Inspired by The Skeleton Song by Kate Nash. Since this is basically a fanfic, let's have a disclaimer: these characters are not mine and I'm not making money off them. Cool? Cool.
Everyone thought Kate was strange. She didn't look or act particularly strange, but someone who's friends with a skeleton can't be that normal, can they?
Everywhere they went, people would ask Kate about the skeleton.
"Is that a real?"
"Does he talk?"
"Why's he wearing clothes, then?"
"Where'd you find him?"
"How does he talk? Where's his voice box?"
"Don't you like real people?"
Kate didn't know how to make people understand that the skeleton was always kind to her. When her parents got divorced, the skeleton listened to her cry and patted her back with his bony hand. When the kids at school teased her and threw prestick in her hair, the skeleton would cut out the sticky mess with such care that you could barely see the difference, and soon they'd be laughing about buying a silly hat for every day of the week.
As she got older, Kate became more conscious of herself, and of her skeleton. She used to stick her tongue out when people sniggered at her friend without flesh - now she'd blush and edge away from him.
"What's with the bone-bag?" A boy called as they walked down the street, "if ya want a real boning you know where to look, sweetheart."
The skeleton simply pulled his spine a little straighter and ignored the calls. But Kate crossed her arms and wished the skeleton didn't insist they always walk together. Didn't he have any other friends?
After she left school, Kate realized that skeletons lived a long time. The indulgent smiles some strangers gave her happened less and less – a little girl or moody teenager with a skeleton for a friend might be seen as a phase. But after she'd grown out of pigtails and later out of black nailpolish, her skeleton began to look more and more like an ominous sign of upcoming spinsterhood.
At night, Kate would lie awake and wonder how different her life would be without the skeleton. She could walk down the road with nobody bothering her. She could go to the shops and not have to deal with the awkward explanations that every passer-by and curious shopkeeper forced her into.
One night, Kate was still awake as her room began to glow with pre-dawn light. She rolled over and stuffed her pillow over her head, as if that would drown out the voices in her memory, all those worries she wished she could do something about. She quickly thumped her head on a cold metal object - a hammer. Underneath her pillow? She hadn't the faintest idea how it'd gotten there.
She pushed it aside and curled up in her blankets. It wouldn't get any better, of course. She was twenty-two and couldn't even get a proper boyfriend with that skeleton hanging around all the time, his gaping eye sockets scaring away every guy who even thought about asking Kate out. What if she wanted to get married one day? What if she wanted kids - would the skeleton scare her babies? Would she finally snap, sleep deprived and protective, and tell him to go away and never come back?
But he wouldn't go away. She had tried, a few times in a flash of teenage anger, to scare him into leaving. But he would stick around, ambling outside her house, standing for hours on the street corner in front of her school, silently pining until her soft heart took him back. He couldn't leave, because he had nowhere else to go.
She was his only friend, she was his home.
Kate knew, somehow, that there was nothing left to do. She felt her hand groping blindly towards the splintered wooden handle of the hammer in her bed. It felt strong. Sure. Irreversible.
The skeleton would sleep in the sitting room of their little flat, often just leaning against a wall in the corner of the room. He had no possessions that were strewn about. He didn't even have a face that could go on a Missing Persons poster. Imagine, a skeleton on a milk carton - people would think it was a joke. Or a crass ad for healthy bones.
Before she knew it, Kate was in the hallway between her bedroom and the sitting room, the hammer held low against her thigh. She could barely see the skeleton but could tell that he was sleeping. Her palms began to sweat. She stood there a long time.
Though he had no lungs, she could hear him breathing. Sighing, she stepped softly back to her bed.
She lay, her eyes open and empty, waiting for the dawn to break.
Barely an hour later, Kate rushed out of the house with her hair up, and wearing the single smart blazer she owned. She had slipped out of the blankets (the hammer tossed under the bed, far from reach) and gotten ready in almost total silence, tiptoeing out of the house without even making herself coffee.
She was halfway down the road to the bus stop before she heard the sickeningly familiar clatter of jointless bones behind her.
"Kate, wait up!" called the skeleton.
Kate let out a sigh of defeat before turning around, "Hi."
"Morning!" panted the skeleton, catching up to her, "You gave me a fright when I woke up and you weren't at home! Lucky I just looked out of the window in time to see you crossing the road.”
Kate didn't have the energy to nod along. The skeleton's voice became tinged with nerves.
"Um, did they change the time of your job interview? I thought it was supposed to be at ten?" he asked.
"Oh no, they didn't change it - just - uh -" Kate's caffeine-deprived brain worked reluctantly, "I just wanted to head into town and - and do a bit of shopping before the interview."
"Well, why didn't you wake me up?"
"No, you were sleeping so - erm - peacefully."
"Alright well, no harm done. Let's go before we have to run after the six-thirty bus!" the skeleton marched ahead of her.
Kate followed, her shoulders slumped.
The city centre was full of people rushing to work. The skeleton looked around, "Looks like most of the shops aren't even open yet."
"Let's have some coffee."
"I don't drink coffee - "
"I KNOW. I just - you know what I meant." said Kate, rubbing her eyes and realising too late that she'd already put make-up on them. “Damn – am I smudged?”
“A little – on the bottom.” the skeleton answered.
“Right, thanks.” Kate traced a finger under each eye, as if she were wiping tears away.
They walked to a cafe where plenty of people queued for takeaways, but all the tables were free. The waitress completely ignored the skeleton, and was so desperate to be out of his reach that she took Kate's order whilst standing directly behind her.
"She was a bit rude," the skeleton mumbled once the waitress left, "She didn't even ask if I wanted anything."
It took quite some effort for Kate to remain quiet instead of pointing out that he didn't eat at all. By the time her coffee arrived (passed over her shoulders by the waitress' shaking hands) Kate could feel a headache coming on.
"Once we get there, could you wait outside the office building for me?" Kate said carefully as she took the last sip of her coffee.
"Well, it's hardly professional that a friend came with me to hold my hand in the interview."
"I suppose so. Okay then, I'll wait for you. Oh, I bet you're going to get the job, Kate! You'd be brilliant at it!"
"I'd be brilliant at data-processing?" Kate said with the ghost of an indulgent smile.
"Oh yes, of course you will! You're so smart." said the skeleton earnestly, "They're going to love you."
They came up to the little office building at a quarter to ten.
"Right, skeleton, just wait here - " said Kate.
"Oh look, they have a lobby! I'll wait inside shall I?" the skeleton walked in, "You know sometimes I get in trouble when I'm on my own." (Once, a gang of boys had strung him up on a telephone pole, and Kate had been in tears until the fire brigade was called to get him down.)
"Super..." Kate mumbled as she followed him. The skeleton settled himself into the farthest chair from the door. Kate came up to the reception desk, where a bottle-blonde woman in her forties stared fixedly at the skeleton.
"Good morning, Kraven and Katz..." the receptionist said absent-mindedly.
"Good morning -"
"Are you with that skeleton over there?"
"Yes, um, I'm here for -”
"Is that a real skeleton?"
"Yes, um, I was -"
"Is it a man or a woman?"
"He's a man," Kate tried to check the bitterness in her voice.
"Is he your -" the receptionist dragged her puffy eyes to Kate, "Is he a relation at all?"
"No, he's just a friend. My appointment's at -"
"How'd you become friends with a skeleton, anyway?"
"Oh, how does anyone become friends..." Kate gestured awkwardly in the air, "Just, you know, we met when we were kids, so..."
"How does he go to the toilet?"
"Well he must need the loo as he's alive and all. How does that work?"
Kate blushed and looked back at the skeleton - "He doesn't eat so, um..."
A woman in a smart navy blue suit came out of the door behind reception. She smiled and held out her hand, "Kate? I'm Lily, we spoke on the phone?"
"Yes, lovely to meet you." said Kate a bit too quickly, at first holding out the wrong hand and then clumsily trying to switch her bag over to her left hand and then dropping it to the floor.
In the kerfuffle the receptionist chimed in, "That skeleton over there's her friend. She says he doesn't go to the toilet!"
Twenty minutes later, Kate walked briskly out of the office building. The skeleton watched her zoom past before following. He felt the receptionist's eyes boring into him as he left.
"Kate?" he called after her.
"What? WHAT do you want to know?" she walked quickly down the wrong side of the road and did an abrupt hairpin turn, looking back at him, "It was horrible. All she did was ask questions about you. She didn't even look at my C.V.!"
"I'm sorry, Kate."
"Don't be sorry - you should have waited outside! Or better yet, at home! I don't remember even asking you to come anyway!"
She stormed past him. Though he had no eyes to brim with tears, she knew she had hurt him.
He let her walk on and on until she was out of sight. Realizing far too late that he didn't have any money for a bus ticket, he sighed and began the long walk home.
By lunchtime the skeleton's tired bones had come up to the house, and across the street he could see Kate's curtains drawn in her bedroom. He wondered if she had forgiven him, or if she even needed him anymore.
He was wondering what to say to her as he crossed the road. He didn't see the black car speeding around the corner towards him.
Kate had planned her small apology to the skeleton by the time she heard the bang of the impact and the crackling snaps of his bones. She looked outside and saw no blood on the street, only a crumbled pile of whiteness.
She was finally alone. Alone with the aching horror and gaping relief of losing her best friend.