You are on page 1of 16

Mikayla McCormic

Prof. Baker
English 3465
16 March 2015
A Second Chance
The day before my sister disappeared, we spent the afternoon dodging chores. Chloe had
gotten her license two months earlier and she never wasted an opportunity to drive it. Most of the
seniors had their licenses by that point, but my sister was the baby of the group, having turned 17
the July before class started. I remember going to the only used car lot in town and helping her
pick out an 11-year-old Jeep Wrangler that looked like pukey spinach. Chloe said it was love at
first sight.
It was on the hood of that Jeep-- Clarice to my sister-- that we sat baking in the Arizona
sun. We took the car around one pm under our moms nose and drove into town. Cactus Forest
was nothing to write home about. Wedged between Phoenix and Tucson, I can safely say that our
town was in the middle of nowhere. We were simply a pit stop destination for families to stretch
their legs and put gas in their cars. We had one grocery store and no form of higher education
after high school. Most kids when either North or South for that. My sister Chloe and I were born
and raised here; we knew everyone and everyone knew us.
Luckily for me, Chloe had discovered this little spot about twenty minutes outside of
town, into the Arizona landscape. About ten minutes outside of town, Chloe would peel off the
main road onto a service path, straight out until we couldnt see anything but Arizona around us.
This was our own safe space that we shared together. Being two years apart really gave us the

ability to bond in that way. I always felt that being any farther apart would make me too
immature for my sister until I realized how mature I was for my age. Either way, we were tight.
No one could touch us, especially out here.
That day was especially bright when we ditched the chores Mom asked us to do. I could
hear Chloes disgruntled sighs from my room and peeked in. We hatched the plan in minutes.
Mom had left to drop off some books at the library, so getting out was super easy. Chloe grabbed
the keys to Clarice and we bailed so fast our dogs heads were spinning. On our way to the spot,
we stopped at the grocery store for some snacks. Chloe said that shed skipped breakfast, but we
only bought sweets and some bottled tea. The cashier gave us a weird look before we left,
laughing at our juvenile behavior.
By the time we made it out to the spot, the sun was high in the sky and falling. Chloe
braked and kicked up some red Arizona dust with her tires as I unbuckled my seatbelt and
grabbed the bag of treats. The Jeeps top was off, and our brown hair had been sufficiently
mussed up by that point, so I tied mine back and waited for Chloe. She was always so graceful,
even when getting out of Clarice. It took her seconds to put her hair back into place, and she
smiled at me.
Ready to avoid responsibility?
I smiled back and shook the grocery bag with excitement. We waited for Clarices hood
to cool off before hopping on top, the bag sitting between us.
I was digging through the grocery bag of snacks between us, trying to find my gummy
worms, when Chloe spoke.

Do you believe in second chances?

I pulled my gummy prize out and began to open the package.
Like, on a test? Or with Johnny Martinez?
Im talking about over all. Like a second chance at life.
Chloe was staring straight ahead into nothingness. I wasnt sure what kind of joke setup
this was, but being a younger sister means indulging your elders. Especially if theyre your ride.
I dunno. I guess I never really thought about it before, you know, considering my life is
awesome. Do you?
I popped a gummy worm into my mouth and chewed deliberately. Chloe shrugged.
I think they can happen. If you want it bad enough. Our potential for greatness is
limitless, but only if you know what youre doing.
She began to dig in the bag for her snack; I cant remember what it was. My sister always
said deep, meta shit like that, but I wouldnt always follow. My parents always knew she was
meant to be a writer.
Well, you would probably need moneylots of money. And a new place to set up at
least two states over. Oh, and itd probably be a good idea to
Maggie, I dont just mean that.
Then what do you mean? The hood of the Jeep started feeling hot under the three
oclock sun.

I guess I just meanwhat if you had a way to be someone else? To leave your old life
behind and be free. Just escape.
But what are you trying to escape from? Chloe, our lives are great. Youre going to
college to become some hotshot writer and Im going to cure cancer. What is there to be free
Chloe stood up suddenly, turning to me and throwing her arms out.
But thats just it, Mags. We have our lives set out for us already when weve only just
started to live. Mom and Dad put us in writing classes and science camp, funding our hobbies
with the intention of molding us into just two more people living pointless lives. Im probably
going to marry some angsty hipster with a tendency toward alcohol, divorce in five years, and
then meet an acceptable man after years of picking myself up. Youre going to be some great
doctor until you cant handle toe pressure any more, have a nervous breakdown, and wind up
back with Mom and Dad until you can turn yourself around. We arent meant for these lives,
Maggie. They were forced upon us and they will destroy us!
She took a deep breath and put her hand on my knee. I could feel the heat leaving my
body and traveling into her cold limb. Listen, Mags. I know this is hard to understand, but were
not happy. Im not happy. Does that make sense?
It didnt.
Chloe, I started while picking her hand up, school has been pretty tough, huh?
My sister recoiled. No, IWhy does that matter? Im trying to talk to you about
something real, not school.

Yeah, I get that. But a lot of what youre saying isnt making sense. I mean that in the
most sisterly way
Chloe had already started walking to the car, refusing to look at me.
Whatever. Just get in the car.
We had driven through the heart of town by the time she spoke to me again. Her knuckles
were white against Clarices steering wheel.
Im sorry, Mags, about before. I probably freaked you out.
I tried to laugh it off. Dont worry, sis. We all have our crazy moments. But, do you
really believe all of
Lets just not talk about what I said. Chalk it up to a sun-soaked brain and senior stress.
The rest of the car ride was filled with silence.
The police found my sisters body ten days after she disappeared.
My parents had spent the last ten days in a flurry of motion, trying to locate their oldest
baby. We appeared on television, my mother crying and my father the rock of the family while I
stood off to the side like a weird robot. I was convinced that Chloe was fine and just went on
some weird trip of self-fulfillment. When the police began to interrogate me, I decided not to
mention the conversation we had in our special place. I figured that they would immediately
write her off as a mental case and then they would put their force to more practical uses, like
keeping the local donut shop in business.

Chloe and I had shared a room almost our whole lives. We split it down the middle with a
window in between our halves of the room. I remember crawling into her bed when I thought
monsters were going to eat me for not touching my veggies. She would always drape her arm
over me, since she slept on her stomach, and tell me that everything would be alright if I just
thought about it logically. Id like to think that she was the one who inspired me to pursue
When they searched through Chloes half of the room, they didnt find anything missing
or out of place. She even left her wallet behind, with roughly twenty dollars unaccounted for.
Our window was open, so thats probably how she slipped away but no one could seem to figure
out how I hadnt noticed. Id like to say that I am a heavy sleeper, but Im not. I only woke up
once that night to get some water, and Chloe was still in bed. Or at least she made it look that
way by bunching up her pillows in a body shape. My mom was crying in the doorway while they
Do you think she was kidnapped? Maybe you should call around the neighborhood.
Chloe would never run away. She rambled on like that to a room of preoccupied officials until
Dad asked her to make everyone some coffee. I could see lines forming around his eyes.
When the police didnt find anything, they decided to ask all of her friends if Chloe
decided to stay over at someones house. The first few nights I slept facing Chloes side of the
room, hoping that Id wake up and she would be there. I played the desert scene in my head over
and over again, wondering if that was a cry for help. Maybe she took my advice, and shes
currently in Wyoming under the name of Sharon. It just didnt seem right. None of it did.

By the seventh day, the police had been feeling the twinge of bad news in their guts.
Seventeen-year-olds run away all the time in the world, but not Chloe and not for this long.
When they told my parents that they were going to start searching the desert, my mom began to
cry again. We all knew what that implied. I began to ignore my school work and help my parents
try to keep it together before my mom cried herself to death. She made us go to church that
Sunday, and we both agreed. We were not a religious family, but something about the idea of
heaven gave my mom comfort and both me and my dad thought it was a good idea to give her
Everyone at the church knew us and Chloe, meaning we spent the better part of an hour
accepting condolences and prayers for Chloes safety. The pastor even spoke about our family
during his sermon in an attempt to seem compassionate and make us return next Sunday. My
mom liked that idea a lot.
Our little town of Cactus Forest is a family, he started, and families come together
during times of pain. Well my children, three of our family members are feeling some of the
deepest pain this world has to offer. I want everyone to take a moment and think about Chloe
Bartlett. Think about all the times we have seen her smile and laugh with the other children in
this community. Now take those thoughts, and turn them into a prayer.
I thought I was going to puke. The room spun and the color left my cheeks. I think I told
my mom I was going to the bathroom before I slipped out of the chapel, fists clenched so tight
that my knuckles were white. When I finally stopped walking, I was by my parents silver

Fuck this. I said as I punched the silver Corolla half-heartedly. My parents found me
crying on the ground like a child.
It was after two oclock on the tenth day when the phone rang.
Hello? My mother answered. Oh, hello Officer BronnYes, were freeyesyes, I
She hung up the phone and looked at my father with empty eyes.
The police found something.
The drive across town was solemn and ominous, since good news would just come over
the phone call. My parents pulled up to the station twenty minutes later and my mom tried not to
cry. She turned to me in the back seat and smiled.
Listen Maggie, whatever happenswere a family. Im so proud of you and your sister.
Well get through this.
Dad took Moms hand and squeezed it before we all got out of the car and slowly
marched toward the building doors.
With only two police cars and five total vehicles in Cactus Forests police force the
search was slow, so by the time they found the corpse coyotes and vultures had already enjoyed
themselves. Chloe was only identified by her dental records, and the police couldnt determine
the cause of death with the body so thoroughly consumed. There were no traces of drugs in her
system, and as far as the autopsy report could show, nothing was wrong internally with Chloe. It
was a mystery that they quickly deemed as a random act of violence by some wayward
hitchhiker. She kindly offered a ride, and the person murdered my sister and stole Clarice. My

mom wept while my dad continued to talk to the officers about seeing their baby girl and
figuring out what their next move was. I felt myself drifting away, replaying the scene in the
desert over and over and over again. It wasnt fair.
It was hours later that my parents finally took me home, the car ride completely silent.
When we entered the house, my mom tried to stop me and talk to me about what happened.
Mom, please. I just want to go to sleep.
Maybe you should sleep on the couch tonight, sweetie.
No. Good night.
I climbed upstairs and curled up in Chloes bed, ignoring whatever else my mother was
calling up to the girl who used to be Maggie. I didnt feel like her. I didnt feel like anybody, but
when I closed my eyes really tight I could imagine feeling Chloes arm draped over my body,
protecting me from the monsters.
Because of the damage dealt to her body, my parents decided to have Chloe cremated. We
still held a giant service for the town to attend, but it all felt so wrong. My sister hated all the
pomp and circumstance that came with these things, but when I tried to tell my parents they
wouldnt listen. Then again, this wasnt really about Chloe.
Some of her school friends stood up and spoke in front of the town, talking about how
wonderful and smart Chloe was. Everyone knew she was going to do great things. Even Johnny
Martinez stood up and said a few words about their brief but treasured moments as boyfriend and
girlfriend. Honestly, it wasnt anything special. During one of our times in our desert spot, Chloe
told me that they would make out in the gym locker room in between classes for a couple of

weeks of tenth grade before he tried to slip his tongue down her throat. When she told him she
didnt want to anymore, Johnny told the other kids that she let him finger her. Kids started calling
her a slut until she quipped back that the only reason he fingered her was because his dick was
too small to get the job done. The rumors stopped after that.
Once the service ended, everyone came over to eat my moms cooking and wish us
hollow condolences for our loss. My parents wouldnt let me go up to our room until everyone
had their fill of feeling better about themselves by saying sorry for your loss. At least the food
was a good mixture of lunch meat and cheese, so I mostly ate my frustrations away. I noticed a
girl with bright blond hair walking toward me slowly, as if I was going to attack at any sudden
movement. She wasnt completely wrong.
Hi. I was a friend of your sisters. Margaret, right?
She held out a slender hand for me to shake, attached to a slender body cloaked in a long
black dress. I nodded lightly and put my cheese plate down.
Most people call me Maggie. You dont look very familiar to me. Were you another
The girl laughed very gently, as if I said something silly.
Oh no, definitely not. We uhhad similar social circles. A book club. I read about her
death in the paper and I had to come for myself.
Chloe loved every single book that ever existed, so it made sense that she had a couple of
friends she could talk about them with, but there was no way I would not have known about a
book club Chloe was in. That just wasnt us. Wasnt it? I hadnt known anymore at that point.

So you uhlive in the Phoenix area? I grabbed my cheese plate again.

The girls smile grew bigger as she leaned in. You could say that. But Maggie, I have a
question for you. Chloe wanted me to find you after everything and speak to you privately, but I
can see that might not be
Whoa, wait. What are you talking about? What do you mean she wanted you to find me
after everything? I suddenly felt like I was needed in the other room and began to turn away,
only to be stopped by a hand on my arm. The girl then moved her face right next to my ear and
whispered, ever so softly
Ex meis cineribus renascor
I recoiled and dropped my cheese. People turned to look at us, but the girl was already far
away from me and walking into a large group of people. What the fuck was that, though? I went
to my parents and asked them about this crazy person, but they didnt even know who I was
talking about. They didnt see anyone by my description and asked if I was sure it wasnt another
student from her grade. After a while I realized that I wasnt getting anywhere with them and
retreated upstairs.
Once in the room, I began to look for Chloes laptop. The police had taken it on the first
day of the search, but they recently returned it to my parents since the case was pretty much
closed. I opened the silver computer and booted it up, hoping I could find this crazy girl in her
contact info. Instead, I was met with blackness. Her computer wasnt charged. I reached for the
cord and plugged it in, then hooked it up to the laptop. After this small success, the computer
turned right on and brought me to the lock screen. I obviously knew her password and slipped

right in, only to hit a huge dead end: the computer was wiped. It mustve happened at the station
by accident. Defeated, I turned the computer back off and slid it underneath Chloes bed.
I slept there again that night, still pretending that she was there. I thought about the girl
and her crazy words, and I began to cry. Clearly second chances dont exist.
The sun was setting low over the horizon and taking the heat with it as I walked back to
my apartment. My boss let me leave early with a mournful tone, like my sister had been found
today instead of three years ago. I walked between the buildings that made up downtown Cactus
Forest and smiled at the people who passed by, stopping in a nearby sandwich stop to pick up
When I entered my small abode above the local pharmacy, I set all of my things in the
doorway and crashed onto the couch. After a moment or two, I pulled out my cell phone and
turned it on, since I couldnt use it during my shift at the grocery store. The screen lit up and
spent the next two minutes booting up while I got up and grabbed myself a glass of water. By the
time I sat down again, my phone was blinking with a missed call notification, followed by a
voicemail. It was from my mom.
Hi Maggie sweetie, its your mom. I was just calling to check up on you and see how
youve been. Everything is great here in Dallas with Fred and we cant wait for you to visit. We
even made up the guest room for you to just drop in. WellumI know today must be really
hard for you and II just wanted to call and say hi.

The line went dead and the automated voice asked me what Id like to do with the call. I
deleted it. My mom and I had stopped speaking after she left Dad for Fred, some guy she met at
church about a year after Chloes death. Everyone deals with grief differently, and apparently my
moms way was to run away from her own family and start again somewhere else. Out of sight,
out of mind.
My father moved us out of the house soon after Mom left into a smaller place closer to
town. He still lives there, a couple of blocks away from me, and I visit him all the time. I began
to dial his number.
Hey, Maggie. Whats up? My dads voice was gravely over the phone, meaning he had
fallen asleep on the couch again.
Guess who tried to call me today?
Oh sweetie, you know she means well.
If she meant well, she wouldve stayed with her actual family.
I finished my water and put the glass in the sink. I could hear the sadness in my dads
Honey II have to go do some yard work. How about I call you tomorrow?
Yeah, thats fine. Love you, bye. I hung up and tossed my phone into my jean pocket.
Chloe was always better at talking to our parents.
After a moment of silence I walked over to my things and grabbed them, hoisting my bag
and purse over my shoulder and thumping down the short, narrow hall to my bedroom. I

relocated my things just next to my door frame with every intention of plopping on my bed. Then
I noticed something odd.
There was a note sitting on my bed.
It was white printer paper, with Mags written in familiar handwriting on the front. I
reached for it and opened the note like a woman possessed.
Do you believe in second chances?
I felt my heart stop and the world spin. Spots appeared in front of my eyes and I felt
myself falling toward my bed.
I woke up two hours later, the letter still in my pale hand. This couldnt be real.
Absolutely not. I opened the letter again and read it at least 50 times. There was a small image in
the bottom right-hand corner of the note: A small right triangle with a line from the bottom left
angle and through the right diagonal. I knew the numbers belonged to a phone somewhere in the
Phoenix area, but who would be on the other line?
I dialed the number into my cell phone and waited.
RiiiiiA pause.

Cooper, Todd and Wolfenstein, how may I help you? spoke a chirpy female voice.
I felt something in my chest deflate, and I was pretty sure it was my heart.
Sorry, wrong number. I hung up my phone and threw it on the bed. What did I expect?
Some sort of mystical voice on the other end of the line that told me my future?
I curled up with my pillow and cried into my sheets until I had fallen asleep.
I shoot up from my bed, cold sweat covering my whole body. Afternoon sunlight is
coming through my window, and I notice its two oclock in the afternoon. The piece of paper
with the law firms number remains crushed in my hand, now damp but still legible. I has been a
long time since I dreamt about Chloes death, and never in such clarity. Picking up my phone, I
dial the firm number
Cooper, Todd and Wolfenstein, how may I help you? It was the same voice.
Ex meis cineribus renascor I spoke, my voice sounding like frog singing tenor.
The line went dead for a moment, and then a new, familiar voice appeared.
Hey, Mags. How have you been?
Listen, I know you have questions. I understand. You were always such a good little
detective, which is why I left you this clue. But this is all I want to give you. I want you to have

peace of mind, but please dont pursue this any further. This is bigger than you. I have you go
now, before someone catches me. I love you, Mags.
The phone line went dead before I could say a word.
If Chloe thinks that phone call did anything but ignite my inner Sherlock Holmes, she is
dead wrong. Im going to find my sister.

Related Interests