythm.
Her eyes still on the water, Raina said, "You asked me that question once. It was during finals week, first semester junior year."
"I did?" She couldn't summon the memory.
"It was during your annoying step-by-step planning phase."
She did remember that part. "I was not annoying," she objected even as she laughed knowingly.
Raina raised her eyebrows. "You planned everything. Everything. 'Nothing will happen if you don't make it happen!' That was your motto. It drove me crazy. One of the times I complained, you asked me what I aspired to be."
"I was clueless." Sasha shrugged.
"You were," Raina agreed without apology. "But you changed the course of my life."
"Don't be ridiculous."
Sasha took another bite. She watched her best friend, wondering what Raina was trying to convince her of with this claim. Raina was the poster girl for following your passions, naysayers be damned.
"I blew off your question but I couldn't get it out of my head over Christmas break. When I came back in January, I decided I'd had enough of the coasting I'd been managing since starting school. If you remember, that's when I switched over to the biomedical engineering program. So, yeah, changed the course of my life."
"I had no idea," Sasha said, mulling this over.
"Maybe you need to tap into that annoying, ambitious version of you from years ago. When's the last time you aspired to be what you actually want to be? That's all I'm asking. You don't even have to answer me, but promise you'll think about it as you make this decision."
"Good." Raina took another drink. Her voice still reflective, her eyes back on the mist over the bay, she said, "Carter really was hot. What do you think ever happened to him?"
Sasha lost her breath laughing.
Let's get back to basics, my friends. Specifically, the alphabet. I'll be writing a series of flash fiction pieces off of one word prompts, from A to Z. Enjoy! And if a word comes to mind for any upcoming letter, please make your suggestion and I'll consider it for a prompt.