I first discovered the truth of what had happened to Reed Wilson in the summer of ’86.
It was the hottest day of the year, the kind of day when everyone’s shirts would stick to their skin whether they were inside a building playing cards or outside cleaning a car that desperately needed to be washed. The kind of day when you would find kids sitting on the curbs of the sidewalk, licking their brightly colored popsicles and praying to God that it wouldn’t melt before they had a chance to finish it. The kind of day when adults were outside sitting on their patios and decks, listening to the small, portable radios that they owned and pretended to listen to their children talk, if their children were even at home, which wasn’t very likely.
It was this day that I was sitting on the front steps of my tan, cottage-like home that I had lived in since I was born. I was reading one of my new comic books, it was a murder mystery. I distinctly remember the chirp of the ravens and blue jays and seagulls over my head as I sat there, immersed in my reading. Birds of all sorts were common in Wellview, the small town that my family and I had lived in. It was a town that sat on the coast of Rhode Island, and that resulted in us having tourists from all over the country, sometimes even the world, visit Wellview for summer vacations or holidays.
I pulled my knees up to my chest, as I flipped the page of my comic book and continued reading. I played with the white laces on my dirty and faded pair of red Converse, and I slapped away more mosquitos that day then what I would have liked, and I remember wishing my parents had started up the fire pit in our front yard, which we used almost every night in the summer with the neighbors who lived nearby. It was fun, and I used to invite Reed over sometimes along with Lacy and Sam.
The front door to my home creaked open, signaling that someone was leaving the house. The door slammed closed and a pair of black flats walking down the steps entered my line of vision. I looked up to see my mom, and I grinned at her. She however, never did. Her face stayed in the same grim manner in which it had been when I first looked up. My smile instantly turned into a frown as I tilted my head in confusion.
“Mom?” I questioned her, placing my comic book to the left of me, and once I had done that my mom sat down on the steps to my right. She didn’t speak for a few minutes, and the way her face was crinkled in confusion and sadness and nervousness, I got the hint that she had to tell me something. And even though I was only twelve years old, I knew that I shouldn’t force it out of her. So I waited, and waited, until she was ready to tell me what was wrong.
“Lana,” I heard her whisper quietly. I turned my head to face my mom, but she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at the newly-paved cement that had been applied to the front steps of our house not even six months ago.
“Yeah, mom?” I said, eager to hear what she would say. By the amount of struggle she was having telling me what needed to be said, I concluded that I should not have been eager to hear the words that would exit her mouth in a few short minutes. I was right, unfortunately.
“It’s true,” she said sadly, finally looking up at my face. My mom’s eyes showed the most emotion that I had ever seen that afternoon in the summer of 1986. It showed sadness, despair, anger, guilt, regret, pity, you name it. And at first, I’ll admit. I didn’t know what my mom was talking about. But soon, after I thought about it, I understood.
Reed Wilson was dead. My best friend since I was three years old. The only person who had ever believed in my dreams and aspirations and goals was dead. Flashbacks hit me like a tidal wave, and I looked up at the sky and closed my eyes.
“Why don’t you go and talk to one of those girls over there?” My mom asked me. “Go and make some friends,” she pushed, gently shoving me towards the other three year old girls who all stood in the center of the classroom, giggling as they tried on all the princess dresses that were laid out for them. My eyes scanned the room in nervousness, my shy side taking over as I slowly made my way towards the girls. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. Reed. She was sitting alone a little further away from everyone else, parents and kids alike. Her vibrant, red hair was in messy pig tails, like mine was. She wasn’t playing with the princess dresses with the girls or the wooden blocks with the boys. She stood at the “kitchen” play set, attempting to cook herself a sandwich. For some reason, I stopped walking towards the girls with the dresses on, and I started towards Reed, and that was one of the best decisions I had ever made. “Hi,” I smiled shyly, once I had reached her. She turned around and faced me, and stood there in silence. But after a few seconds, she beamed at me. “Hello!” She replied happily. “Wanna help me make a sandwich? I’m not very good at it.” And that was the start of a beautiful friendship, it just had a tragic ending.
Reed had been missing for 2,190 hours. Three months. And everyday she was gone, every week, every minute, and every second, I broke a little more inside. We were inseparable, and treated each other like sisters. She was my first and closest friend. And she was gone. Forever. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath, before looking away from the sky and towards my mother, who was still sitting right next to me, right by my side.
“How’d she die?” I asked. “How long has she been dead? Where was she found?” I bombarded her with questions, not caring what I said. I just wanted answers and I wanted them right then and there. My mom glanced over at me and sighed, before answering all of them reluctantly.
“They found her in the forest on the edge of town. She was murdered.” She said grimly, the frown from earlier never leaving her face. I knew it was the truth, but I never wanted to believe it.
“How long?” I asked my mom again, trying not to think about Reed being murdered, and her body laying dead in the forest for who knows how long.
“We don’t know the exact date,” she started, causing me to look down at my Converse. “But they’re guessing she was dead for a month and a half before they found her, which was this morning.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to convince myself this was all a bad dream. A horribly bad dream, where Reed was never murdered. Just a bad dream. But it wasn’t, and somewhere inside me I knew that it wasn’t. This was reality. I would just have to accept that whether I liked it or not.
But the absolutely worst part about looking back at this horrible day, was realizing that I never even shed a tear. Not a single tear escaped my eyes on that hot summer day in 1986.