A clattering ring over my head sucked me from a dream.
Reflexively I slapped my arm up into the headboard, palming the handset and lifting before the noise filled my bedroom again.
A scared voice, nervous. Asking for help.
I exhaled and got the details.
He rolled through them sparingly, not saying the obvious. He didn’t want to hurt me.
This, I knew. So I let it go for now. I said “I’ll see you there.”
I pressed the button with my thumb, sat up in bed, cleared my throat.
Letting go, the keypad lit up pale green, black sturdy numbers waiting, dial tone humming.
I informed, I assured, I agreed to meet them there.
I dialed again, another set of parents to wake tonight.
This time I placed the handset in its cradle, swung my bare legs from under the sheets, strode to the closet with purposeful calm.
I pulled on clothes, heard my parents’ door open. I told them where I was going, they nodded, “Go”.
I splashed my face in the bathroom, grabbed my keys and headed to the hospital.
She laid in the gurney, makeup smeared and hair tangled. Weeping over a favorite pair of jeans sliced from her body.
I felt the rush of her parents, their heat and fear bubbling around them, before they passed me to get to her.
Once they saw she was okay, they embraced me.
“No problem. Of course” I said.
Her brother glanced at me, looked back down at the floor. Mumbled a quiet “Thanks”.
She was okay; her parents were there, more details inevitably spilled out.
I nodded, backed away, slipped into the night.
The ride home I kept the car silent.
My thoughts were enough company.
Relief she was okay.
Hurt I wasn’t invited.
Acknowledgement that I wasn’t as fun.
Deafened by unknown secrets.
But a tickle of something I couldn’t yet name took residence in my chest,
A small consolation.
They didn’t want me around that night.
But when they needed me, they knew I could take care of them. I would come. I wouldn’t begrudge.
I could help. I could fix. I could manage.
I’d never feel close to them again.
But at the end of that night, at least we all knew the kind of person I was becoming, and that was something lovely to behold.
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This post was written for The Red Dress Club RemembeRED Memoir writing prompt.
The prompt went like this:
Write a post that either starts or ends with the words “Lesson learned.” Word limit: 400 words.
When I had tried to make plans with a few of my friends that weekend when I was in high school, oddly, none were around. I thought nothing of it until I was woken by the phone call. A party got out of hand, my friend was being rushed to the ER, and her brother, who was with her at the party (and who I actually went to prom with), wanted someone else to call their parents (there were 2 sets of parents, due to divorce).
It hurt to realize what was going on behind my back so deliberately after so many years of friendship.
My “consolation” took a while to really sink in, to actually mean something to me. Thankfully, I have about 18 years between then and now to give me some perspective, and I was able to recently talk to someone who was “in” that group who helped me understand it better.
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