Lori was my best friend when I was in early elementary school, much to the distress of my mother. She was a cute freckle-face redhead, smart and cool, and lived across the highway where I lived, down the road and across from the lake. Her parents, unlike mine, were very young, still in their 20s, and everything was different about how they lived, so much more...unsupervised.

I played more over at her house than mine because she got in trouble a couple times for stealing something from our bathroom or something like that. I liked it better over there anyway. Her parents had a big record collection, same stuff that I liked, their house was incredibly messy so you never had to worry about making a further mess, they had a pool, and cats, and no one really seemed to be there most of the time. I can remember after the stealing incidents how my mom referred to Lori as "a troubled child," but I never saw her like that, and really, she wasn't. She was a hard worker in school, always good to me, and was fun to be with. Sometimes I think she stole the things because she wanted my mom's attention. I think my mom came to think this as well, and forgave her. She was just a little girl in a fake fur purple poncho, after all.

I don't think my mom went inside their house more than once. Just the dishes piled high in the sink freaked her out. Good thing she didn't go down in the basement to see the giant poster of a naked woman, the large collection of Playboy mags in the living room, or the "incense" that was often being burned. LOL late-'60s. But despite all of this counter-culture stuff and the definite lack of adult presence, we really didn't do anything that outrageous. I guess the worst was poking around by the lake with her older brother and stealing a neighbor's boat. We paddled around in it, giggling, in the murky dark green water for a few minutes, then tied it back up to the dock and high-tailed it back home. I hope the knot held.

The Halloween I was eight, I decided not to trick-or-treat in my neighborhood with Lori, and I went with another friend who had recently moved and wanted an old buddy to come with her. I felt bad about it, but at that age you really don't know how to explain that, you just do what you do. I was a pirate that year; a good costume that my mom and I made after looking at some pictures in the World Book. I even had a cool little wooden treasure chest to use for candy booty. Lori said she was going as a fairy, with bright purple wings.

My mom told me that Lori and her brother came to the house that night, somewhere around 8PM or so. My mom was glad to see them, gave them plenty of candy and asked them to be careful crossing the road back to their house. It was a two-lane rural highway we lived on, relatively busy for the town's size as cars and trucks cut across to get to I-94. The speed limit was 45, slowing as you entered the town center about a mile away. I was strictly forbidden to ride my bike on it at all, and could only cross it if I looked right and left about a million times, as there was a small rise to the road, and the cars came over it quickly. Mom stood in the doorway at the end of our longish driveway, to watch them cross.

Lori's brother crossed first, assumed Lori was right behind him, tells my mom. But she had stopped dead in the middle of the road, transfixed by the headlights of an oncoming car, a little deer with purple wings. Her brother yelled at her to run, as did my mother, but she could not move a muscle. Tires screeched, too late. She was hit, and flew up onto the hood of the car, then into the air, falling onto the grayed asphalt under the big street light. My mom ran to her immediately, as did the driver and Lori's brother, and all the rest of the neighbors.

A mile away, I opened my wooden chest for some candy, and heard sirens wailing, something very very unusual to hear in my town. My friend and I looked at each other, wondering aloud what could have happened.

Lori missed many months of school, her pelvis and legs broken, face scarred. I wanted to see her, but for some reason no one took me. I remember making cards for her at school along with the other kids, to be taken to the hospital. I had wondered, if I had gone with her that night instead, could I have stopped it from happening? Or would it have happened to me? I felt very sad, and I ached to think of my friend.

When she finally came back to school, she was not the same little girl. She had grown serious, older, like a stone had settled in her heart. She wasn't playful, and seemed disconnected from everyone, including me. Again, I could see this, but I was just too little to be able to name it, or even say anything about it.

A year later, I moved to another town. We stayed friends for maybe a year after that, but then it drifted away. I saw her many years later, late in high school, and she still seemed very serious. She was doing very well in school, set to go to a good college. I could still see the scars on her face. We never talked about what had happened.

I imagine that she made a good life for herself, with the discipline and focus that seemed to be lacking in her parents, probably went on to have a family and such. I hope someday that she was able to smile more, and maybe think once in a blue moon about rogue boats, and dancing to 45s, and riding bikes down the big hill, free.