Author: Red Rose Black Ink PM
He hadn't actually been driving drunk. Hadn't actually crashed the car. True, she was in an ambulance, but when the monitor started to flatline she wasn't actually dying. She tried to handle it professionally, but she knew it was much closer to reality than it may have seemed.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Friendship - Chapters: 5 - Words: 13,823 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 02-13-13 - Published: 01-20-13 - id: 3093761
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
With the assembly not until the end of the school day, the next morning was free for everyone at the retreat to hang out and have more fun. Amber woke up at eight-thirty and tried for the longest time to convince herself to get up, but she couldn't think of anything she felt like doing. Suddenly it was eleven-fifteen and she crawled out of bed.
After lunch there was a rush of getting dressed- black for the other girls, who were 'walking dead''; the ripped and bloody car wreck clothes for Amber- hair done, a quick roll-call, and on the bus to go back to school. There, over thirty students poured into the gym, quickly clumping into smaller groups, talking in low voices.
Jack wasn't there, of course.
Before Amber could find a group to stand with, Officer Farrow made an announcement asking the 'walking dead' to please help each other out with their white-face-black-eyes makeup, since the makeup artists would barely have time to work on the car crash victims. Speaking of which, the car crash victims should be getting their makeup done right now.
Amber volunteered to go first. She sat down in the waiting chair, and for the second time in two days was slowly turned into a bruised and bloody mess. It wasn't quite as bad this time, for one thing she didn't have the bone poking out of her arm, but she had a feeling the impact on the rest of the school would be just as strong.
Since she was done first, she was left to wander around the gym. Sure enough, even the other kids here were giving her some shocked looks. They hadn't seen the makeup up close.
At about center court she ducked into a small group, but only about halfway because she didn't want to interrupt the conversation.
The guy who was talking- she didn't remember his name, he was a senior- broke off in the middle of a sentence. "Wow, you look awesome," he said. That hint of dread that had been in the voices of the six victims the day before wasn't in his. He hadn't been through quite as much.
Amber didn't feel right saying "thank you". She didn't say anything.
"What was it like?" asked a tall blonde named Maura. "Are you allowed to tell us? Were you one of the ones that died?"
"Yeah," said Amber. "I was. I died in the ambulance before we got to the hospital."
More questions came, and she did her best to answer them without coming undone and messing up her face.
A voice called for the victims to start lining up outside the auditorium doors. Those who were actually in the car crash in the back, please. Riley and Christian here. Would the dead, Amber and Haley and Lindsey, walk at the very back, in a semi-circle around the back of the casket.
They took their places. A couple of men in suits stood on either side of the casket, ready to wheel it in. What they were waiting for, Amber wasn't sure, since it seemed like everything was ready.
Suddenly someone threw his arms around her from behind and held her close.
"Hey, you okay?"
"Jack?" she whispered.
"Yeah." He let go and came to stand beside her. "They told me you were having kind of a rough time last night. You all right?"
"You-" She grabbed at his arms, and he held them up in front of him, noticing the light smears of blood at the same time she did. "-shouldn't have done that," she finished.
"You needed it," said Jack calmly. He didn't make any effort to wipe it off. "So, are you okay now?"
She wondered how much they had told him. Had they told him specifically to come over and talk to her? Were they hoping that now she was going to tell him, with all her newfound experience and whatever, that he needed to be careful not to...
He slapped her face lightly, getting more blood on his hand. "Come on, say something. Are you in shock? Do I need to go get one of the paramedics?" Even as he joked, there was that serious tone in his voice that she had heard more in the last couple of days than ever before.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she said, waving him away so he wouldn't mess himself up further. "It just all came crashing down on me last night, and I got broken up and sobbed for awhile. I'm fine now."
"Now that she's seen your lovely face," said Lindsey beside her. Lindsey had been listening? Oh, crap. What all had she said?
"Makes everything better," said Jack, mugging a goofy grin. He clapped Amber on the shoulder and moved to stand behind her, at the very end of the procession. A moment later, the line started forward.
Dramatic music filled the auditorium. The lights dimmed. Someone in the crowd got that first telepathic signal that something was going on behind them and turned to look, and the movement spread to the rest of the audience. The other thousand or so faces in the school watched as twenty-nine walked slowly down the aisle, a casket gliding silently with them. The casket was placed front and center below the stage as the dead and wounded filled in the empty front rows. As instructed, they all sat down at once, and the lights went all the way out.
The sound of a door slamming echoed through the room, and the screen onstage lit up, showing Jack in the backseat of a police car. For the rest of the scene the shot alternated between him and a police officer glaring at him in the rearview mirror.
"Are they gonna be okay?" Jack asked.
"I can't say for sure at the moment, but no, I don't think so."
Jack winced at that. "How bad is it?"
"I would say very bad. We'll know more later. You'll probably want to pray that it's not as bad as it looked, for your own sake if nothing else."
"Those are my friends back there! Of course I want them to be okay!"
The officer cast Jack a rather unimpressed look and then looked back at the road without speaking.
"Look, I care what happened to them! If you know anything, would you please tell me?!"
"At the moment I'd say you know far more about it than I do."
Jack didn't answer for a minute. He flexed his shoulders as if the handcuffs were getting to him, clenched his teeth, and aimed an unreadable look at the ceiling.
The officer remained silent.
Finally, Jack muttered, "I wasn't thinking."
"That I don't believe. You were thinking something. The question is, what were you thinking?"
Fade to black. Amber glanced at Jack out of the corner of her eye. He was sitting very straight, hands folded neatly in his lap, watching.
The music picked up, the beat of Born This Way pounding. Fade in to a shot of the school, then shots of the hallways and the students walking down them, some classes, the lunchroom. In between there were the six car crash victims, first their school pictures from the past years and then pictures of them from whatever activities they were part of- lots of Jack and Lindsey and Haley, Riley with Mock Trial and Model United Nations and Academic Games, Christian with the football team and helping out at various fundraisers and charity things that they did. Amber showed up the least, of course.
Meanwhile, with the picture occasionally cutting back to each of them sitting in their chosen spot during the interview, their voices spoke. Lindsey and Haley mostly described in terms of each other, Lindsey being the outgoing one and Haley the quieter, slightly more genuine one, and a slight cringe in Riley's voice as he said they were practically attached at the hip. Everyone, including Riley himself, talking about how academic but laid-back he was. Everyone, including Christian himself, talking about what a nice guy and great football player and awesome spokesman he was.
Amber hadn't expected anyone to have much to say about her, since she barely knew most of them, so she had to smile a little when they all made a big deal of how nice she was. At the same time, it hurt a little that the only thing they could think of to say was that she was nice.
Jack was the last one to talk about her. His smile as he said, "That girl is the greatest," got a full smile out of her, which widened when she realized that in person Jack was watching for her reaction.
"I'm going on record right now, you're gonna turn around someday and her name is going to be everywhere..." Jack on the screen continued.
"For what?" Amber whispered, leaning closer to him.
"I don't know. But it is."
"If it hasn't come true in twenty years, I will personally pay you fifty bucks."
The picture changed to a smiling shot of Amber, sitting casually cross-legged on the floor of the teachers' lounge. "Jack-" she said, and then, "He's practically too good to exist."
Christian: "Jack Robbins is a classy guy."
A shot of Jack making a 'thinker' pose on a stool and then hopping up and doing some rapper moves and grinning.
Haley: "I can tell you he totally deserves to be called the awesome guy that everyone says he is."
Jack standing at the top of the stairs, for some reason doing a 'king of the world' pose.
Lindsey: "Everyone likes him. I have never met anybody in this school who doesn't."
Back to Jack sitting on the stool. "I am, basically, the greatest person to have graced this planet with my presence. Thank you and goodbye."
"You did not," said Lindsey, on Jack's other side, slapping him on the leg.
As a bunch of yearbook pictures of Jack popped up, Christian's voice spoke again, "...the craziest guy I have ever met, and also- I don't mean that in a bad way, I'm telling you, that's a compliment!"
There was a lot of laughter at that, but it died down as Amber, Riley and Christian all talked about how nice Jack was. Probably half the auditorium was nodding.
Sometime in Jack's next speech the music segued into Good Life, much more serious-sounding, in line with what he was saying. "I want people to think of me as a nice guy, as a friend. Even if they never really know me, I want them to remember me as that guy who did something nice one time. I don't want them to remember me as a guy who did something to make them upset, or who ruined their day, and that's how they remember me."
Dramatic fade to Jack sitting in class. Bell ringing, and everyone getting up and rushing out into the hallway. Christian running into Jack and gripping hands with him. "Em's house tonight! You in?"
"Definitely! Hey," lowering his voice, "will there be, uh...?"
"What are you talking about?" Christian asked, but meanwhile he gave Jack a very pointed look with a little smirk.
"All right!" Jack took off into almost a run down the hall, stopping at Amber's locker. He popped out from behind the door with a grin. "Aaaand how was your day?"
She smiled, and continued pulling books off the shelves. "Hey, gotta ask you something."
"Chorus is having this party tonight, it goes until like ten-thirty, and I'm not allowed to have the car. Could you maybe come get me?"
She, kneeling on the ground tucking stuff into her backpack, threw him a dubious look. "'No' that fast means yes, doesn't it?"
She stood up and swung the backpack like she was going to hit him with it. "Would you please just say you will so I can stop worrying you actually mean you won't?"
"You know I will." He swept her hoodie out of the locker towards her. "Don't miss your bus."
She grabbed it and ran, calling back over her shoulder, "Then you could drive me now too!"
As the rest of the school scenes played out on the screen, with Jack talking to Riley about the party, telling him that he'd definitely be there but he might have to skip out for awhile to pick up Amber and get her home, and Haley and Lindsey had their very innocent scenes, with Haley talking to a teacher and then the two of them talking as they headed downstairs and out the main entrance, Jack-in-person poked Amber's leg. "Famous actress?"
"I think not."
The music slowly faded into Give Me Everything, and for the next few minutes the video switched back and forth between the parallel action of Lindsey and Haley hanging out at someone's house watching a movie, Amber and the chorus doing karaoke and joking around, and the party at Emily's starting and then getting wilder and wilder. Chorus ended, and Amber was sitting outside on the steps, texting Jack and asking where he was, someone asking if she needed a ride, her telling them no, she had one, he was just a little late she guessed.
Jack bouncing on a couch while everyone cheered him on, then attempting to jump off into Riley's arms and crashing to the floor. Laughter and applause from the cluster of kids surrounding them. Christian came over, gave him a back-slapping hug and offered his bottle, and Jack finished it off in one swig and held it high to more applause.
Amber checking the time on her phone, and finally starting a message to Lindsey asking if she would do her a huge favor and come pick her up.
Lindsey showing Haley, and the two of them getting up, calling goodbye to whichever's parents, and climbing into Lindsey's car.
Jack checking his phone, finding Amber's text, yelling at everyone that he had to go but he'd be back, don't drink it all meanwhile!
Riley saying maybe he should go, so Jack could stay, did he really want to drive right now? No, Amber doesn't really know you, it's fine. Riley asking, can I at least come with you then? Sure, let's go.
Christian catching up to them at the door. Hey, man, why you leaving so early? Hassling the two of them a little and being invited along. The three of them spilling out the door, almost getting into the wrong car by accident, laughing and finding the right car and starting to hop in.
"Yo, what are you doing?" Jack yelled over the roof at Christian, who was opening the passenger door. "Amber's gotta sit up front!"
"Oh, and why is that?" asked Riley as he slid into the back, adding a whistle.
"We save the front seats for the ladies!" Christian ran around the car and pulled open the other back door. "Mr. Ladies' Man here, girls, come'n get it!"
"Shut up," said Jack.
"Don't tell his girlfriend!" added Riley, with another whistle.
"I told you to shut up! God." Jack slammed his door and banged the brake off and the car into gear a lot harder than necessary. "At least leave Shawna out of this."
Amber in person sat very very still and had no reaction whatsoever. Wait, Jack was talking to her!
"How'd you like that?" he whispered.
"What?" He wouldn't really ask...
"Riley saving me there. Because I said you had to sit up front. Because I was talking about, you really did have to sit up front. Because that's the way... Oh, never mind." She must have been looking at him with an utterly blank expression because he shook his head and turned away.
"Yeah, that was pretty good," she said quickly. "You'd expect it from Riley though."
He hadn't been pushing her on what she thought of him bringing up Shawna. Of course he hadn't. Not only would he not be that cruel, he didn't even know how cruel that would be.
The scene onscreen alternated between the two cars. Lindsey and Haley rolled down the windows, turned up some music, and got into a gossipy conversation about who was going to what colleges and for what, or not going to which colleges and why. Jack, in his car, was dancing to the music someone had turned up to blaring and trying to ignore Christian, who was still ribbing him about Shawna. Riley had his phone out and every so often jumped in with something people from the party had texted him.
"Girlfriend at Star, I don't know," sang Christian. "Might as well be Canada..."
"Lay off already!"
"Jacky's Catholic schoolgirl..."
Jack whipped around with a vicious look on his face. "Will you shut up your mouth already?"
"Come on, man, I'm just messin' with you."
"Jack-" Riley said, looking vaguely worried.
"You can just lay off it right now, or I'll take care of you later!"
"Jack, watch what you're doing."
"All right, all right," said Christian, sticking up his hands a little mockingly. "Whatever."
"I was joking!"
A flash of red, and Riley barked out, "Oh my God, stop!"
It sounded like the entire school sighed in relief as the car came to a screeching stop just under the traffic light. The huge gusts of wind on the night they had filmed had really worked out for them, Amber noticed. The traffic lights swinging wildly back and forth over the car looked positively eerie.
"Arright," Riley said loudly. "Let's just everybody be cool."
"I'm cool, I'm cool," said Christian.
"Everything is just cool," Jack said tightly as the light turned green.
Cut to Amber on the steps, shivering a little. The car pulled up, music blaring, and she looked twice before she got up and walked hesitantly down the stairs. Riley hopped out of the backseat and swung her door open for her. "The carriage has arrived, madam!" he announced.
Amber, looking a little amused and quite confused, slid into the seat. "Wh-" she started to ask Jack, paused, sniffed and then sniffed again more deeply, and stared at Jack. "You guys've been drinking, haven't you?"
"Don' worry about it, princess," Christian called up. "You're safe with us!"
"J- No." Amber took her seatbelt back off.
"Amber, c'mon," said Jack, taking off the parking brake. "I'm fine."
"Just switch me seats, and I'll drive- No, that doesn't work either."
Jack slammed the car into gear and hit the gas. "Just chill, okay? Everything's fine. I promised to take you home and here I am. Everybody just calm down."
When the video got to that part Amber caught herself leaning forward as she tried to make out Christian's next remark. She couldn't hear it any better than she had in person, and again she thought that maybe she didn't want to.
"Will you drop it already?!" Jack roared in response.
"S'just kidding around, will you-"
"Jack, I don't like this," said Amber on the screen, and Amber in the auditorium found herself clutching the bottom of her seat just as tightly as she had then.
"Tell them to lay off then!"
"No, I mean you need to watch the road!"
"Uh-oh, the lady's getting worried," said Christian.
Jack spun to face him. "I'm getting sired- sa- ska-"
"Look, will you two both-"
"Whoa, you lay off me now, bro!"
The yelling built up, and the music was pounding, and as the rap gave way to the chorus the shot cut to the other car turning into the parking lot, and Amber in voiceover said, "Jack, you can't go this way!" and panic appeared on Lindsey and Haley's faces, and smash, the screen went black, and the only sound in the auditorium for a moment was the song that had been playing, whose last line echoed in the dark: "Bring me back to life..."
Somebody down at the end of the row- Riley or Christian or Haley- let out a long slow breath.
Now there was no music. Jack leaped out of the car screaming and, with a look of utter horror on his face, ran around and pulled at her door, yelling her name. A moment later sirens blared. Ambulances and police cars pulled in. Officer Haine dragged Jack away and started talking to him. Paramedics and police got to work, one team getting Lindsey out onto a stretcher and racing her to an ambulance. Moments later, another team gently removed Amber from her seat and prepared her to move.
Amber's voice whispered, "Jack..." as Jack looked past Officer Haine to lock eyes with her on the stretcher, until she shut her eyes and a paramedic blocked Jack's view.
"Nice!" Jack next to her whispered. Amber tried to smile.
Jack miserably failing his sobriety tests, and looking more and more miserable, was intercut with the paramedics' work on Amber and Lindsey, Haley being pronounced dead and eased into a big green bag, the third team finally managing to extricate Christian, getting him into an ambulance, and first discovering his paralysis- "Can you feel me touching you here?" "I think... No. No. God, no."- and someone else taking charge of Riley and trying to calm him down.
Still looking back at the absolute mess behind him, Jack was handcuffed and 'helped' a bit less than gently into the backseat of the police car. He shifted uncomfortably and lowered his eyes.
Start to fade, cut to ambulance on the words "Pressure is dropping!" The paramedics rushed around, chest compressions, bag over her mouth and squeezing air into her lungs, and finally the grim voice of the woman who was probably the team leader, surprisingly petite with delicate features and deep, tired brown eyes. "I think we've done all we can do. I'm going to call it, time of death... 10:28 pm."
Jack was looking at Amber. She could tell out of the corner of her eye, but she couldn't look back at him.
The car arrived at the police station. Jack was marched inside, fingerprinted, and questioned. In his mug shot he looked totally lost and pathetic. The clang echoed through the room as the cell door shut.
Another door opened. A police officer was standing outside. "Mr. Keiser?"
"I'm here about your daughter Haley."
Confusion registered on Mr. Keiser's face. "Come in," he said, calling for his wife over his shoulder.
Amber heard some sniffles from the other end of the row, even before the news was broken and the parents onscreen started crying. She braced herself for what must be coming next.
Fade to a white-coated man sitting next to her parents. "Mr. and Mrs. De Santis? I'm Dr. Bradshaw."
A tiny nod from her dad. Her mom wordlessly reached over and shook the doctor's hand.
"You know that Amber was in a very serious car accident tonight."
Nods from both.
"I'm sorry to tell you that...when the ambulance arrived here she was already gone."
The deep shuddering gasp was her dad's. Her mom reached for his hand as she leaned back against him. Both tried to say something, both failed.
Dr. Bradshaw gave them a moment and then went on, "I know the team did as much as they could."
More nods. Neither was really looking at him, or anything at all.
"I'm so sorry."
Now Amber's dad started to cry.
Hard cut to a policeman storming down the hall to Jack's cell. "No need to get up," he said curtly as Jack started to rise to his feet. "Just heard from the hospital. Do you realize you killed two people today?"
Jack stared numbly at the officer, who shook his head in disgust and started to walk away. At that Jack jumped to his feet and yelled after him, "Do you know who?"
The officer half-turned. "I know names."
Jack curled his fingers around the bars. "Tell me?"
Five steps back down the hall. Just by standing in front of Jack and looking at him face-to-face, the officer managed to make him look tiny. "Haley Keiser and Amber De Santis."
Other than swallowing hard, Jack didn't move until a long second after the officer had left. His head shook, slowly, then violently, and then he screamed, "No!" He whirled around and started as if to punch the wall, then slammed his fist into his leg instead. "I didn't mean it!"he screamed at the ceiling, grabbing the top of his head with one hand, fingers digging into his scalp. "Don't you get it? I didn't mean it! I was just- Kch- Gih-" He slumped down onto the bench, buried his head in his arms, and was still. His shoulders shook just a little.
Without thinking and stopping herself, Amber set her hand on Jack's arm. "Hey," she whispered. "I'm right here."
"I know," Jack answered, and his voice was totally normal, but when she tried to take her hand away he slid his hand back so it caught hers, and he didn't let go.
Christian's parents reached his bed in the hospital, hugged him and told him everything was going to be okay. It was the calmest and sweetest scene, but near the end there was a pause and Christian asked very quietly, "Hey, mom... What happens if you have a sports scholarship and then you can't play?"
A judge's desk. A courtroom. There were the parents, and just as Christian had warned, they each had old pictures of their children, and not one of them got through their speech without tearing up or raising their voice. All throughout, there were cuts back to Jack, sitting extremely uncomfortably in a baggy jumpsuit, wincing and looking like he was barely keeping himself from coming unglued. Finally the last parents- Amber's own- made it through their comments, and the judge looked down at Jack.
"By all accounts, young man, you're a good student, a good friend, a good son... From everything I've heard, this was one night, and one stupid mistake. Some would say that should lead me to be lenient with you." He paused, but his eyes never left Jack. "But previous behavior does not negate the fact that this was your choice. On that night, you chose to be behind the wheel. You chose to take those five lives into your hands. And it is you, John Vincent Robbins, who are responsible for changing them forever, and for in fact ending three of them." He sighed, and then continued in a firm, official voice. "On count one, vehicular manslaughter, I sentence you to fifteen years in the state prison. On count two, also vehicular manslaughter, fifteen years. On count three, also vehicular manslaughter..." At this point the judge seemed to be verbally shaking his head. "Fifteen years."
Amber put her other hand on top of hers and Jack's that were already joined, and squeezed. He didn't take his eyes off the screen, but before the judge's voice finished speaking he reached his free hand over and laid it on top.
"...count four, driving under the influence, five years. Your total term in the state prison, fifty years."
Jack was told sharply to get up, handcuffed, and led out of the room. Cut to Haley's parents, who were staring, motionless and emotionless, after him; Christian's mom, whose face showed an absolute lack of comprehension; Lindsey's mom, dad and oldest sister, whose expressions were varying shades of darkness; and Amber's parents, who were studying the picture of her smiling at preschool graduation that lay between their laps. Amber's dad looked up once, just as the door slammed shut.
Riley was thumbing through a yearbook (not this year's yearbook, which wasn't out yet, but last year's with a couple of prototype pages magic-taped in). He stopped on the one that said 'RIP' at the top and stared at it as the camera looked over his shoulder. Haley and Lindsey's senior pictures and Amber's yearbook shot smiled back. After a moment Riley rubbed his thumb lightly over Haley's picture, then started to close the book.
"Hey, man," said a voice. Christian was sitting in a wheelchair just inside the doorway.
"Hey, what's up?"
"Just looking for Mrs. Hersch." Long pause. "What about you?"
Riley looked down at the yearbook. "Just thinking."
There was another very long silence.
"Well," said Riley, "guess I'll see you."
"Yeah, see you." Christian slowly wheeled himself out of the room.
Riley shut the yearbook.
In total silence, then, the screen filled with a bunch of tiny tiles. Amber couldn't make out what they were until one of them expanded to fill the center of the screen- Dan Agresti's picture. It held for a moment, and then disappeared, and one by one pictures of the other victims did the same. Amber wouldn't have thought that just twenty-nine pictures missing from close to four hundred would be noticeable, but the black spots amid the color definitely stuck out. When Cassie Wrubleski's picture appeared, Amber assumed that was the end... but no, there was Jack, hanging upside down and smiling like an idiot in that pose he said he was going to use for his senior picture. A moment later the screen showed his mug shot instead. Sound of a heavy metal door slamming. Smash to black.
Somebody took a deep breath, and this time Amber was pretty sure it was Jack.
The screen was pulled away, and a voice- Gabby Whitlatch's stunning voice- starting singing in the dark. Joey, by Sugarland.
Amber knew she should let go of Jack's hand, but he was still holding on and his hand was on top, and she let that be her excuse. She had just started to let herself believe she'd get to hold his hand for the whole song when he took a deep breath, seemed to realize their hands were still piled, and gently took the top one off and slipped the other away. It was right on the line "did you reach for me". Irony was a terrible thing.
She tried to concentrate on the speeches. One of the paramedics spoke, then Officer Haine, then Lindsey's mom, still dressed from court. Amber could not have repeated a thing any of them said. She had heard all of it, but she hadn't really been listening. She was too busy thinking things she shouldn't be thinking.
Lindsey's mom sat down. Jack slid back so he was sitting up straight. "My turn."
"Yeah. Come with me?"
But Jack got to his feet and signaled to her, so she followed him and stood awkwardly next to the podium as he stood behind it and grabbed it with both hands.
"Hey, guys, I'm Jack... You all know me..."
"Hi, Jack!" one of the seniors yelled helpfully.
Jack's automatic smile faded almost instantly. "You guys know how I feel about people taking things too seriously. But this... This is the kind of thing you have to be serious about. I know maybe you guys are thinking of this- if you're being serious about it at all, and I don't know about that- as just this big play we're putting on. Which it felt like, at first. The school scenes and the party just felt like acting. Then we got out there for the car crash today, and I was sitting there in that destroyed car, next to my best friend, and she didn't look like she was breathing..." The breath that Jack took then, leaning on the podium, was caught by the microphone. The whole auditorium could hear how shaky it was.
"It could have been real. Right then, it was real. I went to jail, and they told me I killed Amber and Haley, you saw that, and..." He shook his head. "I just kept thinking how dumb it was. Amber was there. She was totally sober. All I had to do was let go of my stupid pride and let her get in the driver's seat, and none of it would have happened. I was thinking, I would have to know that the rest of my life. I would have to be the only one to know that for the rest of my life, because how would I tell anyone else? Yeah, if I would have listened to my best friend, she'd still be alive today. I promised her we'd be okay, and I...killed her."
He glanced at Amber. She didn't know whether to smile or not.
"I'd be in jail for the best part of my life. Never get to drive again, probably. Probably never graduate. Shawna, my girlfriend... She wouldn't wait for me. I wouldn't want her to."
Neutral expression. You cannot react in front of the whole school.
"So guys... I'm being real here. We're in high school. We shouldn't be drinking anyway."
That was the worst she had ever felt about Jack- when he stood there and said that, totally serious.
"But if you're going to anyway, come on. Don't be stupid and mess up probably your life and possibly someone else's. You don't know what it feels like until it happens to you."
He let that sentence hang, and looked at Amber, and she realized he was reaching for her hand. She slipped hers into his. He pulled it up in front of him as if he was going to put it to his heart- and instead he turned it over, reached his other hand into his pocket, pulled out his keys, and pressed them into her hand.