The school bell rang at 3:00pm, we, the class, counted down in our minds as the last seconds of school ticked away. My mind was fogged over with confusion about what my dad had said this morning, and, why had Laurel, by best friend, been pulled out of class this morning? "They're gone, just, gone" my dad had said. Who was gone, what happened, and where was my friend? Finally, I heard the loud bell that signaled the end of school. I raced outside and sped to my house, determined to find out what was going on. When I opened my house door, there was my mom and dad in the lounge room, surrounded by a whole bunch of people I didn't know. All of them had several things in common; red blotchy faces, swollen eyes, and tear stained cheeks. I went over to where my mom and dad were standing and asked what was up.
"It's Laurel honey" Said my mom, tears in her throat.
"Sit down Tam" Said my dad in the same lifeless tone.
"What's wrong with Laurel?!" I asked desperately, worry choking me.
"No, nothing's wrong with Laurel, it's, it's her parents. They, well, they were in a car crash" Said one of the strangers. Obviously not sure if I would handle it well. I didn't.
"But, they're going to be ok, right? They have to be ok, they have to! And, they will!" I shouted, more to convince myself then them. I didn't wait for an answer, just ran straight to Laurels house.
Tears threatened to invade my already stinging eyes. When I got to the door of her house, tears had managed to escape my eyes. Viciously, I swiped the tears off my cheeks and knocked. A man in a black suit answered the door and told me to leave. I rushed in past him anyway, and frantically, my eyes searched for Laurel. When I finally spotted her, strong arms gripped my shoulders, holding me back. I ripped away from them and went over to Laurel. She was curled up on the fuzzy leather couch hugging her knees to her chest. She looked up at me and I saw that her face was red; her eyes looked as if they had been rolling out tears for days rather than hours. I hugged her, she hugged me back, and we stayed like that for many minutes, she cried on my shoulder grieving for her mother and father who wouldn't ever come back. They had been great people, her parents, James; he always had a bright cheery smile on his face and a joke in his head to tell you if you were feeling down. Jessica, she was just like Laurel, only taller and with deep smile lines from lots of practice. But now, these were just memories, they were just memories. Finally, I was taken away and sent back home. Crying, I ran and ran until my legs could no longer carry me. My dad found me and carried me back inside. He hugged me tightly and said,
"It's gonna be ok, Laurel will be fine and so will you" he said. But I knew he was faking the reassuring tone. And he knew that I knew too.
"The funeral's tomorrow" my mom said flatly.
Dinner was quiet, and after I finished eating, I went straight to bed. My sleep was dreamless and once it was over, I felt like it hadn't existed at all. My head was throbbing and pounding, my long brown curls were a disaster, and my eyes had dark bruise like circles hung under my eyes like a spider web; unwanted. The morning went by quickly, silent breakfast, silent school, silent bus ride home, and before I knew it, I was getting ready for the 4:00pm funeral. I wore my best dress; it was black, knee length, and it had a tight band around the waist. The upper half of it had flowers in yellow, pink, purple, red, and blue. My shoes were black ballerinas, and my curls had been tamed into a ponytail put in place with a black ribbon. I twirled two of my spiral curls with my finger and made them frame my face, one on each side. It was a bright sunny day, but passed this happy scene, laid an unforgiving fact. Death hung in the air, leaving a whole in my chest that nothing else in the world could do. The birds were singing their chirpy melody that, with the occasion being a funeral, seemed almost taunting. Big willow trees framed the grave yard, their wide spread arms seemed to be warding me away. First, the man from the church gave a speech about death, then, my parents talked about Laurels mom and dad saying that they'll always be with us in our minds and our hearts, and that we'll always be there for Laurel when she needs comfort and love. And finally it was Laurels turn. She mumbled, stuttered, and cried her way through a heart filled speech about her loving parents and wonderful memories. At the end of the funeral, Neala, one of Laurels lifelong friends, was crying her heart out, as if it was her own parents that had died. I went over and tried to comfort her. Hugging, saying comforting things, rubbing her back, and finally she calmed down enough to talk.
"It shouldn't have happened. They were good people, it shouldn't have happened" She said in a mixture of crying and whispering. All the rest of the day, I thought those words. I knew they were true, I just didn't know why.
The next day was a long one. Every other minute people were comforting me, asking me questions, and interviewing me, but, for the whole day, I hadn't seen Laurel. Before I knew it, the weekend was here, and, I still didn't know where Laurel was, how Laurel was, or anything. Saturday afternoon, I'd had enough. I ran over to her house, there was an eerie sense of de ja vu about it though. I knocked on the door. The same man in the same black suit opened the door, but, unlike last time he let me in without a fight. Laurel was curled up in a ball on the leather couch again, however, her face was only slightly red, and, she wasn't bawling, eyes blinded by tears. She seemed, peaceful. Looking closer, I noticed that she had a book in her hand, the Bible! That's odd, she wasn't religious. Strange…
"Do you suppose they're there know?" Laurel asked me. She was surprisingly calm, and her voice was completely steady, not shaky at all. That was a good sign.
"Where?" I asked back.
"My uncle, the man that answered the door, gave me this book," she said, holding up the Bible. "It says that my Mom and dad are together in a better place, up in heaven. Do you think it's true?" There was urgency in her voice that made me think she just needed something to believe in now that a lot of her beliefs left with her parents.
"Yes. I bet your mom and dad are up there right now," I said, pointing up at the sky, "They're probably smiling down at you, waiting patiently for the time you'll all be together again, up there in heaven." I gave her a reassuring smile. The smile she gave me in return made me instantly know I had done my job.
A year passed and Laurel was happy, herself again. Her uncle decided they wouldn't move after all so we got to stay buds forever! School, however, was it's boring self, except a year harder now that we were a year older. My 13th birthday was coming up and Laurel and I had a plan to go to the pool/water park with our friends. It's about an hour's bus drive, but, it would be worth it! Laurel and I were talking about it forever! Planning, being excited, and laughing about how much fun we were going to have. When the day came, were as excited as possible, seriously, we were jumping puppy excited! If you know what I mean. I invited Toby, Pete, Ivan, Cassie, Rachel, Courtney, Jamie, Neala, Jack, Hannah, and Laurel. We filled into the bus and, of course, every one tried to sit next to me. I sat next to Laurel. I talked to everyone and we were all so happy! I swear it was unreal!
When we got to the pool/water park, we all got into our swimsuits then raced to the biggest slide, I got in 3rd, Laurel in 2nd, I ain't complaining'! Laurel and I went down together, screaming like hooligans in the really fast parts, and holding our breath on the dark tunnel parts where turns and drops came out of nowhere! After 4 hours of fun in the sun, we had to dry off and get back on the bus to home. All the kids ran to the bus to get first seat pick, so there was pushing and shoving and yelping, luckily though, no one got hurt. I finally got on (last) and squashed in between Laurel and Toby. Not that bad a seat. I smiled, and we talked about funny memories for the whole hour long journey, and, believe me, that was easy; there were a lot of them! Getting off the bus was a lot simpler than getting on at the pool was, however, I still managed to both sprain my ankle, and do a face plant. What a klutz. Unfortunately, my luck was going to make a turn for the much, much, worse. We got to the part of the walk to my house where we had to cross the intersection. I put on a firm, steady face. Determined not to look weak, I stopped limping, and refused help from both Rachel and Laurel. They shrugged and kept on walking.
"RUN!!!" screamed Courtney. I looked behind me, no one was there! My leg had slowed me down more than I thought. I looked ahead and everyone was at the other sidewalk screaming for me to run. I tried, but ended up tripping. This was a bad day for my nose. I looked to my left; a car was coming at top speed, me being on the ground made me invisible. I screamed. My throat burned and my head hurt with confusion and an overwhelming thought. The words 'I'm going to die' and 'This is how it will end for me' spun around viciously. Then suddenly, WHAM! I closed my eyes and waited for the pain to hit, it never did. I heard a thud from the car head lights. Slowly opening my eyes, I saw that I had been dragged away from the car, and something else, or, someone else had been hit. Lowering my eyes, I saw Laurel. Her arms and one leg were obviously broken. As were several of her ribs too. Her chest wasn't moving at all, she wasn't breathing. My mind was a whirr. Laurel had sacrificed her own life to save mine. That is what a true friend does. No, that is what a true friend/sister, good person does. That is the kind of person where you're lucky if you meet one of them your entire life! But now, she was as quiet as death. She was dead. Gone forever, no longer in the arms of earth, and life.
The funeral was the week later. I had my speech prepared, but, I wasn't sad. Well, I was sad because I lost an incredible friend, but I hadn't been bawling, heck, I hadn't been crying at all. The thing was that Laurel was happy. I knew she was. She was with her parents smiling down at us.
"Laurel Browns, she was the kind of person you see maybe one of in your entire life, if, you're lucky. Laurel saved my life, in doing so, she let go of hers. But, we shouldn't grieve for her. Be sad that you lost a great friend, but happy that she's back with her family again. I bet, right now, Laurel and her parents are smiling down at us, waiting for the time, when we're all together again. Up there" I said, pointing up at the sky like I'd done to reassure Laurel. "This is a poem I wrote before she passed away, but, it may as well have been about her;
What is life, when your family is dying?
What is life, when your hopes and dreams are crushed?
What is life, when all you know is gone?
What is life, when all you see is wrong?
What is life, when you've no one to wipe away a tear?
What is life, when nothing is longer clear?
And what is life, when all you know is fear?
Laurel knew all of these things, whether from experience, or being around others who have experienced it. She was the best friend I could have ever hoped for and much, much, more. We should always remember her, and her parents, 'cuz, they will forever be with us, in our minds, and in our hearts."
On the way out of the cemetery, it was bright and sunny. But the birds no longer seemed taunting, they seemed happy, like I was. The willow trees that framed the grave yard no longer seemed to ward people off, but invite them in, and their long branches that swayed in the warm breeze, seemed to be helping people like laurel, make it across the bridge, from earth, to heaven. I thought about the words Neala had said at Laurels parents' funeral. "It shouldn't have happened!" well, that was true now, but, maybe it was for the better. Maybe this is how the puzzle pieces fit together, because, this wasn't good bye, it was only a temporary road block. I'll see Laurel again. I know it. I didn't know how I knew it, I just did, and I felt sure of it.