I paused, glancing at Dary. “He told me that he and Skylar aren’t back together.”
“Doesn’t appear to be to me. He doesn’t hang with her at school,” she said, looking to the ceiling. Her lips pursed. “I’ve seen her going up to him, though. He doesn’t look thrilled, you know? Like he’s being polite but is in desperate need of his best friend forever, also known as Lena, to swoop in and rescue him.”
She grinned when I shook my head.
“Wait a second. Let’s back up a second. You kissed him, right?” Lori asked. “Does Mom know? Because if you think she doesn’t know he sneaks into your bedroom at 1:00 a.m., then you got another think coming.”
My eyes widened. “She knows about that?”
Lori laughed like she thought I needed to be patted on the head. “I think she has her suspicions.”
That probably wasn’t good.
“You two are going to get married one day and it’s going to be so cute it’s gross,” Dary announced.
“I don’t know about that,” I protested, lifting my good arm. “Can we not talk about this?”
“I did have another reason for coming over.” Dary straightened her glasses. “I was wondering if you wanted to go to the cemetery... I can drive your car.” She glanced over at my sister. “Or maybe Lori can drive us?”
I blanched as pressure clamped down on my chest. Go to the cemetery? To see Cody’s and Phillip’s graves? Megan’s and Chris’s? The soil would still be disturbed. Grass wouldn’t have grown over it.
“I don’t know.” Lori was watching me. “It’s pretty hot outside and that’s a long walk at the cemetery. I don’t think she’s ready for all of that.”
Dary appeared to accept the excuse, which was partly true, at least.
She stayed for a couple of hours longer and then left, promising to text me later.
“Thank you,” I said to Lori after she’d shut the door. “For the cemetery thing.”
She nodded absently, her face pinched. “You aren’t ready to do that, and I’m not talking just physically.”
I picked up a throw pillow and clutched it to my chest, knowing she was right.
“You won’t even talk about Megan or the guys.” She walked close to the couch. “You won’t talk about the accident or anything. I knew you wouldn’t want to go to their graves.”
Graves. I hated that word. It was cold and barren.
“You know you’ve got to eventually.” Lori sat next to me and kicked her bare feet up on the coffee table. “You need to. It’s closure. Or something.”
I nodded. “I know. I just...” A knot twisted deep in my stomach. “Can I ask you something?”
“Do you think what happened is really an accident?”
Her brows knitted. “What do you mean?”
“It’s hard to explain but...is it really an accident? I mean, Cody was... He was drinking and driving.” I held the pillow close. “If he’d survived, couldn’t he be charged with vehicular manslaughter or something?”
“Then how is it really an accident?” And shouldn’t I be charged with something because I hadn’t been drunk? I didn’t voice that. “To me, an accident is something that couldn’t be prevented. This could’ve been.”
Lori tipped her head back against the cushion. “I get what you’re saying, but I...I don’t know what to say. He didn’t intend to lose control and wreck. He didn’t intend to kill anyone and hurt you, but he did. Actions have consequences, right?”
“So does inaction,” I murmured.
She was quiet for a moment. “Mom told me.”
A heartbeat passed. “She told me they checked your blood-alcohol level when you came into the hospital, when they did the rest of the tests. The doctors said you weren’t drunk. There was nothing in your system.”
Closing my eyes, I swallowed hard.
“What happened, Lena?” She twisted toward me, drawing one leg up. “You can talk to me, you know? I’m not going to judge you. It will help you to talk.”
I opened my mouth. The desire to tell her was almost overwhelming. But she would judge me. She had to.
So I said nothing.
Sebastian dragged one of the old plastic lawn chairs out of his parents’ shed and plopped it down next to my chair on the balcony Saturday night.
We were sitting side by side. His feet on the top of the railing, mine on the bottom because it put too much pressure on my ribs to lift them that high.
It had been hot during the day, almost like we were still smack-dab in the middle of August, but at night it had cooled down significantly. That was how the weather was here. One day it was like summer refused to let go, the wind hot and the air humid, and later that night, fall would steadily creep in, bringing with it colder wind and dying leaves, turning the world orange and red. By the end of the month, pumpkins would start popping up on front porches. In two months, talk of Thanksgiving and Christmas would fill the air. Life was ultimately moving on, not at a snail’s pace but at a rapid clip that happened so fast it seemed slow.
“Don’t you have something more interesting to do tonight?” I asked. He’d shown up about a half an hour ago. A month ago he would have been at Keith’s on a Saturday night. Or out at the lake with Phillip and Cody. But he was here, sitting on my balcony.
I shifted the pillow behind me. “I guess there aren’t many parties going on right now.”
“There are some. Not at Keith’s, obviously.” He flicked at the bottle of water between his knees. “But this is where I want to be.”
My heart swelled in response, but I ignored the pleasant trilling the sensation induced and popped a hole in it. “How is everything with Keith?”
“It’s been rough. He hasn’t really talked about it. I don’t think he can. At least that’s what his parents’ lawyers have probably advised.” He took a drink from his bottle. “I don’t know what his parents are going to do. There’s talk that Phillip’s family is planning to sue Keith’s. That they’ve been in talks with the other families. I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up getting a phone call from them.”
Watching the leaves fall from the limbs in the night breeze, I shook my head. “I don’t want to be a part of that.”
“I didn’t think you would. I know Keith feels like shit for it. Feels responsible.”
I toyed with the cap on my soda. “But is he responsible? I mean, his parents knew about the parties there. We all know that. They never had a problem with it. But they didn’t make anyone drive drunk.” I stopped, wondering why I was saying any of this. Probably trying to make myself feel better. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m just thinking out loud.”
Truth was, a month ago I never would’ve even thought about any of this. Going to parties, having a drink or two and leaving—it was just the norm. I never thought this would happen, and I knew how stupid that sounded. How incredibly naive that belief was. How ultimately tragic.
Sebastian didn’t respond for a long moment, so I looked over at him. He was staring up at the dark night sky blanketed with stars. “You know what I think?”
“What?” I whispered, almost afraid to know.
He tipped his head in my direction. “I think all of us are responsible.”
Turning my head toward him, I stilled and was unable to look away.
“It’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I went to that party. I drank and I planned on driving you home. Didn’t cross my mind that I would be putting you in danger—putting myself in danger.”
“You didn’t get drunk, though,” I pointed out. “I’ve never seen you get legit drunk and then try to drive.”
“I haven’t, but is there really a difference?” he asked. “Two beers? Three? Just because I think I’m fine and I act right doesn’t mean I wasn’t affected and didn’t realize it. Not to sound like a damn commercial, but it only takes a couple of seconds, right?”