Lisa made it to 11:15 p.m. before she began hyperventilating. Escaping to the bathroom and splashing water on her face helped, but she knew that she wouldn’t make it to midnight.
She couldn’t return to the party room. The noise suffocated her. The people crushed her. So she hid in a stall and pressed her face against the cool metal cage. A thought about cleanliness went through her mind, hovering long enough to depress her further.
Music vibrated through the walls and permeated her new nest. The bathroom door squeaked open and shoes clicked across the terra cotta. The shoes paced in front of the stalls. Doors opened and closed. Her door didn’t. “Lisa, are you in there?”
“Yeah.” Lisa sighed.
“You okay? Rick’s worried, he asked me to look for you.” Darla’s words floated into Lisa’s nest.
Lisa leaned against the door. “I can’t Dar.”
“Honey, I’ll hold one hand, Rick will hold the other.”
Lisa felt her heart skip a beat. A bitter bubble of pain rose in her throat bringing tears to her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak and a sob flew out. She put her hand over her mouth.
“Lisa, honey, there’s only 35 minutes left. Remember your hopes for tonight?”
Lisa wrapped her arms around herself. She did want to see it through. “Dar, it’s too hard, I can’t.”
“Lisa, if you don’t, what happens? Will this New Year be a continuation of the worst year of your life? We can wait here a few more minutes, and then we can go bury last year, together, the four of us.”
Lisa melted into the corner of the stall and wept. She knew that Darla had used the heartbreaking words without malice, but it didn’t take the thudding ache from her broken heart.
“Lisa, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Darla words soaked through the crack in the stall. “Honey, let me in. Please?” Lisa slid the latch. Darla opened the door and wrapped her arms around her. Lisa buried her face in Darla’s hair.
“I know you didn’t mean it. Everything hurts all the time.” Lisa sobbed. “I do want to be normal again. I don’t like knowing that people are afraid to talk to me. I don’t like being known as ‘the poor thing’. I don’t even like the sweet memories. I want the pain to go away.” Lisa sputtered into Darla’s neck. Darla patted her back, like Lisa used to pat her babies. Lisa squeezed Darla. She could hear Darla murmuring.
Lisa knew that Darla was praying. That’s the only reason that Lisa was at the party, because Darla had become Jesus to her since the accident. Lisa took a deep breath and listened to Darla’s prayer.
Lisa heard the names of her two babies fall off of Darla’s lips. Memories bitter and sweet washed over Lisa. Cammie smiling with delight at the new hole in her 5 year old mouth. Teddy bent over his truck making dirt trails, and stopping to wave as she called to him. So vivid she could almost smell the sweet mix of outdoors, sweat and cotton candy.
“My babies...Lord, I can’t” Lisa whispered.
Lisa felt warm liquid trickle down her throat, not her own, but her friend’s. She felt Darla and Jesus, two hearts crying with hers in her little metal safe. A small flicker warmed the center of her heart, it felt a little bit like courage. Lisa felt a twinge in her neck, physical pain stronger than emotional, a rare occurrence. She released Darla.
Lisa went to the sink and scrubbed her face in cold water. Her eyes kept leaking hot tears and she kept blinking them back. “You’re right, I need to do this. What time is it?”
“11:50. You sure?”
“No, but I need Rick and I want to heal.” Lisa said and walked to the door. The music buffeted her. Rick’s worried eyes evaluated her. His eyes filled with tears when she smiled at him. The scar on his forehead was darker when he worried. “I love you.” He said.
“I know.” She kissed his grief worn cheek. They shared the catastrophe but each grieved alone. Another tragedy. She kissed his mouth and wrapped her arms around his neck. He responded like a starving man in front of a heaping plate.
“Rick, I need you.” He wept. Party horns blew. Auld Lang Sine played. Lisa ushered in a flicker of hope with the New Year.
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