“Charisse! Is that you?” Pilar approached the tall, curvy blonde woman.
“Pilar Gutierrez?” Charisse studied Pilar’s face.
“It is!” Pilar and Charisse hugged. “You haven’t changed at all have you?”
“You were always the sweet one,” Charisse laughed. “Too sweet.”
“No, no. I mean it,” Pilar insisted. “Even ten years later I recognize you, the Prom Queen.”
“I’m afraid the only kingdom I rule over is my one bedroom apartment,” Charisse said.
“I hear you’re doing well in the real estate industry?”
“I do okay.” Charisse reached into her purse and handed Pilar a business card. “If you ever need to sell or buy, you let me know.”
“Of course.” Pilar took the card. “You know, I was hoping you could help me with something right now. If you don’t mind, of course.”
“Sure. What’s on your mind?”
“Remember Mirit Johanson? She was a good friend of mine when we were in high school.”
“I think so.” Charisse took a sip of her fruit punch. “They showed a memorial for her earlier, right? Sad about what happened to her.”
“I think she would have liked it.”
“Sure. Mirit was nice.”
“I remember she told me, she wanted to hang out with you, Zelig, and Flurin at the Senior Beach party. Did you ever meet up with her?” Pilar asked.
“Yeah. She wandered over to us. I didn’t know her that well, but she always seemed pretty cool.”
“Do you remember anything else?”
“Uh, we partied. Then Mirit said she felt sick. She left and the three of us went to Zelig’s house for an afterparty.”
“That’s the last you saw her?” Pilar asked.
“Yes. Why are you asking these questions?”
“She was my best friend. She didn’t deserve to die in the street. Her death took me by surprise. ”
“It was a surprise to us all. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to mingle with the rest of our classmates. You know, I haven’t seen some of them in years?” Charisse took a few steps away from Pilar.
“Sure. See you later!” Pilar waved as Charisse disappeared into the crowd. She scanned the crowded gymnasium for another classmate she was dying to see.
Pilar spotted Zelig talking to a group of guys. She approached them.
“Hi Zelig!” Pilar said to him.
“Pilar, how are you?” Zelig flashed a smile at her. It was the same smile Mirit fell in love with.
“Good. Can we talk?”
“Yeah, of course. Guys, I’ll see you later.” The other guys drifted off and Zelig turned his attention to Pilar. “You look the same. How’s it been?”
“I’ve been better,” Pilar admitted. “You know, things have been difficult lately.”
“I’m sorry. The perils of growing up, I guess.”
“How about you?”
“I started a new job this week.” Zelig flashed another smile.
“Really? Congrats!” Pilar gave Zelig a hug. “You know who would have loved to hear that?”
“Who?” Zelig let Pilar go.
“Mirit Johanson. You remember her?”
“Y… yeah. Of course, I do.” Zelig cleared his throat. “Why?”
“Oh, she had a bit of a crush on you. At the Senior Beach Party, she told me she would muster up all the courage she had to talk to you. Do you remember if she ever did?”
“I… I see. Let me think.” Pilar could see the wheels turning inside Zelig’s mind. “Yeah. I think I did see her. Charisse invited her to hang out with us for a bit.”
“Charisse invited her? I was under the impression Charisse didn’t even know who we were. We weren’t cheerleaders.”
“Nah, Charisse isn’t like that.”
“What did you guys do?”
“We had fun. We laughed and joked around. Mirit came with us back to my place for the afterparty.”
“She went with you? So that’s why I couldn’t find her.”
“Oh, sorry about that. Yeah, the four of us went back to my place where we… uh, hung out. Listened to music, drank some pop, ate some food. You know.”
“So that would mean you three were the last people to have seen her. Alive, I mean.”
“I guess.” Zelig shifted his weight. “She said she wasn’t feeling well. She left my house alone.”
“She left alone? Do you remember what time?”
“Around midnight, I think. You know, it was so long ago.” Zelig started to look uncomfortable.
“Is that the last you saw of her?”
“So Mirit decided to walk home, by herself at midnight? Doesn’t sound like something she would do.”
“I… I think I want something to drink. Do you want something?” Zelig didn’t wait for an answer before he walked away, leaving Pilar by herself.
“Okay. Now where is Flurin?” Brushing off Zelig’s abrupt exit, Pilar scanned the room for the short, brown haired man. She spotted him near the entrance talking to a woman Pilar recognized as being in her freshman English class. Pilar went over to him.
“Flurin?” Pilar asked. Flurin turned to her.
“Yes. Can I talk to you?”
“Sure.” The woman excused herself and went off to find some other classmates, leaving Flurin and Pilar to speak alone.
“How have you been?” Pilar asked.
“Great,” Flurin said. “You?”
“I was fine. Until they showed Mirit Johanson’s memorial. Did you know her?”
“Not that well. But I feel bad for what happened to her.”
“Did you see her that night?”
“What night?” Flurin tried to move around her, but Pilar stood in front of him.
“The night of the Senior Beach Party. Charisse and Zelig already confirmed Mirit was with you guys.”
“Uh, whatever they say. I don’t really remember.”
“Do you remember Mirit going back with you guys to Zelig’s house for the afterparty?”
“What did Charisse and Zelig say?”
“They couldn’t remember. They told me to ask you.”
“Yeah. I think Zelig invited her to come with us. I… I think she got sick though and her mom came to pick her up.”
“Mirit’s mom came to pick her up?”
“I… I think so.”
“Then why was her body found not far from Zelig’s house? Why would Mirit’s mother…”
“I think I see Charisse. See you around, Pilar.” Flurin ended their conversation. Pilar watched as Flurin weaved through the crowd and quietly followed him. She saw him join Charisse and Zelig and they exited the gym. Pilar waited a couple of seconds before following them into the hallway.
It was dark. Pilar heard some arguing in a lit classroom down the hall. Pilar tiptoed toward the classroom. She stopped when she got to the door and took a deep breath. Pilar peeked through the window and saw Charisse, Zelig, and Flurin having a heated argument inside.
Pilar opened the door a tiny fraction and their voices became clearer. None of them paid her any attention; they were too focused on each other. She took out her phone to record their argument.
“We agreed to never talk about this again,” Charisse said.
“How could we not?” Flurin asked. “It was bound to come up again.”
“I thought even if it is brought up, people don’t want to dampen the mood for too long. We'll all move on to cocktails and remembering the good old days.” Zelig sounded like he was trying to reassure himself more than the others.
“We should have known Pilar would’ve asked about her. They were like, best friends or whatever. That’s why it’s imperative that we all told Pilar the same story.” Charisse turned to Flurin. “What did you tell her?”
“Me?” Pilar could tell Flurin didn’t want to be part of the conversation. But it was ten years too late for that.
“Yes, you,” Charisse scoffed. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s just us here.”
“I… I told her the story we all agreed on,” Flurin said.
“Which was?” Charisse prompted.
“Calm down, Charisse. You’re always overthinking things,” Zelig said.
“This is one time where we should overthink, don’t you agree?” Charisse shot back. “After all, it was my overthinking that let us live our lives for the past ten years.”
“She's got a point.” Flurin was on Charisse’s side.
“Fine. Uh, it was at the Senior Beach Party,” Flurin said. “Zelig invited Mirit to join us since we all knew she had a crush on him.”
“I thought Charisse invited her to join us,” Zelig interrupted.
“That wasn’t part of the story at all!” Charisse exclaimed.
“Then how did she join us?” Zelig asked.
“It doesn’t matter how she did! You know what? If Pilar asks again, I can just say I forgot about that part. As long as we all said she wasn’t there at the afterparty at Zelig’s house… what the hell was that look for?”
“You told Pilar, Mirit was there too?” Zelig asked Flurin. Flurin nodded.
“You morons!” Charisse exclaimed. “Why on earth would you ever admit that?”
“That’s what happened,” Zelig said. “But we didn’t tell her the rest.”
“The rest?” Charisse scoffed. “You mean the part about Mirit overdosing on the drugs Zelig had stashed in his bedroom? Please tell me, you also told Pilar about the good part. You know, how we decided to cover up her death by making it look like she was involved in a hit and run?”
“Charisse, please quiet down.” Zelig tried to calm her.
“Calm down? Zelig, I’m just telling the truth,” Charisse snapped.
Pilar ended the recording. She left the trio as their argument raged on.
~ ~ ~
Over the next few weeks, it came out on the local news. Charisse, Flurin, and Zelig were arrested due to their involvement in covering up Mirit’s death. Their trial would start in a few months.
After the newscast, Pilar’s eyes filled with tears.
“You did it,” Pilar could hear Mirit’s voice.
“I promised you I would,” Pilar said. “I’m sorry it took so long.”
“That’s okay. What matters is, you found the truth.”
“May you finally find some peace, Mirit.” Pilar felt as if a large boulder was lifted from her shoulders.
“May you find peace as well, Pilar.”