August 17, 1999

Sadie paced the hospital corridor, unable to settle down. She kept seeing it over and over again; the crash, the flames, the only-just-killed corpse. Not even the sterile, burning smell of hospital antiseptic could wipe the fumes from the crash out of Sadie's nose.

After what seemed like an eternity- really only about nine hours- Sadie's Aunt Laura stepped out into the waiting area. She had been in emergency with Sadie's mom and Michael. "Oh, Sadie," she whispered, "he's just going up for his CAT scan now. Go home; you can't see him and we'll phone if there's more news."

Sadie nodded numbly. She fiddled with her purse a moment, almost unable to see through the haze of her tears. After confirming the presence of her bus pass, she turned to go. Laura caught her niece's arm, though, and pulled her into an embrace. Sadie pushed her aunt away. She did not want to deal with emotional family crap just now. Not yet. Not until she could see her brother.

* * * * *

Sadie's friend, Lynn, had decided to wait for Sadie at Rachelle's house. Rachelle was Sadie's cousin, but the two were more friends than cousins. Sadie was going staying at Rachelle's house in the city for as long as Michael was in the University Hospital.

Waiting with Rachelle for Sadie meant that Lynn was there when Sadie stormed in. "Not now, you guys," she growled, seeing their sympathetic looks.

"We're not guys," Rachelle joked feebly, trying, as always, to make light of a bad situation. Lynn glared at her friend, her common sense dictating that now was no time for comedy.

"I need alone for a while."

"No problem," answered Lynn, speaking for both herself and Rachelle with ease. The two had been friends since before they could remember, and despite their widely varied personalities, often shared the same thoughts.

Sadie turned and ascended the stairs two, sometimes three, at a time in her hurry to reach the privacy the upstairs guestroom offered. There she could lock out the sympathy. She did not deserve it. Any of it. Because this whole situation was her fault. Sadie's fault. And no one else could share the blame, because no one else had caused this.

* * * * *

It had started as an innocent joke, an idea of something to do born of desperate boredom. Rachelle, Lynn, and some other family and friends were visiting, and in the dreary, wet weather, there wasn't much to do. "Wouldn't it be fun to go joy riding on the quads?" Sadie had asked.

Rachelle groaned. "C'mon, Sadie! There's seven of us-" Rachelle, Sadie, Lynn, Justin, James, Tara, and Michael- "and only two quads."

"Rachelle!" Tara had whined. "So we double up. All of us but Michael and Sadie are from Edmonton, and you can't go quading at all there!"

Tara's brother, James, continued. "Canyon Creek is too small for anyone to care about a bunch of teens out joyriding."

In the end, Rachelle and Michael, the only two holdouts, were both convinced to go along with the plan. Sadie's plan.

Sadie came back to the present with a sob. She ran to her bed and buried her face in the pillows before she continued remembering.

Lynn had been driving one quad, Justin the other. Lynn's quad had been carrying the girls, and Justin's had the four guys, Michael's friend, Adam, being the fourth. Adam had been picked up nearer to the beginning of the ride.

Now they were on the gravel road, racing down its steep incline to where a sharp turn awaited them. Lynn slowed somewhat, being aware of the corner from weeks of driving this road, but still barely managed to stay on the road as she whipped around the corner. The cloudiness added a variable for which no one was prepared. Justin's quad was therefore not as lucky as Lynn's was. Justin was oblivious to the turn, and could not see it in the overcast light. He did not slow. His quad went off he road and tumbled down the deep ditch before slamming into a tree.

Upon impact, the quad burst into an inferno. Justin was pinned under the quad, and died slowly, the flames consuming his life. The quad had rolled over Adam' legs, breaking them both. James, who had been sitting on the vehicle's front, was thrown free and suffered only minor injuries.

Michael's injuries fit in the middle. Like James, he was thrown off the quad before it began its roll. Unlike James, however, one of the quad's wheels had driven over Michael's mid-section, giving him internal injuries and breaking his spine. He possibly had a skull fracture.

There was a downpour everywhere within a hundred kilometer radius of Canyon Creek after the accident. Sadie felt strangely comforted by this, knowing that the sky wept along with her. It was disheartening, upon arriving in the city, two hundred kilometers outside the storm, to see the bright sunshine. Sadie prayed in her heart that this did not mean the world did not care, but that Michael would recover. Nonetheless, Sadie's brain screamed this was wishful thinking.

Sadie's tears had run dry by the time her mom arrived at Rachelle's house, though she continued seeing images from the accident over and over again.

Sadie's mom drew her aside protectively to tell her the news. "Honey, I'm sorry, but-"

NO! The tears, which Sadie thought were spent, began again. "No, no, no!" she cried and cried. My fault, this is all my fault. Her mom just held her, rocking Sadie back and forth, as though she was a baby again. "No, no, no…"

And outside, the bright, balmy day had become overcast, the skies pouring down torrential amounts of water.