by H. A. Walker
The story of a girl whose best friend went missing.
"Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
I've lived in Pettiville forever. And yes, it is exactly as it sounds. If you do something wrong, people remember it for the rest of their lives. And don't worry, because most of our citizens live for a really, and I mean inhuman amount of time. The shortest lifespan we've had is 91, and that was because she died in a car accident.
But the good thing about that is that whenever you do something good, everyone remembers it forever. And this story is mine, the story about a girl in the shadows finally coming into focus. But not really.
The thing is, many people deal with things and then they don't share them with others. They get bottled up inside, and eventually, they burst. With me, my best friend was kidnapped.
Georgia was the best. She could tell stories that would make people hold their sides laughing, was pretty, had quite a bit of money(I promise that's not the reason we were friends), played volleyball, and could paint like nobody's business. I was her sidekick. Her partner in crime. And most importantly, her Best(and I mean best) Friend Forever. The thing was, our friendship didn't end with her kidnapping. It happened before that. When we still sat together at a lunch table with our fellow computer nerds. In other words, until middle school started.
Georgia and I started the year off confidently. We went shopping, and she'd helped me to get a cute outfit for the first day of school. We wore matching pink crop tops, High-waisted plaid skirts, and tights, with knee-high boots and chokers. Over the next few days everyone only talked to Georgia. I was referred to as "Georgia's friend" or "girl", sometimes "nerd"(which I normally didn't mind, except for in this context). Georgia and I kind of drifted apart from that point.
I continued to sit at a table with my old friends from elementary school, as Georgia sat with her popular friends. I missed her a lot, but I knew she wouldn't feel the same way. We still talked sometimes, but not as much as we used to. It just felt so lonely.
One night, I took a long bubble bath, and sat on my bed to read "Tuck Everlasting" for the millionth time. I remembered how Georgia and I used to read it together when she came over. It's ripped pages reminded me how Georgia used to dog-ear the pages and tear the side of a page to remember the spot she was at. I flipped the pages carefully. This book of not just fantasy and adventure, but also memory, deserved to be preserved.
As I was going to put the book in its special spot on my bookshelf, there was a loud crash of thunder, and then a scream.
I tore off the blankets, and ran down the stairs, thrusting the door open. All that was there was the cold night air.
I beelined straight to the coffee machine, brewed myself half a cup, and poured in half a cup of cocoa mixture.
Mom came down the stairs slowly, her footsteps echoing through the whole house.
"Mom! Keep it down! We don't want to wake dad up!" I whisper-shouted.
As if in response, my dad came right down the stairs after her.
"What's up?" He asked me.
"Did you guys hear that too?" I asked.
"Hear what? The lightning?" He inquired.
"Well, yeah, but you didn't hear anything else?" I asked hopefully.
"No." He answered, "Did you, Meriam?"
"No. What did you hear, sweetie?" My mom replied with a question.
"Well, I thought I heard a scream. But I don't know. It could be a nightmare or something." I responded.
My parents looked straight at each other immediately.
"You're sure?" My dad asked. He looked-scared?
"I just said I wasn't." I answered, "But that's what I think I heard."
"Come sit down." My parents gestured to come to sit between them on the sofa. Mom grabbed the remote and pressed the on button. As it flickered to life, I settled into my spot and focused on the reporter on-screen. Weird. We hardly ever watched the news, I thought.
"Why are we watching the news?" I asked.
"You'll see." My parents replied in almost perfect unison.
"Hi, I'm Ajax Sterling, and welcome back to Pettiville News. Top story tonight: a kidnapping in the southeastern part of Pettiville. The details aren't quite known yet; all they do know is that the victim is female, 12 years of age, and under the last name of James. After the kidnapping, the family called the police. After investigation, no fingerprints or footprints were left behind, even under close inspection. However, they know that she did not run away because she left her cell phone and all of her clothing. The only thing that is gone is the girl herself. If anyone has any idea of a suspect, you can call the number on your screen. On to Kayla--"
Mom turned the TV off abruptly.
"It's Georgia, isn't it?" I asked in shock and realization.
"Yes." Mom said sadly, pulling me into a warm hug.
And here I was, feeling bad about her having new friends when her life was at risk. I felt like such a fake.
"Can I stay home from school tomorrow?" I asked.
"Of course, honey." She responded. Both my parents squeezed me from my sides like an ice cream sandwich. By then, I was crying hysterically. Not only did I not have a best friend, but now I couldn't get her back.
The next morning, I felt terrible. Not because of the stomach ache that I had had for the past few hours, but because of the guilt.
I got up to make my bed, and noticed that there was a gap on my bookshelf.
"Mom!" I yelled.
She climbed up the stairs and stood in the entryway to my room. "What, Alesha?" Mom asked me, annoyed.
"Did you take one of my books, for some reason?" I asked.
"No." She responded quizzically.
"Did Dad?" I questioned.
"No. He didn't want to bother you after the bad news." She replied. I looked down at my shoes.
"Then Josie?" I asked.
"Yeah, Josie of all people came in here and stole a book. Very funny, Al," Mom replied jokingly, " I couldn't get her to choose one for herself at the library yesterday. Why would she steal one?"
"Well, Tuck isn't there anymore." I replied worriedly.
Josie peeked into my room around Mom's shoulder, "Afraid the kidnapper stole your book?" She asked eerily, wiggling her fingers around in a ghost-like motion. Where did she come from?
"Josie Ramona Parker!" Mom scolded, "Be nice. What would it be like if one of your friends disappeared?"
"Some peace and quiet for once." She replied, and turned towards the stairs to leave.
"Well, I guess come down for breakfast. I'll try to straighten Josie out before then." She said with a sigh.
"That'd be nice." I said with a smile.
I got changed into a mustard yellow t-shirt with white stripes on it, ripped jeans, and converse tennis shoes. After brushing my hair so that I looked somewhat presentable, I clipped it up with a barrette and headed downstairs.
When I got there, Josie was listening to music with her earbuds, and mom was in the kitchen making toast. I poured myself some chocolate milk from the fridge, and made myself a cereal. As I sat down, I noticed that Josie was no longer there. Probably to get ready for school. Dad was working on his book manuscript, and mom was finally seated.
"Mom, Dad, don't you have to go to work today?" I asked.
Mom smiled, "We took the week off so that you can stay home. I know it's hard to lose Georgia, Ally, but we're going to get through it together, whatever it takes."
I felt like I was about to cry. At the mention of her name, I became weak. How did her parents feel? What was happening to her? And who took her? Questions, questions, questions. But along with the sadness, I thought of the things we had done together. The challenges we had overcome. The hurdles we'd jumped, and, most importantly, the friendship we had. And by then, I was crying. But they weren't sad tears. For once, they were happy ones.
Mom and Dad held me in their arms, rocking me until I felt okay again.
Maybe she would come back. Maybe my best friend would come back better than ever, with a story to tell and an autobiography begging to be written. Maybe she would come back pleading to be my friend again. But these were all maybes. I needed guarantees. And the only guarantee I had at that very moment was that I was going to miss her very, very much.
"Cathy asked me to come over. Do you want to come with me?" Mom asked. Cathy was Georgia's mom. A sweet, blonde-haired lady who looked more like she could be Georgia's sister than her mother.
"I don't think it would be good to see her right now. The sadness might overtake me." I responded. I knew how weird it sounded, but it was true. If I saw her mom like I knew she was, I'd feel guilty for being sad because I wasn't family like she was.
"Okay. Dad can stay with you until I get back." She replied with a smile, "Just don't do anything too exciting without me."
"We promise." My dad and I said in perfect unison.
As soon as mom left, Josie came down the stairs and her best friend, Kimberly, walked through the door to give her a lift. If only I still could say I had a best friend.
"Mug cakes?" Dad asked."
"Yes please," I responded, "The only thing that can soothe a sad soul."
"It is indeed," He agreed, "Whipped cream or no?"
"Do you even have to ask?" I responded sarcastically.
He chuckled and spread what had to be 3 cupfuls of whipped cream over my cake and added some confetti colored sprinkles.
I wrapped myself in a blanket, too lazy to turn on the television, but too bored not to do anything. I pulled out my phone. It flashed with a text from one of my computer friends, Margo.
Where are you? We're at the front of the school building, it read.
At home. Did you see the news last night? I asked.
Yes, she answered.
Georgia is the girl in the news story, I finished. No reply.
Margo didn't really even know Georgia. She often referred to her as "freckles" when we used to sit together at lunch.
I'm so sorry, it read. I felt guilty. I didn't deserve condolences! Cathy should get them, if anyone!
No need, I typed almost angrily. Then I realized what I'd done.
Why had I said that? Now I felt guilty for saying that there was no need to send them to me.
Apparently, I couldn't do anything right that day. So I did the next best thing.
And that next best thing was crying my eyes out.