Have you ever had one of those mornings when you wake up and you just know that the day set before you was going to be extraordinary? It was the last day of the most exhilarating and unforgettable summer of my life. There was much to be done before school the next day; still, I was determined to make the best of it.
Scents of lavender and sweet pea permeated the room. Morning sunlight shone through the open curtains. Surrounded by a sea of beauty products, I sat on the floor with my sister, fixated as I painted her nails with the sort of perfection that often overtakes me. She always opted for various shades of blue. Natalie had lovely hands; thin, dainty fingers with long nails that I envied for as long as I could remember. Her hands held a particular softness and comfort. We were a paradoxical pair. Natalie was a disheveled academic genius; I was an artsy perfectionist. After she wrote books, I illustrated them. She was my left foot, and I was her right. We were the best of friends. We did just about everything together. Our friendship was beautifully pathetic. As we got ready, we gabbed, gossiped, and giggled over the most random topics. Jamie and Kristen, our best friends, met us at our house so that we could all go take our senior pictures together. I remember feeling certain that this wasn’t going to be just another day; it was going to be monumental.
All dolled up and poised before a whimsical mansion for a photographer, we felt opulent. Foolish grins were plastered to our faces. We pretended to be world class models striking pose after pose, stopping frequently to release our laughter. After the photo session wrapped up, so ceased the glamor. Natalie was invited to her boyfriend’s parent’s house for lunch, Jamie’s parents had called her home, and Kristen and I decided to do our last-minute school shopping together. On our separate ways we went.
Highway traffic was surprisingly gridlocked for a late morning in the middle of a week. Lines of idle cars stretched for miles. Drivers began to honk as their patience withered. A wreck… a bad one. Never before had I witnessed such a ghast. I couldn’t decipher much from the mangled scraps of metal. As the car crept forward, gradually leaving the scene behind us, all I felt I could do was pray. So that’s what I did. While Kristen continued driving, I clenched my eyes and just prayed. I prayed for all those involved; that they’d be okay and I prayed for their families in case the worst had come to pass. Images of the wreck ingrained themselves into my brain. I couldn’t shake it. Why was I so consumed?
I tried to unburden my mind from the carnage I had witnessed as Kristen and I arrived at the shoe store. No sooner than when we walked through the doors, my phone rang. My house number appeared on the tiny screen. A deep, unfamiliar voice began telling me I needed to go home promptly. Natalie had been in an accident. He placed an odd emphasis on how I needed to get home safely. My fear and confusion must have been obvious as Kristen took the phone out of my hand and spoke to the stranger. My thoughts grew hazy and disoriented.
Kristen’s reach across me and the click of the seat belt buckle snapped me awake. We were back in Kristen’s car. I remember hearing Kristen rambling on about what might have happened. Her words delivered a sense of contagious panic; a knife that carved the worst possibilities into my soul. I couldn’t consider the worst. I knew I couldn’t handle it. My fists clinched until they stung. Looking down, I noticed that my knuckles had turned white. A surge of anger, despair, and panic flowed through my body.
A sudden eternity passed before making it home. The moment I got out of the car, I looked up to see my brother plodding toward me with his shoulders as heavy as the tears falling from his bloodshot eyes. The moment I saw him, I knew. My little sister was… dead. Gone. Forever. I lost all feeling in the very legs supporting me. I collapsed into my brother’s arms. I caved to the overwhelming idea that I would never see my sister, my best friend, again.
I still remember beginning that day convinced it wouldn’t be just another day; it was going to monumental. So it was. Little did I know, my sister was involved in that accident. I was supposed to be praying for people I didn’t know. But it was my sister I prayed for. It was my family I prayed for. It was myself I prayed for. If I could have just one wish, I’d wish for just one more day with my little sister. It wouldn’t have to be anything extraordinary, just another day.