Fiction Sad

June 5th, 2028                                                                                                                 Roscommon, MI

     I stood on the deck, forearms resting on the wooden railing, and gazed out at the view before me. A huge woods surrounded the clearing that the house was in. Frankly, I was surprised that foresters hadn’t come in and logged the place off while I was gone. A large pond separated the house from the swamp and I could almost see the huge trees reflected in the olive green water. 

     I blinked and glanced down at the smooth, unpainted pine boards beneath my feet. In a way, this deck was a memory, even though I had never laid eyes on it until last night. Memories. This railing that I rested against was so similar to the one at our little church in town. So many memories. I had always thought that only old people hung out on decks and scrolled back through the years in the pages of their mind, but here I was, at only twenty-four, doing that very thing.

     You know, it’s kind of weird coming back to your childhood home after being gone for over five years, expecting to see your parents’ faces, and finding it occupied by your sister and her husband instead. At least Cale and Annie had actually decided to add on the deck off of the living room that had before existed only in Mom’s dreams. Dad had always been too busy to even consider starting the project.

     At the thought of Dad, tears welled up. I removed my glasses and drew the back of my hand across my eyes. If only Dad were here now so that I could look into his dear face and tell him how sorry I was and how much I wished I could take back all those years that had passed since I left home. But, yesterday, Annie had told me that Dad had passed away a couple of years ago and Mom was currently living with our other sister Leeyah and her husband on their ranch in Colorado.

     Back when I was a girl of eighteen, if you had asked me where I saw myself in five years, it would not have been this. Back then, I was young and innocent. I’d had no idea of what was to come. 

     And neither had Frank.

                                             *   *   *   *   *   *   *

        5 years earlier                                                                                        

        January 3rd, 2023                                                                                             

     Frank was my best friend and the only reason that I was torturing myself by sitting outside on the porch railing in the freezing cold instead of inside the little church where it was warm and cozy.

     You see, the cold didn’t bother Frank. Tonight, for instance, he wore only a sweatshirt over his t-shirt while I was shivering in my best winter coat. This was a regular occurrence every Wednesday night after prayer meeting and I was getting the drift that people were starting to think there might be something besides friendship between us.

     I ignored this. I didn’t care what people thought. Frank and I had good times together and that was what really mattered.

     The door to the fellowship hall swung open and Frank emerged with his plate full of food. There was always a meal after Wednesday night church but I didn’t usually eat anything.

     He grinned at me and pulled himself up to perch on the railing across from me. “Good evening, Molly.”

     “Good evening,” I returned gravely. “How's your wrist?” He had sprained his wrist the week before in a tussle with my younger brother Tommy.

     He balanced his plate on his lap and compared his two wrists. “Oh, it’s better. I had to take it easy for a couple days, though. It really swelled up good.”

     “Did you ice it?”

     He shook his head. “I just let it be. I didn’t wanna take the time to find an ice pack.”

     I laughed. I had never been in Frank’s house, but, if the inside was anything like the front porch, I wouldn’t want to have to look for anything either. 

     A question that I had thought of earlier popped into my mind. “Do you have your own car, Frank?”

     He swallowed a bite of salad. “No, but I’m gonna be getting one here soon.”

     “Really? When?”

     “In a couple of weeks. My dad knows of one that’s for sale and in about two weeks, I’ll have enough money saved up to pay it off.”

     “That’s great, Frank,” I said, excited for him. He was a good year younger than I was, but he’d had a job for quite a while now.

     “I can’t wait to get it,” he continued after finishing his hotdog. “Then I won’t have to ride to work with my dad and I won’t have to borrow my brother’s car when I wanna go somewhere on my own. Yesterday, I wanted it to go to a get-together at my friend Cyrus’ house, but Slater wouldn’t let me have it because he was going on a date after work.” He made a face and then bit down into a slice of watermelon.

     “That is unfortunate,” I agreed, keeping a serious expression. It was hard to picture Frank’s older brother actually going on a real date. I liked Slater, but I couldn’t imagine how any girl would want to go out with him. I didn’t know him that well, but, in my opinion, he was kind of a fly-by-night.

     My thoughts returned to the car. “What kind of car is it?”

     “A Cadillac CTS-VG.2 V8 Auto. Reaches one hundred miles per hour in nine point one seconds.”

     “No way!” The infectious grin on his face was making me giggle.

     His eyes danced. “I’m not kidding. It’s true.”

     “What’s true?” I teased. “That this Cadillac CTS-whatever reaches top speed in nine point seconds or that you’re actually buying this car?”

     “Both are true,” he replied with his mouth full.

     “Well,” I said, seriously. “Be careful, huh? Don’t try this nine-point-one-seconds-thing right away.”

     He just laughed. “I’ll be fine.”

                                         *   *   *   *   *   *   *

     Three weeks later, I drove up to the church with the rest of my family in our van and parked on the grass beside the building.

     I was disappointed to observe that Frank was not in his usual place, perched on the railing, holding the door open for folks. However, I didn’t overthink it until I walked inside and saw that Frank’s whole family was there. . .but no Frank.

     A shiver of unnamed dread crept up my spine and my heart skipped a beat. Slater glanced over at me and we locked eyes. Silently, I questioned him. Where is Frank?

     Slowly, he rose to his feet, exited their pew, and made his way over to where I stood by the coat rack.

     His youthful face was drawn taut. “You’re Franky’s friend, right? Molly?”

     I nodded stiffly. “What’s wrong? Where’s Frank?”

     “He’s. . .in the hospital right now. Uh, they don’t expect-” his voice cracked and almost broke, “They don’t expect he’ll make it through the night.”

     My whole body went rigid with shock. Frank. Through numbed lips, I forced out the question that I had to ask. “What happened?”

     I knew  what the answer would be almost before Slater opened his mouth. “He rolled his new car on a curve. He was going too fast.”

     “Can I see him?”


     “Please.” I was suddenly desperate. I had to see Frank one more time before. . .

     He nodded. “I’ll take you.”

     Momentarily, he glanced away as if to try to hide the tears welling up in his eyes, but then he reached out and awkwardly patted my shoulder. “After the meeting's over.”

                                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

     Frank thought he was invincible. It had been that way ever since we first met. And now, hours after Slater had brought me home from the hospital, and minutes after the phone had rung, telling us that my best friend had slipped away, something inside me snapped.

    I couldn’t stay here. I had to leave-had to get away. And it had to be before morning.

     I lurched into my room and fumble around in the dark for my cell phone. After an endless moment, I located it in the top drawer of my dresser. Hastily, I seized a bag from beside my bed and packed it full of random clothes that I pulled from my drawers. 

     Leaving the room, I donned my coat and slid my cell phone into the front pocket. Then I filled up a jar of water, grabbed my bag and purse, and quietly slipped out of the house.

     I walked fifteen miles to the nearest bus stop and took the bus as far as what cash I had would take me.

                                       *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

     Days later, I woke up in a cold, dark alley behind a rundown house in downtown Mishawaka, Indiana.

     At the time, I had no idea where I was or how I got there and I didn’t really care. I just laid there in the dirt and grime on that hard-rock cement and fought the memories that flooded my mind. I guess I thought that, if I made a ‘clean break’, so to speak, I would be able to escape the pain; the overwhelming sense of loss that was threatening to drown me.

     I might have just closed my eyes and gone to sleep forever, but, at one point, I became conscious of voices and the sensation of being carried. 

     Sometime later, I awoke and found myself on a small cot in the corner of a rather disorderly bedroom. A tall young woman stood over me, balancing a baby on her hip.

     She smiled when I looked up at her. “Well, well. I see you’ve finally decided to re-join the real world.”

     I couldn’t reply. I felt like a cup that someone had tipped over and dumped out. I had the sensation of being empty, in every sense of the word.

     “I am Lenysha Davonte,” she continued, switching the baby to the other hip. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”

     I managed a feeble thank you.

     She turned as if to leave, but then stopped and glanced back over her shoulder. Her dark eyes were full of sympathy. “Time,” she said, carefully. “Time will dull the pain.”

     Bewildered, I croaked out,” How-how. . .?”

     Her smile was gentle. “You have been here for thirty-six hours and you talked a lot in your sleep. You even told me your name. It's Molly, right?”

     I nodded, wondering how much else she knew.

     “Don’t try to forget Frank, Molly. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve, but don’t try to forget. You will never forget.”

                                                        *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

     Back to present day                                                                                         

     June 5th, 2028

     I wish I could tell you that I took Lenysha’s words to heart right then and there, but the truth s that it was a couple of years before I finally understood that a ‘clean break’ from my past was not the answer. It took me that long to actually realize the fact that trying to forget what happened to Frank was not going to take away the pain of loss. Only by accepting that my best friend was gone forever and allowing myself to relive in my mind all the moments we shared together was I able to heal. I guess you could say that, for two years, I was in denial.

     Lenysha was a true friend to me. Those first couple years were tough, but she never gave up on me and it paid off. To make a living, she and her husband did landscaping for rich people’s homes and, after I recovered physically, I joined them.

     A few weeks ago, I finally decided to return home and that’s how come I stood here now, on Cale and Annie’s deck, gazing out over the pond and enjoying the unexpected sense of purpose that was stealing over me. I would never forget Frank and that was as it should be, but it was time to start living again. For a beginning, Cale and Annie could really use some help with their lawn.

                                             THE END

November 11, 2022 14:23

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