Years had passed since I had knocked on that door. The last time would’ve been sometime in 1983. So eleven years. I wondered if they would recognize me. Twenty-two year old Mira was a lot different from eleven year old Mira. One hand knocked while the other anxiously gripped the strap of my purse, which felt extra heavy that chilly day.
Mrs. Abernathy answered the door, and her eyes were confused for a moment, trying to remember where she knew me from.
“Hello Mrs. Abernathy, I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Mira Gomez. I was friends with Louise.”
It must’ve clicked in her mind, because Mrs. Abernathy’s face broke into a genuine smile. I don’t know, but it seemed like she hadn't smiled that big in a while.
“Mira, it’s so good to see you, come in, come in.” I followed her inside and the house was a lot like I remembered it. There was the small clown statue on the mantle, and a china hutch of decorative plates with different state flowers on them.
Some things though were different. New furniture, new wallpaper. I noticed some pictures were gone, leaving pale, square-shaped patches on the wall.
She invited me to sit at the kitchen table and asked if I wanted water. I said yes. My stomach crawled a little, I was anxious about this visit. I’d actually put it off for a while.
It’s okay. Be yourself. It doesn’t have to be weird.
“What made you stop by, Mira? It’s nice to see you, but I’m curious.” she said, putting the glass before me and sitting down herself.
“I guess I’d been thinking about you guys. Something reminded me. How are you, anyway? How’s James?”
“James is with his dad this weekend.”
“Oh, oh I see.” I said, feeling myself turn red.
“Yeah, we tried, but we divorced eight years ago.”
“James is good, though. He was little when it happened. It’s normal, to him. You know, switching between living with me and his dad. That probably sounds depressing, sorry.” Mrs. Abernathy- or whatever I should call her- laughed nervously.
“No, no, I get it.”
I should’ve guessed and been more tactful. The absence of the big wedding portrait in the entryway didn’t quite register in my mind right away, I guess.
“So what’ve you been up to?”
She asked me after a pause.
“Not much. I’m back in town for Christmas vacation. My dad’s already got the tree up.”
“And how is college?” she asked me eagerly. I shrugged.
“Got pretty intense toward the end, I was definitely losing my mind during finals week! But-” I did a mock toast with my water.“I survived.”
“Almost all A's.”
Mrs. Abernathy chuckled.
“You were always very smart.”
I mean, not really, I wasn’t.
I never knew how to take compliments.
“Looey would’ve loved college.” she sighed, smiling wistfully.
“Yeah. I think so too.” my hands were sweating as they dug into the fabric of my purse.
Show it to her now, Mira!
“Hey, um, I have something to show you. Something I found a week ago while cleaning my room. See, my dad was looking for this one specific ornament, once I thought maybe I’d hidden away in my room a long time ago, cuz I liked it, you know.”
I was dancing around it, again.
C’mon, get to the point!
I unzipped my purse and took out a pink journal. The cover had all sorts of stickers covering it, and in permanent marker the words Looey’s Secret Journal were written.
Mrs. Abernathy’s brow furrowed as she looked at the journal, and then at me, with misted over eyes.
“The night before… Looey was staying over at my house.”
“She put it under her pillow when she was done writing. That morning when she packed up to go home, she got really caught up in finding her other shoe. When she found it, she was running late. You wanted her home by 10:30.”
“But she didn’t leave the house until 10:26am.” Mrs. Abernathy said distantly. “Your mom called me when she started walking. She offered to drive Looey home. But I said it was just a few blocks.”
I regretted visiting. She tried to keep a neutral face, but I could see the pain and guilt in her eyes.
“She left her journal.” I said. “I didn’t find it until that evening, when my mom and dad told me to stay in my room, after the officer interviewed me.”
“Why did you keep it?” Anger crept into her voice.
“There could’ve been information, or clues about who took her!”
“I didn’t know what was going on, I guess. I was scared.”
“They could’ve found the bastard before it was too late!”
You definitely shouldn't have come here. Bad idea.
“There’s not anything in there like that. Nothing about the guy. And-” I hesitated.
“It didn’t even turn out that he was anyone that any of us knew.” I said quietly, almost whispering.
“Don’t you lecture me on the details of the case, I know them better than you ever could! You didn’t lose a child! You didn’t have to go to the morgue and see what he did, you didn’t have your family fall apart, or lose all your friends because they felt too awkward to talk to you!”
My eyes stung. Why on earth did I choose to visit? I slid the book across the table to Mrs. Abernathy.
“I didn’t have to go through any of that. It was really selfish of me to keep the journal. Whenever I was sad or lonely I read it, and felt close to Louise. Like she was there with me. It’s all in here. That time we tried to spy on the boys, but what they were doing was actually super boring. Just talking about cars. There’s also that time she had to write a poem for school, and got frustrated because she hated the topic they assigned her.”
“Write a poem about a time you were brave.” Mrs. Abernathy said. “I remember that. She got so mad. She said she’d rather get an F than write something so cheesy.”
“So she ended up stealing something from a movie and saying it happened to her.” I said, unable to help cracking a smile. Mrs. Abernathy did the same.
“I shouldn’t have kept it so long. It’s yours now, you deserve to have it.” I stood up. “I should go. I told everyone that I was going out to buy a coffee. I guess I was nervous about coming here and assumed I would chicken out.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” Mrs. Abernathy also rose. “I’ll see you out.”
“Sorry for digging old stuff up.” I said on our way down the hall. “You’ve got your life going on, and now here I come. Y’know…”
We stood at the door.
“It was a long time ago, and yes, I do have a life. But thanks for coming over, Mira.” she put her hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
As I walked down the stone path on the lawn back to my car she said,
“Merry Christmas, Mira. Come over again.”
“Thanks. Merry Christmas to you too.”