-August 23, 1987- Three Days remain-
The sound of an ear-piercing scream awoke me from a dead sleep. I jolted up in my bed, gasping for breath.
Not even caring that I was in complete disarray, with my hair all matted and my clothes mismatched, I got up and practically sprinted toward the sound.
I skidded to a halt in the kitchen, where Rose was standing, tears streaming down her face, clutching at the telephone. Eddie was there as well, his eyes wide, terror etched into his features. Samantha was perched atop his lap.
I wanted to ask what was wrong, to reach out and offer any sort of comfort I could. But my voice was lodged in my throat at the raw pain that filled the room.
When Donnie came up behind me a few short seconds later, putting a reassuring hand on the small of my back, I allowed myself to breathe a little. Still, the feeling of sorrow couldn’t be shaken.
“What happened?” Donnie demanded, though his tone was gentle. “What’s going on?”
His words brought on a whole new round of tears for his mother. Even Mr. Darko was crying now.
“It’s Elizabeth,” Rose choked. For the first time since I’d met her, her façade of perfection was broken, and she looked just as lost as me. “She’s- she was at this party last night- and she… she fell.”
Donnie’s hand moved to my own, grasping it tightly. “So what does that mean?”
It was his father who answered him. “She… hit her head,” he murmured.
“She isn’t going to make it.”
My world stopped. Maybe my heart did too; I couldn’t have been sure. At that moment I couldn’t process a single thought. Everything swarmed together in my mind. Only one thought stuck out.
Elizabeth was dead. Elizabeth, my best friend, my only friend, was dead.
I let out a strangled sob, collapsing into Donnie’s arms. He held me to his chest tightly, stroking my hair. I knew that he was crying too.
Oh my God.
I don’t know how long we stood there. I don’t know if I finally just Ran out of tears to cry, or if the logical part of my mind kicked in and reminded me that standing here crying and getting nothing accomplished wouldn’t bring Elizabeth back to life.
I lifted my head, locking my pale gray-green eyes with Donnie’s light blue ones. There were no words to capture what was written on his face. I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he was going through.
I’d never lost anyone. Not a grandparent, not a cousin, not even a friend. So there was no way for me to put myself in his shoes. I could only try to imagine what he was feeling.
“Donnie,” I whispered. If he’d heard me, it didn’t show. Slowly but surely he unwound his arms from my tiny body and dropped them to his side.
“I… I need to go. I need to… be alone,” he mumbled.
I nodded numbly. Donnie was hurt real bad, but I hoped with every ounce of my being that he wouldn’t push me away. Maybe I would understand. Or maybe it would kill me too.
I watched his retreating form as he stumbled up the steps, blinded by the tears that were still there.
I remained there leaning against the doorway long after the rest of the Darkos had shuffled out of the room.
Maybe it was time for me to go. The Darkos were going through such pain right now, I was sure I would be more of a burden than a guest. An ache ran through my heart at the thought of saying goodbye to these wonderful people I had dared to call my family.
And Donnie. My dear, sweet Donnie. What sort of unjust god would rip him away from me when I’d just now found the one who held the other half of my heart?
I knew that somehow I would have to find a way to go on without him in my life. It would be hard. It would hurt like hell. But it had to be done. And now was the time.
I wouldn’t say goodbye. It would be easier that way- for both of us. But tonight was the night that I would leave. And there would be no coming back.
“What are you doing?”
I jumped, spinning around to face the speaker.
Donnie stood in the doorway of my room, his cool eyes sweeping the chaos there. I knew how it must have looked to him. Clothes strewn everywhere, total disorder. I had to take only the necessary items. The rest would have to stay behind.
I sighed. I’d been counting on him staying in his room all night. Seeing him might make me change my mind. I took a deep breath, forced the words out of my mouth. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.
“What does it look like I’m doing, Donnie? I’m leaving. You didn’t think I could stay here forever, did you?”
Donnie’s expression hardened instantly. I felt a piece of me fall away within.
“Oh,” he said coldly. “I see.”
My bottom lip quavered as tears threatened to tumble out. “Donnie, please-”
But he wasn’t going to listen. He cut me off with his mere glare alone.
“Go, then!” he shouted at me. “Run away. It’s what you’re good at, isn’t it? You couldn’t possibly make anything work out. You couldn’t possibly consider what anybody else wants. No, it’s all about you. So go ahead and leave, then. Good riddance.”
My pale eyes were wide as I took in his words, worse than anything my mother had ever said, worse than any blow my father had ever dealt me. And all true. Every one of them was true. And that made it so much worse.
“Donnie,” I tried again. “Donnie, please don’t.”
It was hopeless, I knew. I was just wasting my breath and my time trying to hold onto something that was never intended to be mine in the first place. I’d wound up here by some sick accident, some perverted twist of fate. I hoped whoever ran this gig was getting their kicks out of this mess that had fallen around me.
Donnie turned and slammed the door; the echoing bang was like a bullet to the chest, one that shattered my heart into a million irreparable pieces.