Before I Met You

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Chapter Twenty Four

I haven’t been here since the accident.

Never in a million years did I think I’d ever come back, yet I’ve been sitting in the snow at the bottom of the hill twirling a stupid branch in my hands now for over an hour. My whole body is freezing, but somehow I can’t get myself to move.

A part of me thought I’d sob when I saw this place, but if it weren’t for the huge cross and flowers at the top of the hill I wouldn’t have even known it happened here. I don’t remember much about the scenery. I was so drunk at the time. I just remember what happened when we flipped over the rail.

Fuck, I miss Mia. It wasn’t like I knew I was going to make her my wife or anything, but we had a good thing going for a while. We were best friends freshman year, and then we started dating Sophomore year. We were the couple that everyone wanted to be.

My heart constricts at the memories, so I suck in a sharp breath, hold it for ten seconds, and slowly let it out. I don’t know what I’m still doing here. I should just go back home. I want to see Elena, but it’s like my body is just frozen here. This is the last place I saw her, and in some ways I feel like if I leave then I’m going to forget about her forever. It feels like a final goodbye.

“Hey.”

Jumping out of my skin, I almost have a heart attack when I see Elena heading down the hill.

“Jesus.” I quickly get up and hold my hand out to stop her. She’s carrying two coffee cups, or attempting to, that is. “Elena, be careful.”

I grab one of the coffee cups out of her hand that’s engulfed with a mitten before I let her hook one arm around my neck, lifting her with my free hand to bring her down with me. “How did you know where to go?”

“Dion dropped me off. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. It’s so cold.”

I drink some of the hot coffee, sighing as the liquid travels down my throat to somewhat warm me up. I’m grateful that she’s here.

I sit down onto the ground once more, and as she goes to sit next to me I pull her onto my lap. My arms go around her waist, my head immediately resting in the crook of her neck. “You’ll get dirty.” I mutter.

She doesn’t say anything. We sit in silence for another ten minutes or so as we drink our coffee, nothing but silence surrounding the both of us. If it weren’t for the street lights at the top of the hill it’d be pitch black outside.

“I don’t remember how the car landed here.” I say out of nowhere. She still doesn’t respond, she just begins to run her fingers through my hair. “I guess it started pouring outside on our way home from the party. I hydroplaned and we flipped over the rail.” I point up to the top of the hill.

“Did she...” She pauses and then lets out a little sigh.

“What?” I persist. “You can ask. It’s fine.”

“Did she like, die immediately? Did you know she was dead?”

Flashbacks from that night slam into my head, causing me to get choked up. I’ll never understand why she had to die that night instead of me. Why was I saved and not her?

“No. We had a couple of minutes when the car flipped. She was bleeding pretty badly out of her side. I tried to get to her but there was something wedged between us. My seatbelt wouldn’t come off so I had no way to get to her.”

“So you just had to listen...” She whispers quietly. “Xav..”

“She kept telling me to tell her brother that she loved him. She wanted to get married, have kids, go to college. I had to listen to her die beside me, and then I sat in that car for hours in silence. It was just the rain that I could hear. I got so delusional that I just thought the reason she wasn’t talking was because she was cold. That’s stupid, right? I knew she was dead, but my brain didn’t want to believe it. I threw my jacket over to keep her warm. That’s the last thing that touched her. Not my hands, not my lips, not another person. My fucking jacket.”

Elena sits there quietly as I tell the story I haven’t told anyone before. Not even Dion. I wasn’t able to talk about this for the longest time, but now that I’m here in the place that it happened it just seems easy. Or, maybe it’s because of who is here with me.

“I tried to reach out to her family but I got no response. They never ended up suing me or anything, probably because they knew Mia wouldn’t have wanted that, but I never got the chance to apologize to her family. I was still in the hospital when her funeral happened. I don’t even know where she’s buried.”

“Have you tried reaching out to them?” Elena asks.

“They wouldn’t want to see me.” I laugh coldly. “Trust me.”

“How do you know?”

“Would you want to see the boy that killed your daughter or sister? I wouldn’t blame them if they hated me or didn’t want to see me.”

The guilt that I feel wells up inside of me, a couple of tears escaping my eyes. Elena catches them and strokes my cheek, placing a gentle kiss on my temple.

“Hell, my own father even hates me. You heard him earlier. I can’t come back to New York without feeling like complete garbage about myself. When I got to Florida everything just... faded away. I wasn’t reminded of it every second. Whenever I come back It just makes me realize why I left.”

“I think there’s just so much that hasn’t been said between your dad and you.” She says. “You guys have never actually just sat down and told each other how you feel. From what I just witnessed tonight nothing got solved. You both blew up at each other and then still didn’t discuss anything. Not talking about it and acting like it didn’t happen is just going to prolong the hurt.”

“I know, I know. But the crazy thing is that my dad and I used to be so close. We used to talk to each other about everything. Now after everything’s happened I feel like I don’t even know him anymore.”

I notice Elena starting to shiver so I pull her a little bit closer to me. “Let’s get out of here. You’re cold.”

“No, I’m fine.” She says quickly. “If you want to stay here we can. I know you haven’t been here since everything happened. I want to make sure you’re okay to go.”

I tap on her leg so that she’ll stand up and once I’m on my feet too I step behind her. “Come on.” I say. “I’ve spent enough time here. I’m cold too.”

She grips onto the ledge and hoists herself up while I give her support before I follow her lead and walk to the top of the hill. My mom’s car is parked on the side of the road still where I left it, and we practically jog back in order to get into some sort of heat.

When we both slide into the leather seats, I turn on the engine and blast the heat before looking out at the guardrail in front of me once more. I’m somewhat glad I came back here. I used to have so much anxiety about when I’d see this place again, but now that I have it’s like this huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

“Thank you.” I tell her. “For persuading me to come back here. Even though all of that shit with my dad went down, it still feels good to have said goodbye to this place.”

She leans over to grab my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. “You’re welcome, Xav. I’m always going to want the best for you.”

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