Chapter 8The next two days passed slowly. I was too eager to spend more time with Ryan to focus on anything school related. Thursday the cheerleaders tried to recruit me, followed by speech and debate. Each group seemed less than disappointed at my refusal. After refusing the invitation to try out for volleyball, a girl who sat behind me in physics approached me.
“Seems like you have no interest in anything right now. I’m not trying to sound mean, it’s just something that I’ve noticed. I’m Grace by the way.” She smiled at me.
“Hi Grace, I’m Katie. And it’s not that I don’t want to join anything I just don’t have the time right now.” She followed me to my seat in the cafeteria and sat down next to me.
“This is a strange question but do you remember me?”
“Um, not really. Should I?”
She smiles. “Probably not. I went to elementary school with you though. We were in Mrs. Till’s class together in fifth grade.” Suddenly it clicked. I remembered this girl.
“No way,” I say turning to face her. “Grace Tanilee! You were short, and you had glasses and your hair was always so pretty.”
She blushes. “Yeah that would be me.” I was so excited to re-meet someone who hadn’t changed since I had known them. We spent the rest of lunch reminiscing and catching up with each other.
When I got home, my parents weren’t as happy as I had thought they would be that I had made a new friend. My father asked when we were going to spend time together. I responded that I didn’t know. They seemed distant today. I casually tried to bring up my date with Ryan that night, but my mother’s face grew cold.
“Why would you possibly think that that would be okay Katherine?” She stood up knocking the photos she was looking at to the floor. My father scrambled to pick them up.
I stood looking at her confused. “Um. I assumed that it would be okay.”
“And why? Why would you assume that?”
“You seemed to like him on Tuesday night at dinner.”
“Yes but today Katie? Today of all days.” Her face grew angrier with each word. I stood shocked. I glanced over to the calendar and recognition flashed into my mind. September 5th. I had walked in on my mom quietly crying this morning. Both my parents had taken the day off of work. Austin hadn’t gone to school. Oh no. “You forgot, didn’t you?” My mother was crying now, but her face was hard.
“I…..I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy.”
“Too busy to remember that today is the day that your sister died.”
“I…..I try not to think about it too much.”
“Well maybe you should think about it more. Obviously you have forgotten her.”
“No. I haven’t,” I barely breathe out. Tears fall from my eyes.
“And you of all people. You were the last one to see her alive. I told you not to go. You could have saved her!” And with that I’m running again. I hear my mother begin to sob uncontrollably and crumple to the floor. There is only one place I think to go. But my tears blind me and I stumble. Feet from the pond, I trip on a root and fall to the ground. Without the energy to get up I crawl under the oak tree and feel the bark.
“I’m sorry Mary.” My tears overwhelm me and I allow myself to sink into the memories that for so long I have tried to hide.
The warm breeze drifts around us rustling the leaves of the trees. Sunlight filters through the gaps in the branches. I splash into the water.
“Come on Mary! Don’t be such a baby.” Mary stands with at the edge of the river with her toes barely grazing the water.
“But Katie, I’m not a very good swimmer and mom said that there are rapids lower down the river.” I laugh at her. At eleven years old, she is much more cautious than one would expect. Despite the four year age difference, we spend a lot of time together.
I swim over to the bank and grab her hand. “Mary, I promise that you will be fine. I will make sure that nothing happens to you. Now, do you trust me?”
“I trust you,” she says. She comes into the water and soon she is splashing around just like me. After a while we lie on the bank and look up at the trees overhead. “I can’t believe mom didn’t want me to come. This is so much fun.” I sit up on my elbows.
“Hey do you want to go see if there really are rapids down there?”
“I don’t know. It seems kind of dangerous.”
“Mary come on. I promised you that everything would be fine. That includes going to look at the rapids. Plus how bad can they be?” She hesitates for a moment. “I also promise that I won’t tell mom.” That perks her up a little bit more.
“Alright.” At my insistence, we walk down to where the rapids are. I didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances. When we got to the beginning, they were worse than I would have thought. “Wow, how bad do you think it would be if one of us fell into those Katie?”
“Bad. Really, really bad.” We walk down farther and the rapids increased in intensity. After a few more minutes, we come to an old bridge built across one of the worst sections of the river. “Should we cross it?”
All traces of nervousness have left Mary’s face. As mama’s little girl, she rarely gets to experience anything out of the ordinary. She nods.
“Do you want me to go first Mary?”
She pushes me aside. “No I want to go first.” She jumps up onto the bridge and crosses about halfway. She stops and looks down at the rushing water. That’s when I hear the snap. It only takes me a moment before I realize what is happening.
“Mary!” I scream to her, but when she turns to run, the wood, rotted with age, folds sending her into the rapids. Her head bobs underwater and she lets out a gurgled cry. I run up and down the river screaming to her with no luck. She is okay, I think, the rapids aren’t really that bad.
Suddenly two kayakers appear. “What are you doing down here? It’s extremely dangerous, especially alone.”
“My sister,” I sob. “She fell in.” In moments, one of the kayakers has called 911 and the woman sits me down on a rock and puts her coat around me. As she turns to talk to the man, I grab her hand.
“Please, please tell me honestly. Is she going to be okay?”
She sighs and kneels down in front of me. “You want the truth?” I nod. She stands up and looks straight into my eyes. “I’m sorry.” That’s when the uncontrollable tears start.