Iris Evans's POV
"Mind if I walk you home?"
The deep voice startles me and I swiftly turn in the direction of the sound.
"H-Hi Kevin! You scared me!" I choke out.
"Sorry! Didn't mean to do that!" he apologizes, sweetly smiling and we resume walking. "How was school today?" he asks.
"The same, boring classes. Nothing special!" I shrug and he chuckles. "How are you?" I ask.
"I am good!" he answers. "Umm...I was wondering if you heard anything from Karen? I haven't seen her since the past one week." he informs.
My head tilts in his direction. "Me too! I tried calling her multiple times but she didn't answer. She never stays this long without any contact with me. I don't know what's wrong." I shrug.
"Will you just let me know if you hear anything from her? I've been worried senseless".
"Sure I'll call you! But, I don't have your number, though."
"Hold on..." he raises a finger and we stop midst our track. He quickly fishes out a rough paper from his backpack, scribbles his number in, and hands it over to me.
"Thanks!" I say and he winks.
We walk together in silence, with only the noise of gravel rolling under our feet surrounding us until Kevin decides to break the awkwardness by asking a question about Biology taught in class today. Very unusual of Kevin but he did that. We talk about it until I reach the pavement of my house. Besides, it's also the first time we've ever talked properly unless it was greetings when we see each other in the school hallways.
"Anyways, good talk Kevin! I'll call you once I hear something from Karen." I assure and he nods.
"See you around!" he waves and then jogs away.
I walk to my house, fishing out the key from my pocket and unlocking the door. I move into the living room and is greeted with the sight of my parents with Karen's parents, which startles me because I thought the house was going to be empty as usual.
"Jesus!" I instinctively exclaim and the adults turn their attention towards me.
"Alice, Arthur, Hi! How are you?" I greet them but they look like they haven't slept in days. "Are you alright?" I ask, concerned
"We're okay, and I hope you are doing fine too!" Arthur replies.
"They called us about an hour ago and said they wanted to talk to you!" states my mom.
"Iris..." Alice gets up from the couch and walks over to me. "Do you know anything about Karen?" she asks.
I was about to ask them this same question. "No, I haven't seen her in a week, Alice. She is not answering my calls too. I was about to call you today to ask what happened." I say. "Isn't she supposed to be with you guys?"
"Good lord!" she sighs.
"What happened?" I ask.
"She hasn't returned home since Tuesday. And she left a note saying she'll be at some friend's house, working on a project or something. Now two days back, we found this in her room." informs Arthur, handing me a folded piece of paper.
"What is this?" I ask confused.
"See for yourself, dear."
I unfold the paper.
Dear mom and dad,
It's me, Karen! I know you guys haven't seen me for a long time but don't worry, I am safe. After reading this, please don't panic! I didn't go to a friend's house and I am sorry that I had to lie. It's was my only way.
As of now, I can't disclose to you where I am, but I promise to be gone for long. I'll come back. I left because I had to. And please don't think that it is your fault. You have been the best parents I could ever deserve and I will always love you.
Don't search for me! Just wait! Have faith in me. I left because I am obliged to leave, at least for this short period. I can't tell you when I will return but I know I will and don't worry, I won't take years or anything.
One day you'll stumble upon the same me, sitting in my room, watching movies, or listening to my stupid songs. I love you guys so much.
All my love,
I look up to see all their worried but hopeful faces.
"I am sorry, but I don't understand this," I admit.
"We don't either! All we know is that she was completely alright. She wasn't weird and didn't show the slightest discomfort in us...just her usual, bubbly self." Alice tells. "I don't know what's happening!"
"Alice, calm down!" I comfort her placing a hand on her shoulder. "Whatever it is, we'll figure it out!"
"We thought you would know something." Arthur sighs, defeated and I feel horrible for not knowing anything about why my best friend did this. She would never do anything without informing me. I don't understand what happened this time.
"I am sorry...but I'll check with...my friends or something. I am sure she'll come back. Don't worry, Arthur." I assure. I try my best to sound confident but unfortunately, my voice is breaking as well. "But can I keep this letter?"
Arthur nods, "Yeah, sure.", and pats my shoulder.
He takes Alice's trembling hand in his and turns to my parents.
"Thank you for your time, Robert and Rebecca. We appreciate it." Arthur tells but my dad waves him off.
"Oh please, we're past all that! We'll find our Karen, Arthur. Both of you, don't worry..." assures my dad. "Alice, don't panic. Karen won't run away run that. She wouldn't do anything like that, dear! We know that." he says.
"Yes Alice, she'll be back. I know her. She won't just leave us without a proper explanation. I'm sure we can find something!" I assure them.
They bide us goodbye and leaves, a sorrowful expression resting on their visages.
I turn to mom. "Mom, what did I miss here?"
"They came five minutes before you. You didn't miss anything!" says my dad.
"Do you know anything about her?" asks
I shake my head. "No mom, I don't! I haven't heard from her since the past week." I mutter looking at the letter in my hand again. A sigh escapes my lips and just as I'm about to climb the stairs to my bedroom, my mom calls me again.
"This came an hour after you left. It was addressed to you!" mom informs as she hands me an envelope.
I take the letter a jog up the stairs and into my bedroom. I throw my bag and the letter into my rather messy bed and take a long, relaxing shower.
As the water pours down on me, my mind gets clouded with thoughts about Karen. She is my best friend and she never did anything without saying to me and vice versa. I was almost mad at her for ghosting me for the past one week and it turns out that she left on purpose.
Whatever it is, why is it so secretive that she didn't even say it to me?
The best thing about us was that we never kept secrets from each other. We never lied to each other. We were always honest and open with each other because that is how friendships work. But what she did now, contradicts all those features of our friendship.
I put on my pajamas and dry my hair before I decide to open the letter. No one ever sends me a letter except for school scholarships or something like that. And this envelope looks like nothing official.
Although it's addressed to me, there's no sender's address. I tear open the envelope and fish out a folded piece of paper from inside and opening the folds, I immediately recognize the familiar handwriting and let out a sigh of relief.
Yeah, she had the brains to inform me wherever the hell she disappeared to.
Hi, It's me, Karen! By the time this letter reaches you, I won't be with you. Now read carefully. I am writing this letter for a very, very important reason. I am quite sure that by now, you might have read that letter that I wrote to my parents. Well, that will confuse them and must have confused you too. I will clear all your doubts once we meet in person but for that, you'll have to do something else.
The story that you are going to know shortly will not make any sense. What I want you to do is that, go to my house, search my bedroom and you will find a piece of broken mirror and beside it another letter that will explain everything. Once you finish reading.... well, the rest of the instructions will be written in that letter.
See you soon!!!
P.S: Don't tell anyone I sent you this letter!!
And that leaves me even more confused. This is so not... Karen-like. It seems like she is playing some sort of game on us, some sort of treasure hunt, except that the treasure is her. My brain runs wild with thoughts. But she says that the truth makes no sense. Karen's got to be playing some sort of trick on us, but I don't think she would go to this extend, disappearing for over a week and communicating through anonymous letters.
Is this even Karen? Did something happen to her that none of us knew...
The loud ringing of my phone breaks my trance, startling the life out of me and I pick it up to find an unknown number.
"Iris, thank goodness you picked your phone! It's me, Kevin!" he pants.
"Kevin! What's wrong? How did you get my number?" I ask.
"Karen gave me umm... forget it! I called you to tell you that I received a letter...from Karen," he informs.
"I got it when I reached home!" he explains.
"Uhh...I got one too. She is saying that there is another letter...and it's in her house." I say scanning the letter in my hands.
"Exactly! And...." he trails off. "Iris, can we meet? Like right now?" he asks sounding urgent but unsure.
I nod vigorously, but then realize that he can't actually see me. "Yeah, I want to see you! Where can we meet?" I ask him jumping from my bed.
"Coffilicious? You like it, don't you?" he asks.
"Okay! Coffilicious it is! See you there!" I chime.
I hang up the phone and immediately put on a T-shirt and sweatpants. Grabbing a small bag, I stuff it with some money, my phone, and the letter and rush out the door and downstairs.
"MOM!" I call out, alarming her that she almost drops the bowl of soup she was holding. "I have to meet up with a friend right now...umm..." I rub my forehead in frustration, "To discuss this school project that we have to submit tomorrow!"
I just lied through my teeth!
"Now?" she asks with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah now. Don't worry, I'll be back by 7." I start to move towards the door.
"Right...what was in that letter?"
"Just a notification about the submission date," I lie again and rush out the door.
I drive to Coffilicious and frantically search for Kevin inside the small but peaceful café and find him in my favorite spot, the quietest nook at the end of the café. I make my way to him and take a seat.
"Hey!" I greet.
"Hello!" he greets back giving me a friendly smile. "I ordered for us...Caramel Frappuccino for you right?" he asks.
"Uh-huh..." I nod. "How do you know?"
"Karen told me. She talks about you often. You pop up in all our conversations!" he chirps but I raise an eyebrow.
Why would they talk about me? The waitress comes to us and places chocolate milk in front of Kevin and my Frappuccino in front of me.
I take a sweet sip.
"So, about this letter," he says taking out his letter, "What do you think she meant?"
"What do I think she meant?" I repeat, "I have no idea! But I suggest that we go to her house!"
"Okay, we can do that...the question is...when?" he leans in placing his arms on either side of his drink.
"How about tomorrow?" I suggest.
"Yes, that is soon as we can, and the longer we delay it, the longer she is missing and the bigger are the problems coming up behind that," I say, taking another two sips of my drink. I swear, I will never get sick of my Frappuccino. They never run out of taste.
"Okay, so tomorrow, after school, we're gonna go to her house?" he asks, apparently still confused. I nod, sighing.
We have our respective drinks in silence for a moment before Kevin breaks the quietness. "Where do you think she went?" he whispers.
"I wish I knew Kevin. I don't know why she is doing this to me...to us!" I tell, directing my hand between us and I don't miss the fact that his face lightens up at the word 'us'.
He smiles. "I am glad we are together in this."
"I don't know why, but besides me, she sent this letter only to you! Who else can I ask this to?" I giggle.
"We can do this, together! Right?" he asks softly, a touch of motivation and determination sounding in his voice and I nod vigorously. We get up from our seats, Kevin pays the bill and we walk out the door.
"We'll see after school, okay?" I ask him and he nods in approval.
We exchange our goodbyes and part ways.
Once I reach home, mom inquires me about the project but, of course, I lie to her. I go to my bedroom, change my clothes and plop down on my bed.
Sometimes when exams are near and I still have a lot to prepare for, I get this anxious feeling, a fear of failing. I feel like there is no use in doing anything but at the same time, feel a force in the center of my chest, like a constant hammering in my heart.
That's how I feel now, trying to calm myself by taking deep breaths but failing to do so, chanting Jesus, as though I have done something wrong and irreversible. But, on the contrary, as far as I know, or remember, I have not done anything wrong to her.
But even if I did something, why would she run away from her home? Why would she send me a letter? How is Kevin being involved in all of this?
When I tense too much to continue to sit and think, I take my laptop and start to watch a rom-com to forget about Karen. Eventually, I feel guilty, shutting the device and falling asleep.