The Guides, Karen & Agnes


Agnes is perched on a chair in the corner of the kitchen, crouched down, her arms folded around herself. Karen enters, talking on a portable phone and doesn’t notice Agnes. She’s worried.

“You’re sure she’s out of danger,” Karen says. “That’s good. How long do you need to keep her this time? Yes. I understand. No. No, I know the drill all too well. This isn’t our first time. Okay. Thank you. I’ll be over tomorrow morning.”

Karen concludes the call and sets the phone onto the counter. She turns toward the wall and presses her hands onto the top of the counter and sighs, “Darla. Here we are again.”

Agnes eyes her for several moments. She says, tentatively, “She’s going to be okay.”

This startles Karen, who spins about and notices Agnes is there. “Agnes. I didn’t see you. What did you say?”

“She’s going to be okay,” Agnes says. “Your sister. She’s going to be okay.”

“What do you know about my sister?” Karen says.

“Sometimes we lose our way,” Agnes says. “We get lost in the fog. But your sister is lucky. She’s going to be okay.”

Karen stares at Agnes, not sure how to respond. She shakes her head. “My sister has tried to kill herself three times. This time, she almost succeeded. She can’t hold a job. She hasn’t spoken to our parents since she was in high school. Every time the phone rings, I expect it will be the call telling me to come identify her body. So tell me, Agnes. How is she lucky?”

Agnes looks away. “She has you.”

“Me?” Karen says. “I stopped knowing how to help her a long time ago.”

“You’re there,” Agnes says. “She knows you won’t let go.” She places a foot on the ground, then shifts off the seat so she’s sitting and leans on the table. “Ten pills is what it takes.” She holds up her hands displaying ten fingers. “She knows it. Ten pills and you don’t wake up. She keeps taking eight.” Agnes nods. “She knows you won’t let go.”

“I know better than to ask how you know this,” Karen says. “What’s the answer? How do I help her?”

“You won’t let go,” Agnes repeats. “She knows you won’t let go.”

Karen considers what Agnes has said. She retrieves the phone and dials a number. “Ms. Abernathy? Yes, this is Karen Peterson. Thank you again for alerting me about Darla.” She listens. “Yes. That’s why I’m calling. I’m going to come by later to gather her things. I’m bringing her to live with my family. Yes. I’m sure. Thanks, Ms. Abernathy. I’ll see you then.” She starts toward the door, then pauses and looks at Agnes. “Thank you.”

Agnes stares at the table. “You won’t let go.”

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