Shana was seated on our worn down tufted gold couch when I came in. Our language was a familiar one of grunts, glances and shrugs. Her boyfriend sat nearby holding the remote, flipping through noise on the TV.
“Hey” she said as I closed the door behind me and started shedding layers. I set my bags on the counter next to a mass of dirty dishes. She hollered through the doorway, “I talked to Alicia. Her mom said Emily was in an accident on the way home. Pretty minor I think.”
The blood drained from my face and my knees weakened. My heart was thumping in the back of my throat. Something’s off. Something’s wrong. I fished my phone from my purse and hurried to my bedroom at the back of our duplex. 3202862595. I had been calling that blue house on Linden Avenue for 12 years. Her parents and sisters would tell me everything was fine.
“Hel… lo?” a voice cracked.
“Margaret?” I asked, “I heard something happened. Is Emily home?
Maybe she was injured, I thought. Maybe she’s in the hospital. They’d probably take her to the St. Cloud Hospital and we’re right here. We can meet you there, I thought. She broke her leg. She hit her head maybe. We’re just a few miles away. We’ll meet you there if something happened. Did something happen? She’ll see us first. Two of her best friends and we’ll be right there, the first ones there. She won’t be by herself for more than ten minutes. We’ll leave now I thought. Don’t worry, I thought.
The little sister on the other end of the phone let out a sob. It was the first sob. “She didn’t make it. It was icy and the Sheriff is here.”
“What. What. What?” There were no other words. Margaret hung up the phone. I sat on a pile of laundry. Stared at the wall. No feelings. No thoughts. Just stared at the mauve stripe on the taupe wall.
My head shifted toward the living room; I could almost see through the 15 layers of paint and ill-patched drywall. Those people needed to know too. We had to be the ones to tell everyone else. The bearers of bad news.
I wandered through the short hallway and stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. The floor slanted in that spot. There was an iron-shaped brown hole in the carpet, an unfortunate accident from a few weeks prior. I was a ghost. Some sounds came out that must’ve formed words. She sobbed. He hugged her. I stood there, cold and shaking.
Someone drove us to our hometown. Her funeral filled the high school gymnasium. It was the first time since fifth grade that any of them had seen me cry.
It was 11 years ago. She’s been gone for almost as many years as I knew her.
I hate November.