A FEW WEEKS later, I get into the back seat of the Mini Cooper with Carmine next to me and I fasten my seatbelt. Nudging her, I point to her safety belt uneasily.
I do not want to seem old before my time, but I have an urgent need and I ask, “Are you sure you can drive, Duncan. You seriously had too much to drink.”
He laughs from the front with Andrew sitting next to him in the front passenger seat. “I am a good driver and I am not that drunk.”
Trying to get rid of the nervous tension in the pit of my stomach, I lean my head back against the headrest.
We are leaving a nightclub in the city. Although we are under-age and not allowed into the main dance floor, we sat outside by the large wooden tables and benches. Duncan has friends who are eligible to drink and with the present legislation, he did not have to be much older to be able to drink himself into oblivion. Duncan kept saying he only had one more year to go before he turned eighteen, and then he can stop begging his friends to go to the bar for him. Although he refers to it as begging, he still got drunk. He is not paralytic drunk, but I am sure he had too much to drink to be able to drive.
We drive slowly away from the club and through the city streets. I hear the doors pop and see from the corner of my eye Carmine’s hand resting on the lock function of her door. I reach out and hold her hand in mine, resting it on the seat between us.
It is not advisable to drive in the city at night for fear of hijacking. It used to be: do not talk to strangers, or do not take candy from strangers, and now parents have to add to that list, lock your doors when you are in the car and after twelve treat stop lights as yield signs. Try your best not to stop at a red light late at night. Not long from now parents will have to draw up a list, similar to the Ten Commandments and make sure their kids learn it off by heart by the time they are five.
We leave the city and take the off ramp onto the main road going south. Duncan accelerates and moves over to the fast lane. Drunk as he is he loses all sense of logic and now he wants to show off. The entire evening, he tried to get me alone. Under the table, he moved his leg to rest against mine and I had to move it repeatedly. The more he drank, the less he got the message I was not interested. At one point I wistfully wished it was Andrew pursuing my so persistently, but he pretended I did not exist.
Once I felt him watching me and when I looked up at him sideways, he turned his gaze to another group of people standing to the side of our table. Andrew did not have a lot to drink and for most of the evening, he sat there pensively, turning the green beer bottle around and around, with his fingertips resting on the open mouth.
Carmine was singing at the top of her lungs, and at one point she was even dancing on top of our table. She was not drunk, though, she just had that permanently intoxicated state about her. Some people had to drink to be this exuberant and enthusiastic, but to Carmine, it came naturally.
Besides, except for me trying to avoid Duncan, I had a pleasant evening. It was not like when I went out in the seventies or even the nineties when things got wild and out of hand and the friends I had on those separate occasions used to call me a wet blanket, no matter how hard I tried to fit in. Now in the new millennium young adults seem to be more mature and grown-up, perhaps a sign of the times. Young people have to grow up fast these days.
Duncan looks away from the road, over his shoulder, at me. “Are you inviting us for coffee, Susie?”
I am about to say that it is after two in the morning, but I gasp instead as I see the road ahead narrow and as drunk as Duncan is, he sees the look of fear in my eyes.
He turns forward and he yanks the steering wheel sharply to the left. I feel the car swerve and then I feel the car on my side lift.
As if in slow motion, the car lifts into the air. It lifts so high it twirls once and then drops down onto the tarmac with an explosion of sound. It does not stop, though. It bounces over again … again … again.
The car comes to a stop on its side. It rocks violently from side to side and then the rocking slowly stops. I am hanging on my safety belt and I look at Carmine beneath me. In a daze, she holds her hands in front of her face, staring at the glistening red crimson blood coating her fingers.
Amazingly, I hear Duncan laugh from the front and then I see Andrew slumped over against the broken glass of the shattered window under him.
I pull at my safety harness with such might I pull the bolt out of the seat with one hand and it pops with a loud crash. I hold onto the door frame with my other hand, not wanting to fall down onto Carmine.
Hoisting myself out of the window, I hunch on the car and then I leap down. I land on my feet and then I run around to the other side of the car. Without a moment of hesitation, I crouch down and grab onto the frame of the car—easy really because all the windows on the car are shattered. I lift the car without difficulty and it bounces over onto its tires.
Fear makes me open Carmine’s door first. She has a gash on her arm. Leaning over her to undo her safety harness I suddenly have an urge, an awful urge, to massacre her and the rest of them. The smell of blood is cloying its way up my nostrils and I feel the saliva in my mouth. I feel an ache in my throat and an unimaginable thirst.
I rip the clip out of the mechanism and then I help her out of the car, letting her sit on the side of the road on the verge. The car bounced into the grass next to the four-lane main road.
I hear Duncan struggling against his door, where it is wedged into the frame of the car. With lightning speed, I run around the car and pull the door off its hinges. He climbs out, laughing hysterically and almost walks into the oncoming traffic. I pull him around the car to Carmine and he sits down next to her, his legs suddenly buckling under him.
With trepidation, I move closer to the car again. I should not have left him until last, I know. I have an awful feeling he might be dead, judging by the way he is still slumped forwards. The bouncing over of the car should have woken him, but it did not.
With a violent scraping, I open the door on his side and noisily it falls to the ground. Leaning in, I know I need to hurry because the smell of blood is overwhelming in the car. I am unsure how long I can stay focused, how long I will be able to push the animal in me aside.
With feeble fingers, I compress the safety harness buckle and it pops. I pull the belt away from his chest and he folds over double. I pick him up and relieved I hear his heartbeat when I carry him. Just as the headlights of a car sweep over us, I place him softly on the ground in front of Carmine and Duncan. The engine of the car stopping behind us die and I hear cries of shock and doors slamming.
I turn around and I start to walk away, I cannot manage the monster any more. It wants to surface and it wants to drink. The beast in me does not care if there are other people around, it has one purpose and one purpose only and that is to satisfy its craving.
When I am a distance away, I hear Carmine’s voice as if she is talking next to me, “Susie, where are you going?”
I hear Duncan ask, “How did she do that?”
I could not walk away now. It would result in us having to move again, move somewhere far away. I would have to stay and somehow explain what had just happened before I appeared on some most wanted list. Could I even leave Andrew, when I have this unexplained pull toward him? I have these emotions and feelings when I look at him or when I see him which I have never experienced before. I have always wanted to know what it feels like to love and to be loved, and this could be my one and only opportunity. Knowing I will always have Ethan, he would always try to convince me he feels affection for me, but this with Andrew could have a different prospect for me. I laugh cynically—a different prospect for a short moment in time, perhaps.
Turning to the wreck again, I slowly walk back to them.
When I reach them, the people who had arrived are helping where they can. I hear the ambulance, even before they see the lights approaching.
The white vehicle stops next to the crunched up metal which used to be a car. The red light blinks… blinks … blinks irritatingly.
Standing separated from them I notice the paramedics lean over Andrew, where he is still on the ground where I left him. The paramedics look him over, prodding here and there, and then they lift him onto a stretcher.
The paramedic calls to me and I walk back to them. He wants to take my pulse, but I pull my arm away from his probing fingers. I say determinedly, “I am fine. Will Andrew be okay?”
“He’ll be fine,” he replies dismissively.
A paramedic leans over Carmine and they clean her arm. The amount of blood did not justify the injury.
A police van stops behind the ambulance and I see them leading Duncan to it. He goes willingly and I think he must still be in shock.
The paramedic standing across from me turns back to me. “There is a police squad car, behind that red car, parked over there.” He lifts his finger to point it out. “You and your friend there with the scratch on her arm can go with them to the hospital. Even if you say you are fine, and you look fine, you should still be examined and kept overnight.”
He starts to walk away from me and I follow him. I come to a stop next to Carmine and the paramedic helps her to her feet. She is weak and I immediately put my arm around her shoulder to support her.
Slowly we walk to the police car and then a police officer opens the back door for us and we get into the car. We sit there silently waiting for the police officer while he is talking to another officer. The scene looks like a nightclub, with all the flashing lights in blue and red.
The police officer gets into the cruiser and he starts his car. We follow the ambulance back into the city and I watch everything around me with a distant disassociation.
I feel Carmine reaching for me. Her hand folds around mine tentatively and I hold her hand tightly.
When we eventually get to the hospital, I see the stretcher Andrew is on, pushed into a different direction to where the officer is leading us. I stay with Carmine while they put antiseptic on her wound again. It is not big enough to warrant stitches.
Moments later her mum and dad rush into the emergency room. Mr Van Heerden is an imposing figure and at school, he reigns with a steel fist. He is frowning irately, but Mrs Van Heerden is a real motherly figure, and looking at her, I feel sad when there is nobody coming to rush to my side. Amanda and Shayne probably do not even know I am here. I wonder how it would feel to have those pudgy arms fold around me and to sink into that plumpness.
I excuse myself, mumbling I have to phone my brother and hear Mrs Van Heerden ask Carmine where Andrew is and then Mr Van Heerden grumbles something incoherently.
I walk out of the hospital. Nobody came to me to see if I was okay. They assumed I was only a passer-by lending a helping hand. Looking at me, you would not say I had just been through a traumatic experience. This, however, is nothing compared to other experiences I have encountered before.
I stay outside watching life pass me by for hours and then I walk back into the hospital. Wandering through the endless corridors, I eventually see his sleeping face on the snow-white pillow. A soft light glow over him in the otherwise dark room.
Softly I walk toward his bed. I sit down on the bench next to his bed and then softly I fold my hand over his.
He stirs and then he opens his eyes gradually. When his eyes focus on me, he smiles slowly and he whispers, “Hey.”