Twelve hours, twenty-three minutes, three seconds
Another sleepless night—but it could've been attributed to anything other than the strenuous bike ride I was facing in a handful of hours. Work was hard, college was harder, and I was tearing at the seams. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. The same cycle every day.
It was a late night recounting of my past sins and mistakes; just my subconscious torturing me to insomnia. I stared up at the ceiling, glasses on, into the murky blackness. That time I called a girl in my 3rd grade class fat and was suspended from school for a week. The time I hunched over in a hospital waiting room, clammy hands in my curly hair, wondering if my father was dying as restitution for being a notorious bully in my younger years.
I was always a mean little girl. No excuse, either. My parents were good, honest, hardworking people, which was the perfect recipe to make an insufferable brat. It could've been my three older brothers but they mostly helped keep me in line. They were always good kids.
Eight hours, fifty-nine minutes, thirty seconds
"Are you sure you wanna go, Nora? You look fucking exhausted."
Eight AM and I was on the trail to go biking with one of my ex-victims, Jane. She was the girl I'd called fat in the third grade—but she wasn't a black hole of misery like I was and asked me to be her friend. I'd been floored. I could remember gawking at her for a solid five minutes before laughing, and she didn't flinch. We were inseparable ever since. She saw right through me.
I shrugged and buckled my helmet. "I can sleep when I'm dead. You have the map for this place? I want to know how to get out if a scorpion stings me."
Jane patted her breast pocket. She was shorter than me and heavier set and men flocked to her like moths to a flame. Blonde hair, blue eyes, quick as a whip and absolutely no-nonsense. We kept in shape together: bike rides, yoga, swimming, and whatever else.
"You've lived in Arizona for almost your entire life," Jane scoffed. "There's scorpions everywhere."
I laughed as I got on my bike, shaking my head. Something about how she talked really tickled me. She was so sweet that anything remotely derogatory didn't sound right coming out of her mouth.
Three hours, forty-eight minutes, fifty-one seconds
Jane and I stopped to have a lunch break and drink as much water as possible. Both of us were covered in sweat and I was about ready for a nap but she was still raring to go. I laid back to look up at the wide, clear blue sky, and closed my eyes. It was a gorgeous day. Almost made me forget about work and going to school.
"You'll be done soon," Jane said, reading my mind as always.
She'd graduated a year before me due to my screwing around in classes. Now she was working for a big video game company designing games and I was still a supervisor at a drug store. I rubbed my nose and nodded stiffly, holding back embarrassed tears.
"Yeah," I said, "soon enough. You got any more granola?"
One hour, thirteen minutes, twenty-one seconds
We caved and stopped at a diner along the road to grab lunch. We'd both biked all the way from our apartments about three miles away. It wasn't the worst trip in the world but I'd be feeling it at work the next day. I cringed thinking of the soreness radiating up my calves.
The air conditioning was a welcome relief from the blazing heat outside. Our waiter gave us sympathetic looks as he dropped off our lunches—two fettuccine alfredos—and took away my second glass of water to get another. I excitedly dug in while Jane cut hers up like a normal person.
"Your mom called me," she said. "Wanted to know how you're doing."
"I'm alive. So I guess... pretty good."
Jane rolled her eyes. "Come on, Nora; I'm not being the mediator between you and Diane. Your dad got sick of doing it and passed it off on me. Just call her. Talk for ten minutes."
"You're ridiculous." Jane threw down her fork and knife and crossed her arms, tears welling up in her eyes. "Not all of us can just call our parents up to talk. You should be grateful they're still around."
Unfortunately, Jane was a terrific guilt-tripper. I swallowed my latest mouthful of pasta and looked away from my friend down at my plate.
"Fine," I muttered, "I'll call her tomorrow."
Ten minutes, six seconds
It was getting dark when we rode home. Thunder rumbled overhead.
Jane was a couple feet in front of me, casually winding her bike back and forth. Misery was setting in for me. I knew the insanity I would have to face at work and school the next day.
She glanced over her shoulder and grinned. "Slowing down, bike champ?"
"You wore me out again." I couldn't smile all the way.
Her bike slowed to a stop and she raised an eyebrow.
"What's going on with you lately?" she asked. "You're so sad and tired all the time."
Rain pattered on us and quickly drenched my glasses. It was getting darker and I couldn't wait to go home and crawl into bed. Impatient, I shrugged Jane off.
"I don't know," I lied. "Let's get going."
Jane refused to move. Her blue eyes softened, getting sympathetic.
"It's going to be hard for a while," she said. "I know you can do it, Nora. Don't let it get you down and don't compare yourself to other people."
"I'm 24 and I'm not going anywhere," I snapped. "Should I be sunshiney about it? I'm sorry I can't bask in my shitty circumstances like you can."
Six minutes, six seconds
Jane turned her bike in the wet dirt towards mine. The rain was coming down in sheets, which was odd for the time of year. My pulse quickened as I felt the familiar rush of adrenaline anger gave me.
"Why won't you let anyone help you?" she demanded. "You're so wrapped up in bathing in misery that you don't even try to be happy! Why don't you learn how to be positive for once instead of moping around like you have an excuse for it?"
"Go fuck yourself!"
Lights came over the horizon. I was being called.
"Stop running away!" Jane shouted.
I was pedaling away, swerving into the road, and she was right behind me. Jane didn't let me get away from her without a fight. The rain helped conceal my tears.
"Get back here, Nora!"
We were both too angry to look back. Water sloshed around my tires and I pedaled on without a second thought, not thinking about danger.
"NORA! I'M TALKING TO—"
The car came out of the night like a predator. Nothing preceded it other than the headlights. The engine didn't roar, the tires didn't squeal. It had every intention to kill us.
And it did. In a couple seconds it had crushed both Jane and me under the tires and into the wet, dirty ground, and I heard our bones snapping and organs bursting. We were flattened like animals. I died before I could even register that I had been hit by a car.