Early morning. Sadness envelopes me. I am making a cup of tea. I was never one for coffee. It always upset my stomach. I put the teapot up to boil. Not for me these fancy coffee/tea making machines. I like to do things on my own. It makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. Although, this morning I don't feel like I want to accomplish anything. But maybe the tea will help.
The rays of the sun are shining brightly through the open window. There is a slight breeze. I can see the curtain moving gently. It looks like it will be a warm day. Maybe I will take my tea outside and sit in the warmth of the sun, as I contemplate the call I just received.
I met Edie in high school. She was a pretty girl. Blond hair and green eyes. I was always jealous of the way her hair naturally curled, falling so beautifully down her back. She attracted a lot of attention from the boys, because of her mane. Edie always wore a bright smile. She was so easy to be around. I think that's why I enjoyed our uniquely close friendship. It was a real "feel good" relationship.
We both graduated high school and moved on to college. Of course the same one. Of course, we were room mates. Edie and I were like sisters. That's how we thought of each other, anyway. We took all of our required classes together, but when it came to choosing a major, we went in completely different directions. Edie was brilliant, and wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I was more interested in English and writing. But, we managed to do everything else together. We were both good students with a very healthy social life. Campus life was great and the college years flew by. Before I knew it, we were graduating. Edie was off to medical school and I was getting my Masters in Writing and Journalism.
Several years passed and there I was, a bridesmaid at Edie's wedding. She was marrying a fellow med student who was about to graduate and enter a residency in Florida. Edie had another two years to go. I was surprised that Edie, a born and bred New Yorker, was willing to move south. But she was so in love with Alex that she would move to a deserted island just to be with him. Edie had now taken on the daunting task of trying to find a med school in Florida to transfer to.
Meanwhile I had finished grad school and had secured a job for myself at a publishing house in the city. I was enjoying my entry into the publishing world, and was fascinated with all that I was learning. Maybe one day, I would write a novel. Even though Edie was now out of circulation, and I was essentially on my own, I was doing well socially. No serious relationships for me. At this point in my life, I wasn't really interested in marriage and everything that went with it.
In their final days in New York, I hung out at Edie and Alex's apartment mostly helping Edie with the packing. The two of us had spent all of our time together since we were in high school, and now here we were. When Edie married Alex, we did not speak or see each other as often as we had before. I wasn't happy about that, but it made sense. After all, she had Alex and he was her world. Even so, while I thought that our friendship had taken a small hit, we were still close. Close enough for Edie to spend her last day in New York with me. Edie was so happy with where her life was going and I was happy for her. I wondered if life in Florida would be everything she ever dreamed of. For my part, I felt like I was losing a sister. But life goes on. Or so I thought...
I sat in my back yard nursing my cup of tea. It was peaceful out here. The birds were chirping in the trees and the breeze was blowing gently. I stared into my empty tea cup contemplating the remnants of the tea leaves at the bottom. I don't know what I felt at that moment. The call had really shaken me up! How could it be that Edie was gone? I just saw her a few months ago. She seemed okay. At least to me. I had gone down to Florida to visit for a few days. I was really excited about the trip. And I couldn't wait to see my sister!
When I got down there, Edie and Alex met me at the airport. Edie seemed okay. But, upon reflection, maybe she wasn't. There were dark circles under her eyes and she seemed quieter than usual. I thought that maybe she was just overwhelmed by the combination of the move and the crazy schedule of medical school. She and Alex were working night and day with very little time off, so it made sense that they would be tired. But Alex didn't look half as bad as Edie. Her golden mane, usually so shiny and full, lay flat against her head. Her clothes were rumpled. She did not look like the same Edie that left New York such a short time ago.
I decided to chalk my feelings up to the fact that I had never moved, never been married, and never been to medical school. All of these things could certainly add up to a lot of stress and exhaustion. I had a short time to spend with my "sister" but as the end of my visit drew near, I wondered why I had been invited. Edie was a wonderful hostess. Alex too. They lived in a little townhouse that was situated near the water. Unfortunately, due to their hectic schedules they had little time to enjoy their lovely surroundings. We went out to dinner most nights. On the surface all seemed well. But I suspected that all was not as it seemed. There were no overt indications that anything was wrong. But I just had a feeling something was off.....
They drove me to the airport and I hugged them both. Edie's hugs were especially tight and we kissed, laughing and crying and promising that we would never lose touch.
A few months have passed. Since I hadn't heard from Edie I decided to reach out to her. I assumed she was busy with school and with Alex, and just didn't have the time. Although it was odd that she hadn't even sent me a text in all this time. I dialed, and the call went directly into voicemail. I left a lengthy message hoping that she would respond soon.
A few days passed and I hadn't heard back. I was very busy at work and didn't have time to give it much thought. But when I got home I tried again. Still no response. I reached out to Alex, but there was no response from him either. I decided to let it go for a few more days. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe there was a really simple explanation. But my gut was telling me something was very wrong.
I go inside to get some more tea. But the water in the teapot is cold now. I turned on the fire to heat up the remaining water. Soon I hear the shrill whistle of the teapot. I pour myself another cup and sit down at the kitchen table. Not much time has passed since my first cup. But I just needed the quiet time to think about things. I didn't have the energy to do anything else now.
Another month has passed. No phone calls. Just brief texts that all is well in Florida. There was not much I could do. I couldn't go down there and show up at their door. Anyhow, I wasn't entitled to another week off so soon. My job was very strict about time off. So I left it alone. For now. If Edie needed me, she knew where to find me.
It wasn't long after, that my phone lit up. I looked at the screen thrilled to see that it was Edie. Finally!
"Hi Edie, what's going on? Didn't you get my messages?" I know I sounded frantic but I was so thrilled to get the call.
"But I thought...."
"Edie's gone. I'm sorry. I called to let you know when the funeral will be."
"What are you talking about? I just saw you several months ago. what happened? How is this possible?" I was numb. In shock. My "sister" gone. It just couldn't be true!
Alex continued, "Edie died of a drug overdose. Cocaine laced with some poison. Probably fentanyl."
"What are you talking about? Edie was not an addict! Are you sure?" I never saw Edie take a pill. Not even aspirin! My hand shook as I held the phone tightly to my ear. We were always together. When did she start using? I would have known. Wouldn't I?
"I am surprised that you didn't know. Weren't the two of you joined at the hip? Unless you were using too..."
I had never used drugs. I thought it was stupid. Edie and I had had discussions about some of our classmates using. She never gave any indication that she was even interested.
"I don't use. Never had."
"Well, Edie did and now she's dead! She had been using 'recreationally' for a long time. She was able to hide it from most people but she couldn't hide it from me. I threatened divorce if she didn't stop. I loved her so much, but I couldn't watch what she was doing to herself. Before you visited, she had gotten out of a 30 day program. I thought that if you came for a visit it would be good for her. She would be happy and maybe even stop using. As a doctor, I should have known better."
"Why would she start? What about med school?" I asked, so shocked by what I was hearing. Edie and I had been closer than most sisters. I guess we weren't that close after all!
"She couldn't handle med school. She thought the coke would give her the rush she needed to deal with the long hours and the hard work. One of the residents picked up on the fact that she was using, reported it and she was expelled from the program. She never enrolled in med school here. Most of the time she was either high or in rehab. That's basically the story. I am sorry you had to hear about it this way. I know you must be in shock. And to tell you the truth I am too drained to talk anymore. Please let me know about the funeral. I hope you will be there to say goodbye to Edie. Please take care of yourself." Alex hung up.
I sat in my chair. I was numb. My world had just turned upside down. My heart was broken. My best friend, my "sister", was gone. From an overdose!
How did I miss that she was using? How could I? We were always together. Was I that naive? But truly, I didn't see her that much once she started medical school. We were busy with our lives. We would meet on a rare weekend, when her schedule allowed. I do remember that she seemed distracted and even shaky at times. But I just attributed it to stress at school. Many times I would see her with a red nose. She looked like she had a bad cold. I remember once telling her to up her Vitamin C intake so that she wouldn't get so many colds! If only I knew. Maybe I could have helped her.....
I looked at the tea cup in my hand. The cup was empty now, and so was my heart. My friend was gone. I felt like my world had ended. I had to pick up the pieces and move on.
The funeral is tomorrow. I will get up and eulogize Edie and I will cry through my words. Everyone else will cry too. And then the funeral will end, and she will be buried. And then friends and family will move on with their lives. Some will anyway. Not her parents, and not Alex. They will grieve for a long time for their beautiful wife and daughter and what could have been and what was lost.
I will grieve too, quietly. By myself. I will grieve for the beautiful girl who was always smiling.
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A touching story well told with lots of emotion. The story line highlights the curse of addiction and the devastating impact on the daily life of so many people.
Thank you so much for reading my story. What you say is very true. I lost my oldest son to addiction a little more than 5 years ago. The toll it takes is indescribable. One day I hope to be able to tell his story. For now, this was the best I could do to express my feelings.
Heartbreaking! Good storytelling also, you paint scenery portraits very well.
Thank you so much for reading! I based Edie on some real people, but changed the real story somewhat. I tapped into some of my own emotions when writing this story. I am so glad you felt something here!