Molly returned to the window seat across the aisle from Millie. She knew her mother would want to sleep during the two hour ride to Newark. By now, Molly was keen to Millie’s symptoms. They’d been evident as they walked across the parking lot to the bus: shoulders sagging, head lowered, eyes dull, listless, and staring straight-ahead but drooping downward.
For the next thirty minutes, Molly tried to meditate, like Tracey had described. Looking out the window, just taking in the world, letting things be as they are, not trying to force anything, not striving, not clinging. Molly kept her eyes open, and after a quick absorption of the thickening snow, followed the Delaware River as it wound northeasterly, staying an almost-equal distance from the route the bus was taking. This changed in Eddington when the river receded and diverged from the route onward to Newark, eventually disappearing from Molly’s view entirely.
Her attention turned to Alisha and how their lives had been like the river. Before it diverged. For six and a half years, since the first week of Kindergarten at Harvard Elementary School, they’d remained close, always an equal distance from each other. At first, they’d been satisfied with dolls, Harry Potter books, and Breyer’s Chocolate ice-cream. Then, came Taylor Swift and her music. This, along with Ms. Thorton and her zealousness for writing, had ignited their imagination, opening their world to figuratively traveling the world and experiencing a panoply of unending adventures, including bull-fighters, mountain climbers, inn-keepers, and artists of all stripes.
Breathing deeply, Molly followed the rise and fall of her breath deep into her stomach. As much as she tried to resist the sad thought of losing her best friend, there she was. The image was as real as the Delaware River, now unseen, yet still flowing. Alisha was sitting inside her room at that silly pink desk, Taylor Swifts “Daylight” playing softly in the background. Alisha finished reading a poem, maybe “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Now, the outwardly unattractive but inwardly beautiful sixth grader was striving to create her own poem. Molly was certain her best friend was drafting a dirge, one matching Millay’s in thrust and meaning, but using different words, rhythms, and symmetry.
Molly lost the battle. She couldn’t resist. After staring a long minute at her sleeping mother, she reached into her bag for the iPhone Alistair had given her, whispering, “I have to talk to Alisha.” Molly looked again at her mother. She was in her soft-puffing mode which meant she was in a deep sleep.
Molly hoped Alisha was home and not out somewhere with her parents as she often was on Saturday afternoons. “Me here, you here too.” For the past year this had become a common way for Molly and Alisha to begin their text communications. They were more than best friends. No matter the physical distance between them, they were one person with two minds and a single heart.
Alisha replied almost instantly. “Me here, you here too.” There was a slight pause before she sent a follow-up text. “Always.”
“Update. We’re still on this damn bus. Next stop, Newark, NJ.”
“Update. Trying to write a combination romance and nature scene, set at a beautiful waterfall. The lovers—male/female, male/male, or female/female I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter since they are in love—stay there for forty years until they die, but the time seems like one hour.”
Molly responded with a memorized quote from Millay’s “Dirge Without Music.” “They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.”
“Wow. I wish you were here. I miss you so much.”
“Me too.” Molly thought of Alisha’s room. The giant poster bed, the entertainment center her father had built, the matching bean-bag chairs, the orange sun poster pinned across the window, and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves surrounding her pink desk. Alisha collected many times more fantasy books than Molly collected stuffed animals.
After sending a ‘question’ emoji, Alisha typed, “I know you carried your stuffed animals, but which one is in your book bag? Right now.”
“Mom packed them in garbage bags and thought it best not to try and transport them by bus. The garage folks where we left our Sentra are going to ship them to New York. Hope they don’t get lost.”
“Bummer. Too trusting. Why not mail them yourself?” Alisha was always thinking.
“I suggested the same but mom wanted to go to the bus station early. Plus, she thought Ray & his wife, the garage owners, were good people. Really, I think Mom believed them because of their twin girls.”
“I know, I know. Doesn’t compute but you know mom. But, anyway, Ray was nice and made me wish he was my father.”
Alisha closed her notebook, walked to her bed, reclined, and continued typing. “You’ve said the same about my wonderful dad. So, which one is it?”
Molly sent the face without a mouth emoji, and typed. “I repeat for the millionth time, be thankful you have such a caring, compassionate, respectful, and engaging father. But no, not me. All I have, other than hatred for the Monster, is sadness, loneliness, disappointment, and emptiness.”
Alisha believed it her life mission to placate and comfort Molly, hoping her humble but beautiful friend wouldn’t forget her when she became a model or movie star. “Then keep trying to find your REAL father. Like I’ve said, the reason he’s not around might be your mom’s fault.”
Although she couldn’t agree, Molly had a feeling her biological father cared for her mother. Michael was his name but that’s all she’d been told. And, that he was from somewhere in Alabama. “Mom said she’d tell me the whole story when I turn 13. That’s seven months, a lifetime. BTW, I can’t imagine it’s mom’s fault.”
“Like Mom and Dad say, ‘it takes two to tango.’ Question. If your father’s so great, why doesn’t he contact you? Maybe, at least, send you a Christmas card like he does your mother?”
“Mom says it’s probably guilt. Like I’ve told you, he got married in 2012, had a son in 2013, and then his wife died in an auto accident in 2015.”
These type conversations were common and frequent. Real friends don’t hold back from disagreement. “No computa.” Alisha was trying to learn a little Spanish. “Maybe it’s because you’re mom has demanded he stay away, that she thinks he’s no good for you, even if he does have a son and no longer has a wife.”
“Mom says Michael’s parents are raising his son. So, if he won’t take care of his son, why should he take care of his daughter?” All this was old hat for Molly. She’d been asking these questions since she started Kindergarten.
“If I had a half-brother you can rest assured I’d be looking for him.” Molly thought this was funny since Alisha and Alistar rarely communicated.
The bus driver’s gruff voice interrupted the passengers soft chatter. He announced they’d arrive in Newark in ten minutes. Molly removed her toboggan and laid it across her iPhone before looking toward her mother. With eyes wide open, Millie inclined her seat while staring straight at Molly.
“What are you doing?” Molly had no doubt her mother had discovered the secret iPhone.