But Keith hadn’t died.
He’d fallen and yelled that he’d broken his butt or something. He’d dragged himself out of the lake, holding up his swimming trunks. Phillip and Chris had been waiting for him. I didn’t remember seeing Cody there.
And in my memory, I’d been busy watching Sebastian, who was standing on the dock, talking to another guy. I’d watched him a lot that night, because I knew he was leaving soon, so my gaze kept finding him.
I wanted to change what I did that night. I wanted to look away from him. I wanted to watch Phillip and Chris. I wanted to turn my head to the right and look at Megan. I wished I’d listened more closely to what she was chattering on about, because now I couldn’t remember. But I knew she looked happy and she was smiling.
And when she got up to join Phillip by the lake’s edge, I wanted to call her back. And I wanted to follow them, forever hold the sight of them standing side by side, but I didn’t. I stayed where I was while someone across the lake let off fireworks.
I tried to change my memory.
But then there had been Sebastian. As the sky lit up and the air echoed, he’d draped his arm over my shoulders. Another firework had shot into the air on a smooth whistle, exploding into a shower of bright red sparks. The entire right side of my body had been warm and pressed against Sebastian. I’d rested my cheek in the crook of his shoulder as the sky flashed, because there was nothing awkward between us then, and I remembered thinking that...that life couldn’t be any better than right then, that moment.
And I had no idea how right I’d been.
* * *
Wednesday morning Mom broke the news. “Your father is on his way.”
“Why?” I asked, staring at the ceiling.
“He’s your father,” she responded, sounding tired.
That wasn’t much of an explanation. He was my father, but he sure as hell hadn’t done a lot of fathering. Why start now?
A horrible thought formed: if I’d been in the hospital since Saturday night, in the ICU, and it was now Wednesday, was he just now on his way?
Sounded so much like Dad that I wanted to laugh but couldn’t.
“He’s driving from Seattle,” she explained, obviously thinking the same thing I had. “You know how he is. Refuses to fly. He should be here tonight, tomorrow morning by the latest.”
I didn’t know my father anymore, and right now I really didn’t have the brain space to figure him out. I didn’t want to see him, but I also didn’t have anything to really say about it.
I just wanted to be left alone with my memories instead of everything that had changed. I didn’t want these new memories erasing everything.
Mom and Lori were taking shifts staying with me. One would drive the forty-some-minute ride home, check the house, shower and grab fresh clothes. The other stayed. Mom didn’t bring up what we’d talked about with the cops.
During one of Mom’s trips home, Lori told me that the accident happened just three miles from Keith’s parents’ house. We hadn’t even made it to the highway, which was a twisted blessing. The curvy road leading to the farm was rarely traveled by anyone beyond those who were going to Keith’s house. If we’d gotten on the highway, we could’ve hit someone else.
Killed more people.
Killed people other than ourselves.
In those hours, when Lori or my mom was quiet, or when the nurses were checking my vitals, thoughts of Megan and the guys consumed me even though I tried to shut it all down. I wanted to ask questions. How was Abbi doing? Had someone called Dary or had she come home Sunday to this? What did Sebastian think? How was Coach... How was Coach handling the loss of Megan? I was replaceable on the team. Megan wasn’t. School had started the day I woke up. How was everyone else doing?
In the ICU, they allowed only family to visit. That would change once I was moved into recovery. From what I heard, INOVA had an open visiting policy. People could come at any time, even overnight. But for now, I was grateful it was only Lori and Mom.
Seeing my friends would make me think about what had happened, beyond the surface level. And I couldn’t. Doing so would make it all too real, too painful, and while I was in the hospital, away from that life, I tried to pretend I was in here for anything other than the reason I was.
“Mr. Miller has been amazing with Mom,” Lori said late Wednesday evening while Mom was in the cafeteria, wherever that was located. Mr. Miller was Mom’s boss, the insurance-agency owner. “He gave her this week and next off without making her use her vacation. He rolled over all her unused sick time.”
“That’s nice,” I murmured, staring out the small square window. I couldn’t really see anything other than the sky.
Lori sat on the other side of the bed, her arms propped on the mattress, by my legs, which were currently encased in some kind of bizarre pressure cuffs. Something to do with circulation and preventing blood clots.
“Sebastian texted me,” she announced.
I closed my eyes.
“He’s been asking about you. Every day.” She laughed hoarsely. “You know, when I went home on Monday for the first time, I swear he must’ve been waiting by the window for Mom or me. He came barreling out the door before I even got out of my car. He’s been really worried. So have Abbi and Dary.”
My chest squeezed. I didn’t want to think about them. I didn’t want to think about Sebastian or Abbi and Dary worrying about me when Megan was gone. When his friends, his close friends, were also gone. I didn’t want to think.
Lori exhaled raggedly, and a moment of silence passed. “Megan and Chris’s funeral is tomorrow. Their family has decided to hold them both at the same time.”
I stopped breathing.
Her funeral was tomorrow? It seemed so quick. Like it was over already, before it even began. And her family wasn’t just...wasn’t just burying her; they were also burying Chris. I couldn’t even... I just couldn’t.
“Phillip’s funeral is on Friday and Cody’s is on Sunday. His is taking longer because...” She trailed off.
I opened my eyes. The sky was a deeper shade of blue. It was almost night. “Why?” I croaked out.
Lori sighed again. “They had to do an...an autopsy on him, since he was driving. They didn’t perform one on the rest. It wasn’t necessary beyond taking blood samples.”
Autopsies and blood samples.
Was that all they were now?
“The school is letting students attend the funerals if they want. The absence won’t be held against them.”
That was...nice of the school. I imagined there would be a lot of people at the funerals. The guys were super popular. So was Megan. A stupid thought flickered through my head: How would they play football Friday night? It was their opening game. They would be missing three...three starting players.
I bet they had a team of grief counselors at the school. A sophomore had died last year from cancer and there’d been extra counselors brought in.
“Mom is going to Megan’s funeral tomorrow,” Lori said, and I stiffened. “I don’t know if she’s going to tell you ahead of time. She didn’t want me telling you about the funerals, but I thought you should know.”
I didn’t say anything.
Several minutes passed. An eternity it seemed, but not long enough.
“You don’t have to talk about it now. You don’t even have to think about it,” my sister said quietly. “But you’re going to have to, Lena. At some point, you’re going to have to face what happened. You just don’t have to right now.”
* * *
Thursday morning they moved me into general recovery. There was less serious-looking equipment in this room and more chairs. In my new room, they had the top of my bed inclined to help with breathing, and after I went through several rounds of breathing treatments, they had me up, walking back and forth in the hallway outside. The nurse walked alongside me, holding the back of my gown closed.
Walking was exhausting.
According to the doctor, I wouldn’t be fully healed for about two weeks, and during this time I would tire out easily, but I had to keep moving to make sure I didn’t end up with fluid in my lungs or a blood clot.