Courtney was the only one I could call at a time like this, mainly because she was the only one likely to be up at midnight, but also because she has a wonderful way of putting my life into perspective.
I grabbed the cordless phone and snuck into the room where I conduct my most important business: the closet. Courtney answered on the first ring.
"Courtney, I'm so glad you're awake." I glanced over my shoulder and closed the door behind me.
"Sarah? What's wrong? Is anyone hurt?"
And then--exactly then--the tears began to flow, reminding me of the way as a child I could maintain my composure until the moment I heard my mother's voice.
"Sarah? Is anyone hurt?" Courtney asked again.
"Just my pantyhose," I said, sucking in clumps of air.
"Did you say pantyhose? Sarah, what's going on?"
I talked between sniffles and sobs: "I threw...my pantyhose...out the front...door...and my neighbors saw it all!" Theoretically, this is the part where a best friend is supposed to laugh or remind you that you really are a beautiful person...on the inside. This is when it might have been helpful for someone--someone named Courtney--to tell me I wasn't crazy, but passionate--clever, even!
But no, Courtney was silent.
I bit my lip and picked at a loose piece of rubber on the bottom of my pink bunny slippers.
Then finally Courtney said, "Was it--control top?"
At first I lied, because, well, no one wants to admit to heavily stitched undergarments. "I really can't remember," I said wiping away tears with the sleeve of my flannel pajamas, and then, "Oh, all right! Yes, it was control top--and all the neighbors saw!"
Courtney was as calm as ever. That's because (1) I've surprised her too many times before, and (2) Courtney is always polite. But eventually she had to ask: "Sarah, why did you throw your pantyhose out the front door?"
"Well, it wasn't just the pantyhose," I said. "I, ah--I kind of threw the entire basket of laundry."
This was difficult to say aloud, especially to someone like Courtney, who keeps copies of Miss Manners on her bedside table.
"I see," Courtney said. She was tapping her nails on a counter.
It occurred to me that Dustin might be standing on the other side of the closet door, so I crawled further into the dark curtain of shirttails and dresses and settled behind a white terrycloth robe, hugging my knees to my chest. There was a thin, feathery wad of Kleenex in the pocket of my flannel pajamas. I took it out to blow my nose, and when I did, a piece of white prescription paper came out with it.
"Oh, honey, listen to you!" Courtney cried, but I was already distracted. I unfolded the prescription and looked at the signature: Dr. D. Ashley.
"Wait a minute!" she said. "I know what this is about."
I jammed the paper back into my pocket, afraid I'd been caught. But Courtney said, "You saw that helicopter crash on TV tonight, didn't you?"
"What helicopter crash?"
"Oh, you didn't see it? Never mind then."
"So!" she said in a phony, upbeat voice. "What time is the Spouse Club meeting tomorrow night?"
"Courtney, you can't say 'helicopter crash' and then change the subject!"
"I don't want to worry you, Sarah. I mean, you're not in the best mental state right now."
I held the ball of tissue to my nose. "Just tell me, was it anyone we knew?"
Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife