I stared at my friend, my brain refusing to hear the words leaving her lips. I looked away from her brilliant blue eyes and out the window.
A car passed. A bird flew from the tree with a raucous squawk. Outside the window the world went on. Her soft voice pelted me like bullets. Each word found its mark with deadly accuracy.
"Leila," the insistence her voice brought me back. "You need to believe me."
I shook my head, my lips numb as they uttered, "I can't."
"We don't have much time. I can't," Gretchen's voice broke. "I can't save everyone."
"Have you seen a doctor?" My sluggish brain picked up speed, snatching at a reasonable, believable explanation. "Gretch, have you seen a doctor? They might be able to help." With a rush, I reached over and gripped her hand. "I can take care of the kids if you need a break. I can - "
She shook off my hand and rose to her feet. Her eyes flashed with frustration as she stared down at me. "You will believe!" In a voice I'd never heard from my diminutive friend of twelve years, she continued, "You must believe. I can't lose you!" She bent down and gripped my hands in hers. "Believe," she rasped.
Bright lights flashed. I tried to lurch away from the sudden slice of pain. Before I could release a cry, the pain was gone. Gretchen slowly removed her hands. She crouched down in front of me, gently rubbing my arms. Tears leaked leaked down my cheeks.
"You believe now?"
I nodded my head and closed my eyes.
"I'm sorry I had to hurt you."
Swiping the tears from my face, I took a deep breath and slowly released it. "How much time do we have?"
"A few days. Maybe a week." I opened my eyes as she stood. She ran her hands through curly blonde hair. Her body was tight with tension. "So many people." She spun and faced me, hands outreached, pleading, "I can't help them all."
I walked to her. The top of her head came to my chin as I hugged her tight. "You didn't realize." Squeezing her one last time, I stepped away. "But we have a little time. What do we do?"
"Go home. Pack only what you can carry and what you can't bear to leave behind. Call your sister, your parents, your in-laws. Call everyone you can and tell them to meet us there today, tomorrow at the latest. They won't be able to pack, but that can't be helped."
"They won't believe me," I laughed humorlessly. "They'll think I've finally lost it."
"Lie. They'll believe after."
I nodded and grabbed my purse. "Gretchen, I -" my throat closed. How do I thank someone for saving my life? For saving my children.
She shook her head. "Later. Just go. Hurry. Please."
I walked out the door, my fingers reaching for my phone and the group text message I knew would get everyone to the beach.
The kids and I are setting sail tomorrow from East Beach.
My fingers hovered over the keyboard. Would it be enough?
I added a line.
We won't be coming back.
This post was inspired by the latest Write on Edge prompt and a dream I had the other night. This is another attempt at a single post short story. I have no plans to continue it or expand it. Gretchen and Leila came to me in my dreams and I wanted them to take on a life of their own here.
So, what did you think?
1 day ago