Tonight is a hard night.
A year ago tonight, I was driving from Chicago to Colorado to take the job I have now. I was following a dream, I was coming to the mountains, I was starting a new journey. From Chicago, I drove to Kansas City. A nine hour drive.
I arrived around 8 pm at my friend *Becca’s home. My Kindred Spirit. She opened the door, and we hugged excitedly. I was wearing red pants, and she commented on them. “Oh my Teryn, you’re such a city girl now, you and your trendy red pants.”
She lived with a group of girls at the time. A Christian community. They were having a roommate meeting. She and I sneaked away into her room. We sat on her bed and smiled contentedly at each other. We just could share those kind of smiles. The smiles of knowing.
“I think these are the colors for my wedding,” she said, glowing a little. She showed me samples of dark red and cream.
“Oh Becca, this is so you,” I said. Her room, after all, was decked in maroon and cream. There was something royal and noble about everything in the room. Even the drawings on the wall of a raven-haired maiden in a red dress drinking from a large cup. She’d had this painting since high school.
“Let me see the ring,” I said.
She showed it to me, and again she quietly glowed.
And we talked. We talked about how I’d been taking self-defense and beginning martial arts. We talked about her engagement.We talked about my future job.
“Oh Teryn, you’re going to the mountains. To Colorado. It’s your dream.” Becca’s tone was wistful, longing. I’d remembered that same tone when I’d called her and told her I got the job. “It’s a job in PUBLISHING. And it’s in COLORADO!” I’d told her, and I couldn’t contain my excitement.
“Colorado. Teryn, you’re going to Colorado.” Even on the phone she’d been wistful, almost unbelieving. As if I’d been given some good fortune she could never hope to have.
She sounded like that the night we talked in her room, too.
It was a dream we had shared. To live near the mountains and write and go on adventures.
But she was getting married.
And I was going to the mountains and following a dream.
(Maybe, in our own way, we each envied each other slightly).
Yet even that night, she didn’t seem herself. She wasn’t the joyous, passionate girl I’d known. She was subdued. She spoke more softly and with a downcast expression. It was if she were hiding, not really herself, trying desperately to be someone she wasn’t.
And I asked, “How are you? How are you really, Becca?”
And she said nothing, but she looked sad. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Don’t hide,” I told her. “Don’t hide from me.”
And she looked at me timidly. as if she were afraid to show herself. And slowly, slowly, she told me some things. But she didn’t really tell me anything. Whatever was slowly eating at her, whatever was overcoming her, was a strange and foreboding mystery to me. I’d seen her change, I’d seen her become a shadow of herself. But I never understood why.
It was the last time I’d ever talk face-to-face with her.
A year ago tonight.
The last time we’d sit on a bed and curl up and talk.
The last time we’d share our lives with each other.
The last time I’d visit her.
The last time.
(And yes, I saw her at her wedding last August. But she was already gone by then.)
And then…in October she died. In October my world came crashing down as I realized the Christian group she’d been living in was actually a cult. And her husband was the ring-leader. And she’d been emotionally, spiritually, and (allegedly) sexually abused. She began seeking for truth, trying to escape, but they stopped her. They stopped her by murdering her.
Of course, this night a year ago, we didn’t know how bad it was getting. We didn’t realize how subtly deceptive and controlling her future husband was becoming. We didn’t discern all the darkness lurking beneath her community.
I just knew she wasn’t herself. And she wasn’t really happy. And I told her not to hide. And she tried not to, but at that point I don’t think she even knew all that she was hiding, because it was hidden from her (and me, and so many of us).
Yet tonight a year ago when we talked, when she wistfully exalted in my good fortune of going to the mountains, of following our dream, I wonder if her heart knew. Deep down, she sensed something was not right. She just didn’t know what. And I didn’t know what. Until she was murdered.
But it was not right.
And that is why tonight is a hard night.
Feature photo from Adobe Stock/Tomaz Zajda