Writing

Short Story Saturday: Disappearing

I know, it’s been a while. Most of the reason I created this blog was to have a place to put my writing. Especially my non-fanfiction writing. I’m going to be more vigilant about getting original writing out there for y’all to read. Anyway, enjoy.


I wasn’t friends with Maggie, not really. We were friendly the way that two people who have been in school together since kindergarten are. We didn’t travel in the same circles after fourth grade when everyone started to splinter into different cliches.

I had spent most of the summer before third grade in her living room playing Barbies, but all we had that could be seen as even the illusion of friendship was that one summer. It wasn’t like we ignored each other or anything. We just had different friends. Which is what made is so weird in the middle of our sophomore year when she started talking to me.

“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to pack up and recreate yourself somewhere far way?” Maggie asked over our science lab on a Wednesday afternoon that would have reminded unmemorable if not the beginning of a sequence of events that followed shortly after.

“I mean, like, that’s what college is,” I shrugged.

“That’s not what I mean,” Maggie whispered as if she didn’t want to be overheard. “I mean, just up and leaving, and becoming some else. Where no one in your old life can find you.”

“I can’t say that I have,” I chuckled. “Just college.”

“I think it would be amazing.”

 

I didn’t know much about Maggie’s home life, just that she lived with her dad and his parents in a farm house with a huge corn field out back. I don’t understand why she wanted to disappear. From my point of view, Maggie was living the idyllic high school life. One of the popular group, a softball player, people seemed to genuinely enjoy being around her. But something deep inside her made her want to be somewhere else– someone else.

Maggie started sitting with me during lunch midway through sophomore year. The second half of that year, she didn’t have lunch with any of her usual friends, so I guess she wanted to sit with someone she knew. It wasn’t like I had any specific plans; it still felt a little out of character for her. But what did I know? I hadn’t had a serious conversation with her in seven years.

“Sometimes I feel like this town is just too small,” Maggie said as I ate a turkey sandwich. “You know what I mean?”

“I think so,” I said with my mouth full. “Like you’re meant for something so much more, but you’re trapped here for now.”

Maggie’s eyes doubled in size as someone finally understood what she was talking about. “Exactly.”

“This is why I’m going to go to a college in the city,” I said.  Maggie’s face fell in disappointment.

Maggie’s face fell in disappointment. “I doubt I’ll go to school.”

“You could get a softball scholarship!” I said.

Maggie shrugged and turned back to her burrito, closing the subject.

I’m not going to say that I was watching Maggie or even that I really noticed her outside of her third-period biology lab and our scattered lunch dates, but going to a small school, even the smallest deviation from normal was picked up and spread through the halls faster than a stomach virus. I was peripherally aware that something weird was up with her. Looking back it’s easy to see that, yeah, there was something weird going on with Maggie. At the time though, at sixteen, how was I, how were any of us supposed to know how to react, how to interpret, all the signs? That’s why there are adults in a high school– those teachers with life experience. Shouldn’t they have been able to see what was going on?

 

The night before Maggie vanished was a warm Tuesday in mid-August two weeks before we were to go back for our junior year. I was working at a small Mexican place on the seacoast for the summer. My elder brother, the manager, recruited me, I was there by force. However, on lunch breaks, it was a very short walk to a quiet park with an ocean breeze and a view of the river. I  had spent four hours during the rush of a taco Tuesday assembling all manner of tortilla based food. My hair smelled like guacamole, and I was pretty sure I was sweating pico de gallo.

I took my back pack and headed out to the park. I leaned against a water fountain, listening to the rehearsals for the latest play in the park while I read a book, grateful to be away from the heat of the restaurant, and the smell of avocado. From down one of the long wooden piers, I spotted Maggie over the top of my book. Her hair was in a loose updo, large metal rimmed sunglasses– that kind that was popular back in the eighties– sat low on her nose. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder, black crop top advertising a band I wasn’t all that familiar with and very short jean shorts. The outfit completed with a pair of hot pink Vans. She was walking toward me, but not in a way that made me think she recognized me behind my book. She just happened to be walking in that direction. An unlit cigarette dangled in her left hand.

In the years since, I’ve been asked to recall this moment in time over and over again, until every last second of that day became permanently etched into my brain. If Maggie hadn’t disappeared, I doubt I would remember any of it. Let alone what Maggie was wearing down to the color of her hair tie. The only thing special about this Tuesday was it was followed by the Wednesday when so many things changed.

It occurs to me know that I may have been the last person she knew how saw her.

“Trisha?” Maggie asked as she approached.

I lowered my book and waved.

“Didn’t expect to see you here?” Maggie chuckled. “Aren’t you a strictly indoor person?”

“I’m a burrito slave this summer,” I shrugged. “Being stuck in that building with just the smell of salsa and sweat makes me want to go outside more than any threat from my mother ever did.”

“Escapism,” Maggie nodded as she sat down beside me against the fountain. “I’ve been looking into what it would cost to just move to Boise. It’s way cheaper than I thought it would be. It makes the whole idea of it feels like something I could really do.”

“Only two more years,” I nodded, then motioned toward the water where a whale watching tour boat was heading out to the open ocean. “Then we’re free of this town and everything in it. Out to the next big adventure.”

“It feels too far away,” Maggie said softly, perhaps as if i wasn’t meant to hear her. “Hey, do you remember that summer before third grade?”

“That summer I spent at the farm?” I asked. “Yeah, of course, I do.”

“Everything was so much simpler then,” Maggie said, placing her cigarette between her lips.

“Well, we were eight,” I agreed. “I don’t think we’d ever taken a standardized test yet. Let alone had anything to worry about.”

That brought a chuckle out of Maggie. She had such a far away look on her face; it was like she was somewhere way off, nowhere near this fountain.

“That was a good summer,” Maggie said. “You were a good friend. I’m sorry we didn’t stay friends. Things could have been different.”

“We’re friends,” I said quickly. “I mean we’re not not friends.”

“Yeah,” Maggie nodded. “But it’s not what it could have been.”

I checked my phone for the time, my meal hour was quickly coming to a close. Maggie being Maggie’s weird self couldn’t hold me there. Another four hours making Mexican food awaited me, but at least after the dinner rush, it was usually pretty slow on a weekday night, even a taco Tuesday.

“I gotta head back,” I announced. “If you stopped by, I can get you some free guac. Family and Friends perk.”

“I’ll think about it,” Maggie agreed as I stood up and brushed the dirt off the back of my pants. “If you don’t, I see you when school starts.”

“Yeah,” Maggie nodded. She was looking out toward the water that unlit cigarette resting between her lips. “When school starts up.”

If I could relive– redo– any moment, it would be the one where I turned and headed toward the veterans memorial so I could go back to folding tacos. I don’t know what I would have changed, but I still, deep within me, feel like I could have changed something.

 

On Thursday when they had the boats and divers searching the bay by the park, all I could think about was how Maggie had talked about moving to Idaho on at least three occasions that I remember. How many times has she mentioned it to people she was really friends with?

The only other time I was ever at a police station was on a field trip in fourth grade after a section about government. We got to meet the full-time police force (all 4 of them) and the fire fighters (there were a whole 6 full timers at the time). After Maggie had disappeared, I was all of a sudden living in an Episode of Dateline; being questioned in a dark room because I was the  last person seen with her.

Maggie never came home for the park. She told her mom she was going down the Three Tree Island to complete an art assignment, but she never came back. I got to tell the police that she didn’t have a bag with her when I saw her, not even a purse, even though her mom would swear she left with a brown leather mini back pack– that was never seen again either.

Every few years, some girl that had disappeared decades before is found living in someone criminal’s backyard or basement. I take hope that nothing like that happened to Maggie, but no one knows. She didn’t have a car, but the train and bus stations were easy to get to from where I saw her. The cameras at those placed never caught a glimpse of her, though.

Our year book is dedicated to Margret Eloise Parker. A photo of her at bat during a softball game our freshmen year above it. That’s the picture her mom picked, but I doubt that was how any of us remembered her.

The investigators decided that Maggie must have jumped into the ocean– waited until it was dark then climbed up on one of the piers and jumped.

A few people at school thought she had to have been kidnapped. That’s what happened to people who disappear. That or she was murdered, and we’d find a small piece of her somewhere. We still haven’t even all these years later.

I like to imagine she got to Idaho; living a life in a new name.

But no one will really know. Only Maggie– where ever she is.


Thank you for reading.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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