The Ice Broke

March 2, 2008
By Kathryn Marrinan, Hyde Park, NY

I don’t know what Mrs. Friedman is talking about. She’s pacing in front of the classroom, droning on and on about something I could care less about and writing what I think to be useless words on the chalkboard. However, my concentration is fully on the rain pouring down like blankets outside. The window is smeared with droplets as I try to keep in the rain that is trying to exit my eyes and fall down my face.

I first found out last Friday.

“Allie dead,” my friend sobbed into the phone. “She was sledding today after school alone, and slid onto the iced over pond in her backyard.” Amy took a moment to try and calm down. “The ice broke, Em, and she couldn’t get out.”

I didn’t cry. I decided when I was a kid that I couldn’t let people see that weak side of me if I could help it. I listened to Amy’s heart wrenched sobs on the other end, and I tried to offer her words of comfort, but I, myself, was in shock.

I’d known Allie for years. I met her right before high school, when things got tough. She was there through my first heartbreak and I was there when her friend moved away. I can recount many memories of us dancing at our friends’ parties and her constantly telling me to chill out about my grades in class. We’d make fun of each other’s crushes, and even of each other. I considered her one of my best friends. Whether she felt the same about me, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter.

The wake was to be held that Saturday night, the funeral the following Sunday morning at the church she had attended. Of course I would go. Our other friends needed me. Being the one who never cried, I was looked to as the strong one, and many people would need a shoulder. And me? Don’t worry about me. I decided I’d cry later when nobody else was around, like in the shower or before I fell asleep.

That time before the funeral felt like time had stopped. I walked around in a numb daze. I wasn’t sad, strangely, or angry or scared or anything. I was kind of shocked, and kind of in denial. I kept wondering if maybe this was some kind of nightmare and if I was eventually going to wake up. But I never did.

The wake was hard. I wore my dress that I’d worn to a dance at the beginning of the year, a dress that she and a bunch of other people had helped me to pick out. Then a bunch of our friends had decided to carpool to the wake so we could walk in together. It sounds weird, but it made us feel we were going through it together.

The car was silent. My dad’s music was the only noise. Nobody cried or talked. It was simply quiet. Ellie and I held hands, and then we all walked into the funeral home holding hands.

It was when I saw her pale, cold face in the coffin that I lost it. I tried telling myself to breathe deep breaths and not think about it, but that made me think about it even more. All of a sudden I saw her beautiful smile when she playfully poked me in the side and made me shriek. I heard her saying, “Relax, Em. It’s just a test.” I remembered the thrill I felt when she surprised me and came to see a show I was in. I could still feel the warm hug shegave me as I cried over my parents’ divorce. She’d been there through everything. She’d watched me change and had seen me through my worst but had always continued to be there. She was such an amazing friend, and my only wish is that she knew that.

I bit my lip in an attempt to keep it from quivering, which would in turn lead to a cascade of tears, but my attempts at hiding my broken heart failed. I squeezed the two hands of my friends I was holding and simply started to cry. I let go of their loving grips and sat down, bringing my knees to my chest. I leaned against the wall next to me chair and tried to hide some of my face with one of my hands.

Amy tried to make me hug her, but I refused at first and only gave in when she kept insisting. At first I was a little uneasy. I was falling apart in one of my best friends’ arms. But then I realized that that is what best friends are for.

The funeral was the next day, and we all cried at that, too. Afterwards, we went to the cemetery to have some kind of ceremony. Everyone else put red roses on her coffin as a sign of respect, but we used yellow roses to represent the friendship and unconditional love we’d shared with her. I touched the coffin one last time and then walked away without looking back.

I suddenly come back to the present in class and notice that the sun is radiantly shining. Butterflies fly around the puddles and bees land on the random dandelions outside. Spring is almost here. That was Allie’s favorite season.

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