I based this story off of Little Red Riding Hood. It's still a work in progress.
|What is the difference between being dead and missing? When you’re dead your loved ones know that you are gone and they can move on quicker. But when you’re missing, everything is uncertain. They are left with the light of hope that you might still be out there, just waiting to be rescued so that you can come back and be loved once again. They are left with the shadows of doubt that you will never return. But if you are out there, waiting, and you do return, nothing is really ever the same. They look at you differently; they treat you as if you are somebody else. Either way, their memory of you lives on, but for how long? Memories fade over time. You would be lost to them either way and their children will never know you. You would be forgotten only to be remembered in a photograph in somebody’s wallet. So which is better? To be dead or missing?
No, this couldn’t be happening. My car couldn’t have broken down. I didn’t want to walk to my grandma’s house in this rain. I didn’t even want to drive to get the chicken noodle soup from the store and drive to her house and visit with her. And what a day to forget my cell phone. If only I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get out, I would have remembered to grab it. Why did she have to have the flu? Why did it have to be raining? And to top it all off, I was starting to get a headache.
I zipped up my sweater and pulled up my hood. I forced myself to take the key out of the ignition and leave my dry car. Her house wasn’t too far away from here. There was enough light filtering through the clouds and scanty number of redwoods above my head. I locked my car behind me, even though I knew nothing worse could happen to it. Most people didn’t drive through this part of the forest. I had used it as a shortcut. The soup was still warm in my hands; it was a nice contrast from the cold pricks of water on my skin. I heard a car coming from behind me, so I moved off the road. The car slowed as it got closer. I turned to see what the driver wanted. It probably was a lost tourist, but what kind of people would come here in late February?
The passenger’s window rolled down as the car came to a complete stop. I looked in to see the driver’s face. I had seen him before, but I didn’t know where from and I didn’t know him very well. He asked, “Do you need ride somewhere?”
“My car broke down. I’m taking this soup to my grandma. She has the flu.” I held up the soup for emphasis. I tried to sound somewhat pleasant, but how pleasant could I be wet and cold?
“Where does she live? I’m sure I can just drop you off. Then you can call someone about your car.”
My conscience fought within my head. Either accept a ride from an almost complete stranger and call someone about my car at my grandma’s house or walk the rest of the way and get soaked. My aversion to all things wet and cold won; I hated the way the rain felt on my face, plastering my hair to my forehead. “Thanks. She lives just up this way.” I opened the passenger’s door and slid in. I squeaked on his leather seats and shut the door. The heater was on and felt nice. I pulled my hood off my head. It wasn’t going to rain in the car. I mustered a smile to show him my gratitude. He waited for me to put my seatbelt on and then we drove off.
She clutched the bundle of flyers filled with pictures of Cori to her chest wishing that it could bring Cori back. Fighting back her tears she read the top flyer for the tenth time in the past two hours. It read:
MISSING PERSON NAME: Cori Rowan Baine DOB: February 24, 1990 MISSING: February 25, 2009 HEIGHT: 5’0” WEIGHT: 95 lbs. EYES: Hazel HAIR: Blonde If you have any information please contact Allen or Maya Baine at…
She could not continue. Reading the information on the flyer would not bring Cori back. Posting them around the city might. If the right person saw the picture of Cori laughing, they would be able to recognize her, and then she would come back home and then… No, she stopped herself; Concentrate on posting the flyers. With the stapler in hand she stapled the top flyer to the phone pole. Allen was waiting for her patiently in the car. The rain was starting to pick up; she reluctantly opened the passenger’s door. She sat carefully and placed the stack of flyers in between Allen and herself. She looked out the windshield to the gray sky. It made her more depressed and Allen took notice. “We will find her, I promise, Maya. Gabe is waiting for us at home. We can put some more up tomorrow. The officers are coming over to talk again tonight.” She looked into his crinkled brown eyes; they too were fighting tears from a promise he did not know if he could keep. He leaned in to kiss her forehead and she let him.
He resituated himself to drive back to their two-story, three bedroom, and two and a half bathroom house in Trinidad, California. She turned the heater up just a little bit. It didn’t get past 44 degrees today, but that was usual for March.
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to think of the last time she saw Cori. Almost exactly one week ago. It was just a few hours before she disappeared. She had asked her to take some chicken noodle soup to her mom and to spend some time with her. Her mom was sick with the flu that week and she lived only forty-five minutes away in Klamath, thirty if there wasn’t any traffic. She would have gone herself, but she had to take Gabriel to his indoor soccer game. He was just learning how to drive; she didn’t feel comfortable letting him drive in the rain even though it was light. Cori had put up a fight, saying that she didn’t want to see a sick, old lady. She was always candid in that way. She grabbed the red hooded sweater she got for her birthday the day before and stomped out with the keys to her Maxima in hand. Things had been getting better lately; at least she didn’t yell or break anything. She knew something had gone wrong the moment she called her mom and discovered that Cori had not been by yet. Her right hand automatically drifted to the right side of her temples and started pressing hard circles. She habitually tucked her lips inside and bit them gently. It helped her calm down enough that she wouldn’t cry this time.
I traced my fingers over the people in the pictures again. I was trying so hard to remember. Any minute my dad could come in and take them away from me, telling me that I needed rest. But I didn’t want to rest. I wanted to remember my mother’s face in my own memory, not from these pictures. I wanted to remember every one of my first days of school. I wanted to remember my best friends. I wanted to remember the first time I kissed a boy. I wanted to remember what had happened to me to make me forget all of these wonderful memories. But I tucked the pictures under my mattress. Unpacked boxes lined up against the wall from our move. We were just finishing moving all of our boxes from our last house. No matter how hard or long I stared at the boxes, I still couldn’t remember.
I stood from my bed and walked over to my window. I cast the curtains away to see San Francisco’s morning hustle and bustle. Fog and the buildings across the street with people hurrying with handfuls of coffee as always. Or was it as always? I decided that I should take my shower now before my dad got up. I needed all the hot water I could get. I walked down the short hallway, past my dad’s room, to the bathroom we shared. First, I brushed my teeth extra hard to get rid of my morning breath. I spat out the extra toothpaste and rinsed out my mouth with water from my cupped hands. I dried off my mouth and took a shower. It was a longer shower today; I took more time lathering the grapefruit shampoo and conditioner into my hair than usual. Then I stood with the hot water pouring down my body. I was mesmerized by the way the rapid rivers slid down the plains of my body and collected into the pool at my feet. At some point I realized that I was wasting water, so I turned it off and dried myself.
I returned to my room in a towel and rummaged through my drawers until I found a comfy t-shirt. I put on my favorite sweat pants on, too. I pulled my light brown, shoulder length hair up into a ponytail and went to the kitchen to have a bowl of cereal.
My dad emerged from his room. His prematurely gray hair was messy. He entered the bathroom to take his shower. I went on eating my cereal. I took my bowl to the sink and rinsed out the extra milk. My dad came out from the bathroom and returned to his room. I sighed when he came out in a gray suit and his hair brushed. I knew what he was going to say, but I pretended that he wouldn’t. He buttoned his coat as he walked over to the table. He leaned in and kissed me on my forehead, holding the back of my head and forcing me to look into his green and brown speckled eyes. He smelled of musk. “Happy Birthday, Brooke.” He grinned from ear to ear and let my head go.
“Thanks, Dad.” I managed to smile back.
“Go get ready; we are going to be late.” He looked down at his watch. I peeked at it, too. It read nine o’clock. I knew we were going to be late, but I didn’t want to go in the first place. I had enough of the therapy sessions. I didn’t want to talk about how I was feeling anymore. I wanted to remember my life before the last month.
“Do I have to go? Just this once, please. It’s my birthday.” I stuck out my lip as I begged.
“I am so sorry, but you have to go today. Especially since it is your birthday. I have to go back to my old office for a few days, but Linda will be staying with you. Go get dressed now, please.” The grin crept back on his face and it suited him well. I reluctantly went back to my room. I rummaged through my box labeled “clothes” and found some jeans and a brown long sleeved shirt. I breathed in the shirt as I pulled it out and it smelled good and clean, like I should remember it. I let my hair fall around my shoulders. I went to the bathroom to brush it before we left. I decided to put it up halfway, make it look somewhat nice. I held the clump of hairs tenderly with my left hand while I searched for a barrette with my right. I found a simple brown one and fixed it into my hair. At last minute, I decided to put on some make up. I should look nice on my birthday, shouldn’t I?
My dad called from the doorway. “Brooke, we are going to be late!”
“Almost finished.” I put the last stroke of mascara on my eyelash and rushed out of the bathroom. I shoved my feet into my brown Converse and met my dad at the front door.
“You look beautiful.” He handed me a coat, one I had never seen before. A deep brown and soft to the touch; I put it on and it was a perfect fit. “Do you like it?”
“I love it! Thanks!” I kissed him on the cheek to show my gratitude. We left our apartment and went to my dad’s car waiting for us in the parking garage.
“Can I drive today, please?” I begged
“Do you remember the last time I let you drive?” he said with a smirk.
“That’s the problem,” I replied. We chuckled uncomfortably as we got in the car, I in the passenger’s side and he in the driver’s side.
The drive was silent except for the songs playing quietly on the radio. He stopped in front of the hospital where I had my daily therapy sessions. Before I left the car, he said, “Linda will come and pick you up here in an hour.” I quickly left the car to avoid being squished by cars zooming past. I looked back to see my dad smiling encouragingly to go in. As soon as the door closed behind me, he drove off. I could have left then. I could have caught a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf or China Town or anywhere else for the hour. Nobody would know except for Dr. Stav. If I didn’t show up, Dr. Stav would call Linda or my dad and then they would be searching for me. I didn’t want to put my dad through that again so I pressed the button for the elevator.
It wasn’t busy, so I had the elevator to myself. I pressed the button next to the number five and waited for the ascension. The elevator doors opened for me at the fifth level. I walked down the long hallway passing doors with names on them. I stopped in front of the door with the name Dr. Elizabeth Stav printed on the door. Other things were on the door, but I never paid enough attention to them to remember them. I turned the handle and was welcomed by the usual chairs and sofas with old magazines scattered throughout the room. Opposite the door I came in was another door and next to it a window with a woman sitting behind it. I made the routine walk to the window to state my name and then wait for it to be called. The woman behind the window slid it open and put a clipboard up for me to sign. I took the clipboard and the pen attached to it and signed: Brooke Conall. I put the clipboard back. I took set my new coat on the coat rack and plopped down in the closest chair.
No more than five minutes passed when the woman behind the window opened the door and called, “Brooke, Dr. Stav will see you now.” I had seen her before, but I couldn’t remember her name. She must be new, I reassured myself. I put the magazine I was skimming through back on the side table. The woman smiled behind the file, my file, she held in her hands. I followed her to Dr. Stav’s office. The woman handed Dr. Stav my file and closed the door as she left.
Dr. Stav sat behind her desk and motioned me to sit on the couch to the right of the door. Her blonde hair was twisted into a bun and she was wearing her black-rimmed glasses instead of her contacts. She was wearing a black pencil skirt and a white blouse with eyelet flowers. She was pretty and reminded me of the pictures of my mom; but she was married and had two young children of her own. I sat at the end of the couch and tucked my feet beneath me. She brought her rolling chair and positioned it so it faced me directly. She smiled her perfectly white smile and said, “How are you today, Brooke? Today is your birthday, correct?”
“Yeah, but I still can’t remember a thing.” I crossed my arms around a pillow.
“Don’t worry. Your memory will come back in time. Let’s try talking about the car accident. Maybe you will remember something about it today.”
“Dr. Stav, I don’t remember anything. I haven’t remembered for the past month.”
“Brooke, I told you that you could call me Elizabeth. And we are going to try a different method today. I am going to show you photos taken at the accident and when you were in the hospital.” She opened my file and pulled out a pile of photos held together with a paperclip. She handed me the top picture and said, “Here is the picture of your car before you were taken out.”
I examined the picture with great care. I didn’t want to miss a single detail. The front end of my car was wrapped around the trunk of a tree. The driver’s door was yanked off, but I was sitting in the seat unconscious. Blood was all over my body. Bodies in firefighter and EMT uniforms were surrounding the car. “Anything pop out at you?” Her voice was smooth and gentle.
“No, nothing,” I replied quietly. She handed me a second picture.
“This was taken when they were taking you to the hospital.” It was another picture of my car, but I wasn’t in the car. Glass from the windshield was scattered everywhere. The firemen were still there, but the EMTs were gone. “This was the first day you were in the hospital.” I was unconscious in this picture, too. Countless wires and tubes were attached to my body and surrounding machines. The cuts on my face weren’t bleeding anymore. A bandage covered my left arm where a piece of glass had lodged itself. My dad was sitting in the chair next to my bed. His face was full with concern. I didn’t like this face as much as his smile. My fingers subconsciously traced the pink scars from the stitches on my left forearm underneath my sleeve.
“We don’t have to continue looking at the pictures if you don’t want to,” her soft voice called me back to the room. How long had I been looking at the picture? I must have looked miserable, but I wanted to remember.
“No, I want to look at the rest of the pictures,” I tried to sound as convincing as I could.
“This was taken after you woke up,” she handed me the picture. My face was still swollen and the cuts on my face looked just as bad in the previous picture, but my eyes were open. I remembered nothing of the pain I was in because of all the medication the doctor had given me. In fact, that entire week was still fuzzy.
“Let’s change the subject now.” She gently tugged the pictures from my hand and put them with the photos that she didn’t show me. “I think we should discuss your feelings about your dad hiring Linda.”
I looked at her for the first time since the pictures disappeared from my hands, the images still burned in my mind. Her face was thoughtful and waiting for my response. I figured that the hour would be over soon, so I said, “Linda’s nice and everything, but I think I am old enough to take care of myself. I don’t need a babysitter every time he goes to the office or out of town.”
“So you would like to do some things independently. Can you give me some examples that I can mention to him?”
“I would like to be able to drive or stay at the apartment by myself or go meet new people or have a normal life for a little bit. I don’t want to be cooped up all the time.”
“Anything else?” She looked like she genuinely cared. That was the only reason why I liked going every day.
“Not at the moment.” I couldn’t help but smile a little. I confessed all of my secret desires to her, and I felt better, even though it was only simple requests. Well, simple for any other person.
“When will your dad be available to come in?”
“He’s going out of town for a couple of days, but he will be back at the end of the week. You’re really going to talk to him?” I was suddenly optimistic. This was the most excited I had been since the last I could remember, which was waking up in a hospital bed surrounded by unfamiliar faces. I bit my lip just in case my newfound hope vanished.
“Yes, I will call him and set up an appointment. It’s the end of the hour for today. Linda should be here to pick you up soon. You can wait for her in the waiting room.” She stood from her chair and opened the door, signaling the end of today’s session.
I got up quickly and rushed over to hug her. She wasn’t expecting it, but returned the hug. “Thank you so much, Elizabeth. You have no idea how much this means to me.” I reeled back from the hug and she was smiling.
“Happy Birthday, Brooke. I will see you tomorrow.”
I slowly started backing out to the waiting room to wait for Linda. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll see you tomorrow.” She laughed quietly and closed her door. I turned quickly to guide myself to the waiting room. I was excited now. Excited that it was my birthday, excited that Elizabeth was going to talk to my dad, excited that I would have some form of freedom very soon. I opened the door leading to the waiting room and sat down in the same seat as I did before I saw Elizabeth. Linda still wasn’t here, so I started flipping through a magazine.
“She didn’t run away, I know it,” she said. Even though she said it with as much confidence as she could, a nagging voice in the back of her head told her otherwise. She didn’t want what they were saying to be true. She never thought that she would be wishing for something, possibly worse, other than a simple runaway case; but she couldn’t face the possibility that Cori left by her own will again. She could feel that something was different this time.
“Maya, you have to consider the possibility. She has run away before…”
“But never for this long. The police found her car. And the dogs didn’t smell her anywhere. Why would she just leave it? She was getting better, why would she run away?” she interrupted coldly.
“I don’t know. I haven’t known this whole time. I have never known why she has ever ran away,” he yelled back. He was tired of her not wanting to look at any other possibility, but he greatly wanted to believe that she ran away again. That was better than the alternative. He just wished that Cori wouldn’t continue to disappear. He was tired of seeing Maya break every time.
“Stop fighting!” Gabe interjected. That’s all his parents have been doing since she disappeared. So what if she did run away this time? What if she didn’t? Fighting with each other wasn’t going to bring her back. He was tired of sitting back and not doing anything.
Allen and Maya looked back at their son, shocked. It was the first time he had spoken out like this. He was their good child. The one who obeyed. Cori was the rebel, the wild child. He was the quiet one. She was the one who always spoke her mind. He had dark hair like his father. She had blonde hair like her mother. He was tall and lean. She was short and petite. To their parents, they were polar opposites. Even though they argued like any pair of siblings, they knew they had a close relationship and were very similar.
“Apologize to your mom right now, Gabe,” Allen demanded.
“I’m going to my room now,” Gabe responded, ignoring Allen. He shoved his chair back into the table a little bit more forceful than necessary. He stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs to his room; they watched him depart with a loss for words. Toby followed slowly and silently.
Maya broke down once she heard his door slam. “Am I really that horrible? Am I really such a bad mother?” Allen stood from his chair and put his arms around her. She was sobbing into his shoulder.
“Everything will be fine,” he whispered into her hair. He hated lying to her like this, but it seemed every time Cori was away, he would take her place and tell lies non-stop.
Gabe slumped onto his bed. His room was that of a typical teenage boy’s: an unmade bed, a desk with scattered homework, dirty clothes covering the floor in the corner, and a messy bedside table. His acoustic guitar plastered with bumper stickers rested next to his keyboard in the corner, both there since he was eight. His sheet music was kept organized in a simple black binder.
Toby sat at his feet with understanding eyes. He was calm and wise. Most would think he wouldn’t know what was happening, but Gabe knew that Toby understood. Behind his door and across the hallway was her room. None of them dared enter it or speak of it; it was forbidden. He figured his parents wouldn’t be coming upstairs for a while. He pressed play on his iPod and turned the volume up all the way on the speakers. He made sure to grab his cell phone, even though he knew he wouldn’t answer if they tried to call him. This would cover for him for a little bit more.
He silently crept out of his room and closed the door. He had seen her do this many times before. He quietly opened her door and entered. Toby watched him with wide eyes, but didn’t make a sound.
Linda was late. I told the woman behind the window that I was going to the bathroom and that if Linda came in, to tell her. She smiled and nodded. I tossed the magazine I was flipping through back on the table. I walked calmly down the hall to the women’s bathroom. I was almost to the door when a man from the door opposite the women’s turned out. He didn’t see me and he was walking quickly. The impact caused me to fall to the floor. He realized that he didn’t run into a wall, but a person: me.
“I’m so sorry! I should have been looking where I was going.” He continued to apologize profusely as he extended his right hand to help me up. I took his hand and stood up. He was much taller than me, which wasn't too hard since I was the shortest person I knew. My head reached his shoulders. At the hospital, the doctors reported my height as barely over five feet. He had short brown curls and big, brown eyes. He put his left arm on my back to catch me if I suddenly decided to fall.
“Where’s the fire?”
“Sorry, I was just in a hurry to…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.” He didn’t look convinced with a frown sitting on his face. I struggled to free myself, but his grip grew tighter.
“You don’t look fine with all of those cuts on your face.”
“I was in a car accident last month. I’m fine now. I’m just going to the bathroom. And this is a hospital, you know.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear about that. You know, you look very familiar. Have we met before? My name is Sawyer, by the way.”
“Maybe. I don’t remember anything before my accident. Doctors say I have amnesia. At least I am lucky enough that I got away with some stitches and cuts. They were surprised I wasn’t killed. They said I was lucky to only stay in the hospital for a week. Oh, and my name is Brooke. Can I go to the bathroom now that I’ve given you my life story?”
He let go of me and backed up. I pushed my way past him towards the bathroom door, but then he said, “Hey, I’m sorry for being such a jerk. Let me make it up to you. I’m meeting with some of my friends tonight to Fisherman’s Wharf around eight. We’re meeting by the carousel at Pier 39. Here’s my number. See you there?”
“I’ll have to make a deal with my parole officer, a.k.a. my dad, but keep your eyes open for me.” He pressed a folded scrap of paper he just scribbled on into my hand.
“Great. Carousel at eight. Don’t forget.” He smiled at his little joke and began to walk backwards down the hall.
“Ha, ha. Very funny,” I replied as I pushed my back to the slightly open door and saw him disappear from my view. I tucked the scrap of paper into my pocket. I finally went to the bathroom, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was starting to get my life back. I just met a cute guy who looked past my scars and wanted to see me again. I practically skipped back to the waiting room.
I opened the door and the smile that couldn’t possibly be erased, vanished as soon as I saw Linda waiting for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her, but she constantly watched me. And she reminded me that I would have to ask my dad for permission to be out on my own tonight. I knew what his answer would be. Even if he was out of town, I would have to ask through Linda, and she always sided with him. She stood from the chair and walked over to me with a smile. Her navy blue coat and my brand new brown coat were draped over her arm. She was wearing layered blue and purple shirts, a purple scarf tied around her neck, a plaid skirt with leggings, and brown boots. Her dark brown hair was tossed up in a bun. She gave me a big hug. “Happy Birthday, Brooke!”
“Thanks, Linda.” I tried to remember the reason I was smiling so I wouldn’t appear rude to her, but the feeling failed to return.
“Are you ready to go? I have your present out in the car.” She handed me my coat and then she put on hers.
“Yeah. Let’s go.” I reluctantly followed her to the elevator, but I looked at my shoes the entire time. I felt awkward today. It was my birthday, but I couldn’t remember anything else; I had just met somebody who might know me and I knew that I would have to ask Linda permission to go out. I tried to focus on something that would make me feel better: the picture of my mother that was burned into my brain. Her smile spread across her face while looking at me lovingly, the wind blowing back our hair, her arms are wrapped around me tight, and my giggling self.
The elevator stopped. I was jolted back to the present. I continued to follow Linda to her car. We paused before we reached the top floor of the parking garage. “Okay, now close your eyes. I want you to be surprised.”
I put my hands over my eyes. My hands were shocked to find that the slight breeze quickly turning them into icicles. I focused on the warmth from my coat, but my hands were still cold. Her hand grabbed my right wrist and guided me to her car. I shuffled along the pavement until she lets my wrist go. “Just a minute.” I heard her unlock the door, open it, grab something, and then shut the door. “Okay, open.”
I took my frozen hands away from my eyes and she put a box in them. I examined the box for the opening. I found it and pulled the top up. Inside there was a scrapbook. I lifted it out from the box and flipped through the pages. It was pictures of my mom, my dad, and me. My school pictures from each year, family Christmas pictures, birthday pictures, baby pictures, pictures of my friends and me as children. All of my memories contained in a book. “I’m sorry. I thought you would like it. I thought maybe it might help you to remember. I can get you something else.”
I looked at her confused. This was what I had wanted: something for me to look at to help me remember. I took one of my hands and touched my cheek. I realized the reason for her apology. I had been crying, but not because I was sad. I was happy. Probably the happiest I had been in the past month. “No, this is perfect. It’s just what I wanted, what I needed. Thank you so much,” I whispered. I hugged her with sincere appreciation.
“Well, you can finish looking at it in the car. Do you want to do some shopping? Your dad says you can have whatever you like. After that we can grab a bite to eat. You can pick any restaurant for lunch.” She went around to the driver’s side and let herself in. I opened the door to the passenger’s side and slid into the seat. The car was warmer. We shut our doors almost in unison. She started the engine as I buckled my seatbelt. I started to consider lunch as we drove down the parking garage.
I knew that my dad was behind this. He was trying to buy me off with presents and paying for lunch, even though it was my birthday. He was trying to make up for something, but what? Linda was looking at me for my answer, so I said the first thing that popped into my head, “How about some seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf?” I immediately regretted it, but meeting with Sawyer was all I could think of. Relax, I told myself; I didn’t give away too much. I closed my eyes to concentrate. How many other places in San Francisco were there? Plenty. She wouldn’t suspect anything. Once we were at Fisherman’s Wharf, I could ask her about being there with Sawyer. Maybe I could convince her to not tell my dad. The paper was suddenly heavy in my pocket.
“Sounds good. Where do you want to start shopping?” Her eyes returned to keeping focus on the still cars in front of us, waiting for the slightest move. I must have had a decent answer. Did I like seafood before? Was this a sign to her that my old preferences were coming back? If so, why wasn’t she letting me know? I was so frustrated. I couldn’t remember anything, even though I was trying so hard. I tried to focus on something positive, and then I remembered Linda’s question. Maybe I could use this as a way to reinvent myself. What kind of clothes did I like? I tried to remember the boxes of clothes in my room. A groan escaped from me.
“Do you have a headache? I have your medicine in my purse. It’s in the…” Her head snapped back and forth between looking at me with concern and looking at the slow-moving cars ahead of us as she gave me instructions.
“No, no. I’m fine. I don’t have a headache. I’m just tired.” I was being honest. I tried to put this little incident behind us by answering her earlier question. “Anywhere is fine. It doesn’t really matter.”
He replayed the last time he saw her somewhat happy in his head. It was when they were having dinner on her birthday, the night before she disappeared. She was forcing a smile most of the night, but at least it wasn’t all night. She really did like the Border collie puppy he got her. She had named him Toby after her favorite character from Sweeny Todd. He was well behaved for a puppy. He knew that she needed a friend that would always be there for her. Less than a handful have been there for her this whole time. He had started saving up to buy a puppy since she started to get better, which had just over a year. She fell asleep with Toby snuggled next to her that night.
He could always tell when she was being sincere. She loved anything that came from him because they were close, closer than any other siblings he knew. But they had grown apart some when she changed. He missed her when he saw her sneak out in the middle of the night and not come back until two days later. Even though he was five years younger than her, he still understood the pain he felt when she left. He could see the pain it caused her when she realized he knew about her far from perfect life. She wanted to shield him from that life. She hated what she had done with herself and didn’t want him to fall into that trap. And he didn’t blame her. He saw what she had done and he didn’t want any part of it.
Thinking about what Cori had done made him confused. He was angry with her for doing those things and never having the same amount of trust from their parents that he should have. He also felt pity for her, that she had fallen into this dark path and followed it blindly until she could be saved, if she could be saved at all. He was not sure if she was actually getting better or just trying to appease them. But then why would she run away all of a sudden? Why would she turn around when she was just beginning to see a light?
He could not rid himself of his thoughts of Cori while he waited on his best friend’s porch. He had lost all the time thinking of her while he walked the six blocks to Jordan’s house. His parents were away for the week, so they wouldn’t see him and call his parents. His brother and sister were away at college until the next school holiday. Jordan answered the door. Gabe came over to his house unannounced many times before, but he was surprised to see him after all the weeks of his silence and reclusion. Gabe asked carefully, but he already knew the answer, “Your dad has information on Cori’s case, right?”
Jordan answered just as carefully, not sure where his best friend was headed, “Yeah. My dad’s the police chief, but you already knew that. Why do you ask?”
Gabe spoke slowly, but forcefully, “Your brother called me. I want you to help me with something.”