Chapter 3


A sudden tightness was sitting in my chest and soon there was an eruption of two, three, four coughs marking the cool, stale air in a chain of pale mist. One of Jordan's pale arms rubbed te4nder circles into my tense back while the other was smoothing my hair back from my face. I can remembers feeling her start as I turned my face into her hand, head still resting in her lap.

"Nick? Oh Nick, thank God you're alright." She whispers as she leans over me. There was moisture pooled in her normally bright eyes and not a moment later, a tear leapt from her long lashes and onto my face. And for the first time in her short life, she looked older. Worn, but still scared somehow. I strained, but manage to pull myself upright, gently taking a hold of her shaking arms at the elbows. I searched her misty eyes for answers, words, anything of the sort, but all I received was an aching in my heart as she seemed equally lost. Wordlessly, she tipped over and I accepted her immediately, arms coming up to envelope her. If we were squeezing too hard, neither one of us seemed to mind. I was pulled even closer into her embrace as a sudden shout, loud and animalistic broke throughout the night. And it grew and grew until it completely filled the air, even more than the still blaring horn of the crashed coupe.

Crashed coupe. Navy blue coupe now splotched all over it front with blood. A gory parody of Van Gogh's "The Red Vineyard". My eyes drifted just a few feet over and I was finally met with the source of the screaming. I have never heard so much raw pain and emotion invoked all at once, and from Tom of all people. Big and burly Tom. Tom the Brute, the unfazed, the goddamned polo player. He was sitting on his knees, just in front of Jordan and I in a dark puddle that only recently stopped growing. He was huddled over something broken and frail in the street. My eyes weaved down his shaking frame until they fell onto a pale, thin arm, lying palm up. Its fingers were curled just enough to showcase rosy nails. The pink fabric shrouding its arms was on the verge of falling apart altogether, utterly destroyed by the various ragged breaks and tears along its length. Some of it was even decorated in splashes and splashes of inky red. This was not what stayed with me. What still haunts me today, not the tantalizing beckoning of her hands, tempting me even in death. Or the gaping hole that was once her left breast. No. What stayed with me was her muddy brown eyes that were doomed to stare perpetually into whatever they were fixed upon. And in that moment they were fixed upon me, staring within me.

I lurched violently away from Jordan onto my hands gagging. The glass that found a new home in my palms brought no pain to me, nor the heartburn in my chest, or the hot saliva clinging to the back of my throat. I felt…I felt…Empty.

Tom's screams were all but sobs now, and that neverending gaze is briefly lost on me as he rests his forehead upon her own. He as whispering something against her bloodied lips. Something broke in all of us. I stumbled forward, slowly inching across that gravely and dampened plain until I was kneeling shoulder to shoulder beside Tom. He gave no indication that he heard me, he just continued whispering that same unheard phrase over and over again. His large hands, gruff and threatening a mere few minutes ago, clutched her lifeless ones with all the love in the world it seemed. A stray tear made its way down my haggard and drawn face. Inconsiderate of the looming pain, I brought a hand to Tom's shoulder and squeezed. I doubt it brought any kind of comfort, but it felt the right thing to do in the moment. Neither one of us had ever been exposed to such grief. Not a moment later, he rounded on me and was pulling me into his arms, chest heaving and face wet against my neck.

"I didn't mean it! I swear to God I didn't mean it. Oh God. I didn't mean to!" I shushed him, smoothing a bloodied hand across his shuddering back.

"I didn't mean it. I didn't mean it." Over his heaving shoulders, my eyes latched onto Jordan's. One of her gloved hands has come to rest upon her mouth as she gazed on heartbroken. I don't know if it's for Tom or for Myrtle. Maybe for both. Maybe the entire tragedy of this summer. Her lips part as though to say something before faltering. Instead her eyes travel to her right, and I follow them to the disheveled building looming alongside the site of the accident. Wilson's Garage. There was no car insight and a closed sign clung to the building. No lights were on, no complaints came from the second floor window which had been left opened. My ears were still ringing from the screeching of tires, the one-sided battle between steel and flesh that had just taken place. And right outside his doorstep, I thought. And yet there was not a single reaction, any sign of life from the building. George Wilson was not at home.

"We have to call the police." My mouth finally conjured. Tom's hand curled tightly in my hair.