Sarah got the call on a cold Spring morning, walking to class with a coffee wrapped tight in her gloved hand. She answered it on the last ring, juggling her books and her drink.
"Hello?" she asked, breathless.
"Is this Sarah Jacobs?" A clipped voice asked on the other end.
"Yes?" She replied, slowing her walk and ducking under a tree to avoid the mist that had started.
"This is Lorraine with the Grandview General hospital; do you know a William Higgins?" She asked. Sarah's mind spun for half a second before she realized the woman on the phone was talking about Racetrack. Sarah hadn't been friends with Jack and David's group for long and realized she never even knew Race's real name. After a second, she realized the woman had said 'hospital' and a shot of panic tore through her.
"Yes, I do, is he alright?" she asked, trying to keep her voice even. She didn't know Race that well, didn't even know why he was called 'Race' by his friends.
She should not be getting this call.
"He was in a car accident. You were listed as one of his emergency contacts. Can you come down to the hospital?" Sarah reeled. His emergency contact? Shouldn't that be his family or one of his closer friends?
"Yes, of course. What hospital is he at again?" Sarah asked, spinning in a circle to see what cross street she was at.
"Grandview General," she repeated, and Sarah furrowed her brows.
"Is that the new one in Brooklyn? I don't know the name," she asked. There was a momentary silence on the other end.
"Um, no, we're in Missouri," she said quietly.
"Missouri! What was Race doing in Missouri?" she wondered out loud.
"Can you come? There is one other emergency contact we're trying to get a hold of, but it would be best if you were both here. He's in surgery but the sooner you can be here the better," She explained.
"Yes, of course. It'll take me a while, obviously, but I'll come," she was about to hang up when she paused.
"Who is the other emergency contact?" she asked. There was a long pause and a shuffle of papers.
"Alexander Conlon," she said, and Sarah pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Of course, it was.
Sarah said goodbye and hung up the phone, standing under the tree a moment longer. What was she going to do? She did what she always does when she needed help, called her brother.
"Hello?" David answered, sleep thick in his voice.
"David, its me, I have to go to Missouri, do you have class today?" She asked.
There was a long pause on the other end, Sarah checked her screen to make sure the call hadn't disconnected.
"You need to…wait you need to go to Missouri?!" He asked incredulously.
"I just got a call, Race is in the hospital, I don't want to go alone," She said
"Race is in this hospital?! Wait, why did they call you?" He asked
"I guess I'm his emergency contact? I don't know but I have to go,"
"Why is she his emergency contact?" Sarah heard Jack grumble in the background and her eyebrows narrowed in annoyance.
"David. I have to go, can you come with me or not?" She asked impatiently.
"Sarah, I have classes, I can't miss anymore, you know that," he answered.
"I figured that would be the case, I just didn't want to have to go alone," she sighed. She heard David moving about on the other end.
"It's okay David, sorry I woke you, I'll let you know when I figure out what I'm doing," She told him finally.
"Okay, be careful, I'll fill mom and dad in, and tell them you'll call later," He said, adding his goodbyes and hung up.
Sarah puffed out a breath of air which sent the curls around her face fluttering.
"Guess I'm going to Missouri," she muttered, turning on her heel and racing back towards her dorm room, she had to gather her stuff and see when the first flight out was.
She packed little more than an overnight bag; she technically didn't know what was wrong with Race, but she figured she wouldn't be long. A few shirts, and an extra pair of jeans, plus her pajamas. That was all she should need. Sarah picked up her heavy winter coat and warmest hat last minute after she checked the weather in Grandview, Missouri. While she did so she noticed that the sky outside her dorm was getting darker, heavy clouds pressing down on the tall buildings. She looked up the next flight into St. Louis and threw her bag on her shoulder, she'd have to hurry.
By the time she got to the airport, the weather had shifted again for the worse. Every tv in the subway stations and along the walk was turned to the weather channel, where they reported a freak snowstorm descending over Manhattan. Sarah hurried into the airport, pulling off her hat and shaking snow off her shoulders, it was already coming down fast. Spring snowstorms weren't unheard of, but she had to get to Missouri, and it couldn't wait.
The airport was packed with angry New Yorkers trying to get out of the city. The din was deafening, and Sarah had to navigate carefully between crowds of people or risk tripping over their many bags. She had bought her ticket on her phone on the way from her dorm earlier, but she stopped as she walked past the ticket counter. A huge line was forming, full of people trying to get refunds for canceled plane tickets, but that's not why she stopped.
"I don't give a damn if every plane in New York isn't flying. Either give me my damn money back or put my ass on a plane!"
At first it was he angry words that registered with her, her eyebrows knit together, she hated the way people could be sometimes. But then-then she heard the voice behind them. She stopped and peered around the long line, trying to see who was talking. She spotted a guy with his back to her, shaggy dark-blond hair with a beanie pulled low over his ears. He wore no coat and had his flannel shirt sleeves pushed up around his elbows, his arms crossed firmly over his chest as he stared the man at the counter down. Sarah let out an audible groan.
"Alex!" She called, but the tall boy didn't stop his tirade.
"Hey! Alex!" She tried again, moving a little past the line of people, drawing glares from the throng next to her.
He glanced over his shoulder with a glare that made his icy blue eyes shine from 10 feet away. Once he saw Sarah, he didn't stop glaring but he spat a reply at the man at the counter and grabbed his bag and turned.
"What are you doing here?" He called as he walked over to her, mouth still set in a scowl.
"Race put me as the other emergency contact," She explained and Spot crossed his arms, though Sarah didn't know if it was from annoyance or cold.
"Why would he do that?" He demanded, as if Sarah actually had the answer.
"You can ask him when we get to Missouri."
"Well, fat chance of that, our plane is grounded. Any flights headed West are cancelled," he explained, pointing at a big wall of monitors, red peppering the entire board. They stood there for a second, still in the swirling commotion of the airport, Spot looked out the window and worked his jaw in frustration. Sarah looked down at her phone and sighed, pulling up her mother's cell number.
"I have a plan, just a minute," She said and turned away, walking a few feet before her mother picked up the phone.
"Mom? I have a weird favor to ask you."
"Okay, lets go," Sarah said striding up to Spot, her bag slung over her shoulder. While she had been on the phone he had posted up by the window, watching the snow fall in clumps.
"Where?" He asked, gesturing to the building snow.
"Come on, we're taking the subway to my parents place," she explained.
"Why would we do that?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
"You're bad at answering them!"
Sarah glared at him. "My parents still have their old car in the garage of the apartment building," she answered finally. "Mom said we could take that to Missouri."
"Listen, I never said I was going with you," He said, stopping in his place, his duffle slung over his shoulder and his eyes narrowed. It was Sarah's turn to gesture to the falling snow.
"I don't see you coming up with any better ideas, and if you're so determined to go alone you can find your own way, but I'm going to be with Race," She said defiantly, walking down the stairs into the subway station, hearing Spot groan but follow behind.
"Why do your parents have a car still?" Spot asked, sitting across from Sarah on the subway a few minutes later. Sarah shrugged.
"They kept it when we moved to the city from Buffalo my senior year. They weren't sure how long they'd be here, so it seemed silly to sell it at the time," she explained, silently thanking her mother for taking such good care of it when it was in storage.
"I didn't know you moved here that recently," Spot said after a minute.
"Yeah well, it wasn't a big deal. Here's our stop," she said, standing and moving towards the exit, not really wanting to keep talking about moving. Sarah hadn't wanted to move at all. In fact, she petitioned her parents for her to keep living in Buffalo with her uncle and aunt to finish her senior year, but they wouldn't have their family separated, not even for a school year.
They walked in the Jacobs' apartment, Sarah flipping on the lights as they did. It was about noon on Tuesday, so both her parents were at work, and Les at school, so the apartment was dark and quiet.
Neither said anything for a moment as Sarah moved around the familiar space, it seemed too close, too quiet for the two of them, pressed into the dark.
Spot stood with his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans, near the door but not touching anything, taking in the small apartment. Sarah could feel his eyes sweep over everything and she felt stupidly self-conscious. It was small, and even if Sarah hadn't wanted to move here, it was the closest thing that felt like home.
"Do you want coffee?" She called from the kitchen, pouring in the water.
"Shouldn't we get going?" Sarah could hear his voice travel nearer as he strode across the worn floorboards to lean in the doorway. Sarah shrugged.
"Have you looked how long of a drive it is? I don't want to get tired," She explained. Spot nodded.
"Yeah okay, coffee's good," He answered quietly, his eyes still searching the kitchen.
"You're welcome," Sarah muttered under her breath but if he heard her, he didn't let on. This was going to be a long trip.
Coffee had and keys retrieved they trekked out to the apartment's garage complex and pulled up the old door to their unit. They had to shove it up together to make the creaking wheels turn and they were out of breath by the end.
Sarah pulled down an old sheet that covered the car and Spot let out a low whistle when the old little SUV was revealed. She couldn't tell if he was being condescending or not.
"It still runs, my parents took good care of it," She said, yanking open the hinged back door and throwing her bag inside.
"This thing is ancient, are you sure?" He asked, doing the same and climbing into the passenger seat. Sarah was half surprised he didn't demand to drive, that just seemed like the kind of person he was, but she wasn't going to bring it up.
"It's only from the 90's, it's not that old, it's like the same age as us,"
"I'm pretty sure you're older than me."
"By a year, which makes me all the wiser, clearly."
Spot rolled his eyes in response but shut the door which a thunk that shook the car a little. It was silent as Sarah pulled out and navigated the snowy, congested, New York streets. The radio played the weather in the background but neither spoke until they got out of the city. Spot was busy looking out the window, his fingers pulling at the threads of his jeans. There was something on his mind, his eyes glared at some non-existent bother out the window. Sarah was about to chalk it up to worry about Racetrack when he spoke.
"Do you and Race…" Spot trailed off, his voice breaking the silence like a snap.
"Are you hooking up with him?" He asked, his voice cold. Sarah swiveled her head so fast to glare at him that her neck hurt.
"What? Of course not, I didn't even know his real name until this morning," She fired back.
"Well what am I supposed to think? Why wouldn't his family or Jack be the one he calls? You have to be sleeping with him."
Sarah's nostrils flared.
"Listen, I barely know Race, I agree I shouldn't be here, but I am, and I'm determined to see it through. I tried to get David to come with me, but he couldn't miss anymore school, and by the way, you're welcome for even letting you come with me!"
"I could have found my own way just fine!" He shot back, his arms crossed again, but he was leaning towards her, almost egging her on.
"Well you didn't. But we've got to get to Missouri so we're going to have to live with each other." Sarah finally spat back.
Sarah and Spot were always like this, oil and water. They couldn't get along for anything it seemed and even though Sarah's disposition was naturally sweet, there was something about that them clashed. It had been this way since they met, the summer before Sarah started college. They were at a party at one of Jack's friend's farmhouse outside the city. It was the start of summer and everyone was happy to be done with classes, and in Sarah's case, done with high school. While there were a few of her friends there, Sarah had gone with Jack as his date. She had heard Jack and David both talk about Spot before, but the first time she saw him was across the campfire that night. He was standing next to Race, laughing at something he said, his head tipped back, and his eyes screwed shut. She instantly felt drawn to him; in a way she didn't like. It was as if every time she glanced at him, he looked at her too. She held tighter to Jack's hand, pushing the thoughts out of her head.
Sarah didn't know what it was about that night. She didn't know if she could tell that Jack was spending too much time with David, or if she was worried about finding a job for the summer or what, but that night everyone learned that when you put Sarah Jacobs and Spot Conlon in the same room, things explode. It had started out so well. She had felt drawn to him, instantly wanted to be his friend, so when they both found themselves at the drink table, she turned to him with a smile.
"Hey, I'm Sarah, they call you Spot, right" She asked, just bold enough to use their stupid nicknames. But up close she could tell why it had been chosen, his skin was flecked with dozens, if not hundreds of freckles. Little pale red ones that made her surprised he wasn't a redhead.
"Yeah, or you know, Alex, my name," he said with a chuckle that lit up his face.
"Alex. Got it." She said, smiling back.
"So, you're Jack's girl, right?" He said while pouring himself a new drink. Her eyes darkened.
"Well, I'm dating him, but I wouldn't use that as my descriptor," she said, turning away from him to pour her own drink.
"Okay so what's your descriptor then?" He asked, giving her a once over she suddenly didn't like.
"That's a really weird question to ask someone you just met. What's your descriptor, if you're so keen on them?" She asked, her brows furrowed. He chuckled to himself, raising his drink to his lips to take a sip, smirking all the time, as if it was a private joke.
Sarah rolled her eyes. He was drunk and annoying. She turned and walked away without another word. Some of Jack's friends were so obnoxious. But, she reminded herself, they were a whole year younger than her.
Sarah had been talking to her friend about starting college, they were going to be roommates. Jack was off somewhere with David, and she still kept catching Alex's eye. She hadn't meant to, in fact she had immediately told her friend Jen about it, and they laughed at his stupidity but now they kept locking eyes again.
"Why does Spot Conlon keep staring at you?" Jen asked, thankfully omitting the obvious fact that Sarah was staring right back.
"I think I hurt his pride by walking away from him earlier, he'll get over it," she muttered, turning her back completely to him.
"Spot? Get over wounded pride? That'll be the day," Jen answered, sipping her drink.
The later the night got, the worse it seemed. Jack and David had only been talking to each other and Sarah was feeling forgotten. She sat by the fire, in a bubble that the rest of the party couldn't seem to touch. She hated feeling jilted, but she gave into the feeling the later it got.
"Hey, princess, need rescuing?" Sarah spun her head to see Alex sauntering over to her. His eyes shone even in the low light and Sarah looked away quickly.
"What's with you and royalty? Feeling self-important?" She didn't even know what made her say it, but it was out now. His smirk faded.
"Sorry for trying to be nice."
"That was you being nice? I'd love to see you try to be condescending then." It was like her mouth was on fire and she didn't know where the words were coming from. He kept adding fuel to her flame.
"Damn, I see why Jacky-boy doesn't want anything to do with you tonight," he shot back, his eyes narrowing at her. Her face colored scarlet.
"I don't know why David said you were nice, he normally has better taste than this," she said, returning his once over from earlier. He watched her eyes rake over him in judgement and looked over his shoulder to where Jack stood, leaning down and whispering something in David's ear, his hand on his shoulder.
"Clearly, neither of the Jacobs' have very good taste, or any self-preservation," he said, and it was nearly a whisper, but it struck the chord it meant to, and she could see the satisfaction in his eyes.
"Go to Hell, Conlon," she spat, standing and dumping her drink on him before stalking back to the car, the once loud party now dead quiet around her.
Spot kept checking his phone. Incessantly. He wasn't scrolling through social media, or looking at anything particular, but every few minutes he would stop whatever he was doing and check. His phone never left his hand. Sarah thought about telling him to cut it out. It would be what he would do, if the roles were reversed. But like clockwork he checked again, and she softened a little towards him without meaning to. He was worried about Racetrack. He was making sure he didn't miss any news. Sarah turned her eyes back to the road and thought.
"How did you and Race get so close?" She asked a while later, after stewing about whether to say anything. It had been quiet, the radio a soft hum in the background, and they were without cell service. Spot may even have been falling asleep because he jerked and repositioned himself when she asked.
"Uh, we grew up together," he answered, clearing his throat. Sarah liked taking him off guard, she actually got an honest answer.
"I thought you went to different schools?" She knew that Race had gone to the same high school that her and David had, that's how he had known Jack and his friends. Spot nodded.
"Yeah, but his cousins live in the same building I grew up in, so he was around most weekends. We were the only kids our age, so we played together. My older sister dated one of his cousins for a while," he answered, and Sarah paused for a minute, it was the most open she had ever head him talk. She learned more about him in that one breath then she ever had before.
"We're more like brothers, than friends," Spot said after Sarah hadn't answered for a minute. She looked at him and he was already looking at her. His blue eyes seemed soft, but she tore her brown ones away and back to the road.
"I'm sorry this all happened, I'm sure he'll be okay," she said. She saw him nod out of the corner of her eye, but he didn't reply.
"Why'd you move?" Spot asked, a few miles after he had let the conversation drop. She glanced at him, but he was folded in on himself, looking out the window. It was as if he hadn't even spoken.
"It was weird actually. We lived in the house my dad grew up in, because he was taking care of my grandmother. She died my Junior year and despite the fact my dad had taken care of her until the last day, she left my uncle the house, instead of my dad. We moved to the city so my parents could find work. It was too painful for my dad to stay there," she explained.
"Damn, that's messed up. Your uncle seriously did that?" He asked, a venom in his voice she hadn't expected.
"Yeah, it was kind of a big mess. But, in the end, I'm happier we moved than I thought I would be," she admitted, realizing for the first time how true it was.
"Yeah, otherwise I'd have to find a different ride to Missouri," he joked, and Sarah cracked a smile, it almost, almost felt like an apology.