Since I’d already known that I hadn’t technically killed my friends, Dr. Perry’s parting words really didn’t put me at ease. I didn’t drink and drive that night, but I hadn’t done everything in my power to stop Cody. So I wasn’t legally responsible. I hadn’t technically done it.
I was, however, morally responsible.
Which I was discovering was a heavy weight to carry, because how did you shed that kind of culpability? I wasn’t sure you ever could.
But I was willing to try.
I hadn’t gone to lunch, my stomach too twisted up in anxious knots from what I planned to do. Dary had texted while I was hiding out in the library, and I’d told her I was fine, just had to study for an exam.
I knew what I needed to do when I got home, and the mere thought of it made me want to hurl all over my shoes. Maybe that was why, as I came down the stairwell and hit the main hall heading out to the parking lot, I stopped by the closed double doors to the small gym. Maybe I was procrastinating. Maybe it was something else.
Peering through the small windows, I felt the muscles in my stomach clench as I watched the girls run sets across the court. Coach Rogers stood by the net, calling out commands. The walls and thick doors muted most of his deep voice. There were only a few more weeks in the season. I’d been paying attention. The team had had a good year and they would most likely make it to the semifinals.
I should be in there.
The moment the thought finished, I squeezed my eyes shut against the sudden wave of regret. I could’ve played the last couple of weeks since the cast came off. I could’ve—
I could’ve done a lot of things.
But it was too late for that. I’d made my choice to leave the team, and I couldn’t go back on that, even if I did miss playing. When I was out on the court, my brain had shut down. I hadn’t obsessed over Sebastian. I hadn’t stressed over Mom or worried about my absentee father. I’d just been out there, focusing on the ball—on my team.
“I can play again,” I whispered, and my body jerked. Surprised, I opened my eyes. The team was over by the bleachers. I could play again. Try out for a college team. I might not make it, but I could try. I could—
The sound of footsteps pulled me out of my thoughts. Hand tightening on the strap of my bag, I stepped back and glanced down the hall.
It was Keith.
I hadn’t seen him all day. He was dressed like he was coming back from a banquet, in dark trousers and a button-down white shirt. His gym bag was on his shoulder, football cleats dangling from one of his hands.
Our gazes connected and his footsteps slowed. “Hey,” he said, glancing at the doors beside me. “What are you up to?”
Having no idea how to explain what I was doing, I shrugged. “You heading to practice?”
“Yeah.” He stopped in front of me, and there was no way I could miss the slight red rimming his eyes. “I had a meeting thing with my parents and...and the lawyers. Took most of the afternoon.”
My stomach dropped as I remembered that Keith was dealing with a whole different set of consequences from that night. How could I have forgotten about that? “How...how is everything going with that?”
Lifting his free hand, he scrubbed his fingers over his head. “It’s not... Yeah, it’s not good. Our lawyer is advising them to take a plea deal. You know, a fine and community service to avoid jail time.” He drew in a deep breath, dropping his hand. “There’s the civil suits, you know?”
I nodded, unsure of what to say.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” I said.
A muscle flexed along his jaw as he looked away, and then his gaze found mine once more. “Why didn’t you join the suits? You were hurt pretty bad. You were in that car.”
Not expecting that question, I floundered for words. “I...I just didn’t think it was the right thing for me to do.” And it wasn’t. I hadn’t been drinking that night. I should’ve been sued myself. “I just don’t want to be a part of it.”
He nodded slowly and a long moment passed. “My parents aren’t bad people. They let us drink at home because they thought it was safer. That we wouldn’t be out there driving...” I knew all of this. “Cody could’ve stayed with me. He knew that we had an open-couch policy. Everyone could’ve stayed. That was the agreement. Have fun, but don’t drive if you’ve been drinking.” Keith cursed under his breath. “Cody knew that.”
My chest constricted. His parents weren’t bad people. They were people who, I guessed, just didn’t think things through. They were good people who’d made a series of bad decisions when it came to allowing everyone to hang out at their house. “I know.”
“I don’t know... I don’t know what’s going to happen.” His shoulders slouched. “I mean, they’re going to lose the farm, the orchards, everything.” He looked over my shoulder, shaking his head. “I don’t even know why I’m going to practice. Like, what’s the fucking point? Shit.”
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out.
A flicker of surprise crawled across Keith’s face, and then it was washed away with disbelief. His mouth moved as if he was about to say something, but he didn’t. I knew then. I knew right then that he couldn’t understand why or how I was apologizing, and it hit me with the force of a speeding truck.
Keith was just like me.
He blamed his family.
He blamed himself.
He didn’t see the point in doing the things he did before.
He felt these things even though, at the same time, he wanted to defend his family and himself. It wasn’t fair, because Keith hadn’t done anything. He didn’t deserve this, but he...
He was just like me.
I never saw it until this moment. I knew Abbi had realized it already, but because I was so caught up in my own guilt, my own pain, I never saw Keith. I never saw Abbi or Dary. I never saw Sebastian. I never saw this entire school grieving. I saw only myself.
Keith dipped his chin. “I’ve...I’ve got to go.” He sidestepped me. “I’ll see you later, Lena.”
“Bye,” I whispered, turning as he walked away. I watched him go and I stood there long after he disappeared from view. A hundred different thoughts were racing through my head all at once as I started walking down the hall, but one question stood out among all the others.
Was I a good person who’d just made a bad choice?
* * *
Out on my balcony, I paced back and forth as I waited for Sebastian to get home from practice. He hadn’t texted, but I’d messaged him as I sat in my car after class and asked if he’d come over. My heart had been pounding the whole drive home. He hadn’t come to my room since that night.
It was a little after four when he texted back and said he would come, and while I’d been able to breathe a little easier, I was now a nervous mess.
Tugging the sides of my cardigan together, I walked to the end of the balcony and peered around to the front of the house, my breath halting in my throat. His Jeep was now out there. My gaze flicked up, and I saw a light on in his bedroom. When had he gotten home? I had no idea. Practice could run for hours.
As I stood there, I wished I hadn’t eaten the entire plate of spaghetti for dinner, because now I felt like hurling.
I figured I’d talk to Sebastian first, because I’d known him the longest. And, well, he’d said he loved me. I’d probably ruined that with the harsh crap I’d spewed at him, but he deserved to know what happened.
And so did Abbi and Dary.
They’d be next.
I just had to get past this conversation.
The light flipped off, and I gasped out a little squeak, but I couldn’t move. I stood at the edge of the stairs that led into the backyard until I saw the back door open and Sebastian walked out onto the brick patio.
Even from where I stood in the failing light, I could tell he’d taken the time to shower. His hair was wet, slicked back in a way that highlighted the sharp, high cheekbones. He was wearing a pair of jogging pants, the kind that hung low on the hips, and a thermal.
God, he was breathtaking, and I wished he hadn’t stopped to take a shower and instead smelled of sweat and had dirt and grass staining his skin.