Jake was the first to break the silence. “Dude. What the fuck.” Mercer shook his head wordlessly, dumbstruck. “Well, at least say something,” he plead desperately. Mercer looked up, staring blankly. “You’ve got to say something, man.”
“I…” Mercer broke off, his head swimming. He felt faintly sick. “I don’t know what to say,” he finished lamely, not desiring to say much more. He could hardly think in a straight line; his thoughts rushed in so many directions, confusing and chaotic. Tumultuous and muddled, his mind screamed for a pause, a chance to throw the breaks on the runaway train he had been tossed onto. Jake picked up the remote, discarded on the back of the couch in surprise, and turned the television off. The sudden silence seemed to snap Mercer back to reality. “I mean, it’s been two years. That’s a long time.”
“Yeah, but where the fuck has she been? You can’t just disappear for two years.”
“I don’t know, man. I should ask her. Why couldn’t she have just called.” Mercer ran his fingers through his thick hair. “God, of course she wouldn’t. That would be too normal.”
“Well, Leila was always weird, but I don’t know about this.” Jake whistled slowly. “This kind of takes the cake.”
“Yeah, we know she was weird,” Mercer snapped. “She wasn’t that strange.”
“Jesus, Merce. No need to get angry. She was just a little eccentric. Everyone is,” He said soothingly. Mercer didn’t hear him. He was deaf to his surroundings again, lost in his own thoughts. Two years was a long time. They had disappeared – two best friends, Leila and Lizzie – disappeared the night of their graduation from high school, leaving no trace behind, their diplomas and robes and mantles and chords discarded in pitiful, colorful piles after the commencement exercises, their caps crowning the lonely mess. They had been searched for, certainly, but no trace showed itself. The search went on for almost a year before the worst was assumed, and the girls’ memories were shoved to the dark background of the community.
Long after, the two were still brought up. It was sad, they said, that two promising girls were taken away on the night they were just entering their futures. Certainly they would have done good things, they said. Certainly, such bright girls were a loss to the world. Mercer thought so. He had been friends with them both. Leila and he had been friends for years and her best friend Lizzie had dated Jake for a few months, but they had broken up weeks before she disappeared with Leila.
“I guess I should respond,” he said dully. Jake seemed relieved at hearing Mercer speak after the long interval of silence.
“Yeah. Yeah, you should do that. I mean, if you’re really sure…” he trailed off.
“Sure? Sure about what?”
“Well you don’t know it’s really her. I mean, it’s been two years.”
“Oh no,” Mercer said softly, smiling crookedly. “It’s definitely her. She’s the only person I know who would tell me that she’s not dead through a Facebook message.” Jake raised his eyebrows skeptically. Leila was strange. She didn’t think like other people. Jake had recognized this when he first met her. Her friend Lizzie was much more understandable, maybe a little hotheaded and headstrong, but understandable. Leila just wasn’t like that. She was… she was brilliant, but just not on the same level as everyone else. Well, almost everyone else. Mercer seemed to understand her most of the time, but then again, he was brilliant, too. Jake mentally chalked the certain strangeness Leila possessed up to unusually smart people.
“Well, okay, but don’t get your hopes up. It could be a sick joke,” Jake said cautiously, but Mercer didn’t respond.
“She’s also the only person I know who would use that many commas,” he continued, as if he hadn’t heard his roommate’s remark.