Summary: Things aren't always what they seem, and sometimes the simple answer is more complicated than you can even begin to imagine.
Amy Heartlin used to live in the house just down the road. I was ten when she disappeared, and she was seventeen.
The day before, they say Pete Jeffreys asked her to marry him. They'd been seeing each other regularly, though they didn't think anybody knew it but them. But I knew, and Amy's little sister Becca knew. Becca and I had been best friends since kindergarten; everybody in town joked about us being twins.
Anyway... there were a lot of theories as to what happened to Amy, most of them not altogether pleasant. One persistent theory was that Amy turned Pete down, and he couldn't handle it. Killed her (in a variety of grisly ways, depending on who you asked) and hid the body someplace no one would ever find it. Another popular spin on it was that Amy's daddy found out about her and Pete (and possibly that Amy was with child) and went bat-shit crazy. Of course, all of this was just people speculating on something that was none of their business. I think me and Pete are the only ones who know what really happened...
It was three years after, and I was out in back of our house, past the thick line of trees that stood like a wall surrounding the clearing that Becca and I used to play in when we were kids. I can't recall exactly what it was I'd been doing, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Pete. He was just standing there like a statue, staring out at the little pond there with a dreamy look on his face. I don't know what made me call out to him; maybe it was the way his eyes seemed unfocused, or the same slump in his shoulders that had plagued Becca since her sister went missing.
When he looked at me, it seemed like he'd just woken up out of a deep sleep. I was afraid to take a step. So we stood there, not ten feet away from each other, just staring.
"She's gone," he said, all of a sudden. And his eyes looked so tired and sad that I couldn't look away, even though I wanted to.
"I have to tell you," he said, walking toward me. I was frozen to the spot in fear. "I have to tell you what happened..."
It was then that I noticed the ring in his trembling hands, an engagement ring. He gripped my shoulders hard, and stared into me with those wild, desperate, sad eyes that haven't left my memory to this day. "Johnny. Johnny. You have to know this..." He licked his lips, and his eyes darted around as though seeking out invisible spies in the trees. He leaned in closer, until our faces were inches apart. What he said next didn't change my life, but it did change the way I would see the world from then on.
It's difficult to explain exactly what happened to Amy that day. She didn't die. She didn't ever leave this town, not in the way one might think. The best way to put it, I believe, is that she moved on. She was never what we thought she was, or who we wanted her to be. We had ourselves convinced that the world around us was exactly as we perceived it to be, and because we only saw what we wanted, we missed what was really there. We are afraid of the strangeness of the world, a strangeness that inexorably shapes us and defines our very being.
No, what happened to Amy didn't change my life... it opened my eyes.