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Drama Sad

The constant murmur of conversations was punctuated by sounds of clinking glass and cutlery on china. Light classical music poured from discreetly placed speakers and added to the background noise. Through large plate windows the city twinkled beyond the famous opera house and the harbour where it sat. I was taking a sip of water when Claire brought up a name that struck me as vaguely familiar.

“Did anybody find out what happened to Lisa Griffin?” she asked.

“Was she an actress in something?” Tom didn’t look up when he spoke, focussed on buttering his bread to the very edges. I watched his process with mute fascination, the way he swept his knife back and forth, using both sides of it to butter.

“What? No, she went to our high school. She was in our year,” Claire explained, wine glass in hand. Her fingers pinched it by the stem. I recalled a wine tour some years ago that I’d taken with a boyfriend at the time, listening to a sommelier explain that a glass of wine should never be held by the bowl, because fingers changed the temperature.

Rick nodded and joined the conversation. “Oh yeah, she was the captain of the debate team.”

He was wrong. I’d participated in debating and Lisa Griffin hadn’t been a part of that, although she should have. “You’re thinking of Samantha Hartley.” I knew who Claire meant, helped into the memory by the context of her question. “Lisa Griffin was the girl who went missing halfway through our final year.”

Tom’s knife paused midway through a stroke so he could look first at Claire, then at me. The intensity of his dark-eyed gaze penetrated me to the bone. “I remember hearing about it on the news, but she didn’t go to our school.”

“No,” Claire said slowly, pulling Tom’s stare back to her. I felt a relief when it went, but I also wished it had stayed. Claire swirled her wine, and I watched as the viscosity of the red liquid left a trace on the glass wherever it touched. “She went to our school. I was on the swim team with her.”

Tom refocussed on his bread. He finished buttering and bit into it, knife still in hand.

I took the opportunity to extend the conversation. I hadn’t thought about Lisa Griffin at all after leaving high school. When at university, I didn’t have time to think about anything beyond my studies. It had been a struggle, but with perseverance I’d achieved my diploma.

“She wanted to be a lawyer,” I said. I’d had exactly one conversation with Lisa Griffin throughout my entire school experience, and it had been about our mutual interest. “But she wanted to go into environmental law so she ended up joining that recycling group. What were they called?”

“Waste Warriors,” Rick said, and laughed like he’d heard a hilarious joke. After a moment of solitary humour, he realised he was on his own and his chuckles petered out. I watched him take a sip of his beer and wondered how long he and Claire would last. They’d hooked up at the ten-year reunion last week. He was extremely good-looking but didn’t appear to share many of Claire’s interests or life experiences. Claire was culturally intelligent, having travelled every continent, including Antarctica. She’d been an adventurer as long as I’d known her, since primary school.

“I remember that group. They organised for recycling bins to be placed around the school,” Tom said, looking up. Because I was seated opposite him, we made eye contact. I smiled, feeling self-conscious as my mind cast about for something to say. Rick beat me to it.

“I saw them bin diving. I hope they were as passionate about baths as they were about bottles,” Rick said, laughing even as he made his statement. Or joke. Or whatever that was supposed to be. My gaze returned to Tom.

“I think I remember her,” he told me, like I was the one who’d brought her up. “Was she a dark blonde that always wore her hair in a high ponytail?”

I nodded and my hand went to my hair, which was down. I fiddled with a lock of it, surprised Tom noticed things like that. Most men barely remember the colour, let alone how a girl wore it. It made me think perhaps he’d noticed her because he’d liked her. A bolt of envy trickled into my soul and I shunned it; seriously, I was jealous of a girl who was probably long dead?

“I’ve not thought about her since high school,” I confessed.

“Same,” Tom said. His answer pleased me more than it should have. He returned his attention to his plate and I wondered how I could compete with steak.

“Didn’t they find her body or something?” I asked. “Years later, maybe?”

“No, I don’t think anybody found anything,” Claire said. I watched her stare lower to the phone on the table to the right side of her plate, screen face down. There was a pause as she considered the rudeness of picking it up.

“Go on, let’s see who can google it quicker,” I said, taking my mobile out of my jacket pocket. Claire giggled and we both lapsed into silence. I ran a few different searches using her name, our school, adding the term ‘missing’ but there was nothing. I scrolled and frowned and scrolled some more.

“It’s like she doesn’t exist,” Claire murmured, obviously getting the same results.

“Really? Nothing?” Rick asked. He was on his phone next. “Did you try adding her name with our school?”

Tom snorted. “I’m quite sure these two are smart enough to have thought of that.” I offered him a tiny smile and it broke into a grin when he winked at me. My stomach flipped and I put my phone back in my jacket pocket, Lisa Griffin once again forgotten.

I thought about her one more time after that, after we left the restaurant and just before Tom’s hand reached for mine as we walked towards the train station. I thought about Lisa Griffin and the brief impact she’d had on our lives. I remembered her as vivacious and passionate, clever and filled with so much potential. I remember watching her crying parents on television, pleading for her whereabouts, for her to come home.

I felt sad for her, that the world moved on and that she, as a human being, was whittled down to nothing more than a story attached to ‘whatever happened to’? That she would fade, so completely, into nothing at all.

October 28, 2021 04:45

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10 comments

Gip Roberts
21:12 Oct 29, 2021

I like all the interactions between the characters as they're having this conversation. That description: "Rick said, laughing even as he made his statement. Or joke. Or whatever that was supposed to be." shows well that the main character didn't find anything funny about his sense of humor. I felt like I could almost reach out and touch one of those wine glasses, you made it all so realistic. I'm looking forward to your future stories.

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Delia Strange
21:44 Oct 29, 2021

Hi Gip, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it :) I'm glad you liked that part, where the protagonist's contempt showed. Ah, poor Rick, a sports-oriented person at a table full of museum people. He's not so bad, they're just not his crowd. We've all been there. I'm glad you thought the story flowed well. I'm relieved. I had a few false starts with this one before it went in the direction I needed it to go. Those pesky characters.

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Jon Casper
09:46 Oct 28, 2021

A sobering glimpse into that universal human need to be remembered. It's our only path to immortality after all. It's also a clever portrayal of how malleable memory can be -- each person's version of Lisa Griffin was so different. The thought tangents of the narrator throughout were rich and intriguing. This is a very thought-provoking piece and I enjoyed it very much. Great job! (One line note -- hopefully not unwelcome: "The constant murmur of conversations were punctuated" ... I think "punctuated" describes the singular "murmur" so it ...

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Delia Strange
12:55 Oct 28, 2021

Thank you for reading and commenting :) Ah! Nice one on that was/were! I was looking at 'conversations' for the plural, but it is the murmur that it has to agree with, thanks so much for that catch! That kind of thing trips me up occasionally. BTW, I'm always interested in critique, even if people don't like a story; explaining why or where they didn't like it is always helpful. Of course I like it more when people enjoy it but I can't please everyone! Art is subjective, yadda yadda, but bestsellers exist ;) I'm currently debating with mys...

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Jon Casper
14:50 Oct 28, 2021

I don't think there's any real etiquette in the comment section -- but I'm going to make a comment about the ending on the Butcher story itself so that others can see it there. :)

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Jon Casper
14:58 Oct 28, 2021

I just edited my original feedback on The Butcher with a P.S.

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Delia Strange
23:55 Oct 28, 2021

Thanks so much! :)

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Keya Jadav
08:30 Oct 31, 2021

Dope! The descriptions and the strong plunge at the former part instantly hooked me and I couldn't stop reading. The conversations are beautifully built. I'd love to know more about Lisa and the mystery being unfurled. A second part pls? 🥺

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Delia Strange
21:28 Oct 31, 2021

Hi Keya, thanks so much for reading and those lovely compliments. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think Lisa Griffin will end up with her own story, so you can find out what happened to her. Yay for sequels! I'll call it Faded or Fading or something akin to this title so you will know ;) I wrote this a different way initially, that she'd been the victim of an awful accident caused by the protagonist who'd covered it up. But it seemed so 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' that I had to scrap it and just use a vignette to portray the missing girl :D

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Keya Jadav
12:43 Nov 01, 2021

That is great! I'd be eager to read your upcoming masterpiece!

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