Daytona State College

The Time I Turned into Solid Rock - Jillian McDonald

“Has she talked to you about anything yet?” My mom asked me, with her voice shaking.  

As I stood in the doorway of our garage, with my heart pounding out of my chest and my stomach feeling as if I had just stepped off the scariest roller coaster ride ever, I feared for the worst. I could not bring myself to answer my mom. However, showing the bravest face I could, I went to my sister, Mary Kate’s bedroom and opened the door. 

“Have you heard anything from Pierce yet?” I asked, faking the slightest bit of optimism in me. 

Mary Kate, looking up from her phone, trying to fight back the fear that was written all over her face, weakly replied, “No, and neither has his family at all today.” For as the sun started to sink into the earth, our worst fears were rising with the moon. 

Pierce and Mary Kate had “talked” on the phone every day since they started dating. Some days sending hundreds of texts that read more like novels; sharing every detail of their day and their lives. That’s just how their relationship had always been. Today was different. Terribly, terribly, terribly different. Pierce had gone silent on her. Not just her, but everyone in his life. His mom, dad, sister, roommate, and many of his friends; no one had heard from him all day. That was not like Pierce. 

As the minutes turned into hours ticking by slower than a box turtle crossing a highway, Mary Kate and I tried to figure out where Pierce could be. 

“Okay, let’s try to think about what the last text was that you got from him.” 

“Last night, he said,” and through her tears, she managed to get out, “I love you.” 

That was all it took and then both of us were crying. As I put my arm around my sister, I tried to be reassuring about a situation I did not feel sure about at all. This was so strange and so out of character for Pierce. Where could he be? Why hasn’t he called her or his family? Why is he making us worry about him like this? Then I got angry. I am going to really give it to him the next time I talk to him, I thought getting hotter every second. Like what, did he forget to charge his cell phone? Then it came to me. Maybe he was trying to drive here to surprise Mary Kate, since last weekend she drove to see him in Tampa where he lived. That’s it!  

So, I said to Mary Kate, “I wonder if he is trying to surprise you and he didn’t tell anyone because he didn’t want anyone to wreck the surprise.” It would have probably gone over better if I, myself, believed any of the words that had just spewed out of my mouth like word vomit. 

Mary Kate simply, very quietly asked “Can you go get mom and see if maybe she can try calling him?” As if the 100 calls Mary Kate and everyone else had made that day to his phone were dialing into thin air and my mom’s would somehow be the one that magically reached him. Yet, I understood. Mary Kate was grasping for straws. The man she loved so desperately, the man she wanted to marry and father her children was missing, and no one could get ahold of him. Not even my mom could reach him.  

I said to Mary Kate, “Hey, it’s getting kind of late and we haven’t eaten, why don’t we go out into the kitchen and get a bite to eat?”. Even though, being honest, food was the last thing on my mind at that point. Still, I would have said or done anything to get our minds off the horrible possibilities that were racing through our heads. I honestly wanted to say to Mary Kate, “Hey, why don’t we throw a box of nails on the ground and run across them and see if we feel anything” since I just wanted to feel any other feeling than the sickening ball of fear that was growing in the pit of my stomach. Then the phone rang. 

Mary Kate answered her cell phone, “Yes?” with the greatest glimpse of hope I had heard from her all day. Then, “What?” Mary Kate asked the person on the other end of the phone, as goose bumps shot up all over my body like how the blades of grass stand up on attention with a strong gust of wind. It was in that instant that I knew. 

If I thought that time moved by slowly before, it had now ceased to exist. Mary Kate started to fall to the ground; I quickly grabbed her. She was still clutching her cell phone to her ear, still talking to the other person on the other end when my mom, upon hearing the news, screamed out what we all wanted to say, “NOOOOOOO!!”  

I finally heard Mary Kate say to Pierce’s sister, “I’m so sorry Kaity. I’m so sorry.” She hung up her cell phone and we collapsed to the ground in one big pile of grief, still hugging, crying harder, all in shock. 

No one spoke for what seemed like eternity. We just sat on the ground, rocking and holding onto one another. Mary Kate’s face was pressed against my chest and all I could feel were her hot tears, streaming down her face, soaking my chest and blouse as she sat there sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. My own tears stung in my eyes and blurred my vision. My mom was the first to speak just barely above a whisper, “Oh my God, I am so sorry Mary Kate,” shaking her own head as she said it, still in utter disbelief. 

Out of nowhere, Mary Kate shot up and announced, “I need to get out of here, the house is going to fall in on me!” 

We all got up and ran after her out of the house, into the dark of night to escape our house from caving in on us. There was nothing structurally wrong with our house; it was our lives as we knew them that were falling apart. A very important person in our family dynamics had been ripped from our lives as quickly as someone tears off a band-aid to avoid the pain, only our pain was just beginning.  

As we walked through our eerily quiet neighborhood so late at night, Mary Kate shared her broken and shattered thoughts. “What am I supposed to do? How can I go on without him? Why? Why did this have to happen?” What struck me most deeply was that my family was no stranger to these feelings; these broken and shattered thoughts. My cousin Bobby, who was more like an older brother to me, had been taken from us in the same manner. The band-aid that was ripped off so violently revealed a 12-year old wound that had never healed itself. Now, my oldest sister, the one I always turned to in times of need was reeling from yet another devastating loss in our family. 

When we eventually got back to the house, my mom left me alone with Mary Kate. My mom had the unfortunate task of having to call to my dad, brother, and younger sister so that they could make plans to return home from their trip they had been on. As my mom hung up the phone, she informed us that, “Dad is calling the airlines now. They will get on the next flight they can.” Then without saying any words my mom looked at me and said, ‘In the meantime, it is up to us to be there for Mary Kate’. 

My sister, Mary Kate is one of the strongest women I know. There have been many nights that she would take me in her arms and comfort me over the break-up of a boyfriend, a fight with one of my girlfriends, or a bad day at school. We would drive the backroads out of our subdivision and Mary Kate would say to me, “You are so much better than they are. You got this! Don’t let them bring you down!” 

It was in that moment that I turned to solid rock. I said to my mom, “Mom, we’ll be right back.” Turning to Mary Kate, I took her by the arm and said, “Come on Mary Kate”, and she went with me like a little ragdoll being dragged along by some little girl. Still I got her in the car, seat belted her in, and we started to drive the back roads out of our subdivision. It was probably 5 or 6 in the morning at this time; neither one of us knew or cared, we just drove. 

Mary Kate and I did this nightly drive for several days; neither one of us speaking. When finally, one night, Mary Kate undid her seatbelt, opened the sunroof, stood up, and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Fuck! Fuuuck!! FUUUUUUCCCCKKK!!!”  

I became my oldest sister’s rock, as she had always been for me. I took her on nightly rides, watched movies in silence, and eventually talked with her for hours on end trying to make sense of the wreckage. Mary Kate would ask questions that neither one of us had the answers to. “Why was Pierce driving back here? Why didn’t he have his seatbelt on? Was he really trying to grab at the large soda that had spilled all over his car, as the police had said? Why would God do this to me? Why did Pierce have to be taken?” 

We will probably never know the answers to those questions. What I do know is that during one of the darkest times in our lives, I somehow found it within myself to put my own feelings, thoughts, and emotions on hold so that I could be my sister’s rock. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. When I didn’t dare let my guard down for fear of crumbling myself, I said to myself, “You will not cry, you will not cry, you will not cry.” 

Then one night, a good friend of Mary Kate’s said, “Come on girl, let’s go get dinner. A quick, take out dinner”, and Mary Kate went. Like a gust of wind rushing through an open window I realized I had a night off from my duties as her protector. The only thing that felt right to do with this newfound free time was to go on our nightly drive, the only thing that was comforting in this time of heartbreak. 

As I started the car and turned the corner to start on our route the darkness suddenly encased me like a tidal wave of loneliness. For in that moment I was truly alone, gripping the steering wheel till my knuckles were white like my life depended on it; a month ago it did for Pierce. Just as simply as these contraptions can take us from one point to another they can also take our life from us and everything we hold dear. In that moment the months’ worth of feelings I had been so careful to lock tightly away came flooding out, the hot tears rushing down my face. No amount of pleading with God could bring him back. I could only hope now that the gut-wrenching pain would instead turn into bearable numbness; it might be the only way to get by. 

I stayed in that darkness, in that car, until the soft pink of the morning climbed in the distance. I pushed away those feelings of grief and vulnerability stone deep, turned the car around, and drove home; my sister would wake soon and need her protector.