It was nearly three weeks later when I found it... three weeks too late, three weeks where I had forgotten all about it. I found it in the pocket of my jeans, along with a few coins and some lint... it was crumpled and creased, its single neat fold ruined. At first I thought it was just a scrap, but then I saw the writing in its folded center- the large, loopy writing so familiar to me. Writing I had not seen in three weeks…

It was my name written there… my name.


From: Amberlea

P.S. Don't open until you get home."

It was almost like a supernatural experience, a voice from beyond the grave… although there was no proof that Amberlea was dead, not yet, at any rate. I felt my body stiffen in my curiosity, the strangeness of the occurrence. And yet, at any other time in my life it would have been quite normal, not strange at all- finding old notes from Amberlea in my room and notebooks, locker and clothes, was a typical and even annoying occurrence- I had gotten to the point over the past few years where finding another paper with Amberlea's handwriting on it exasperated me, caused me to roll my eyes and crumple it again without rereading it.

But now, with Amberlea gone, with no one knowing where she was or what might have happened to her- it was different. Finding her old note to me made me pause, threw me off somehow. I had not heard from Amberlea in three weeks now… this was the first kind of communication with her of any kind I had come across in all that time. She had not called me or e-mailed me, not told me anything at all- and that was unusual. I wouldn't worry about her disappearance so much- it wasn't unusual for her, although she'd never gone missing for so long before- except that she hadn't told me anything at all about her plans, and that was unusual. Usually with Amberlea's "disappearances", or more like it, botched attempts at running away, she would tell me and other friends, usually in a public place like school or the bus, that she was leaving and never coming back- usually in a very loud voice, accompanied by furious swearing and/or hysterical tears. Then, after giving us emotional goodbyes that we were all so used to we mostly just hugged her woodenly, allowing her rants to wash over us and not responding, she would go off with her current boyfriend/guy friend/ much older female friend and/or lover/ sex partner of the night. (She didn't have a license at barely sixteen, let alone a car). And she'd drive off for a while, sending her young, single mother Miranda, the police, and other authority figures into a fury/panic mode for a day or two. J

Within 24 hours she would call me, drunk or high, babbling, screaming, or crying, about her fucked-up life and the dickhead guy or girl she was with. Through one way or another, she'd eventually be back home, get grounded, suspended, and lectured for a while, but eventually she would sneak out, Miranda would relent, or both- and things would go back to "normal". She never went to jail, juvie, or rehab- Miranda, as completely stressed and insane as Amberlea made her, flatly refused to agree to that. As if by denying her daughter was out of control- purposely or not, it didn't matter in the long run- she could somehow regain a semblance of the control she no longer held over her.

But none of that had happened this time… it had been three weeks, and as far as we knew, Amberlea hadn't left with anyone, nor had she contacted them. It was very strange… and this time, Amberlea's mother wasn't' the only one who was worried. Even as much as I tried to ignore the situation, pretend it didn't bother me, pretend I thought this was no different than the other times, I knew I was lying to myself. I knew I was worried about her, as much as I resented and was disgusted by her at times. Although I couldn't let myself consciously admit it, I knew I was afraid of what might have happened to her, what she might be doing…

That was why now, as I stared at the note from her in my hands, I felt so strange about its discovery. I was holding something from her in my hands, something she had written to me… it felt like an omen, a sign as to what might be going on with her. I felt a slow chill of apprehension, dread, come over me slowly, for no discernible reason, and I shivered.

From the way the note was folded, it looked like it had never been open, let alone read. It was slightly crumpled, but from having been stuffed in my pocket. Why had I not read this note- when had Amberlea given it to me?

Slowly I began to unfold the note, my tension, near fear at discovering its contents increasing with each crackle of the paper. This is silly, Aislynn, I told myself, but it didn't sound convincing even to me. You're being stupid. There's nothing horrible written in this- it's just another Amberlea note about some guy or girl, either ranting about how sexy they are or ranting about how she hopes they burn with their sexual organs removed. It's nothing to be dreading reading.

But when I began to read the note, and I realized what it was saying, it felt as though all of my breath had been snatched from my lungs. I could not move… I just sat there, with the note in my hands, shaking so badly I nearly ripped it in two, as my mind screamed with horror, the guilt of what I had done. For I remembered now… and all I could do was sit, numb in body as the agonized thoughts rushed back, thoughts of my hand in whatever had happened to Amberlea.