Seven years, wow. It's hard to stop and think that its been nearly a decade since we lost her. It all is still so clear to me. It's like rewinding a movie and playing it back over and over again. I've told the story so many times that I keep hoping the next time I tell it, it will be fiction and part of some over dramatized movie script I'm trying to sell.
But it's the truth. Painful, hard to swallow, stinging truth and the fact of the matter is...she's not coming back.
She was quiet if she didn't know you but you couldn't shut her up if she trusted you. She made the best jokes (often at other peoples expenses) and was far more beautiful than she let herself believe. She was a combination of Kirsten Dunst and Heather Morris and she had a laugh that I've never heard anything close to and I know now I never will. It's yet to fade from my memory and I cling to it tight because I fear someday it might fade away.
It was a humid day in may when we heard she was gone. We all honestly thought she just ran away and was in a better place. We theorized as to where she went. San Francisco was her dream, to live there and no be judged for who she was or who she wanted to be. She loved random bits of musical theaters, writing poetry and Katie Holmes (pre Tom Cruise) and deep down just wanted to find herself. She had a shit family life and nothing but dreams despite being manic depressive. Everyone blamed her depression for why she ran away but no one ever stopped to listen to her either.
We went to school and church together and we sat, just the two of us at most church functions, being blasphemous and talking about where we wanted to go in life. She'd make these little snowflakes out of paper and write the most obscene things on them. Its how we dubbed her snowflake and she was pale like snow white so it just seemed fitting for her.
In February 2003 they found remains at the bottom of a cliff in Palos Verdes. I remember that day clearly, and I remember waking up and walking into the living room and my Mom couldn't even look at me. My mother is normal a very jovial woman who seriously wakes up every morning and bakes and has tea ready. There was no water boiling and the kitchen wasn't filled with the warmth it usually was. Everything seemed cold and dark.
"They found some remains up past where Marineland used to be."
My heart stopped. I could tell in the tone of her voice that this was going to lead into something far worse.
"They think it may be Sara."
The denial came first, as suspected. "She's in San Francisco." Hell, she was doing high kicks on Broadway, I had every excuse as to why it COULDN'T be my snowflake.
Mom told me they didn't know for sure yet and we lit a candle of St. Jude and hoped for the best.
A few days prior to this, practically out of nowhere, I had a dream about her. They came to be less and less over the course of eight months she was missing. In the dream I'd somehow been forced to go grocery shopping with a group of girls I used to go to church with, uptight overzealous girls who tried to make Snowflake and I conform to their standards of good and evil. By church standards she and I were going to hell in a handbasket...we were okay with that.
In the dream I made it through the teeth grindingly obnoxious time with the girls when they revealed they had someone with them now who wanted to see me. The girls and mentors parted and there she was, she smiled at me and we gave each other a hug before she launched and assault of playful banter and punched me in the arm. She told me she was in a better place and things were alright and to stop worrying about her.
I remember telling my Mom about the dream and those few days after she told me about the remains.
I remember that it seemed like forever to get the dental record results. I remember running millions of scenarios in my head and none of them ever made it out to be her. I felt selfish for wishing it was another person, that someone elses family and friends had to experience loss but...
It was her.
She died May of 2002. Her body lay on salty shell covered rocks for eight months under our noses and she died alone.
No one knows for sure what happened, those of us who actually stopped and listened to her, those of us who heard her heart suspected foul play but he case was quickly swept under the rug and nowadays in San Pedro, no one says much about the 17 year old who went missing. Those of us who do speak of her will never stop, we will never forget her and never stop dreaming of who she could grow to be.
We love you, Sara Ashley. ALWAYS. In your spirit I still keep fighting for my own dreams, and someday I will make you proud.