74: Phone Calls at Midnight

74: Phone Calls at Midnight

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

Phone Calls at Midnight

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles.

~George Bernard Shaw

My final year of college was way more stressful than I had anticipated. With weekly essays, internship applications, and numerous exams, I barely had time to sleep.

On top of it all, my sister Sarah — a confidante I used to see every day — moved halfway across the world. She was most likely facing her own trials and tribulations, starting a brand-new job in a foreign country. With nearly eight thousand miles between us, what had started as weekly Sunday phone calls eventually diminished to only birthdays and holidays. We were both so busy. Too busy, it seemed, even for family.

The final week of the semester crept up on me without much warning. I found myself at my desk late one night, desperately cramming for an exam. I was operating on three cups of coffee, four hours of sleep, and a whole lot of adrenaline.

I must have fallen asleep in my chair.

Suddenly, I was on a beach. The sand was pearl white, the sky violet. The sea lay green and still ahead of me. The beach was empty — save for one jagged gray rock and a young woman on top of it.

The woman’s back was toward me. With a start, I recognized the locks of dark hair.

“Sarah?” I found my voice too loud in the eerie quiet. “Is that you?”

The woman turned her head. It was my sister — but she was weeping bright red tears. She said, “Goodbye.”

I woke with a start, my heart thundering in my chest. My mouth was completely dry. I picked up the phone and called Sarah.

It took three full rings for Sarah to answer. “Hello?”

Hearing her voice made me realize I had been holding my breath. I allowed myself to exhale. “Sarah.”

“Is everything alright? It’s past midnight where you are.”

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just…” I was starting to calm down. I took in the books around me, the papers on which I had fallen asleep. Now that I was fully awake, I couldn’t justify calling her due to a silly nightmare. “We haven’t talked in a while,” I said at last. The excuse, I realized, was also the truth. It had been weeks.

“You’re right,” she said. “How are you?” A pause. “Don’t answer that. I forgot it was finals week!”

And so we chatted. As the minutes passed, the anxiety within me faded away. Eventually, I glanced at the clock and realized we had been talking for almost an hour. “Oh! Sarah, am I keeping you from anything?”

I heard her laugh on the other end. “I missed my bus to grab your phone call, but that’s alright. I’m waiting for the next one.”

“Oh, no! I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s not often that you call.” There was a pause. “Truth be told, I was a little scared. I thought something had gone wrong.”

“No, nothing is wrong.” Other than my nerves, I thought. “I’m going to let you go. Don’t miss your next bus!”

“Alright. Good luck with your studying!”

I hung up the phone and looked at the table on which I had fallen asleep. I saw piles of bookmarked textbooks, highlighted notes, and unfinished essays. So much worry and stress had plagued me these past few weeks; no wonder I was having nightmares! I decided to let myself have some rest and went to bed.

By the time my alarm woke me the next day, I had next to no recollection of the dream. I got back to work. My mind was so preoccupied, in fact, that I only remembered the phone call when Sarah’s number flashed on my phone at lunch. I blinked at the screen, surprised at her calling. It was nearing midnight in Thailand. “Hello?”

I heard heavy breathing and Sarah’s voice trembling on the other end. “Sabrina?”

I felt my stomach twist. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine… but yesterday…” I heard more heavy breathing and what sounded like a choked sob.

“Sarah?”

“When you called me yesterday, and I missed my bus to answer your call… that bus was in an accident, Sabrina. I just found out. It ran into a truck passing the beach. There were no survivors.”

Snatches of the nightmare came back to me. An impossible sky and crimson tears, the unshakeable feeling that I needed to reach out to my sister.

Sarah said what I was only beginning to realize. “Your call saved my life.”

I didn’t know what to say. Or how to feel. I only felt immense gratitude. I started to sob.

Sarah was crying, too. She said, “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t,” I said. “Don’t thank me.” I only had the universe to thank. I truly believed there was a force of good out there looking out for us. Something that kept all things in balance, and sometimes, prevented the worst things in life from happening. “But Sarah… please do one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Call me more often.”

~Sabrina Forest

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