I was 14 years old when my family moved from Utah to Nevada. It wasn’t an easy transition. A Utah bred Mormon girl (with a wild soul) thrown into sin city! I was finding it difficult to fit in anywhere and then I discovered a friend living two doors down from my new house. She was the best! A blonde beauty with porcelain skin, long legs and tiny feet. We clicked right away and as most teens did in Las Vegas, we got into a lot of trouble! We spent hours lying on my trampoline slathered in baby oil for the best tan, and lemon juice spritz in our hair trying to achieve salon quality highlights. We borrowed each other’s clothes and sang and danced in my bedroom to Depeche Mode and Erasure until we fell to the floor laughing.
I knew she was sick, but she never showed it. She had a vertical scar on her belly from where she told me the doctors had taken out a section of her bowels leaving her with a belly bulge she was always self-conscious about. She would get tired and need to rest from time to time, yet, she never complained, she was always laughing, smiling and loving. She eventually met a man whom she married. She most desperately wanted to have a child, yet, with her illness this was risky for her poor, damaged body. But she was determined, and no amount of warning or pleading was going to stop her, and then, her wish came true.
I took on the task of looking after her during the day. I would go over to her apartment to help out, making sure she was resting and eating. Being adventurous spirits, we decided to start a business making ice cream pies. We were certain that the ice cream pie business was going to make millions! We tried every which way we could to create a working recipe to bake a crispy, flaky crust and pack it with a firm ice cream filling, and with every failed attempt, we would try a different way the following day. We made fantastic messes, we flung flour and sugar and lots and lots of ice cream in every nook and cranny of her cramped apartment kitchen! With the music blaring and flour covered ice cream bits flying, we always had a blast. Looking back, I miss those days and wish it had never stopped.
One day, I sauntered into her apartment only to be met with a strange silence. I called for her and then noticed the bathroom door was closed. So, I went to the kitchen and started to unpack the bag of flour, ice cream and fruit choices that we would attempt that day and then waited. When she finally came out of the bathroom, her face was beaded from perspiration, her blonde, shoulder length hair hung in strands from sweat and her porcelain doll face marred with dark rimmed and bloodshot eyes. She wore a grey cotton, thigh length nightgown blemished with wetness and creased folds from hard restless sleep. She could hardly walk on her own and stumbled forward only barely grabbing the frame of the bathroom door to stop her fall. I dropped what I was doing and ran to her to assist her to the couch then gently helped her lay down. I arranged a patchwork blanket on top of her, then pulled it all the way up to her chin. She was looking up at me with silent tears streaming down her cheeks, and explained that she had miscarried the night before. I said nothing, I just gently crawled onto the couch behind her, cradled her in my lap and lightly stroked her hair. We sat like that for hours.
My friend finally rallied from the blow and our daily adventures of making ice cream pies became the norm again. This time I would make her sit in a chair in the kitchen next to me. She was the foreman and I took her instructions on what to try next. Her husband would come home every day and shake his head at the soggy pie crusts dripping with melted ice cream and the both of us covered in flour and fruit and always, we had the radio blasting!
Every day when her husband came home, out of her earshot, I warned him to give her body time to heal before they tried getting pregnant again. And every day he promised me that he would.
I will always remember the last day I had with my friend forever. We were sitting on the couch when she suddenly turned to me with a huge smile sprouting on her face. She was silent for a moment and then said. “I am glad you are here for this”. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she got up off the couch and grabbed my hand pulling me to her small apartment bathroom. She bent down, rummaged under the sink for a moment then pulled out a small brown paper bag. Then silently, with that same big smile, she handed me the bag. I opened the bag and looked inside, and my heart dropped. It contained a pregnancy test. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to throw up. She might be pregnant again!? Her body was still so weak! I only paused for a moment before giving her my best smile then pulled the pregnancy test out of the bag to set on the bathroom counter. She immediately grabbed the box and tore it open like a child with a Christmas present, my dread deepening but knowing she needed me cheerful and supportive for this moment. I started to walk out of the bathroom when she said “No, stay. I want you here for this”. So, I stayed while she peed into the cup. She smiled up at me like an angel, glowing with hope. I could barely stand the effort not to burst into tears and run away from the whole situation. Her anxiousness and my trepidation made for a palpable sense of confusion for me as we waited for the fluid to soak long enough to give the answer of yes or no. It didn’t take long. Bright and blaring, this plastic stick confirmed my fear and her deepest wishes, she was pregnant! I don’t know how I was able to cheer and jump up and down with her, with our arms wrapped around each other. My head was swimming and my legs were numb, but I did it, and she was beautiful in her full smile and girlish giggling.
We were to pick up her husband from work that day. She drove their white ford truck and I sat in the back seat, fuming and silent and sad. As her husband started to get into the passenger seat he was greeted with the plastic stick staring at him from the dash. I could not see his face from the back seat, but I noticed his body freeze like someone hit the pause button for a flash of a second. He pulled himself into the truck the rest of the way and she immediately wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing his face in every crease with fresh silent tears running down her cheeks. He reacted how he was expected to, and as soon as she finished accosting him and he sat back in his seat, I reached through the belt side of the passenger seat and pinched his arm hard until I was sure I gave him a nasty bruise, hoping I drew some blood! He didn’t react, he didn’t turn around and he didn’t say a word to me when they dropped me off at my house. I got out and closed the door behind me, finally letting my own silent tears run down my own saddened cheeks.
The next day when I got to my friends’ door, it was locked? I knocked and waited. I knocked again and waited. The blinds were closed, the windows were dark. Panic was setting in. I called, no answer. I called again, no answer. I then called her mother and got the news; my friend had been rushed to the hospital. She was refusing to see anybody, even me.
Over the next few days, I was told repeatedly that she did not want to see me. I spoke to her mother and her husband to get updates, learning that she had miscarried again and had sunk into a deep depression. As soon as I knew she was home, I stopped by once again. As before, she wouldn’t answer the door or the phone. I understood that depression is not rational, so I left her alone to contact me when she felt ready.
Over the next couple of years, I never heard from her. I tried to contact her, only to be met with silence. The next phone call I got regarding my friend, was the news of her death. I was told when and where the funeral was to be and in that phone call I learned that she had a son! She had the child she had always wanted, and it cost her life. Numb to the core, I rode in the passenger seat of the car, a dear companion whom I had grown close to over the last years driving me. I don’t remember much of the trip.
We walked up to the chapel doors. The place was packed with people, we made our way to the front of the room and my friend’s body. As it came closer to our turn at the casket we approached my friends’ mother. I remember that she grabbed me and squeezed me so tight that I thought I would burst!
I approached the casket; her blonde hair was curled atop her head and she looked so peaceful, so porcelain. I reached out and held her hand, even with mortuary makeup her hands were covered with dark bruising from the needles, injecting whatever chemicals the doctors thought she needed. Eventually my companion pulled me away. I had this gripping ache that my friend was gone. She had pushed me away and I was not a part of her son’s birth and I missed her, and I hated that I missed her.
One of my friend’s favorite pastimes was chasing rainbows. Together we had driven all over the city so many times chasing countless rainbows. She always said that one day she would find the end of a rainbow and take its pot of gold. On the drive home, a rainbow started to form. We were on a two-lane road and on both sides of the road was nothing but long expanses of dirt, rocks and grasses. My companion stopped the car, knowing me enough that I needed to experience this. We got out of the car to watch the rainbow form. It was so close! It was bright and arched from one side of the road to the other and on both sides of the road you could clearly see where the rainbow ended.
We sat in silence watching the rainbow form and then slowly fade away. The perfect homage to my friend’s death. From beginning to end and all the beautiful colors in between, we witnessed the beginning and the end of a rainbow.
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