Melissa's sobs reverberated through my own chest as I held her close to me in an embrace, shock flooding into me. How could I have forgotten? I'd been too overwhelmed in my own life, my own problems to care about Melissa's.
Every year, on this particular day, Melissa would take a leave from work and stay home. Eventually, I'd figured the pattern of sick leaves, or vacations she'd take and gathered up the courage to ask my 'scary secretary'. The response I'd gotten had come as a total surprise.
Yet, this year, I'd completely forgotten. And here she was, releasing her emotions in front of me for the second time in our lives. Lightly patting her head, I took a deep breath and whispered, "Did you go to..."
She nodded, tears continuing to flow down her cheeks. "I visited them."
I stood, speechless. What more could I say to make her feel better? But Melissa had been there for me everytime and I knew I owed it to her. "Come on Mel, let's go out."
Before she could refuse, I took hold of her hand and guided her out of the condo. Soon we were in my car, driving away to God knows where. I just wanted to get away, to get her away from her painful reality just as she'd done for me.
The one thing I wanted to do now was be the cause of a smile on her face. And I would stop at nothing to make sure that happened.