By JULIE SMITH | Published: January 21, 2010

It’s our 20th Anniversary today. We have three wonderful boys now in full-blast manhood. Twenty years ago Carrie left without a clue. I’ll never forget that 24- hour day – every minute of it.


Robbie finally popped the question - no, he sang the question in front of 100,000 people! Talk about a fantasy come true. I was the love-struck producer watching him and smiling off in zoo-zoo land, when after a lost dog story he got up, walked in front of the news desk, got down on one knee and sang “Will you marry me, Cathy?” to the music of Happy Birthday. He reached into his jacket and held a ring up towards me. There were ‘ahs’ and ‘ohs’ from the crew as I turned not a crimson red but lily white – pure and undiluted shock left me light-headed. I stumbled quickly over, kissed him and said “yes” and he barked, “What?” I said it louder, while he gently placed the ring on my finger. I think I need a cane I thought as I tripped and staggered back to my desk. Robbie walked over to his perch and continued the newscast flawlessly with a smiling cherubic face and twinkling eyes. Hell, I was getting married!

Robbie’s wanted me to go home with him to celebrate the ultimate. I wanted to go home alone, savour everything that had happened and well, let’s face it, it was a big shock and I started to have these tiny stop signs come up. After a sleepless night, my first point of contact was Carrie, best friend for 25 years and closer than a sister. We both shared in the deaths of our parents and were single children. She would absolutely not believe it – I couldn’t – still couldn’t. But when I’d tell her I’d hear the scream from two miles away.

“The number you have dialed is not connected. Please check the number and try again.”

What a klutz I am - too excited. I redialled and the same message came on. I did it again and again. I called her cell and the same message came up. ‘Alarm bells’ wouldn’t describe the worry, disappointment and adrenalin which ran through my veins. I’d hit air raid material. How could this be? I’d been dialing the number for the last three years at least once a week, and every day when we shared highs and lows. That’s it. I was going over to find her.

As I was driving to Carrie’s flat I asked myself questions but there weren’t any answers. Nothing worked - there was no explanation.

I drove up her street and turned into the driveway. The door to her apartment was slightly ajar and her parking spot vacant. I ran and peeked through the door, and looked at the obscene, naked absence of Carrie. My eyes locked into a sweep; left, right, left, right; caught into a loop, entering a Twilight Zone. There was no Carrie here. I ran to the kitchen, eyes still locked in loopville as I opened the cupboards, checked the bedrooms and bathroom – bare. No pictures on the walls.

“Hey, Cath, saw Robbie on TV last night. Congratulations. Must have been quite a surprise, huh?”

“Oh Fred! Where’s Carrie?” I asked frantically as I nibbled on my finger.

“I don’t know. Thought maybe you would. She’s gone. Didn’t even give notice or nothin, just left. She’s paid up until the end of the month but you’d think she’d tell her landlord, handyman and confessor. I’m a bit shook myself.”

You’re a bit shook, I thought as I ran my hands through my hair and slid down the wall to the floor. It would be different if her furniture was here. But this was planned and executed. I lunged to the phone and picked up the receiver – dead. I flicked the light switch on – dead. She had turned off her phone and electricity and she didn’t tell me anything. This is freaking me out!

Carrie didn’t have any family except an uncle in the Alzheimer section of the Blue Falls Nursing Home. Calling them got me nowhere. Calling her work – “Didn’t show up.” Calling Robbie got some action. We put her photo on the news and front page of the Norman Courier. The police wouldn’t go near it; said she had planned to leave. Why she did it was her business – she hadn’t broken any laws.

The excitement of Robbie’s singing proposal got lost in Carrie’s disappearance. We got married but Carrie’s absence from the wedding party was a black hole. Everyday was filled with uncertainty. It was like a death without a body; a death without a funeral…no goodbye. I went through all five steps of grief but got stuck in step four – depression, which was so catatonic I had to quit work. Not exactly a way to start a marriage. It took my first pregnancy to snap me out of it… trying to forget Carrie but felt treasonous.


Twenty years ago…that trite saying of how time passes is so true. Nostalgic and teary-eyed, I went up to the attic. I was looking for my U .of O. yearbook with a picture of Carrie and me at a Sigma Nu party. As I turned the pages a yellowed piece of paper dropped out. I opened it and read:

Dear Cath,

You are my best friend and I love you dearly. I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever, ever know. I don’t know if you’ll ever read this and in some way I hope you don’t.

I have AIDS. You can fill in the blanks. You know what that means. If you are reading this more than ten years after I left, then chances are I am on the other side…unless they find a cure. It’s my way of bowing out. Quite a personal thing, actually, and the way I want it.

Please forgive me for hurting you.

Love forever and ever,


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