3:00 pm – continued
“Come on, honey,” Callie said as Jenna lifted her head and wiped her nose on her bed sheet, her sweater now too damp to dry her face. “Let me get you a snack, like I used to when you were a little girl coming home from school.”
“Sandwich cookies with milk?” Jenna asked, her eyes brightening.
Callie smiled. “You got it. Why don’t you call Stacie and then come on downstairs for that snack, okay?”
Jenna nodded and sniffled as she smiled at her mother. Smiling gently, Callie extricated herself from her daughter and left the bedroom, promising to have the milk and cookies ready in a few minutes. Jenna composed herself on her bed, sitting quietly and breathing deeply. Then she grabbed a handful of tissues from the box on her nightstand to wipe the tears from her cheeks and the mucous from her nose. Sniffling a couple more times and blowing her nose once, she grabbed her phone and dialed her cousin’s number.
“Stacie?” she said when her cousin finally answered after the fourth ring. “It’s Jenna.”
“Jen, you sound terrible. Are you okay?” her cousin asked, her concern floating across the distance between them, warming her younger cousin’s heart.
Jenna cleared her throat. “I’m okay, just a little scared of dying,” she said with a light laugh.
“Aren’t we all?” Stacie asked, melancholy tingeing her voice. “This end of the world thing is so tough to deal with. I mean, I want to look forward to the party tonight because, you know, I love parties, but then it means that in a few short hours we’ll all be blown up. I mean, seriously, Jenna, what are we supposed to do? I don’t know if I should look forward to anything in the future because it just means we’re that much closer to death. Maybe I should just enjoy the present, but then it just weighs on your heart because you know that you’re going to die at midnight.”
“I hear you,” Jenna said, her voice breaking.
Stacie must have heard the change in her cousin’s voice. “Oh, Jen.,” she breathed. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Oh, I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry, Jen.”
“It’s okay, Stace. I’m okay. I had a long cry with my mom.”
“Auntie Callie’s wonderful. You’re lucky to have her as your mom.”
“I know,” Jenna said, her eyes filling with tears again. “I wonder if I’ll miss her when I’m dead. I miss her already. I hope we’re all together in death. It’ll make this so much easier to bear.”
“Shh, Jen, shh,” Stacie said soothingly. “It’s all right. Everything will be okay. Just enjoy your time with your parents and your siblings, okay? Then I’ll swing by and pick you up last, okay?”
Jenna sniffled. “No, it’s okay. I don’t think I’m going to go to the party. I just really want to stay home. You know, die in my own home, the place where I was raised.”
“Oh, Jen, you should come out with us. You should enjoy your last night out and about, enjoying yourself at a huge party. It’ll be so much fun.”
“But, Stace, you know that’s not really my thing. I really just want to stay home tonight.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Jenna said, her voice stronger now. She felt better now that she had made a decision that made her feel comfortable. “Positive. But I hope you and your friends have fun. What better way to die than by having fun?”
“Yeah,” Stacie said morosely. “You want to meet up anyways, you know, as a final good bye?”
“Sure. Why don’t you come by anyways and we’ll say our good byes?”
“Yeah. Okay. I’ll do that.” Stacie paused. “I love you, Jen.”
“I know. I love you, too, Stace. Give your mom and brother and brother-in-law a hug for me, okay?”
“Of course. See you tonight.”
Jenna hung up her phone and took a deep breath, scratching at her waist where the dress was tightly tied around her. She knew her snack was probably already waiting for her, but she just had to get out of this taffeta dress. It wasn’t comfortable anymore and she wanted comfort more than anything else for the rest of the day. Opening up her closet, she pulled out her favorite worn jeans and a floral shirt her sister had gotten her a couple years before. It was a soft shirt, high quality, something Abigail had gotten her when she had found out she’d gotten her dream job. Jenna knew it had cost her sister a small fortune, but Abigail, stubborn as she was, hadn’t listened to her sister’s weak objections and the shirt had become her favorite. She pulled on a pale pink sweater to complete her outfit and ran a brush through her auburn curls.