How would Miss Manners respond?
Does she with all her wisdom of proper etiquette and politeness even know what it means to be unfriended?
I do. Ohhh, I do.
Just a click or two and a relationship once thought to be forever and true has perished. Betty clicked the death-click.
Potent and raw, this feeling reminds me of school-days when not invited to a birthday party or an empty brown bag with a lone Valentine or two.
Unfriended somehow is a word so out of place in this BFF generation who conceived it and powered it to win the 2009 Word of the Year. Here I am as current as can be, feeling its disconnect.
How do I resolve this? Fresh are the memories of vacations together. Days when we laughed, played cards, shopped, stayed up late, cooked together and cherished our friendship. Betty was the one person I knew I could count on no matter what. I would go through fire for her...and she me. We shared all our secrets or so I thought.
But, neither of us were prepared for that day.
“Hello...Betty?” The caller ID showed me it was her number calling, but the voice sounded nothing like my bubbly friend.
“Betty? Are you okay? What's wrong?”
“Oh, God...Marion. I've got to tell you something.”
Ice water replaced the warmth in my veins as I listened to Betty. “Ronald was caught at school today molesting a child.”
“What? Surely...no. Ohhh, my God, Betty.”
“Marion, I should have told you. He's done it before. I was just too ashamed to tell you.” Betty's voice was low and accented with sobs.
Ronald is Betty's husband of thirty years. He is very active in their church, driving a bus and working in VBS. Ronald always has candy to pass out to the children. He and Betty have no children of their own, but several years ago they accepted seven-year-old Gail into their home when her parents were judged unfit.
Ronald had been the driving force behind their taking Gail; Betty had cried for weeks until she finally accepted the decision.
“Betty, what about Gail...?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. You're telling me Ronald is a pedophile and you allowed Gail to come to live with you. Vulnerable, shy Gail. Just a little girl. Betty, she could be his victim, too.”
I pray I never feel that much tension in the air again. Dark, evil and foreboding, it sprang to life and crept into the innermost parts of my soul.
It took hours of pleading, praying, crying and counseling to get Betty to the place where she agreed to sit Gail down and question her. It took even greater persuasion to get her to report her findings of sexual abuse to the police. Child pornography was found on his computers.
Ronald, fearing arrest, found refuge for several months in the mental ward of the hospital as a potential suicidal patient. His family crowded around him with support.
Six months have passed since that first phone call. Many unanswered questions fill my thoughts. Only Ronald knows how many other victims and he's not telling, not that anyone's asking. He sits in jail awaiting a hearing in which he'll plead guilty to a lesser charge, saving the taxpayers the cost of a trial. It's all been worked out ahead of time to the satisfaction of all parties. Except the children.
Betty goes to visit him and sees to his needs. Gail is in counseling and Betty says she is doing very well. From Betty's viewpoint it's all going to work out and God will be glorified in the end.
Something in me wants to shake her and wake her to reality; to know she is out of his control and thinking clearly. Mutual friends whose children spent time around Ronald concern me. Little girls who had sleep-overs and children who frequented their pool crowd into my thoughts.
Betty doesn't answer the telephone when I call; her email address is changed.
Today, she unfriended me.
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