She glanced out her window towards the sound of the waves, her blue eyes matching the intensity of the color of the ocean just beyond her view. She let out a sigh, knowing it was too late to go for a swim, but she threw a sweatshirt on over her bronzed skin and headed out the door. She sank her body onto the shore, letting her toes sink into the sand cooling with the moonlight.
The tide was coming in, and Lydia planned on remaining in this spot until the frigid water licked at her toes hoping it would help her feel something again. At the beginning of this week life had seemed so uncomplicated--so normal-- but now even the shoreline looked different to her; just this week she had been there with her.
Flopping her bag into the backseat, Lydia eased into the driver's seat and turned the ignition. Instantly the car was flooded with music, too loud for her father's taste, too girly for her brother's, and just right for her. Her PopTart was still cooling when she pulled into Katie's driveway, and honking the horn with her left hand she guided the pastry to her mouth with her right. In the two minutes it took her best friend to situate herself in the passenger's seat, Lydia was licking her fingers.
"You really should expand your diet. My mom says that too many PopTarts can make you constipated, but she thinks anything but fruit and vegetables will make you constipated." Katie had a way of making constipation seem like normal conversation, but between these two friends, not much was off limits. Lydia and Katie had been discussing everything from Barbies, to worms, to hairstyles, to boys since they were practically in diapers. Lydia was the one Katie called when her mom and dad filed for divorce, and through tears the girls made a pact never to put their future children through that experience. And Katie was the one that drove Lydia to the hospital when she had attempted skateboarding and broke her wrist. And Katie was also the one who kicked Tim in the shins on Lydia's behalf after he took her to prom but never called her back. As Lydia wrenched her neck to back out of the driveway, she smiled at Katie's backpack, knowing it was filled with notes she had passed her in between classes.
"I finally figured out that probability question on the homework last night. Sorry I sent you that text so late, I was just stuck." Lydia glanced over and saw the puzzled look on her friend's face. "You never got the text did you?"
Katie laughed a little under her breath. "Umm. No. I never got the text. And I never did a probability question either. Whoops!" She fished for her phone, her left arm draped awkwardly over the seat. "Speaking of texts, I HAVE to show you this one I got from Mark last night. I mean, seriously, I think he's been eating too many PopTarts because I'm SURE he really IS constipated." With a furrowed brow she scrolled through her phone until she found it and read out loud, "Hey Kates!"
"Yeah, because clearly Mark and I are close enough now after I said hi at the water fountain for him to call me 'Kates.' I mean, obviously a water fountain hello is the equivalent nowadays of giving someone your class ring, or sweater, or whatever they used to do, but hey, who am I to say that…"
"Oh. Right. Well, I wrote back: 'Hey'. To which he responded: 'I liked your ponytail today.' I mean, seriously?! Who says that? Why can't he figure it out?" Lydia was laughing now. Katie had always been the pretty one of the pair, and ever since they started shaving their legs she was always having guys after her. Usually they were guys like Mark, completely oblivious to what may actually attract a girl of Katie's quality, like a sense of humor and a personality beyond that of an ameba.
"I have to admit, you do have a nice, well-groomed ponytail. Well, what did you say back?"
"Nothing. I am finally learning that my kindness, and general sympathy towards guys like Mark gets interpreted the wrong way. So I left it at that."
"I can't believe you! A nice guy like Mark just wanting to chat with a friend and you leave him high and dry." Katie laughed at the sarcasm dripping from Lydia's tongue. "Well I guess I'll just have to remedy that. Grab my phone, would ya?"
"You can't be serious," chuckled Katie, searching for the phone in a side pocket. "You don't have the guts." She plopped the phone in Lydia's extended hand.
"Oh. I am SO serious." Laughing, Lydia glanced down to see if she had Mark in her contact list.
And that was all it took.
It sounded as if a canon had exploded in her backseat, loud and ominous. The ringing that ensued made it difficult to open her eyes, and the pain in her neck was alive and real. She had always heard people explain the slow motion of such moments, but she didn't understand what they meant until now. She could barely see, and the ringing in her ears disillusioned her further. She grabbed her neck as another sharp pain ran through, then forced herself to feel the rest of her body. She frantically felt her face, and the warm sticky blood clung to her petite fingers. She moved her torso with slight pain, and glanced down to see her toes wiggling in her flip flops. She reached over towards Katie, the edges of her vision still foggy. She grabbed her friend's thigh, and then screamed her name. It came out as a mere whisper, raspy and sounding painfully frightened.
That is when she realized the blood on her face was not her own.
Frantic and afraid, she began to panic, her sobs choking out any words that tried to bubble to the surface. Then someone was opening her door, and helping her out onto the grass. Grass? They were just on the road. She looked at the intersection about a hundred yards away, and as she blinked it into focus she saw the stop sign she had driven through; the stop sign that had been there every day of her life.
There were lots of people around now, some talking to her, some trying to console her, and some paramedics trying to check her for signs of internal bleeding. As loudly as her head pounded, her heart pounded harder as she watched four men lift Katie onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. Her face felt numb as she watched the policemen try to pry the pick up truck off the passenger side of her car.
Even though she didn't attend school the rest of the week, she heard from others about the grief counselors they shipped in. This was to be expected, she supposed, remembering when a classmate had died of cancer in elementary. But when she learned they had had a special assembly in which the students had to listen to lectures about the dangers of texting and driving, she went to her bathroom and threw up.
Katie hadn't made it through the night, the impact of her injuries too severe for her small 5'4" frame to compensate. Lydia had sat by her side and read her some of the notes that had been in her backpack. On the back of one note, Katie had responded. Lydia tucked it in her back pocket, not knowing if she'd ever have the strength to read it.
The moon shone brightly over the calm ocean. The waves gently lapped over one another, crashing occasionally against hidden rocks in the night.
Lydia slowly unfolded the note. She didn't cry, feeling any more tears would be useless.
Hey, guess who I just ran into at the water fountain? Mark! Ha. I said hi becuz u know how I feel the need to do stupid things like that. I'll keep u updated on the situation, or as Mrs. Hinker would say-- I'll keep u abreast. Seriously? Does she really think we're ever going 2 talk like that?
My dad called last night and he and my mom actually talked for about 5 minutes before she gave me the phone. That was progress. I'll keep u abreast :)
oh and 1 more thing before the bell rings- at youth group last night I heard this quote and wrote it down but forgot to give it to u:
- " Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since God is the Author of ur circumstances. The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank God for them."
bell! gotta go.
Lydia wanted to hurdle the note into the night. Thanking God for unwanted situations? That was typical Katie talk. But surely even Katie wouldn't want her to thank God for the situation she had been left in. She slumped down further into the sand, wanting the coolness of the night and sound of the ocean to sweep her away forever.
Then she saw them. Turtles marching towards the ocean in a procession as long as she could see. Lydia had only seen this one other time, though she had lived on the beach her entire life. Her dad had brought hot chocolate and blankets and they curled up next to each other and waited and waited. He had had to wake her up, and he whispered in her small ears, educating her about what she was witnessing. "Few people ever get to experience something so special," he had told her then. "Some people say that only one in A THOUSAND of those little guys will make it to adulthood; they have many obstacles in their way." Then they watched in silence as one little turtle struggled through a footprint that had been left in the sand, and eventually made his way into the white, crashing water of the sea. "God must have big plans for that one." Lydia nuzzled in closer to her father's chest and soon was fast asleep.
Now she was 17. Now she sat with grief by her side, wrapping its arms around her in the blackness. This time she focused less on the turtles that were actually making it to the sea, and more on the ones that seemed to be off course. She noticed the eggs that appeared they would never hatch. Though she had promised not to cry again, she began weeping at the injustice of it all. She weeped for the sea turtles, for Katie, for her guilt, and for her anger towards God.
How was she not to complain about anything? How was she to thank God for this situation? She dug her hands into the sand and clenched her fists around the small particles. And then, surprising herself and the night around her, she said, "Thank you," quietly at first and then with increasing vigor. "Thank you. Thank You. Thank you!" She didn't even know what she was saying thank you for, and then she glanced at the note in her lap.
"Thank you for giving me 17 years with her. Thank you for letting me know her. Thank you." She didn't mean it yet, but prayed that someday she would.