Reporters painted an ugly picture of Angie’s life. They told of her arrest history, drug usage, and questionable hangouts. As usual, they didn’t tell her whole story. Not even close.
Angie and I met when I took a job as a proof operator at a community bank. She helped me learn how to key the credits and debits and balance my work. She taught me that the quicker I got my work done, the more time we had for smoke breaks. And we loved our smoke breaks. That was when we planned our activities for the night.
Typically, Angie and I would host a party at my apartment complex, inviting anyone we encountered along the way: coworkers, neighbors, even our cashier at Kroger. Why not? We gave people my address, and sometimes, a car load of guys from the golf academy showed up.
We bought pizza and cheap booze with our lousy checks, but only a little. We knew that other people would buy more as the night progressed. We cranked up Juvenile and Uncle Cracker and timed how long it would take to receive our first noise complaint.
The security officers would show up after a few minutes, and we would pretend to be asleep.
“Ladies, weren’t we here the other night?”
We looked at each other and faked confusion.
“Just keep it down,” they warned, knowingly. And we lied that we would.
“Girl, I feel like you’re my sister,” Angie told me as we cleaned up my apartment. “It’s like we’ve known each other forever. And I feel like I can tell you anything.”
And she did. She told me about her dad leaving, and about some problems with her extended family. She told me about having a daughter at the age of 16 and what it was like to be a teen mom. She told me about the judgment and criticism that she faced from so many. “But all it really means,” I told her, “is that you have even longer to love her.”
“That. That right there,” she said. “Is why I love you.” And Angie kissed me on the cheek.
For several years, we were inseparable, irresponsible, and invincible. We spent the night together, wore each other’s clothes, showed up at work (late) together, and shared our darkest secrets.
After a while, alcohol wasn’t enough for Angie, so she tried some other things. She liked the other things. She liked how they made her feel, and she liked when they kept her from feeling. Days would go by, sometimes weeks, and I wouldn’t hear from her. When I couldn’t leave a message because her voicemail was full, I called her mom.
“I don’t know where she is, Melissa. “But I know she will call you when she can. She just loves you.”
I loved Angie too, but I was in need of a more stable lifestyle. She was swimming in a deeper part of the water, drifting away from me. And I couldn’t reach her; I couldn’t help her.
Angie called me from rehab a few times. “I’m getting it together, girl,” she would tell me. “I’ve got plans for my life. I’m going to be a good mama to Taylor. I’m going to get it straight.”
I told her that she could do it and that I would be there to help her. And I meant it.
“You can call me anytime,” I reminded her.
But she never called me again.
A few years later, I moved away. And our only other conversation was a private message through Facebook. She wrote:
“Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family....I am so very proud of you!!!! My eyes are tearing up...u r still my bestie never found another one!!! Definitely not like u....remember when we used to call Tom Ted???”
I wrote her back, and that was the end of our exchange. I’m so glad I saved her message because she is gone now. Someone took away her future plans and chances to change, her hope to become healthy, and her vow to be the mom she wanted to be. Someone robbed her of her tomorrows, her next weeks, and her years from now. Someone took away a daughter, a mother, a sister, a cousin, and a friend.
And all the reporters shared at first was her mug shot. And those never tell the whole story.
Prince George, VA
Melissa Face lives in Prince George with her husband and two children. She is an English Instructor at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School in Petersburg, and she writes creative nonfiction when she is not grading student work.