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"I can't feel my legs. Why can't I feel my legs?" He screams, tears in his eyes. "It's going to be okay, I promise. You were in a car accident," I say. "Who hit me?" He asks. I think to myself: me. Josephine Winters was smart. She was organized. She smelled like lemon grass and birthday cake: a good combination. Her lips tasted like cherries and her eyes sparkled like sun rays on an open body of water. She always had a plan- but when she is involved in a drunk driving accident that shatters the hopes, dreams, and legs of a boy on the verge of becoming a professional swimmer, she has no idea what her plan is. She is even less sure when she falls in love with him, considering her boyfriend in prison, the recent death of both of her parents, and the fact that she still hasn't told him the truth about the accident...

Romance / Drama
Gillian Derer
Age Rating:

Chapter One

It wasn’t a particularly breezy day, I guess you could say. The splintering hot sun had already started darkening my skin after I was outside for a few minutes. It shone down on me like a spotlight as I stood in the blistering sand, watching the waves lap onto the shore. The light rays were beautiful, but they were painful− much like the story I am beginning to tell you.

This particular story begins on what I thought was a quiet day at the beach, where my boyfriend, Raidyn, had taken me. He called it a ‘date’, but both of us knew that it was just an escape attempt from the depression of our hometown. The air was always thick, and people were always sad, in Havenbrooke. And even more, it was always raining there.

The clock was seemingly ticking faster that day. We had arrived at the beach a few minutes before eight in the morning. I usually woke up earlier than eight AM, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to go out so early with Raidyn. I liked my days long and my nights short, back then. I was definitely a morning person.

The water was still freezing cold when I first dipped my big toe in; the sun had not yet had the chance to heat up the water and turn it into a large bath rather than a lake. The waves pushed forward from as far back as I could see. The water splashed onto my feet and eventually reached my ankles as I walked further into the blue. I looked back, waiting for Raidyn to join me, but he was taking swigs out of the third beer bottle that had accompanied us to the beach. I scowled at him.

I had never consumed alcohol, although being passed legal age; the thought of it was not appealing to me. My mother had drunk herself stupid for six months after my dad passed, and that’s when I decided I would never ever drink any alcohol. I didn’t keep track of how many nights she drank herself into oblivion— however many nights are in six months, I guess.

Raidyn eventually staggered over to me. His arm was slowly snaking around my waist, but I pushed him back. He reeked of alcohol. He had drunk alcohol in front of me before, but this was supposed to be a date. Plus, I hated the smell of liquor. I also hated the dark eyes that Raidyn had when he drank it. He smirked at me. I sighed, rolling my eyes at him.

“Put the alcohol away, or take me home, Raidyn,” I frowned. He frowned back.

“I’m not putting my bottle away. Don’t ruin this for me, I’m trying to actually enjoy myself,” Raidyn muttered. I stared at him for a few moments before I decided that it was best that we left. He was being immature. Again.

“Get in the truck, we are leaving now,” I barked, crossing my arms. The water splashed as I stomped through it, making my way back to the truck. I held my sandals in my hands as I quickly washed the clumpy sand off of them and then slipped my soaked toes back in the water to wash them as well. I glared at Raidyn as he neared the vehicle. I glared at him a lot.

“Hurry up,” I huffed under my breath, rolling my eyes. He rolled his eyes back at me as he climbed into the driver’s seat. I watched him toss his beer bottle in the sand and shut the truck door.

“Excuse me? What do you think you are doing?” I scoffed. I was disgusted that he thought, or at least pretended to think, that he could actually drive us an hour back to our hometown, Havenbrooke, in his intoxicated state. He was being ridiculous.

“Chill out babe, I only drank three or so bottles. Buckle up,” he laughed, his eyes a dark blue-black colour. I wondered if my eyes looked the same.

I pondered over the situation with my arms crossed and a scowl plastered on my face. I wondered what would happen if I let him drive, just this once. I knew I wasn’t in the mood to drive us all the way back to town. Something was nagging me in the back of my mind as I started to consider letting Raidyn drive. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? I didn’t easily get car sick….

Although I was aware of the things that could happen due to drunk driving, I didn’t want to fight with Raidyn, because our fights were ugly, and I knew it and so did he. So instead, I said, “Ok,” And before I knew it, I was buckling myself into the passenger seat. I had given in. I usually did.

The old leather seat was caving in as I seeped into it. It smelled like the beach and beer— a familiar smell, but not one I was used to, or wanted to be used to, for that matter.

We had been driving for less than five minutes before Raidyn’s hand fell on my thigh. I would normally not budge− the warmth of his fingertips was always so comforting, even though they were rough and calloused from many years of playing electric guitar. This worked well, especially when I was stressed (and I was at the time because of our driving circumstances, of course).

I allowed him to rub circles with his thumb into the soft skin of my thigh, but as he moved his hand down to my knee, I quickly shook him off of me.

“Babe?” He said forcefully, somewhat annoyed by my response.

“You need to keep two hands on the wheel,” I squeaked. I was nervous for his reaction. I held my breath as he clenched his jaw, but he held in whatever he was thinking of saying. I was relieved.

He moved the hand that was on my knee back to the wheel and continued to drive silently. We were unsteady on the road, but I said nothing. I let out the breath that I didn’t know I was still holding in when a few more minutes passed, and he kept his mouth shut. I was expecting him to blow up on me— not because that was who Raidyn was, but because that was who the alcohol made him.

We were still at least forty-five minutes from home when he began to drive us through a small village I did not recognize. Were we lost?

“Did we come through here on the way to the beach?” I asked him. He did not answer me. I didn’t repeat my question, either. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the answer or not. Why would he be taking us through a different route? I began to wonder if he even knew where he was going. Probably not, I assumed.

I was suddenly and deeply mesmerized by the teenagers wandering around the area, small children running around in bathing suits and playing with hoses on their lawns. It was such a beautiful day. Tears began pricking at my eyes when I saw a little girl with blonde hair and bright eyes in a purple shirt, one who looked just like me at that age, playing catch with her father on her front lawn.

“I used to do that with my dad,” I hiccupped, but Raidyn did not hear me. A part of me wished he did, but another part of me was glad that he didn’t. I was not sure if he even knew about my dad’s passing, or how it happened. He knew about my mom’s passing, though. I know he knew because he was there when she passed. He was there when I found her.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if my parents were still here. I would love to have one more Christmas dinner with them. We would open each other’s lame gifts and laugh because we didn’t need anything anyway. We would sit at the dining table that was many chairs too big for just the three of us like we used to and devour the turkey that my mother spent the entire day cooking, and then we would retire to the living room and gather in front of the wood fireplace and spend the rest of our Christmas together. We would eat my mother’s cookies, even if they were burnt. They usually were.

She used to make chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, and if she asked if I wanted to help, I would always agree, even though I was too short to reach the counter to aid her. Nevertheless, she would act as if I was the biggest help in the world and she would bend down to let me lick the spoon after she was done. I never really liked licking the cookie dough off the spoon, but I licked the spoon clean anyway because I knew how happy it made my mother to see me involved. She used to tell me her mother would do the same for her, and she would always lick the spoon as clean as possible. My mother always wanted me to be just like her.

I never met my mother’s mother— she passed away before my mom was even expecting me. Her eyes used to become glossy if I mentioned her mom, or Grandma, as I would call her. She didn’t like to talk about Grandma, I could see it in her eyes. Nevertheless, she answered my endless questions about Grandma. The truth is, I never really cared for my grandmother at all. She was just a memory that I saw in pictures and heard about in stories. She wasn’t a real grandma, not to me.

My head was leaning against the cold glass window of the truck, and I was in a trance. I noticed we were moving much too fast, but I ignored it. Let him drive, I thought, just let him drive.

I was not paying attention to a single thing around me when I suddenly felt us swerve. My eyes widened when I saw Raidyn’s hand shoot away from the steering wheel, and in an instant mine flew forward, trying to steady us. I was trying to keep an eye on Raidyn and the road at the same time, but I could barely reach the wheel! I tried to shift in my seat to attempt to pull the truck over, but as I did so, an unspeakable thing happened. I watched everything happen in slow motion.

“Get off the wheel! I’m trying to drive!” He shouted at me.

Raidyn’s alcohol induced hands gripped the steering wheel, his fingers turning white, and he swerved the truck to the left. I jerked forward forcefully, my lungs empty of air. I reached for the steering wheel and shut my eyes tightly, afraid to open them again. We were going to go into a ditch, so I swerved us to the right to keep us on the road….

I saw the cold face of a young boy hit our windshield as I opened my eyes. His large green eyes were pouring into mine, full of terror, shock, and pain. The windshield shattered and I heard Raidyn curse behind me but I ignored him as I flew out of the truck to examine the body of the boy we had hit. My eyes were almost completely out of focus and the entire world around me was spinning in a direction that wasn’t counter-clockwise or clockwise.

The boy seemed unreachable as I reached for him.

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