She disappeared with no real goodbye.
Under most circumstances, much like a cat too nosy for its own good, we humans love a good mystery—the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, the perfect mixture of fear and curiosity.
But in this case the unknown was the scariest part of it all. Momma taught me to never fear death, but I had never given it much thought until now. Over plates of pan de muerto New Mexico taught me la vida es un regalo, it should be celebrated. The dead didn’t scare me. Plus, how can I mourn when my hands are mid-prayer and my neck is dripping with healing crystals? Oh, and these tears? These aren’t tears of loss. These are the effects of too much sage brush smoke. But all the herbal tea in the world couldn’t quench my thirst for the truth. The truth of what happened to Luna Mae, the girl next door.
The last time I saw her it was an early fall morning. The wind was constant but bearable. The falling leaves were unusually crimson, and our suburban town felt quiet. Everyone was holding their breath. As I clumsily hopped down the marble steps, my backpack jolting me forward, I felt her eyes watching me. Gray with an almost yellow quality. Through the white bars of the gate, I spotted her perching high up on her ivory fence, like royalty. She looked uneasy, her dark brown hair spiraling in all directions. She told me she kept secrets in those curls.
I would laugh, and she would laugh too, but neither of us thought it was funny. I’d snuggle deeper under the blankets while she told me stories of people in far-off places and how she’d join them someday. El mundo es mas grande de lo que piensas, she would preach. She wasn’t happy here, and we both knew it. Everyone knew it. Momma started the engine of our old Saab, pulling me back to the present. The car roared to life like an old dog that still barks at the mailman. Through the foggy glass I heard her somber goodbye. Wordless but powerful. We held eye contact until she was just a fuzzy speck in the distance, wild hair and glowing eyes. The next day her death was in the papers, her picture stained with drips of Daddy’s coffee. Her frizzy hair, overflowing with secrets. And those eyes—no one ever saw those bright eyes again.