Thrasher told me to get to know the kid. That was the start of my plan. I called him up on his cell phone.
"Hello?"
"Hey, Luke, it's Phil."
"Oh hey, Phil!"
"Yeah… Listen, coach said we oughta get to know each other. Want to go for a run? I know this park right over by – "
"Sure! Where?"
I told him where the park was and said to meet up with me at 4 on Saturday. After school on Friday, instead of going straight home, I drove over to the park and took a look around, planning out a five mile course around it. Just a nice easy run. It was all going to work.
He showed up right at the entrance of the park, right where I told him, driving this ancient Honda. When he got out, he was still wearing his glasses. I told him take 'em off, we were just running and it's a bad idea to run with your glasses on.
"I can't see if I take them off though," he told me.
" 'S okay, we're just running on the trail."
So he left his glasses in the car. It was all part of my plan. Everything I said was scripted thought out ahead of time. I knew exactly what was happening.
We started running and, like usual, I found myself just a little, little slower than him. It made me madder. This last run I took with him, I wanted him to be the one breaking up his sentences to catch breaths. For a change. The sun was warm but not hot, the air was still but not stagnant, like all the extremes were waiting for me to make my move. It wasn't myself I was waiting for, though.
The alarm on my cell phone went off. It wasn't the running that was speeding up my heart rate, I can tell you. I had no idea if my plan was gonna work. I pulled the phone out of my pocket and pushed a few random buttons.
"Oh, shoot!" I said. "I forgot, I'm supposed to be at work at five! Sorry, Luke. C'mon, I know a shortcut back to the parking lot."
He was, of course, very understanding of my mistake.
By this time, I was about ready to throw up.
The shortcut from where we were back to the parking lot took us down this narrow trail that was only wide enough for one person. So he couldn't see my face. I could hear his feet landing on the gravel and leaves, slow, easy, long strides that ended exactly when mine did. Ended because the trail ended at the edge of a cliff that looked down into a shallow, rocky creek running quietly about twenty feet below.
I was telling myself it was to preserve the team, that I was just doing it to save Antara and to save my place as captain and first place. This kid was ruining my life.
No. No, I didn't shove him off the cliff, if that's what you're thinking.
"Phil, how exactly is this a shortcut?"
"Aw, it's okay, there's this log stretched across a little way up, see?"
We walked downstream to the log I was talking about. Ever walked across a log like that before? You gotta step careful and watch where you're going or else you slip off. In other words, you gotta be able to see. You gotta have your glasses.
I think Luke might've protested against my route, but I guess he figured I knew what I was doing and I had to get to work fast. Oh, yeah, I knew what I was doing. It was him who was the clueless one, even when he caught onto my shoulder to keep from falling.
Do you have this one little second in your life where you remember every single thing that happens, from the way the birds were wailing to every word that you used to think out what was happening? I remember the way the shadows fell across his face when I turned around and shoved his hand off my shoulder. I remember how everything seemed to stop entirely, hold its breath, and be totally silent. One of his feet slipped, and the shoelaces trembled as his arms flailed. And I just stood there. Watched as gravity got the better of him.
You gotta believe me though, I didn't want to kill him! I didn't! I wanted him to break his leg or something, because a broken leg is plenty to keep you from running for the rest of the season, which was all I wanted! I could've scared him off Antara. Please believe me, Officer, I didn't mean to kill Luke Nakamura.
He fell and he fell and my tongue inflated up to ten times its size as he fell. And then he hit the water, the rocks. On his head. Screaming. I stood there and watched my hands shake. You know I thought about jumping off that log, too? Because all I could think was, Dude. I killed him, I killed him.
I climbed down the cliff the creek-bank and waded into the water, expensive running shoes and all. The water reached up to the middle of my shins, and barely covered Luke's head. His face was down in the rocks. I didn't want to touch him, roll him over to see if maybe he was still alive, even though it was obvious he didn't survive that. I mean, come on dude, the kid was dead! The only dead things I've ever touched are my little sister's dead hamster and the bugs my mom makes me squish for her. But not people. People aren't s'posed to be dead. I started shaking. Luke was dead, actually dead.
Some lady showed up at the top of the cliff.
"I heard someone scream!" she yelled anxiously at me. "Everything okay?"
Stupid, idiot lady. I don't see people jumping into rocky creeks headfirst for fun very often, do you? I don't know why, but I couldn't talk, like someone had shoved a whole jar of peanut-butter into my mouth.
"I said, is everything okay?"
I shook my head slowly, stiffly.
"What happened?"
I swallowed some of the peanut-butter that wasn't there. "He… fell off."
The lady screamed and yelled something about calling 911, and soon there was a whole crowd of the pigeon-feeding park freaks standing around at the top of the cliff rattling on about nothing and wondering what was going on.
And as if killing Luke wasn't crazy enough, his parents were so nice. They though I was his friend. And worse, he thought I was his friend. His parents told me it wasn't my fault he fell, that I shouldn't go blaming myself for it. They wouldn't've gone suspecting me for it if I had pulled a gun out and told them it was me. Said it wasn't my fault…
Boy, were they dense.
On Monday, I showed up to school. In math, there was an empty seat next to Antara, but no one said anything about it, and I just stared at it all through class. In cross country, I was back up at the front and letting the other guys catch up to me instead of trying to catch up to Luke. It was all so eerily normal. No one said a word about Luke. Neither did I.
I made it to his funeral. Not many other people did, though. It was at this church I pass sometimes on the way to school, and I sat in the way back where I figured maybe his parents wouldn't see me. But they did. Told me they were so glad I was there and they were so sorry about what happened. I couldn't believe it. They were the ones whose son had actually died, and they were apologizing to me, the one who killed him? 'Course, they didn't know it, but… I did, and it felt wrong. Like, I totally don't deserve this.
I had to leave in the middle of the service. I knew that if they knew what I had done, they'd hate me forever.
And also, I didn't tell anyone about it. Not my parents, not Antara, not anyone.
So… what now? You gonna arrest me? Do I get a phone call? I wanna call Antara.