When Ann Went Missing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
It follows how a group of friends deal with a friend who had just been found after going missing for a week. She is not talking and she isnt quite the same. It is hard on her and on her friends and it's quite emotionally driven, this one.

(Work in Progress - Updates are in BLUE, lovers)

Submitted: July 24, 2008

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Submitted: July 24, 2008

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The crowd was intense. They were dancing, screaming, singing along to the songs they knew by heart. Despite the heat from the afternoon sun, the crowd made up of mostly teenage boys and girls were going wild over the band on stage.

Charlie, Kim and Sue walked towards the crowd, careful not to bump any flailing bodies. The three of them knew the band playing, but they weren’t there for the music.

They kept to the edges of the crowd, stepping back once in a while to avoid crashing into an overly active fan. Finally, the band wrapped up their set and its members began walking off the stage.

Kim and Sue looked at each other, not sure what to say or do. Charlie saw the look on the faces of his friends. It was a look he’d seen too much of this past week. He moved towards the side of the stage, the girls following closely behind him.

Nathan, the lead singer of the band and their friend for months now, was the first to spot them.

“Hey guys! You made it!” he said, smiling broadly. His whole face and neck were slicked with sweat, and he still had the adrenaline running through him. Charlie could see it in his eyes.

“Hey, Nate,” Charlie said, exchanging a handshake. “Great set.”

“Thanks, man. Oh, hey, where’s Ann?” Nathan asked, picking up a bottle of water from one of the tables. He took a big gulp and then looked up at the trio.

Kim and Sue again exchanged looks. Nathan caught them and his expression immediately changed.

He put down the bottle and ran his hand through his hair. But before he could say anything, the drummer for the band, Andrew, came up and joined the group.

“Hi! Thanks for coming down, man!” Drew said, smiling. He too was drenched in sweat. And he too immediately noticed that something wasn’t right. “What’s going on?”

Charlie cleared his throat, unsure of what to say or how to say it.

“Did Ann come by today?” he asked, looking first at Nate, then keeping his gaze on Drew. Both boys looked quizzically at each other.

“No, we’d thought she’d be with you. Is everything all right? I’m not getting a good vibe here,” Nate said softly, taking turns to look at the three standing in front of him.

“No one’s heard from Ann in a week,” Kim said softly, but everyone heard the quiver in her voice.

“What? You mean, like, wait, is Ann missing?” Drew asked, trying to keep his words audible.

Sue nodded slowly, not looking at anyone in the eye. She didn’t want them to see her cry.

“This is crazy,” Nate said loudly. “She can’t be missing. Ann’s not the sort to run away. We know her.”

“Which makes this all the more worrying,” Drew said angrily. He wasn’t sure why he was angry, but he just was. And the feeling was manifesting.

“When was the last time any of you spoke to her?” Charlie asked.

“Two weeks ago? I saw her in school and we stopped to chat,” Nate replied. He tried to remember if they’d texted or spoken online since but he couldn’t remember.

“Last Friday. She had called me to meet for ice cream but I wasn’t free. Shit! Oh shit,” Drew yelled, covering his face with a hand. He sat down on one of the many empty plastic chairs around.

No one spoke. They all just stood there, immersed in their own thoughts, their own worries. Finally, Drew looked up, his face etched with pain and worry.

“Are the cops involved?” he asked Charlie. There was so much emotion in his face than when Kim and Sue looked at him, that familiar heaviness in their hearts and throats returned.

“They said it might be a runaway case. But they’re looking into it,” Charlie replied.

“And her family?”

“No one knows where they are. No one’s home.”

“Shit, I should have met her last Friday.”

“There’s nothing you could have done, man.”

“You don’t fucking know that!” Drew yelled, glaring at Charlie. But the moment he said that, he regretted it. Everyone was worried. Everyone was afraid. His face softened. “I’m sorry, man. I’m just- ”

“We all are. Look, are you sure she wasn’t here? Did you see anyone that looked vaguely like her?”

“We would have noticed. Ann comes to almost every show. We would have seen her,” Nate said, taking a seat beside his drummer.

“We just thought she’d come. She never misses a show. But now she has… and… God, this just proves something’s wrong,” Kim said, choking on her words. She’d started crying again. She was just so worried. Ann was her best friend and it scared her thinking there was something horrible happening to her right now.

----

Drew woke up with a lurch. He sat up straight in bed. Everything was still and quiet. He looked around his room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest.

Just as his breathing returned to its normal rate, his mobile phone rang, shrill and sharp in the darkness.

Drew grabbed it, startled. The caller display said it was Charlie. Drew felt his heart tighten. Every ounce of worry he’d felt in the past two weeks came rushing back in one overwhelming wave. Every bit of fear he’d felt, every worse case scenario he’d imagine filled his head so quickly he felt dizzy.

His phone was still ringing, the LCD screen flashing Charlie’s name over and over again. Finally, Drew took a deep breath and flipped the phone open.

“Yeah?” he asked softly, his voice coarse and hesitant.

There was a pause before Charlie’s voice came on the line. The pause probably lasted less than a second, but to Drew, it was the longest, emptiest pause he’d ever been through.

Charlie spoke, and Drew dropped his head into his hands, tears streaming through his fingers.

--

At four in the morning the streets were empty and cold. Roads and avenues that buzz with activity and life in the sun were now dead and stagnant. Store displays dark, lights flickering in corners that seemed so friendly in the daytime.

Drew pressed down on the accelerator, ignorant of red lights and stop signs. He turned a corner sharply and was greeted by the pulsating red and blue lights from the police cars. There was an ambulance, three police cars and several other vehicles. There were reporters and detectives. There were police officers running here and there. But there was no Ann.

Parking the car at an awkward angle, Drew killed the engine and got out of the car. He ran towards the edge of the area cordoned off by the flimsy yellow police tape. “Sir, you gotta stay back,” the office guarding the line instructed, putting a firm hand on Drew’s shoulder.

“Where is she? Is she all right?” Drew asked, his eyes blazing with emotion. The officer, hand still on Drew’s shoulder, looked at his face. But Drew couldn’t read the officer’s expression. “Please, sir. Just tell me if she’s all right.”

The officer’s face softened, and he gave Drew’s shoulder a squeeze. Suddenly, there was a commotion from somewhere inside the building they were standing in front of. Drew looked over the officer’s shoulder, trying to see what was happening.

“You really have to back up, son,” the officer said. Drew felt another set of hands on his other shoulder and turned around. It was Charlie.

“Where is she? What’s going on?” Drew asked, frantic. He stared at Charlie and suddenly realised that Charlie was crying. Charlie, the strong one, and the one who had held everyone together this whole time was now crying. His tears glimmered in the red and blue lights, and under the sickly yellow streetlights.

“They don’t know if she’s going to make it,” Charlie said softly. He was about to say something more when a large group of people exited the building, surrounding what appeared to be a stretcher.

The reporters and news crews present surged forward, rushing to get a shot. Drew and Charlie got shoved aside, and by the time they managed to work their way forward, the stretcher had already been pushed into the ambulance.

Both boys ran towards it, but as they got to it, the doors were closed shut and the ambulance sped away, lights blazing and sirens wailing.

The news crews started moving away, packing up and getting back into their vans and cars. The police officers still milled about, and detectives and forensic officers entering the building to investigate.

Charlie turned around and looked at Drew. “Come on, I’ll drive you to the hospital. You can collect your car in the morning.”

Drew stood still, not moving or speaking. He just stared down the road the ambulance was just on a few seconds ago. He could not longer see the lights or hear the sirens. He no longer felt anything. All he felt was numbness.

“I can’t, man,” he said softly. Charlie looked at him, not understanding what was going on.

“What are you talking about?” he asked Drew.

“I can’t see her like that.”

“Some bastards out there did that to her. She needs us there now. She needs you. Come on, man. Pull yourself together and get in the car. I’m not letting you stand here like this, all emo.”

“Okay, fuck, let’s go,” Drew said.

--

They watched her through the glass window, as the doctors and nurses milled about and fiddled with the machines by the side of her bed. They spoke amongst themselves, scribbled in their notepads then looked at her, expressions blank and void of emotion.

They watched helplessly as the doctors and nurses left the room in their tight huddle. The police officer on duty stood by the door; no one but doctors and family was allowed in. So all they could do was stand and watch her through the glass window.

She hadn’t woken up from when she was admitted into the hospital four hours ago. Though they couldn’t see her face clearly from the window, they knew that the Ann they once had was no longer coming home. The girl lying on the hospital bed was now nothing more than a shadow of their friend. This new Ann was tired, bruised, broken and robbed of every ounce of life she’d ever had.

They hadn’t see her clearly yet, but they all knew. As much as they wanted to see her, to hold her hand and hear her voice, they each had a common selfish wish. One that they didn’t have to say aloud and wish they’d never have to. Inside them, they wished she’d never wake up so that they’d never have to look into her eyes again and confirm their suspicions that the old Ann had died the moment they got her out of that old building.

They wondered where her family was, if they were safe or if Ann was the one who’d gotten lucky this time. It broke their hearts to see her alone in there, but there was nothing any one of them could do. Slowly, as the hours passed, one by one they left, till it was only Drew’s breath that was misting up the glass window.

--

It was two days before the doctors allowed in visitors. Ann was still drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to eat or speak. The doctors blamed her lack of appetite to the severe beating her midriff had taken, but they couldn’t account for her muteness.

The psychologist they brought in said that it was shock and trauma that was causing her to remain silent. In her time awake, all Ann would do was stare into the space in between, refusing to talk, move or respond to anything that was being said to her. Her eyes were still alert, darting about the room, as though silently looking for something that only see would be able to see.

Every time the door open, her eyes would flick to it, filled with unadulterated fear. But as soon as she recognised whoever it was that had just entered her room, the fear would subside and she would be continue her silent reverie.

After about a week, her friends starting coming in to see her less frequently. Everything they had tried to do to cheer her up had been in vain. She would hold their hand and listen to them talk, but her face gave away no emotions and her lips rarely parted.

“She’s just afraid,” Kim said, as Charlie, Nate and her walked into the hospital cafeteria after a visit. “Whatever it was she went through that whole week must have scared her.”

“If only she’d talk and let us help her,” Nate muttered as they took a seat in the further corner.

“Would photos help? I could bring all our photos the next time I visit,” Kim chipped in, looking up eagerly. She had been doing everything she could think of to try to get her best friend back, but with every effort and the lack of response, Kim’s enthusiasm was starting to dwindle.

“She doesn’t have amnesia, Kim,” Charlie said matter-of-factly. “She just refuses to talk. You know what, we need to find her family.”

“Shit, what kind of parents would just leave their daughter like this? She’s been there a week and no one’s been here to see her but us. No family, no relatives, no one. Her mom’s not here! Ann’s mom should be the one holding her hand till she falls asleep, not us. This is just all so fucked up,” Nate said, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms defensively across his chest.

“We don’t even know if they’re, you know, alive,” Kim said softly, burying her head in her hands.

“The police aren’t doing a very good job of looking for them,” Nate retaliated. “We should be out there looking for them. Ann needs them.”

“We’re better off staying here with Ann,” Charlie said sternly. “I’m going to get some coffee. You guys want anything?”

Nate shook his head no, the scowl still on his face. Kim got up suddenly and brushed down her skirt with her hand.

“I’m going to go back up. I’ll see you guys in a bit,” she said, grabbing her bag and heading out of the cafeteria. She took the lift up, already knowing the maze of corridors by heart. She walked into the ward Ann was in and made a beeline straight for the room. As she passed the nurses’ station, one of them spoke.

“They took her downstairs for some tests, sweetheart. She should be back soon,” the elderly woman said. She had bouncy white hair framing her face and her glasses perched on the edge of her nose. She reminded Kim of her own grandmother.

“Thanks,” Kim said, smiling. “I’ll just wait in her room.”

Kim continued for Ann’s room but as she walked pass the glass window, she looked in and stopped.

Drew was inside, sitting in the chair by the empty bed. His back was towards her and he had his head buried in the sheets. For a moment, Kim thought that Drew was merely resting his head on the bed, taking a quick much needed nap before Ann returned. Drew was the only one who’d been here every day since, coming in straight after his shifts at the coffee house and leaving early just in time for classes at school the next day.

It wasn’t until she saw his shoulders jerking that she realised he was crying.

---

Nate stared out into the crowd, hearing their cheers and screams melt into one collective roar. The sun was just about to set, casting a warm glow over the crowd. He turned and locked eyes with Drew.

His drummer's whole shirt was drenched in sweat and clung onto his body. There was sweat dripping from his nose and hair, and his eyes were blazing from the adrenaline.

Nate turned back to the crowd and held up his hands to quieten them down.

"Hold up, guys, hold up," he said, putting his mic back onto its stand. There were a couple of kids screaming and wolf-whistling before they calmed down.

"I'm sure many of you have heard about Ann Miller, the girl who went missing and then was found in an old warehouse, beaten up and bleeding," Nate started off. There were a couple of yells from the crowd but Nate couldn't make out what they said. He rubbed his face with one hand and continued.

"Well, Ann's a very good friend of ours and she's always at our shows and hanging out with us and stuff. Anyway, her best friend Kim's been videotaping the past few days. Ann's still in the hospital and she's going to have to stay there a while longer, so Kim had the brilliant idea that since Ann can't go outside, that we'd bring the outside in."

Someone from the crowd yelled, "Hell yeah, Kim!" and that was followed by a couple of cheers and applause. Nate smiled and turned back to look at Drew. The latter had put down his sticks and was now just staring at the crowd, smiling for the first time in days.

Nate scanned the crowd quickly and spotted Kim by the side of the stage. The little red light on the corner of the video recorder she was holding indicated that it was rolling. He motioned for her to come up on stage, and as she did, the crowd's applause grew. Nate felt a shiver of pride and excitement run through him.

"Okay guys, the band and I have got a favour to ask. We need you to look into this camera and say a huge 'Hi' to Ann. If she can't be here then we can at least bring the gig to her. Are you guys ready?" Nate yelled into his microphone as Kim stepped up and joined him front and centre. She panned the camera, trying to take in as much of the atmosphere as her tiny two and a half inch screen could.

Nate held out three fingers to countdown and as soon as his outstretched fingers turned into a fist, the crowd let out the most amazing "Hiiiiiiiiiiiii Annnnnnnn!" that any of them had ever heard.

Drew couldn't help but laugh, overwhelmed by the love and support the band's fans were able to extent, not only to them and their music, but also to their friends, and especially to Ann.

"You guys are fucking fantastic!" Nate said, smiling broadly. “Just fucking fantastic.”

Twenty minutes later, Kim said her goodbyes to the boys and started heading out for the car park. It was already past sunset and there was a cool breeze that carried the lingering smell of hotdogs. Kim decided that it was too late to swing by the hospital and decided to go straight home, get a hot shower and maybe starting working on stringing the video together. Ann would love the part with the gig and the music. Maybe it’d start her talking again.

Kim felt the familiar heaviness in her throat and heart every time she thought about Ann. Ann used to be so happy and fun. She used to have a weird giggle that got those around her to turn and smile wryly. She used to prance about school barefooted, coming back hair a mess and arms full of snacks and cookies. She used to know people in school, talking to them as they made they way to and from classes. She’d remember the most random details and talk to them as though she really cared – maybe she did. Yeah, Kim thought, Ann did care too much sometimes.

“Hey, are you the girl with the video camera? Kim?” someone asked. Kim turned around, momentarily taken aback. She gripped her bag closely to her chest. Nodding slowly, she realised it was only a couple of kids from the gig earlier.

“Yeah, can I help you?”

The boy who’d spoken was no more than 20, around the same age as Drew and Charlie. He was tall, dark and had on a shirt that said, ‘Dance if you love your toaster’. Kim smiled slightly as she read it, knowing that Ann would have probably gotten that exact same shirt if she’d seen it in display window somewhere.

“We just thought, you know, that you could maybe tell your friend Ann that we’re praying for her and stuff. We go to the same school and a couple of my friends know her. I’ve seen her on the news and all that and she looks like a fighter, you know. She looks like she’ll be okay,” he said, lighting up a cigarette when he was done speaking. His friends – two girls and a boy who looked like her could do with a few more hamburgers – nodded in the background.

“Thanks. She’d really appreciate that,” Kim said slowly. The boy nodded his head, not sure of what else to say and then the four of them turned and walked away. Kim took a deep breath, and suddenly felt the cool drops of tears running down her cheek. If only she had as much faith in Ann getting better as that boy did. Kim closed her eyes, counted to ten and took another deep breath. No, no, she had just as much faith as he did. Ann was going to be okay.

--

Drew stepped into the room. It was dark and but Ann’s face was lit in a sickly blue light by the screen of the laptop on the bed. She had fallen asleep already but her earphones were still plugged on and the video was still running. Drew could tell by the shadows that were playing against her face.

He stepped closer and was about to shut the screen when he looked at it. It was footage he hadn’t seen before. The whole bunch of them was in at the coffeehouse he worked at. Kim was obviously behind the camera and it was now focused on Charlie and Sue, both of them looking extremely involved in conversation. Suddenly, Charlie said something and Sue threw back her head in laughter. She turned to face the camera and looked right at it, smiling brightly. She waved at the camera and Kim zoomed in so that the whole screen was Sue’s face.

Kim then swung the camera to the left and it was then a shot of Drew behind the counter. Drew didn’t even know he was being film and there was that ease about him. He was wiping a couple of the glasses dry, head bobbing slightly to a rhythm only he felt. A couple of seconds later, the scene changed to one of Kim just arriving at the gig and going about the venue to film the location.

Drew watched the rest of the video. There was an eerie feel to it, watching it without sound. Everything was so familiar yet it was taken out of context and seeing it through the screen of a video camera made everything look surreal. Finally the video ended and started to replay itself. Drew guessed that Ann had it set on single replay and had probably watched it tens of times that night.

Gently, he pulled the earphones out of her ears and shut the laptop screen. She stirred slightly but didn’t wake up. He put the laptop and earphones in the drawer by her bed and locked it shut. He then sat in the chair by her bed and watched her sleep. She looked as though it was any other night, and he felt as though she would wake up any moment now and ask if he wanted to get some milk.

He took on of her hands in his and started stroking it with his thumb. He watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath and got taken in by the rhythmic beeping of the machines hooked up to her. She looked so small and fragile in the huge bed, enveloped by the pillow, tubes and wires.

“Hi, Ann, it’s Drew,” he whispered. “I lied to you that night. The night you called and asked if I wanted to go out and get some ice cream. I told you I was busy but I was actually sitting in my room, plugged into my iPod and doing nothing. I don’t know why I lied and said I was busy.”

He looked at her, but she of course didn’t move or stir. He stopped stroking her hand and let go, clasping his own hands together.

“It’s just that… I don’t know if you remember this but a few days before that we were in school and I was watching you just going around, talking to all these people you knew. And you looked so happy and you made them look so happy and there was this moment where you were talking to this really tall guy. He was saying something to you and you smiled, and then you turned and we kinda locked eyes and right then, and I cannot for the life of me explain why, but at that moment, I just fell insanely in love with you.

“I guess you made being happy look so easy. But I couldn’t do that. I just have so much emotional baggage with me that I thought that if I were to be with you that I’d just weight you down. You’re always so concern about everyone and taking care of them, and I didn’t want to burden you. So I figured that if we never hung out that you’d never find out. I figured out I’d get over it and no one will have to know.”

Drew dropped his head, feeling so much guilt and hatred towards himself. He looked up at Ann’s sleeping form again, trying to formulate his thoughts into sentences, trying not to ramble on.

“I figured I’d give myself a few days, see you at the gig work things out from there. But then instead of you being there, it’s Kim, Sue and Charlie and they’re telling me you’re gone. And then the week of you being gone happens. You’ll never imagine it, Ann, the week we went through. Kim and Sue were wearing these ridiculously huge shades to school because their eyes were red from crying. Charlie would be moping in a corner, angry and refusing to leave his phone should it ring with news about you. Nate must have written at least three songs with your name in the title. And I just spent every minute hating myself. I just kept thinking how stupid it would be of me, how childish and nae it was of me to do what I did. I thought about what would happen if you never came back to us. I just had all these insane thoughts running in my mind. No one of us could sleep or eat or focus.”

Drew cleared his throat, sat back in his seat and ran his hands through his hair.

“What I’m trying to say, Ann, is that I love you. It sounds stupid and silly but I just wanted you to know. I’m not planning on losing you again, by the way. I just wanted to make sure you knew, just in case anything happened.”

There was stillness about the room then, the only sound being the beeping of the machines. Drew stood up and looked at Ann. Her hair was frizzy, there were lines forming beneath her eyes and her skin looked sickly. But Drew thought she looked beautiful. He bent down, kissed her gently on the forehead then left the room.

The moment Ann heard the door close she opened her eyes. Her hand raced up and covered her mouth as her body starting shaking with tears. She tried to be as quiet as possible so that the nurses wouldn’t hear her. Every ounce of fear and pain she’d felt the past week came rushing back at her.

Ann closed her eyes and let herself cry to sleep.

--


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