Thanks to Chiijoy and all other readers. It all won't be sad and depressing, I promise.
She had been riding with one of her blond friends to school the next Friday morning and the car had been hit by a truck. Her friend made it out all right but Ela had been in critical condition all through Friday.
The underclassmen started rumors about the girl they never knew. The principal got on the P.A. system and told the school not to go to the hospital and visit Ela because there was so much to handle. Mr. and Mrs. Motte, he said, were in counseling. We seniors went through the rest of the day with heavy hearts; even though Ela hadn't been everyone's friend, she was still decent to a lot of people, even the nerds.
I went home Friday night with a heavy heart. Barricading myself in my room, ignoring my mother calling me, I found an old picture album that had been shoved under my bed years ago. Inside were pictures of Ela and me when we had been best friends, at the zoo feeding the llamas, swinging at the park, celebrating each other's birthdays. On the last page in a juvenile scrawl underneath a photograph of the two of us hugging was, in pink pen, Junie and Ela, best friends forever.
A tickling sensation in my leg woke me up from a deep sleep. I rubbed at my eyes, unaware that I had even fallen asleep. My picture album lay on my lap, still open. Hastily, I shut the album and reached into my pocket, pulling out my cell phone. It vibrated in my hand and I opened it up and answered.
The small voice on the other end of the phone startled me. "Mim?"
I rubbed my eyes, turned on the bedroom light, and looked over at the clock. It was a little after three in the morning.
"I'm sorry if I woke you up, Junie, but… but…" Miriam's voice faded.
Miriam was one of my friends but she had a hard time forming words. "If you're not going to say anything I'm going back to bed," I snapped.
"God, Junie. I'm just trying to… God. Ela died, Junie. Ela's dead."
I blinked a few times. "No she's not," I said pathetically. "She can't be. How do you know?"
Miriam's mom was a nurse at the hospital Ela was at, had been at, and had probably been told about it. I knew it was a stupid question the second I said it and Miriam thought so, too, and just ignored it.
"I'm really sorry. I know you two had been really close a few years ago and I just wanted to tell you rather than having you hear it on the news or something."
"Oh, that's real nice," I retorted angrily. "You can't just tell someone that a person died over the phone. God, Mim. You're freaking insensitive!"
I hung up the phone in a huff and went back to sleep.
Going to school was easier than I had thought it would be. All of Ela's preppy friends had graffitied our school rock with her name and lifespan. Miriam told me about the rock but I didn't go out and see it.
After homeroom the teachers set up a bunch of chairs in the social studies quad for the senior class and the assorted underclassmen who knew Ela. Her parents were there and her two brother who were both under ten. And her boyfriend was there, too. He was a senior at a rival high school and sat beside the Motte children with his head in his hands the entire time.
Some of the teachers went up to the front and said a few things, not about Ela but about how it was important for us to talk about "it" and not to keep our feelings in. They kept referring to Ela's death as "it." No one would come out and say it. Then the principal came up and he read letters of condolence he had received from other schools. The words sat heavily around the room. People did care, but it seemed so impersonal to me.
After the service, a lot of the kids stayed in the quad, hugged each other, and cried. Miriam and Mai had sat next to me and were talking quietly, both somber. I stood up and was about to leave and go back to class when I saw Micaiah, Ela's boyfriend, walk out of the quad.
I followed him out and let out a nervous gasp when I saw him sitting against the wall, overcome with tears. He and Ela had known each other for years before they had started dating and I had known him as well when Ela and I had been friends. I was about to turn and leave, to go back into the quad but he noticed me before I could move.
"Junie," he choked out between sobs.
I sat beside him and put an arm around his shaking shoulders. "Micah, I'm so sorry." His grief was
overpowering and we were soon in each other's arms, sobbing in the deserted hallway.