My cousin and my friend Lisa were gone. Yes, gone was the word my grandmother used that day and gone is the word I am clinging to for comfort. When I think of the word gone, it makes it sound like she has moved away. That means I will not see her often, but I will see her one day. Yet sometimes, when I am angry with her, gone is the last word I want to hear.

Lisa and my birthday were on the same day, but she was two years older than me. Three days after our birthdays, her sixteenth and my fourteenth, we were hanging out in her cream-painted bedroom when she said, “After high school, I will go to United University, live on campus, get a degree in business and then come back home and start up my own business.”

It was the weekend, and summer break was quickly approaching.

“Why?” I asked, turning away from the vanity mirror. I was admiring my new straightened hairdo.

“Why what?” she asked, propping up on her elbow in her leaf-printed queen-size bed. “That’s a loaded question.”

“Why are you going so far away? I’ll never see you,” I replied, my voice catching in my throat.

I quickly turned my back to her.

“We’ll see each other. I’ll come home at least once a weekend in every month.”

“Yeah, sure, you say that now,” I said, moving my head slowly from side to side, pretending to be still admiring my hair.

“Yes, I say that now, and I’ll always say it. And besides, when I return home, I won’t leave, so we’ll have plenty of time together.”

“If you say so,” I said in a sing-song tone.

Lisa got off the bed and came and stood behind the vanity chair. She rested her hands on my shoulder before leaning and kissing me on my head.

“You’ll be fine, cuz,” she said, meeting my eyes in the mirror, “and if you want, we can go into business together when I come back.”

“Really?” I asked, spinning around to look up at her.

She laughs.

Her laughter is one of the things I loved about my cousin. She had this soft yet high-pitched laugh that you would never expect to come from her. She was tall, dark-skinned, with long curly hair, and for some reason, since she was fourteen years old, the front left side of her hair started to turn grey. However, the grey has not moved to any other part of her hair. Her face was narrow with a pointy chin, and when she smiled, her entire being seemed to light up.

I held on to those words, but for the next two years, every free time I had at school, and after school, I was over at her home. I knew she was tired of me occasionally, but she never said so.

Then finally, the time came for her to leave, and her parents threw her a birthday and congratulations party, which was great! My mom, who had left for America when I was five years old, even returned with her new husband for this celebration. This visit was the second time I’d seen my mom since she left me in St. Anne with my grandmother with the promise of returning for me.

Lisa left for university, and true to her word, she was home once a month. When she returned, she told me about her campus life, and she was on track to graduate. There was a new guy in her life, but he was not living on campus. She even went to church with him and his family once.

One weekend when she returned home, I had just started my last year of high school. I could tell something was bothering her, so I pressed her about it.

She sighed before saying, “it’s my roommate. She’s up to things that could get her kicked out of university. On the one hand, she is so intelligent, but on the next, she is doing things that make no sense.”

“What are the things she’s doing?” I asked before biting into my roti wrap in the restaurant we were having lunch.

Lisa sighed again. “I promised not to tell anyone, and she promised to get her act together.”

I nodded as I chewed my food, then asked, “can’t you get another roommate?”

“I’ll give her some time; if nothing changes, I’ll have to do that.”

“Good,” I said, “but don’t wait too long.”

“Okay,” she said and then changed the subject.

Lisa returned to the campus, and I continued on my way to finishing high school. Then about three weeks later, after I returned home from school, my grandmother was on the pouch waiting for me. She looked like she was crying.

She grabbed me and hugged me tightly. Then, she led me into the house and sat with me in our long floral upholstery chair.

“Lisa is gone,” she said.

I stared at her; tears poured out of her eyes and ran down her face.

“What do you mean?”

“Your cousin Lisa is dead. She is gone.”

I did not cry then, nor did I cry on the day of her funeral because I was angry and needed answers. Answers that the cops did not seem too eager to find. Then about six months after Lisa was gone, the cops returned to my aunt and uncle’s home, and I was with them in their living room. We were talking about Lisa.

The cops revealed that Lisa’s roommate wanted to bring over a few friends to their dorm. She knew that Lisa would not be in for it, so she slipped two ecstasies into a drink she shared with Lisa. She hoped it would loosen her up or put her to sleep for a bit. It put her to sleep, and her roommate put her into bed.

The following afternoon when her roommate awoke to prepare for her afternoon class, Lisa was still in bed. So, she went over to her to wake her, but her body was cold, and by the time they called the ambulance, it was already too late.

I cried then. My cousin and my friend were gone, and so I finally wept.

The End

A. M. Linton is a wife and mother of two. She is also the author of Torn Between Love, Religion and Responsibility, A Little on Puberty for Boys and A little on Symptoms Associated with Menopause. A few of her short stories were also published in The Barbados Advocate Newspaper.

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