Mercedes Gamin was named after her father's dream, and her ultimate downfall.

The day when the trouble began dawned cold and bright, a perfect autumn morning. It was a Saturday, so the crisp morning emerged unnoticed by teenagers everywhere, who basked in the few hours of extra sleep the day offered.

Mercedes woke around noon, and being the lazy girl she was, lay in bed for a half hour longer, every muscle in her body completely relaxed.

The phone eventually persuaded her to leave her bed with its convincing rings, executing that strange power that the telephone seems to hold over sixteen year old females all across the world.

The conversation was simple, yet it took nearly an hour. Kaitlyn wanted to go to the mall. Mercedes agreed.

With newfound conviction Mercedes headed downstairs to the shower, the prospect of shopping withdrawing her from her near catatonic state.

"Morning Mary." she greeted the woman seated at the table.

Her mother scowled, glancing up from behind her newspaper. "How many times have I asked you not to call me that? I'm your mother for goodness sakes!"

Mercedes shrugged. "It's your name isn't it? Mary."

Mary shook her head as Mercedes lifted a piece of untouched toast off her plate taking a single bite before setting it down once more.

"Can you take me to the mall later?" she asked, her mouth full of toast.

"Of course honey, but I leave to work at three."

Mercedes shrugged again. "Whatever. Where's dad?"

Her mother set down the newspaper and took a sip of her coffee. "Where else would he be? He's still messing with that damn car! I swear, he gets worse every day!"

"I thought he worked today."

"He does, and he better leave soon or he will be late." Her mother went over to the door to remind him.

Stealing another bite of toast, Mercedes headed towards the bathroom. They lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom house, but they had a four car garage. Somehow it didn't quite fit.

It took her two whole hours before she was ready to leave, and then she still had to wait for her mother to take her.

"Now are you sure Kaitlyn's mom can take you home?" her mother fretted.

"Yes Mary. Very sure."

"And you have your cell phone?"

"Uh huh."

"OK, well make sure to call me if she can't for some reason, and I'll have your grandma pick you up."

Mercedes rolled her eyes. "Mary, I'm sixteen, you really need to stop worrying."

"Are you purposefully being difficult?" her mom frowned.

Mercedes put on her most innocent face. "Would I do that?"



Mercedes smiled, admiring the effect of her wild blond curls flowing over the white top.

"Oh my god Merce, you have to get that!" Kaitlyn praised, her hands gesturing wildly.

"You don't think it looks too, I don't know, preppy?" Mercedes asked hesitantly, as if she had not already made up her mind.

"No! No way! That is the cutest shirt! It would look perfect with those Abercrombie jeans you got last week!"

Mercedes nodded vigorously, "OK, I'll get it. But then I'll be all out of money."

Kaitlyn nodded. "That's OK. I'm all done, do you want me to call our ride?"

"Sure."

"I can't believe you actually called Josh Wilson for a ride!" Mercedes smiled. "He's so hot! I had not idea you were even friends with him!"

Kaitlyn grinned smugly. "He should be here by now."

"What if he forgot, or just ditched us?"

"Don't be stupid. He wouldn't do that." Kaitlyn flicked an annoyed look at her friend.

Sure enough, a red prelude pulled up in front of the Girls, containing Josh and two of his friends.

Josh glanced at them and smiled, and Mercedes felt her heart skip a beat.

Kaitlyn chattered charismatically as they entered the car, but Mercedes only sat stupidly, to shy to speak up.

The three boys were hyper and laughed merrily along the drive, talking almost continuously, and therefore eliminating the need for Mercedes to speak.

She was slightly embarrassed, by simply being in the presence of boys. Although she hid it from even her closest friends, Mercedes was hopelessly inexperienced as far as dating went.

It was horrifying to her that she was nearly sixteen years old and had never even been kissed.

When Josh pulled up in front of Mercedes' house, Kaitlyn smiled sweetly and invited them inside, knowing that her friend's parents were not home.

"Kaitlyn, my parents will flip if they find out I had boys over when they were not home."

Kaitlyn rolled her eyes patronizingly. "But they won't find out. How could they?"

Mercedes shrugged helplessly, always one to give into peer pressure.



Mark Gamin was having a very good day. He had gotten the big promotion at work, and had left early, after stopping by the parts store to pick up some new gadgets for his love and joy. He was looking forward to a long day with his car.

He drove home humming along with the radio in his wife's blue sedan.

Josh, and the other two boys, who were named Joel and Ryan, stormed through Mercedes house, pointing at, and occasionally touching the expensive objects decorating her home.

Mercedes followed behind them trying to keep them from hurting anything. "Oh not the Mugal lamp! That cost a fortune, my mother will kill me if it breaks!"

Joel smiled and reassured her. "Don't worry, were not going to break anything."

"Oh Merce's just paranoid, she gets it from her parents." Kaitlyn commented lightly, with a flip of her hair.

Kaitlyn and Mercedes sat primly on the white leather couch in the living room, and the three boys collapsed in armchairs, Josh automatically taking control of the remote, flipping channels until he landed on the man show.

"Ew... What is this?" Kaitlyn snatched the remote from the blond boy's hand.

"Hey! I was watching that!" He called, and the two proceeded to wrestle over the remote, while Mercedes and Ryan placed bets.

"Hey, where's your bathroom?" Joel interrupted.

Mercedes pointed, beginning to relax.

Eventually Josh won the battle for the remote control. "How come you don't have any good porn channels?" He complained.

"Because, Josh, she's not a pervert like you!" Ryan laughed.

Mercedes smiled, still not believing that she sat here joking with the three most popular guys in her entire school. This seemed to be turning out to be a good day after all.

Suddenly Joel's voice shattered her happiness. "Shit! I didn't know you had a car like this!"

Josh and Ryan were already out of their seats by the time Mercedes overcame her shock. Joel had opened the garage.

"Oh no, you guys can't go in there, my dad would kill me!"

Kaitlyn rolled her eyes and then turned to her friend in annoyance, "Boys! All they think about are cars and girls."

They followed the boys reluctantly, a bad feeling growing in Mercede's stomach.

Joel had taken the keys off the peg by the door, and was sitting in the car, about to start it up, while the other two examined the engine.

"Look at this!" Josh raved, "There must be ten grand under this hood!"

"Please don't my dad will know, he'll kill me! He never even drives this car that's how important it is to him!" Mercedes protested to Joel.

"Relax, he won't even know."

Mercedes shook her head, she and Kaitlyn drew back, watching the boys play with the car.

"Hey we got to take this thing for a spin, you guys get in." Joel was grinning widely.

Mercedes protested weakly, but Kaitlyn nudged her. "Come on, don't be a baby, he won't even know!"

The girls got into the back of the car with Ryan, and Josh slammed the hood shut before popping into the passenger seat.

Joel sped around the block at ninety, and then Kaitlyn had her genius idea. The one that sealed Mercede's fate.

"Hey Merce, your almost sixteen, and you have your permit, you should drive it. You know, for practice."

Joel grinned back at her charmingly, "Are you a good driver?"

Mercedes shrugged, it couldn't get too much worse, could it?

She and Joel hastily switched places.

Mercedes was a good driver, but the one thing she forgot to take into account was the small fact that her father's car was a stick shift, and she was used to driving an automatic. A very small detail, but an important one none the less.

When she first started, she stalled it. It took her three times to get the hang of it, and that was with Joel's help. Recovering from her embarrassment, she got the hang of upshifting quickly and got the car up to seventy as she cruised down the road, gaining confidence as she cornered the car perfectly. Josh turned up the radio and the teens shouted, having a great time. Even Mercedes allowed herself a smile. She glanced back at Kaitlyn, who was laughing at something Joel had said.

She was approaching her road again, so she reached down to shift to fourth. She missed, accidentally sliding the gearshift into second. As the car lurched, Mercedes swerved away from an oncoming truck, not seeing the blue sedan which was right behind it, Mercedes sideswiped the car, sending her father's pride careening wildly into a parked van.

Now the others were screaming, Mercedes was too. But for a different reason. The car she had hit was the car her father had drove to work.