On Monday morning, there was an assembly and the principal, Mr. Edders, told us that Louise Anderson was missing. He introduced Detectives Mercer and Allerton, who said they wanted to talk to the kids in Louise’s homeroom, her friends, and anyone who had seen her over spring break. We were told to go to Guidance office after the assembly to talk to one of the officers.
My heart was pounding and I felt sick to my stomach. I was sure everybody was staring at me when I whispered to Ingrid “I saw Louise last weekend. I was riding my bike through the park and she was sitting on a bench reading or something. I said “hi” and she looked up and smiled and waved a bit. And then I went home. Should I go talk to them, the police?”
“That’s what they said, yes, you HAVE to,” she said. I nodded, I knew she was right. But the thought of talking to a cop made me feel guilty even though I didn’t do anything.
I put my stuff in my locker and slowly walked to the Guidance office. I had to wait almost 10 minutes – I thought for sure I was going to throw up. Finally, I talked to Detective Mercer, and he was pretty nice. He asked me lots of questions, and he wrote stuff down. Then he gave me his card, in case I thought of something else, just like on TV. I hurried out of the office and let out a huge sigh of relief. Man, was I glad to get out of there!
Ingrid met up with me near the library and asked, “Well?! What did they say?” I told her as we walked to class. Then I tried really hard not to think about it any more.
The next day, the four of us were hanging out at lunchtime, postponing the inevitable trek to class (Math, for me – my worst subject!). We were all thinking about it, but I couldn’t believe it when Anita asked the question we were afraid to ask. “What if it happened to one of us?”
Our faces mirrored each other’s shocked-stunned looks. Shaking our heads, trying to dispel the images that came to mind. We didn’t know any details so we imagined the worst. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I picked up my book bag and said I had to get to class.
Kathy and Anita went up to the third floor, and Ingrid walked down the hall with me. We looked at each other, silently wondering – what if it IS the WORST thing? When I saw that round-eyed fearful look in Ingrid’s eyes it scared me. I mean, she was the level headed one in our group – I think maybe it was because she’s German and the oldest in her family. That was something we had in common, being first-borns. We always griped about stuff our families made us do and it was nice to have someone who got it.
We didn’t say anything as we walked, and I quickly looked over at Ingrid again. I saw her frown and start chewing on the ends of her hair. Oh, oh, that meant she was gearing up to spill her guts, and probably get into lecture mode, so I said I had to go pee and would meet her after class.
While Ms. Morrison droned on about isosceles triangles and stuff, my mind flickered around the edges of what might have happened to Louise. I didn’t WANT to think about it but I couldn’t stop. It was like when we went camping and I stood away from the fire until the big flames died down, but I felt drawn to it and couldn’t keep my eyes off of it the whole time. God, how could someone I knew just disappear? Vanish? Especially Louise! She was a year ahead of me and I didn’t really know her. She was popular, but she was really nice – not snooty and hyper, like the cheerleaders she sometimes hung out with. I don’t think I ever heard anyone say anything bad about Louise.
The week dragged on and we didn’t hear anything more. We weren’t sure if that was good or bad. Ingrid and Kathy and Anita and I just did the usual things. We didn’t talk about Louise but we knew we were thinking about her. Everybody at school was acting normal but you could feel the tension in the air. The popular girls weren’t as loud or pushy. And kids would huddle around their lockers, whispering, instead of shoving and laughing. Something awful happened to someone we knew. Even though we did all the usual things – went to class, and choir practice, and even a football game – we knew nothing would ever be the same again.
On Friday morning, another assembly was called. Mr. Edders stood on the stage, looking sick to his stomach, as he told us what had happened to Louise. He said there would be people available for us to talk to, to help us work through our shock and grief. He talked about the funeral, said the school would send flowers, and there would be a big poster we could sign that would be sent to the family…
But all I could think about was my nightmare. And how it had actually happened. To Louise.