Zoë returned to school a changed woman.  She walked holding her books close to her chest, eyes staring at the floor.  Occasionally she would take furtive glances at her surroundings, like a rabbit sniffing for predators.  Friends who were accustomed to her warm greetings and frequent hugs whispered to each other when she walked past them in school corridors.  Friends who knew better whispered back about the plane crash.

            When Zoë did notice these little exchanges, the pity in the eyes of the latter group was somehow worse than the shock of those who thought she was being rude.  Like she was fragile or broken.  It stung because she believed it was true.

            It had taken every ounce of her courage to live in a world without her mother.  She didn’t know how to face one without her entire family.  Her father had withdrawn into himself, stumbling through days like a zombie.  However, it had been his idea that she return to school:  he had insisted that they both need activities to occupy their minds.  He had gone back to work, and so she had gone back to university.

            Rationally, she knew he was probably right.  Given time, most wounds healed.  If she had any hope for the future, ditching school and losing her chance at being a teacher would not be very productive.  However, in Zoë’s heart there was an empty feeling, and the void said she would never want a future again.

            “What’s the point of a world where everything can be taken away?”  She raged to Hope over the phone one night at the end of February.

            “I don’t know.  This can’t be easy for you, and I won’t pretend to know how it feels.  But in a world where anything can be taken away at a moment’s notice, I think we have two choices.  We can be afraid of loving, or we can embrace it and cherish what we have, for as long as we have it.”

            “That’s easy for you to say, no one in your family died,” Zoë said, and immediately regretted it.  “That was out of line, I’m sorry.”

            “No, that’s how you feel.  You’re right; it’s not my family.  But these are my friends, people I’ve known most of my life.  They matter to me.  And they might not be dead, Zoë, have you considered that?  They still haven’t found the plane; they might just be stranded in the mountains somewhere.  It could happen.”

            Zoë felt so tired.  “I just…  I don’t know.  I had this feeling, the day you called and told me to turn on the television.  I got all cold when the phone rang, like I knew it was going to be bad news.  It felt like the night my mother died, all over again.”

            “You mean like a premonition?”  Hope asked.

            “I don’t know.  I don’t know if things like that even happen in real life.  But maybe, yeah.  I feel like something bad happened.”

            Hope paused audibly.  “What if…  what if you just felt that something bad was happening.”

            “What does that mean?” Zoë asked, not seeing a distinction.

            “Just bear with me.  What if, with your mom and the boys, you felt like something bad was happening, like they were in trouble.  But that doesn’t have to mean the boys are dead.  I don’t think they are.  I think I’d feel it, if they were all gone.”

            “Yeah, and my dad calls wishful thinking like that ‘denial.’  I don’t know what to believe.”

            “So don’t believe anything yet.  Just wait and see.  Okay?”

            “Okay.”  Zoë shrugged to herself.  “I’ll try.”

            It was easy to think that Hope was just trying to be a good friend, but somehow she did feel better.  Zoë thought about what Hope said about cherishing the people she cared about, and decided to go find some of her friends here at school.  After all, most of them had shown concern, even if she’d preferred to spend time by herself.  Maybe they’d like the chance to know she’d noticed.

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