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But Now She's Gone
“Now let’s see…I think I’ll just have one of whatever your special is this evening.”
“Yes, sir. That’ll be the smoked salmon.”
“That sounds delicious. What about you, Alexis?”
As my father-in-law proceeded to order for most of the family, I finished reading the menu and turned to my wife’s sister, Shelly.
“Oh, Alexis and I were wondering if you could watch the kids on Saturday. A guy from work asked us over for dinner, but something tells me he wouldn’t appreciate the extra, under-four-foot company if you know what I mean,” I said with an eye roll and half smile.
Her eyes continued to scan the menu, but she chuckled and said, “Sure.”
“Thanks, Shelly. We owe you one,” I responded gratefully by patting her on the shoulder before joining the debate between her husband and my other brother-in-law.
Just before it came time for me to order, my phone rang. Not now, I thought, but I checked the caller ID anyway. It was one of my high school students, Ashlynn. I sighed and answered it.
“Jackson! Hi, I’m really glad you answered. Do you have a second?”
Come on. I was with my family, and I was starving. She could wait.
“You know what, Ashlynn, can I call you back later? I’m at dinner with my family right now.”
“Oh, yea, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” she said quietly.
I could tell something was wrong, but I did not want to deal with it right now. After all, whatever it was would probably still be there tomorrow.
“Great,” I said. “Talk to you later.”
“Bye, Jackson. Thanks for everything,” she said in that strange voice again before hanging up.
I took my phone away from my ear and glanced at the screen, frowning momentarily. There was something funny about the way she said “bye.” I wonder if…
“Honey, the waiter needs to take your order,” my wife was trying to get my attention by waving a menu in front of me.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
I placed my order, and we had a very pleasant evening, visiting and eating before going home full and happy. I did not think about Ashlynn’s call again.
The next morning, I was on my way to pick up some coffee when my phone rang. It was Ashlynn’s dad.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” I asked.
I will never forget how the voice on the other end of the phone sounded that day. It was broken and empty, wrought with sorrow.
“Sam, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Ashlynn. She…she’s dead.”
After she called me that night, Ashlynn grabbed a few bottles of medicine from the closet and drove up to our church. She overdosed in her car while sitting in the parking lot.
I think about Ashlynn every morning when I wake up, and I do not stop thinking about her for the entire day. I had an opportunity to make a difference in her life – to save her life. But ordering smoked salmon was more important. Today, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to have Ashlynn call and interrupt me – no matter what I’m doing.