“There’s the reason why you’re the quarterback and not the receiver,” Chris taunted. “No amount of heads-up will change that.”
“Screw you,” Cody shot back.
This was going to be the longest ride home ever.
“Hey, wait up!” Phillip came running around the side of the house, holding up the back of his swim trunks. “I’m leaving with you guys.”
Megan sighed beside me. “And here I thought I’d snuck off.”
I was guessing their talk earlier hadn’t ended well.
“All aboard,” Cody said, reaching for the driver’s door and missing it. The handle snapped back.
“Hey,” said Chris from the front passenger seat. “Careful, man. Some of us actually respect our cars.”
“If you respect your car, why are you letting him drive?” Phillip smacked Megan’s behind as he walked past.
She whipped around and nearly fell over, but I caught her arm as I watched Cody open the door, his movements odd and jerky. His face looked flushed in the car’s interior light.
“Are you okay? To drive?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” He started to climb in behind the wheel.
I stopped at the door. “You look a little drunk.”
His eyes narrowed. “Jesus. Are you serious? I had one drink.”
I stepped back, surprised by his tone. “I was just asking.”
“He’s fine. Come on.” Megan took my hand and leaned in, whispering in my ear, “I want chicken nuggets and sweet-and-sour sauce.”
“Ew,” I murmured, distracted. Chewing on the inside of my cheek, I tried to think of how many times I’d seen Cody with a drink. I knew I saw him with a bottle. Or was it a cup? I really hadn’t been paying attention to him.
“Maybe I should drive?” I offered.
Chris groaned from the passenger seat. “If you want to leave now, just get in the car, Lena.”
Phillip was climbing in the other side as Megan pushed in behind me. “I don’t want to sit next to him,” she whisper-yelled.
“I can hear you.” Phillip slapped his hand down on the middle seat. “And I’d rather sit next to Lena anyway. She’s nicer.”
“She’s nicer,” mimicked Megan in the whiniest voice I’d ever heard, her hands on my hips. “Hurry, Lena. I’m hungry.”
“I’m fine.” Cody hauled himself up into the front of the SUV. He looked back at me, eyes bright in the light. “Seriously. I’m fine. I’ve driven this road a million times.”
I wasn’t so sure if he was fine or not, but the guys were staring at me and Megan was pushing me, going on and on about the ten-piece nugget meal she was going to murder.
“He’s fine,” Megan said, and then giggled. “I’m so hungry.”
“Come on,” Cody said, smacking his hand off the steering wheel. “You’re being stupid. Get in the car.”
I felt my face heat up. He was right. I was being stupid. I climbed into the car, smushed between Megan and Phillip. It took several moments to wiggle my seat belt out from under Phillip and lock it in place. The windows rolled down all around me as I dug my phone out of my purse and saw several missed texts from Dary.
Megan leaned over me and reached out, flicking her finger off the side of Phillip’s face. “Hey, are you going to buy me nuggets?”
Leaning back, I checked out Dary’s texts. She’d sent me a picture of a painting that looked like something a two-year-old could’ve done. Underneath it was the caption This is art? What am I missing?
“Baby, I’ll buy you two nugget meals,” Phillip told her. “And all the sweet-and-sour sauce you could ever want.”
Megan sighed. “You know me. Know me well enough to know that sweet-and-sour sauce is the way to my heart. Why did we break up?”
I made a face at my phone.
The radio turned on, and when I glanced up, Chris’s head was already lolling to the side. Cody was messing with the stations, flipping through them so fast I had no idea what the songs were.
Zoning Megan and Phillip out, I prayed they didn’t try to start making out with me between them as I scrolled through Dary’s texts. Another picture was of a dress, with Dary saying she was thinking about making one just like it. I got to the end of her messages and texted her back.
You’d look amazing in that dress. Heading home from Keith’s. Call you tomorrow.
Cool air streamed through the windows, lifting the ends of my hair. I glanced up. It felt like we were going really fast, but I couldn’t really see anything outside the car. I hit Send and then started to text Abbi so she didn’t worry when she realized I wasn’t there anymore.
Caught a ride with Megan. Didn’t want to bother
“Holy—” Cody’s words were cut off as the SUV suddenly jerked to the right, the movement so sharp my phone slipped out of my hands.
Someone—Megan?—screamed, and we were moving sideways fast. Too fast. Confusion swamped me. I couldn’t breathe past the ball of fear and disorientation choking me.
Time...time slowed down and moved too fast, all at once.
My arms flew up. I tried to grab the front seat, but I was suddenly in the air. Then we were slamming back down. The impact jarred every bone in my body. An earsplitting crack of thunder jolted the car. I heard glass break, shattering like fragile icicles. Shooting pain exploded along the side of my face as something slammed into my head—an arm, no a leg.
We were flying, air lifting us up, and my head snapped backward as the seat belt caught me, the material digging into my stomach and chest. A fire burned through me, and my throat was stinging.
Metal crunched—the roof. Oh my God, the roof gave way, and we were upside down and then upright, then upside down, and I was thrown back and forth, side to side. All I could hear was something...something, eating the car, tearing it apart, piece by piece. Red-hot pain erupted, blindingly white, and that was all there was. Pain. Terror. Flying. Screaming.
Then there was nothing.
Sitting on my bed, I stared at my phone like I’d done a hundred times since the accident. It was small and black. The screen was as smooth and perfect as the day I got it, while every part of me felt cracked and shattered.
I closed my eyes and breathed through the burn crawling up the back of my throat. The session with Dr. Perry killed me. Other than when the police had come into my hospital room, it was the first time I talked about what happened and actually gave those memories a voice.
I thought talking about what happened would serve like some kind of epiphany. That things would change. That I’d feel some sort of release. But talking openly about the accident, about everything leading up to it, just made me want to take a wire brush to my memories.
I’d known Cody shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. I should’ve listened to that little voice in my head and that feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I hadn’t. If I had, today would’ve been different. Tomorrow would be like all the better yesterdays.
I just hadn’t thought anything would happen.
Opening my eyes, I saw my phone and the pressure in my chest tightened, reminding me of how it felt when I first woke up from the accident. Of course I’d used my phone—texted and called, but...
But there were still texts I hadn’t looked at, voice mails I hadn’t listened to. They remained on my phone, not forgotten but untouched.
I picked up my phone and opened my texts. I scrolled until I got to the dozen or so unread ones. All of them had come in after the crash. I opened them and read the OMG, I hope you’re okay! messages. I opened up the numerous I’m so glad you’re ok. Text me messages. I read them all, my brain completely empty as I clicked out of one and went to the next, until my finger hovered over Abbi’s name and the goofy picture of her wearing a panda hat.
I didn’t even know where she got the panda hat.
I opened her message and slowly scrolled up. The last text from her was the Wednesday after the accident.
Why don’t you want to see us? We miss you and we’re worried about you.
The breath I took scorched my throat. Did Abbi know I hadn’t had my phone while in the hospital? Did that matter? I hadn’t wanted to see my friends and I hadn’t even checked her messages in over a month. It didn’t even matter if she did at this point.