Best Friends Forever
Clara and Marnie were best friends and would walk home together every afternoon. They lived down the street from one another and the long walks offered plenty of opportunities to talk, laugh, play, gossip and leave the school day behind them.
One day, they were walking in silence; Marnie had noticed Clara had turned quiet and dour of late and didn’t enjoy Marnie’s lively conversation.
“Don’t be silly!” Clara said when Marnie pointed out the change.
A day came when Clara was even quieter and Marnie watched her out of the corner of her eye. She knew something was wrong, but said nothing and listened only to the sound of their feet upon the sidewalk, the trill of the birds and the hum of motors as cars zoomed by them.
“Last night I dreamed I died,” Clara broke the silence and even the birds stopped chirping, “I’ve been dreaming it every night for the past month.”
“Maybe you’re worried about something?”
Clara shook her head.
“Can you die in dreams? How does it happen, how do you die?”
A shadow darkened Clara’s face, “In pain.”
They walked on in silence, Clara pensive and Marnie afraid to pry further.
“I think it will happen tomorrow,” Clara said as they reached Marnie’s stoop.
“How do you know?”
“In the dream I see the date. I get run over by a car on the way home, and as I’m bleeding on the street, someone’s radio mentions the date and time.”
“Well, I’ll stop it,” Marnie put her hands on her hips in her best Superman stance, “I won’t let it happen.”
“How can you stop it?”
“We’ll take the bus.”
Marnie’s determination comforted Clara a little, and thought maybe dreams were like wishes: if spoken aloud, they won’t come true.
The next day when the school bell rang, the girls collected their things and hurried out into the sunlight. They headed straight for the yellow school bus. They both had bus passes, but only used them in inclement weather. Marnie and Clara hated the bus. The kids waiting glanced sideways at them and murmured that the sun was out, so why were they getting in line?
“It’ll be okay,” Marnie squeezed Clara’s hand.
The driver stepped out from the bus.
“Sorry guys,” he blocked the door, “this bus broke down. If you’re within walking distance, I suggest you hoof it, otherwise, wait here and we’ll fit you in the other busses. Again, if you can walk home, please do so and leave the remaining seats for those who can’t.”
Marnie and Clara exchanged looks; Clara shrugged, resigned to her fate. Head down and quiet, they set off homeward.
They’d reached the avenue and had gone a few steps at the crosswalk, when screeching tires rounded the corner. Clara was in the speeding car’s path; Marnie a step behind her.
“Clara!” Marnie yelled and pulled her back. Their weight spun them around and Marnie, unable to control her footing, fell into the street as the car struck her. The beeping stoplight announced they had twenty seconds left to cross.
Clara screamed and rushed to Marnie’s side.
“I told you I wouldn’t let you die today,” Marnie choked; blood spewed from her mouth, her limbs at odd angles.
“I won’t let you die either,” Clara cried and tended to her friend until the ambulance arrived. She thanked her stars they’d taken that First Aid training at school.
* * *
I glance at Grandma Marnie, who’s standing tall, and hug her. She’s reminiscing about the accident many years ago, a story I’ve heard countless times. Tears roll down her cheeks and I stifle a sob as the pallbearers lower the coffin into the ground. After a lifetime together, we are laying Auntie Clara to rest.