Meet me behind Calla Pharmacy. I have something for you.
That’s the text Laura sent. And the messages afterward were a series of me asking why the fuck we were meeting there and her not answering my question, but insisting that I come.
“You have no idea the shit I was imagining on the way down here,” I scold her although it’s only concern that binds to the statement. The buzz from earlier has worn off completely, as if the current situation isn’t sobering enough.
“Sorry.” Laura’s hushed voice is barely heard as she grips my arm and pulls me farther down the alley to where she parked her car.
“We can do shady shit at my house,” I say, biting out the words.
“What if it’s bugged or something?”
All I can hear is the wind as her words sink in.
Concern is etched in her expression as she looks back at me and then nearly opens her trunk, but she stops too soon and places both of her palms on the slick metal.
The streetlight from nearby barely illuminates us.
“It’s dark and cold and you’re freaking me out,” I finally speak and ignore the way it hurts just to breathe in air this cold. I lift my scarf up to cover my nose before shoving my hands in my pockets and asking, “What the hell are we doing here?”
Every second it seems scarier back here. It’s a vacant small lot, no longer asphalt as the grass has grown through patches of it. It’s all cracked and ruined. Even though it’s abandoned, there are still ambient noises. The small sounds are what spike my unease.
Like the cat that jumped onto the dumpster and the cars that speed by every so often out front. I should have told Jase. I should have messaged him, but I didn’t.
“Why did we have to come down here? And why couldn’t I tell Jase?”
“We just had to, okay.” Laura’s fear is barely concealed by irritation. “And he doesn’t need to know about this. I did something,” she quickly adds before I can get in another word. Her soft blue eyes are wide with worry and she looks like she can barely breathe. Her gaze turns back to the trunk and chills run down my arms.
“There better not be a body in there,” I tell her more to lighten the mood, but also out of the sheer fear that she fucking killed someone. At this point, I don’t know what to predict next.
“Jesus,” she hisses. “I didn’t kill anyone.” She searches behind me and then over her shoulders like someone might be watching. “I’m not one of the crazies in your nut hut.”
There’s a small voice in the back of my mind telling me that Seth is somewhere. Seth is watching and Jase will know everything she says and does right now. But only if Jase knew I left, only if Seth is watching me nonstop. The thought is comforting for a split second, and then I regret not telling Jase.
“You promise you didn’t say anything?” she asks and I nod.
I remind myself, this is Laura, Laura the friend I met in college, the girl who I ran to when I got dumped and needed to consume my weight in ice cream and fall asleep in front of romcoms. My Laura. My best, and really, my only friend.
There isn’t a damn thing she could do that would be problematic. With that thought lingering, I get to the bottom of it. “Why are we here?”
“Look… first…” It’s a heavy sigh that leaves her when she stares at me. The look she’s giving me is begging for forgiveness and acceptance.
“You’re freaking me out,” I admit and grip her hands in mine. They’re cold, just like the air, like my lungs, like everything back here on the cold winter night. “Just tell me; I won’t be mad.”
Laura’s never done anything like this and I don’t know what to expect. I always know what she’s going to do and say. She’s the voice of reason more times than not. But this… “I have no idea what you did, but it’s okay. Whatever you have to tell me or show me, it’s okay.” I hope my words comfort her like they do me. Even if they are only words.
“You have to accept it,” she tells me and her voice is sharp. The worry is gone in her cadence, replaced by strength.
“Accept what?” The question I ask goes unanswered. Instead a breeze blows, forcing Laura’s blonde hair to blow in front of her face although she makes no move to stop it. Bits of soft snow fall between us and all she does is stare at me and then make me promise.
“Promise you’ll take it. Promise you’ll never mention it again.” She inhales too quickly and finally moves, shifting on her feet to look behind me before adding, “Promise it leaves with you and you forget where you got it.”