When We Met - Marni Mann



Beer, creamer, and leftover Chinese food—the fridge staples, of course.

I grabbed the vanilla-flavored creamer, shaking the plastic bottle wicked hard with both hands—the secret to making it frothy—and poured it over the top of the single cup I’d made. I took a small sip to make sure it was sweet enough for my bestie.

Approved, I thought as I swallowed.

I grabbed a beer as well, popping off the metal top with the corner of the counter, and I walked both drinks into our tiny bathroom, where Whitney was taking a shower.

“Which one?” I asked, leaning my back against the towel rack, holding both options in the air.

She stuck her head out of the curtain, her brown hair in a high knot with soap bubbles all the way up to her ears. “Hmm.”

“Hmm?” I felt my brows practically reach my hairline. “You’re honestly questioning this?”

She laughed, her teeth the same color as the bodywash. “Well, you did bring me options.”

“What kind of friend would I be if I chose for you?”

“Give me both. Your coffee is too good to waste.” She stuck out a sudsy arm, slipping her fingers through the mug’s loop, and immediately took a sip. “God, that’s good.” She placed it next to our shampoo and reached for the beer, also bringing that up to her lips. “And so is that, maybe even better.”

“That’s my girl.”

“Love you hard,” she said and disappeared behind the curtain.

I stood in front of the sink, running my fingers across the sides of my nose to catch the fallen eye shadow. “I’m proud of you for not washing your hair today. You’ve finally allowed the glorious invention of dry shampoo into your life.”

“What in the hell took me so long?”

“I’ve been asking you that same question every morning.” I took out a lip gloss from Whitney’s makeup bag and swiped it over my mouth. “I’d think my nagging would have been enough to convert you.”

As she chuckled into the water, I heard a sound come from her bedroom. “Lady, your phone’s ringing.”

“Will you please grab it for me?”

I put her gloss away and rushed the three steps to her doorway, following the noise to her bed, where her cell was lying on top. I lifted it into my hand, staring at the one word that appeared above the phone number.

I knew my best friend better than anyone in this world. If I told her who was calling, I knew what would happen, and that wasn’t something I wanted for today.

But I also knew what would happen if I sent the call to voice mail, and it would be hours before she heard the message.

It all came down to choices.

And none of them were going to be simple.

Oh, my Whitney, you never make things easy, do you?

Part One

They say every tragedy is met with pain.

But once you survive, why does it still hurt?



April 15, 2013

Boston was lit in color. Balloons were floating high in the air, T-shirts imprinted with pictures of the runners, posters held by shouting spectators. And as I walked down the sidewalk with my best friend, Joe, his arms were spread wide, his face pointed toward the skyscrapers.

“Patriot’s Day,” he said. “My favorite holiday of the whole goddamn year, and I get to spend it with one of my best buds.”

Just as he finished speaking, someone bumped into him, accidentally spilling beer all over his shoes.

“Still feel the same way?”

“At least it wasn’t puke.”

I laughed. “That’s some positive thinking.”

Patriot’s Day wasn’t just a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord; it was when visitors from all over the world came to watch the Boston Marathon—an event I wasn’t supposed to attend this year. Instead, I should have been on the other side of the world with Smith, our other best friend, riding an ATV over the sand dunes of Dubai, like the photograph he’d sent yesterday. A trip I’d had to cancel when one of my top clients requested a sit-down for this morning, which they ended up postponing at the last minute.

When I’d called Joe to tell him, he’d convinced me to get drinks. I would have preferred meeting in a much quieter part of town, but he’d wanted to be in the center of the action, watching much of the race.

“Let’s stop in there.” He pointed to a bar I hadn’t been to since college. “We’ll get a beer and then head to the finish line.”

“Wouldn’t you rather find a restaurant? I’m starving.” My stomach grumbled as we passed several.