The Accidental Text by Becky Monson

Chapter 1


Maggie: So, here’s the deal, Mom. I don’t want to do this.

I know it’s what you wanted, I know we’re only honoring your wishes. But honestly, what kind of mom asks her family to spread her ashes while jumping out of a plane?

You. You’re that mom.

I was prepared to do it, even willing to. But now that we’re here …

I know I’ve done this before. Seventeen times, to be exact. But today I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground. Going up there seems reckless … and foolish. I mean, I’ve already lost you.

Why couldn’t you have asked to have your ashes spread under some tree or in the ocean like a normal person?

“Who are you texting?”

“What?” I flop the phone facedown on my lap, my face instantly heating. My belly churns, but I suspect that’s because there’s a mixture of feelings going on inside me right now.

“You seemed really engrossed,” my sister Chelsea says. She’s standing in front of me, holding a paper cup of coffee in one hand and looking down at me, seated on a rather uncomfortable wooden bench that’s pushed up against the wall of a mostly nondescript airplane hangar. I’m tasked with keeping track of all our rigs.

She’s wearing a white jumpsuit with black-and-pink detailing, the top half zipped down to the waist, a black cotton T-shirt on underneath. Her highlighted brown hair is in a bun atop her head.

“I was just … texting Hannah.” This is my standard excuse—this isn’t the first time I’ve been caught. It’s only a matter of time before someone figures me out. Or boots Mom’s phone up. So far no one’s bothered to do that. The phone has sat in one of the cubbies of my dad’s dark oak credenza desk for the past three months. I’ve been safe so far.

In any case, the Hannah excuse is a good one since I text back and forth with my best friend on a daily basis and have been doing so for years. Sometimes even from our separate bedrooms in our shared apartment. What a time to be alive and lazy.

“You looked very serious,” Chelsea says, her brows pulling inward.

I reach up to grab my necklace, the one my dad bought for both Chelsea and me after Mom died, and remember that I didn’t wear it on purpose. It’s become such a comfort to me, I almost feel naked without it.

“It was a serious text,” I say, suddenly feeling warm in my own jumpsuit. February in Phoenix isn’t all that hot, but it now feels stifling. I unzip the top of my teal-and-black suit, feeling the cool air hit my undershirt as I do.

Chelsea looks at me with eyebrows raised, expecting an answer. I’m not actually going to tell her. I haven’t told anyone I’ve been sending texts to my dead mother’s phone. Not even Hannah, and I tell her everything. I’ve kept it to myself because … well, it sounds mental. And I’m not ready to explain or answer questions … or be committed.

It started out simple. I had the thought that I wished I could text my mom. She’d been gone for a week and I knew she’d never see my message, but the phone felt like a connection to her. A tether. Also, I’d begged my dad to keep the number. It just felt so final to get rid of it. I also knew the phone had died and was sitting in my dad’s desk.

So, I sent her a text. All it said was, “I miss you.” That was it. And then the next day I sent something similar. Then the day after that, the text was a little longer, and this kept going until the texts starting becoming thought dumps that I’d send to her. Or … I guess, to her phone. Three months later, it’s now become a habit—a part of my daily life.

I know she can’t read them. I don’t actually need to be committed. I know there’s not some direct messaging service to heaven, even though that would be an excellent idea and I think someone needs to make that a thing. Who has an in with God that could ask for a favor? The pope? Oprah?

It’s my dirty little secret. I don’t have a lot of those. This is probably the only one. And how dirty can it be? It’s not hurting anyone, and I really think it’s helped me work through all the feelings I’ve been having. There are so many. Twenty-six is much too young to lose your mom.

“What are you texting Hannah about?” Chelsea asks, and then takes a sip of her coffee.

I jerk my head up, bringing my mind back to my older sister, still standing in front of me with her signature I’m-not-giving-up-until-you-tell-me facial expression. It’s a look I’m quite familiar with.