For the first time in a year they were getting together, for the first time since the night it happened. That was unusual for them, being such a good friends, such close friends. But true friends don’t need to see each other every day to have a solid friendship, and sometimes things bring us closer together and sometimes they drive us apart. Not that that’s what happened, they hadn’t been driven apart, they were still just as close, it’s just that it can be hard to be in someone’s company after something like that. It can be hard to face a person that was there, who saw, who knew, who had thoughts and opinions an and maybe even judgements.
Regardless, they were finally getting together in person after a year, and they were both giddy throughout the day, the anticipation of seeing their very best friend outweighed by any fears they had over the conversation turning towards the night it happened. It was their favorite time of year, fall, with a crispness to the air you could almost taste, and all their favorite things to do were on offer: haunted trails, haunted houses, haunted hayrides, and all things cider. In an effort to ignore the night it happened they’d chosen a haunted hayride followed by cider tasting, two things that would be crowded and lively and leave little availability for long or quiet conversation.
When Margot arrived, she took an extra minute in the parking lot to check her makeup in the vanity mirror. Pretending to search for something in her purse she also took a minute to breathe deeply and repeat to herself “this is not like the night it happened,” a few times. Once she felt calm she grabbed her things, locked the door, and headed towards the entrance, scanning the crowd for Lanie while simultaneously pulling up her text to send “I’m here.”
Lanie saw Margot arrive. She had debating calling the whole night off. It would be easy enough to do. “I have to work late tonight,” or “hey, can we reschedule I’ve had a long day,” or practically anything. Margot would understand. Not just because they were best friends but also because on some level Margot didn’t want to do this either, Lanie could tell, but it wasn’t til she watched Margot arrive that she knew just how much they were both forcing themselves to make this happen. It wasn’t til she saw for the first time in a year that it became obvious how badly they were both determined not to relive the night it happened.
Nothing for it now but to go. And as Lanie reached for her phone to send an “I’m here,” her phone pinged with Margot’s. She sent back a heart and tapped out “just pulled up. There in a min,” and sent it. She grabbed her things and headed towards the entrance and Margot all the while repeating in her mind, “this is nothing like the night it happened.”
The devil of it was, this was exactly like the night it happened. Halloween was only a couple weeks away, the air was full of promise and spice and the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, the people all around them eager to be terrified, desperate for a thrill. Some people were in costume, determined to get their money’s worth or to nab a partner for the night. It was so entirely like the night it happened that many of the costumed people were quite literally the same costumed people, not that last years sexy nurse was this years sexy nurse, because she was actually this years sexy little red riding hood, but last years sexy German beermaid was now this years sexy nurse, and even though they’d come to a different venue, in a different town, the scenery was very much the same, the conversations floating through the air, the screams from people on the hayride, the background noises coming from speakers of an occasional scream or chains clinking or the creak of a door or coffin top, the sounds that must have been sold on tape then on CD and now available on an iMusic playlist that were so generic it was a wonder anyone was able to make any money from them. It was all the same.