Part 1 – The Storm

She smiled as he kissed her again. Her hands found their way around his neck, and his hands were already clutched just below her waist. Most of the rest of the cast had gone home already, and the ones that were still there wouldn't bother to come into the old storage room. Suddenly he seized her waist with his fingertips and she broke off the kiss with a half-scandalized, half-delighted shriek. He held onto her, and they spiraled down to the floor, ending up with her half in his lap.

"I'm ticklish," she chided him.

"I know."

"You did awesome tonight," she told him, reaching for his hand.

"You did too," he said. "That third act monologue – amazing."

"Well, you saved Jace and Delia's butts during your bus stop scene," she replied. "I can't believe he didn't memorize that scene."

"You know Jace," he said. "I think he read the play for the first time yesterday."

She nodded, suddenly tired, and laid her head against his chest. He stroked her hair with the hand that was not entwined in hers. She shivered, almost imperceptibly. Then, softer than soft, she whispered, "Nolan?"


"I don't know if this is weird or anything, and if it is, you can totally ignore it or whatever—" Her voice cracked. "I – I love you."

She had said it. After three months, it was finally there. After a moment of silence, when she was sure that she had just made the biggest mistake ever, he whispered back, "I love you too, Carol."

Her body relaxed completely again as she let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. He leaned over and kissed her again, and she didn't break it off until her cell phone rang from inside her pocket.

"Hello?" she answered. "Oh, hey, Mom. Thanks. Yeah, I'll tell him you thought he did good too." Her eyes turned to Nolan. "Yeah, we're just putting some stuff in place before tomorrow night's performance. Yeah, Nolan's gonna bring me home. It might take a while, there's still a lot to do around here. Yeah, I know, but it has to be done. Okay. Okay. Love you, too. Bye, Mom."

She clicked her phone off and stowed it away again. He pulled her into him again, closing his mouth around hers, but as soon as her fingers began to slide up his shirt, he backed away. "Maybe I better get you home," he said.


"You have to get up early tomorrow. SATs, and all. And you'll be out late tomorrow for cleanup again. Wouldn't want you to fall asleep on your feet."

"I guess you're right," she admitted wearily, yawning. "Let's go."

They climbed to their feet, and she took his hand. As they walked out, he whispered, "Good luck tomorrow."

"Thanks," she said. "I think I'm going to need it."

When her alarm clock went off at 7:00 am, Carol slapped the snooze button with a set of fumbling knuckles. When it went off again at 7:06, she slapped it again. It wasn't until 7:12 that she finally climbed out of bed, flipping her dyed red hair outward as she padded to the bathroom, yawning. It took her a good fifteen minutes to brush her teeth, do her makeup, brush her hair, and throw on clothes. She stuffed a couple of shoddily sharpened number two pencils into her purse, grabbed her calculator, and headed out the door.

Her old gray Chevy took a couple of tries to rev up the ignition. While she accomplished this feat, a single raindrop splattered on her windshield. "Damn," she muttered under her breath, putting the gear into reverse.

Ten minutes later, Carol's gray Chevy pulled into Delia Ambrose's driveway through a heavy curtain of rain and wind. Delia didn't notice until a loud honk tore her away from her SAT prep book. She stole out the door, careful not to disturb her parents, who thought any time before one on a Saturday afternoon was to be considered the dead of night. Delia managed to make it to the car without an umbrella and sat inside for a second, wringing her shirt out on the upholstery.

"My mom's going to kill me for letting you ride wet in this car," Carol observed with a yawn. "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be," Delia replied.

They peeled out of the Ambroses' driveway through the pelting rain. A flash of lightning split the sky in two, followed by a deafening clap of thunder. Carol winced. Five seconds later, however, the two had a bigger problem to worry about. It sounded like the rain had turned to hammers.

"Hail," Carol and Delia said simultaneously.

The rain got harder, and Carol drove through it as hailstones mercilessly pounded on the car's roof and hood. "Mom is really not going to like this," she observed from behind gritted teeth.

"Carol?" Delia's voice suddenly rose to a hysterical pitch above the storm. "Carol, I can't see through the windshield!"

Carol was not about to admit that she couldn't either. "Calm down, Dee," she shouted to make herself heard. "We're almost there. Don't you see the sign?"

In actuality, she couldn't see the sign, but she thought that they were about even with where the sign should be. Ignoring a whimper from Delia, she threw the blinker on and spun the wheel to the left, hoping to hit some sort of driveway.

Instead, she felt a jolt to her right side, and then—


One teenager was severely injured in an accident early yesterday morning.

Carol Newman, 16, and Delia Ambrose, 17, were on their way to take their SAT test at the Local Testing Center in the hailstorm when Newman, who was driving at the time, made a premature turn and was broadsided by an oncoming car.

Luckily, rain cleared soon thereafter and cars were able to avoid the accident. The driver of the other car, Marshall Doke, 47, and Ambrose, who was in the passenger's seat, walked away from the accident relatively unscathed. Newman, however, is currently in a coma following severe head trauma and bodily injury.

"She just swerved into traffic," said Doke. "Barely used her blinker. And I didn't see it until it was too late, what with the storm and all. We're lucky none of the rest of us got hurt."

Ambrose and Newman's parents were unavailable for comment.

Carol Newman is a junior at Creston High School, where she is a part of the Spanish Club and the Drama Society.