I was overjoyed when the name popped up on my phone. And surprised.
It had been a long time since we've spoken.
About a year ago she decided to give up this Louisiana life of covering crime and move back home to where her parents and her boyfriend are. We knew all along that it was just a matter of time. But we were sorry to see her go, too.
I know I was.
When she was here, she was one of my favorite co-workers. The crime reporter who rocked the 6-inch heels. A sweet, young, chipper girl who never seemed to have a bad day or be in a bad mood, not even when the company started teaching us words like "furlough" and "buyout."
Maybe it was the mothering instinct in me, but I kind of took her under my wing. I always feel for the ones who move here for the job, leaving their families behind and striking out on their own.
Despite our separate lives and a nearly 20-year age difference, we formed a bond. Or I did. She came to me for advice on becoming a stepmother, which I did at about her age. I gave her all of my wisdom and all of my books.
She was the one -- the only one -- who came to the parties I used to invite my office mates to, even a few of my daughter's birthdays.
And, she was no spectator. No, she jumped right into the middle of them, singing karaoke on our makeshift stage and sitting on the floor with a bunch of 8-year-olds to play a game or make beauty treatments.
And when she came to my father-in-law's funeral, she charmed the whole family so much they were ready to adopt her too.
She was the one I liked to share exciting news with because, well, she genuinely seemed to get excited.
"Oooooh, niiiiiice," she would say in her sing-song voice.
And she really meant it.
She was one of the first people to read my book, the whole saga of our adoption story. On her Blackberry.
But when the newspaper business started to take a turn for the worse, she figured it was time. Time to go home to the cold and the snow and her family and her boyfriend.
She's still a newspaper reporter -- a darned good one, too -- just somewhere else. Over the last year we've kept in touch through emails and on Facebook. And we've both traveled some rocky roads to stay in the newspaper business, learning to live with those scary words like "furlough" and "buyout" and "layoffs."
So it was great to hear from her again. To tell her how grown up Lora is now. To catch her up on our new, smaller and much quieter office.
But as we made our way through the idle chitchat, I knew something was coming. She had some news to tell. I could feel it. And I was waiting.
I was hoping to hear a word like "engagement" or "wedding," hoping she would ask me to address her wedding invitations.
Instead I heard her say, "I have breast cancer."
Of course she immediately tried to reassure me. "It's very early," she said. "I'll be fine," she said.
Even still, she's the same chipper and upbeat girl, even laughing for God's sakes as she tells me the story of how she found the lump herself after insisting on wearing an itchy sweater she knew was allergic to. About how she went in to get it checked out and almost walked out of the room without having the breast with the lump checked.
And she sounded as if could have been telling me about what she was planning to do this weekend as she talked about choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction, laughing as she told me she plans to use her belly fat to create her new boobs.
"I'm finally going to get my muffin top to work for me," she said.
And we laughed.
But when I could no longer hold back my own tears as my heart broke for my young friend, she actually tried to apologize -- apologize! --to me, for making me sad and ruining my evening.
What a silly girl.
But today I'm going to make my own appointment for a mammogram, which I have put off for far too long. And I told her that.
"Everything happens for a reason," she said.
She believes she was destined to wear that sweater that night, that she was destined to stop the technician on her way out the door, destined to have enough belly fat to restore her figure in a few weeks.
And I believe I was destined to have her as a friend.
You can read my friend Vickie's story here.
She's doing well.