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  • Her name is Victoria Elaine and she's 3 years younger than me. She has always gone by "Vickie" just as I have always been called "Ginny." We are very close and almost always have been. My favorite story about her requires some background info - so bare with me.

    Our parents got divorced when I was 6 - she was 3 years old. My Mom met and married my step dad, Ricky Joe (yeah... that's his name. It's not short for anything. I am from the COUNTRY) when I was 11. I did NOT want them to get married. I did NOT want to move from Williston (a tiny town outside of Gainesville) to Newberry (an even tinier town outside of Gainesville.) I did NOT want to have older step brothers (Ricky Joe had two boys.) I was against it all. I was such a little shit.

    They got married and my oldest step brother, Bobby, moved out - and us girls moved in. The younger step brother, Travis, was 3 years older than me and shaped like humpty dumpty and had freckles everywhere and I just couldn't stand him. Before long, though - we became really good friends - usually ganging up on my sister and stuff. He taught me how to shuffle cards and to play a bunch of cool card games- most of which I've forgotten which makes me sad. We would stay up late at night, playing cards, listening to music, watching movies in his room. HE got a TV in his room for some reason. Probably because he had to put up with a house full of girls all the sudden. Summers were my favorite with him because we'd ride our bikes all around town and through the cemetery (the white one and the black one) and stop at Buck Tyler's candy store...

    By the time he graduated from high school he'd grown tall and lean - somehow less freckly. He moved in with his mother. She worked for the community college that he was attending so, by living with her, he could get a discount on tuition and stuff. I don't even remember what he was going to college for - probably something business related. I missed him so much - but it WAS nice to have my own room. My sister snagged his room when he left.

    Christmas Eve was on a Sunday in 1995. We were planning on meeting up at church for the Christmas Candlelight service. Travis was going to meet us there. He had to go into work that afternoon. The plan was to do church, then come over to our house and exchange Christmas presents and then he'd head to work and we wouldn't see him until the next day - for Christmas.

    The Candlelight service was beautiful. Vickie and I had worn our matching red dresses from our Dad's wedding about 2 weeks earlier. As part of the service - each family came forward and lit their candles and Pastor Gary would pray for our family and then we'd go back to our seats. I remember some of the things that were said in that prayer - and I remember some of the thoughts I'd been thinking. I looked around at us - Mom, Ricky Joe, Vickie, Travis and me - all holding hands and I was thankful that I don't get my way all the time. I loved this family. It felt like we were SUPPOSED to be family. It felt like home. It felt great.

    The service ended and we all went home - changed - ate lunch. Travis stopped by to give us our gifts. I can't for the life of me remember what I got him - but he got me a tape that I had been hinting for a while that I wanted. He was always good at gift giving. I still have that tape.

    He headed out. We told him that we loved him. He was going to go drop some presents off at his grandmothers - she lived right up the road from us.

    We got ready to head to my Mom's parents. We were going to go exchange gifts with them, too. We don't like to wait to give presents. Never have...

    We live - and my parents still live - on a road that has two pretty shitty curves. When we were heading around the last one my Mom saw a car that had run off the curve and flipped - propped up on the trees around it. She hopped out of our car before it was even stopped and told my step dad to run back to "Nannie's" house and call 911. Nannie, Ricky Joe's Mom, lived less than a minute away from that curve.

    Vickie and I were scared and Ricky Joe was hurrying. He parked at Nannie'sand ran into her place to call for help. A few seconds later they both came flying out of the house and, immediately, I felt like someone punched the life outta me.

    Travis had just left Nannie's house.

    They hopped in the car and we sped like hell back to the curve. Mom met us at the road and confirmed our worst fears - it was Travis' car. She saw his bumper stickers as soon as we'd driven away. She climbed through the car and was able to grab his hand. She couldn't see his face. He wasn't holding her back. She just prayed and kept telling him that help was coming. Ricky Joe burned his hand climbing up the bottom side of the car trying to get in to him. He couldn't reach him.

    Very soon an ambulance and firetruck came. I think that Vickie was somewhere going nuts and I had just knelt down a little bit away from the commotion and was praying my heart out. I wasn't even crying or hysterical because I KNEW that God would save him. There was no way that this could actually be the END of his life. He was 18 years old, for Pete's sake! And my best friend! And that doesn't happen! I was absolutely confident that he would be fine.

    Someone with a cell phone stopped at the scene and my Mom was able to call Travis' mother and let her know that he had been in an accident and I remember hearing her say "Carla - the paramedics just grabbed a neck brace! They wouldn't grab a neck brace if he wasn't alright!!" About that time I saw that paramedic violently throw that neck brace on the ground. I couldn't let myself realize what that meant.

    A lady paramedic gathered my family and asked us to go into the ambulance with her. I could only let myself think that meant they were putting Travis in there and we were all going to the hospital and we'd be back home, shaking our heads about this by nightfall...

    She sat us down and told us that he, Travis, my brother, was dead when they arrived.

    A bloodcurdling howl escaped Ricky Joe's lips and he flew out of the ambulance trying to make his way to Travis' car. Several of the paramedics and firemen had to stop him and they just kinda pinned him on the ground and held him while he sobbed. My Mom stood beside him. Vickie lost it and I tried to hold her and love on her. I didn't cry. I was just shocked. I thought there had to be a mistake. I didn't even cry.

    We rode back up to Nannie's house and people started coming by. My grandparents came and picked my sister and me up and took us to their house for the night. They let us open our Christmas presents. Vickie and I got some matching earrings, which I still have, a fancy hair bow and some pens with our names on them. And $15.

    At the time, I was 15 and Vickie was 12. I was always ridiculously mature for my age and Vickie was...not. I was a bore and she was a blast. Always.

    Since my grandparents hadn't been expecting us to spend the night - we needed to run to the grocery store for extra milk for cereal in the morning. Popie Cannon took Vickie and me up to the Winn-Dixie that was about 15 minutes away.

    That $15 was burning a hole in my crazy sister's pocket. She immediately went down the candy and toy aisle and probably spent every last cent. I didn't care about anything. I was just numb.

    We stayed up late watching TV with Granny and Popie. Vickie went to bed before I did. I crawled into the twin bed next to hers only when I knew that I could fall asleep quickly. I didn't want to be left alone to think. It would have been too much.

    I fell right to sleep. I woke up the next day - hoping it had just been a nightmare.

    Vickie pounced on me and said "Look, Ginny!!! Santa has been here!"

    I had no idea what she could be talking about - I mean, we were 12 and 15 years old. I opened my eyes and glanced to where she was pointing.

    The night before, my sister - my crazy, beautiful, wonderful sister - had set her dirty socks up so that they stuck out of the dresser drawers. They were filled with goodies that she had purchased at Winn Dixie the night before. There were chocolates, candy canes and a little white teddy bear ornament for me.

    I fell apart. I cried about Travis and I cried about my broken family and I cried about how much I loved Vickie. How she could have been so thoughtful - to think of me on Christmas Eve, after we had left the scene of the accident where our brother died.

    I still have that little teddy bear ornament. It is one of my most prized possessions.

    I think it was that morning that I understood what grace was and started believing in it. Because of that one act of love - I will be on Vickie's side - no matter what she does or what anyone ever says about her.

    She'd be the first to admit that she's done some pretty dumb shit in her life. Who hasn't?

    Our family has given her a hard time every single day since she was, like, 13 or something. Maybe even before then. She wasn't as "easy" as me. Didn't do so well in school. Didn't care about how she looked. She actually wore a mu-mu to school for half a year. Seriously. Her clothes were too baggy and her hair was too short. She did drugs and drank and she stopped believing in Jesus. She got pregnant when she was 15. She married an asshole who liked to hit her. She loved girls for a while. I didn't care. I don't care.

    Every time I look at her - I see the dirty socks she used as makeshift Christmas stockings.
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