I remembered Sara Abate. She was an athletic girl with brown skin and pale eyes who wore her sable hair in a layered cascade down her back. Looking back, there were so many things wrong with her whole story and who knows how many years she was crying out for help. Sara had always drifted on the edges of our social circles. Never so far out as to be an outcast or even a loner, but never close enough that we got to know her. Not that we were trying all that hard. Like many suburban kids in the nineties, our lives were a comfortable farce that we supported only because it was more assuring than the unknown. However, it was not until a wet summer’s day many years later did I regret my childish oblivion.
“Hi, Sara,” I stammered to the woman standing at my door. I tried to revive my old talent for wide smiles, but thirteen years of adulthood waylaid my efforts.
“Melissa,” she nodded and I could tell that the millstone hanging around her neck was larger and older than my own. “May I come in?”
“Oh!” I am sure she could tell I wanted to say no. I hemmed a moment longer, but she did not withdraw her request. “Um walk with me to the store.” I grabbed my keys from a hook in the foyer and closed the door behind me.
“Your wallet,” she said, her voice flat and calm. I pretended not to hear and began to crowd her toward the elevator bank at the end of the corridor. “What are you doing in Philly?” I wished my voice sounded lighter and more carefree, but all I could muster was shrill curiosity.
“What do you remember about me?”. She gave me a look that dared me to bullshit.
I took a chance anyway. “Sporty, kinda quiet, lived with your dad over by the junior high school”.
A spasm of anger passed across her face then was gone. “I need you to help me,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Yeah ok,” I said as one of the elevators opened, “I think you came to the wrong place.” I flicked my fingers at the empty car and turned back down the hall.
“You owe me, bitch,” She shouted. I stopped dead in my tracks. A wild surge of anger rose from my stomach and choked my retort in my throat.
“It’s just a small favor,” she said, her voice breaking. There was a long silence in which the elevator closed and left and my anger turned to guilt.
“I had nothing to do with that, Sara,” I did not turn around to face her, but I could hear her breathing become quick and shallow. “That’s all behind us and I don’t want it in my new life.”