“Jacen!”  called  Karrie  running  down  the  cluttered  school  hallway.  “Are  you  going?

”     Jacen  turned  around  from  his  group  of  talking  and  laughing  friends  to  look  into  the  big  brown  eyes  of  his   girlfriend.     “Hey,  if  you  want  to  go,  by  some  stupid  indescribable  power,  I  am  forced  to  do  what  you  want,”   Jacen  said  smiling  with  his  arms  tossed  into  the  air.  Karrie  stopped  just  before  he  could  embrace  her  and   tilted  her  head  in  question.     “If  you  don’t  want  to  go,  we…”  Jacen  cut  her  off  with  a  smile  and  a  touch  of  his  finger  against  her   soft  lips.     “I’ll  do  anything  for  you,  babe.  Don’t  worry  about  it.”     Karrie  smiled  back  at  Jacen.  Wordlessly,  with  the  warmth  of  love,  she  gave  him  the  tight  hug  she   had  previously  denied  him.     The  Bell  rang.     “Damn,”  huffed  Karrie  still  in  Jacen’s  arms.  She  broke  his  grasp,  stood  on  tiptoes,  and  placed  a   quick  kiss  on  his  lips.  “I’ll  see  you  at  my  locker  after  last  bell,  ok?”  Jacen  held  his  hand  up  in  good-­‐bye  and   watched  her  skip  away.  He  knew  it  would  only  be  two  hours  until  he  would  see  her  again,  but  it  felt  like   an  eternity.     Jacen  walked  back  to  his  group  of  friends  and  stood  in  the  circle’s  edge  to  catch  the  last  of  their   conversations  before  they  began  to  make  their  ways  to  class.  “So  Jacen,  you  going  to  Craggar’s  party?”   asked  one  friend  with  a  hint  of  sarcasm.     “Yeah,”  said  Jacen  softly.  The  other  boys  in  the  group  stopped  their  discussions  and  laughter  to   listen  to  more  of  Jacen’s  reply  in  stunned  intrigue.  The  friend  that  asked  the  question  stepped  back  in   surprise,  and  then  leaned  close  to  Jacen’s  ear  to  speak.     “Jacen,  Crag  wants  to  kill  you  man.  He’s  fucking  crazy.”     Jacen  slowly  raised  his  hands  in  protest  to  stop  the  beginning  rumble  of  chatter  between  the  other   boys.  He  let  out  a  deep  breath  and  paused  holding  a  hidden  smile.     “Hey.  Guys.  Bros,”  Jacen  said,  causing  a  small  spur  of  laughter  from  his  friends.  “I  know  more  than   anyone  how  pissed  off  that  spoiled  ass  really  is.”  He  held  up  his  hands  again  to  stop  further  muttering.   “And  I  know  him  more  than  anyone  else,  as  well.”  Jacen  looked  eye  to  eye  with  everyone  in  the   conversation  then  began  again.  “I’m  taking  Karrie  to  the  party  because  she  wants  to  see  a  lot  of  her   friends,  and  I’m  not  going  to  stop  her.”     There  was  a  collective  loud  moan  of  disapproval.    “Alright.  Alright.  Just  listen.  Just  listen  to  me,”  protested  Jacen.  “At  the  party,  I’m  going  to  be  with  Karrie   the  whole  time  and,  actually,  if  Crag  isn’t  making  a  complete  fool  of  himself,  I  would  like  to  talk  to  him.”     All  of  Jacen’s  friends  looked  at  him  wide  eyed  and  dumbfounded.     “Jacen,  you’ve  tried  talking  to  him,”  said  his  best  friend  Derek.  “  He  doesn’t  listen  to  people.  He’s   going  to  do  anything  he  can  to  prove  to  you  and  everyone  else  that  he  could  have  made  that  catch.”     “Yeah,”  called  the  other  boys  in  the  group.     “Derek,”  said  Jacen,  “I  know  you  all  are  trying  to  save  me  from  Crag  talking  more  shit,  but  we  all   saw  the  game  and  that’s  it.  I’m  going  to  tell  him  that  I  wouldn’t  have  caught  that  ball  if  it  hadn’t  have   bounced  off  his  chest  in  the  first  place.  And  that  should  be  that.”  Derek  shook  his  head  and  put  his  hands   on  the  back  of  it.     1  

My  Guardian   By   Blake  Ryan  McGinnis   2008  

  “Ok,  I  understand  your  life  goal  is  making  everyone  love  you,  that  crap,  and  just  how  you  don’t  like   disagreements,  but  look  dude.  Crag  is  a  fuck  head.  He  will  find  a  way  to  screw  you  over  even  if  he  says   that  amends  have  been  made.”     “I  know.  I  know,”  said  Jacen  slowly.  “I  am  almost  positive  he  will  too,  but  I’m  not  going  to  rest  until   this  stupid  argument  is  done.”  The  other  boys  looked  at  each  other  and  nodded  in  tested  approval  and   began  to  disperse.  Most  of  the  boys  placed  a  hand  on  Jacen’s  shoulder  as  they  walked  by  or  just  called,   “See  you  later.”       Derek  grabbed  ahold  of  Jacen’s  shoulders  with  both  hands  and  looked  directly  into  his  eyes.  “And  I   don’t  want  him  taking  you  down  with  him.”  Jacen  smiled  and  took  his  time  for  a  response  to  completely   reflect  on  what  Derek  said,  but  he  already  knew  what  he  was  going  to  say.     “Derek,  you  are  by  far  my  best  friend,  and  I  respect  the  hell  out  of  you.  I  can  see  you  are  really   worried  because  I  know  you  don’t  act  like  this,  but  I  have  to  tell  you;  regardless  of  how  long  I’ve  known   Crag,  I’m  worried  about  him  too.”  Jacen  put  one  arm  around  Derek’s  shoulders  and  sighed  deeply,  but   smiled  wider  in  relief.  “All  I  need  is  you  at  the  party  for  me  to  talk  to  him.  You  know,  as  my  bodyguard.”     Derek  made  a  small  laugh  into  his  hand.  “I’ll  leave  the  rest  to  Karrie,”  Jacen  added.  “Trust  me,  she’ll   whoop  his  ass  if  things  get  carried  away.”     Jacen  laughed,  smiling  broadly,  and  teasingly  pushed  Derek  away  by  his  head.  Derek  pushed  back,   smiling  too,  and  began  walking  away  from  Jacen  in  the  direction  of  his  class.     “You  know,  you  care  too  much  for  that  girl  of  yours,”  said  Derek  smiling  back.  “She’s  going  to  get   you  killed,  man.”  Jacen  laughed  and  began  walking  away  to  his  own  class.  “I  think  you  need  to  keep  your   Ho,  Ho…  Hoe  on  a  leash,”  called  Derek,  then  faked  a  look  of  mocking  surprise  at  Jacen’s  playful  glare  and   turned  his  shoulder  in  anticipation  of  Jacen’s  soft  punch.     “You  stop  making  trouble  Mr.  Lasik,”  Jacen  called,  in  imitation  of  an  angered  adult  voice.     “I’ll  see  what  I  can  do,  but  I  think  this  is  my  third  tardy  to  this  class.”  Both  Jacen  and  Derek  laughed   out  loud,  trailing  laughter  to  their  next  class.       “Looking  hot  baby!”  shouted  Karrie  to  Jacen,  who  was  leaning  against  his  car  in  her  driveway.   Jacen  flashed  a  wide  grin  and  looked  down  at  his  feet  in  embarrassment.     “Karrie,”  called  Jacen,  “your  dad  is  going  to  rip  me  a  new  one  if  he  finds  his  beautiful  daughter   saying  that  to  some  boy.”     Karrie  hopped  off  her  front  porch  onto  the  driveway  and  ran  into  Jacen’s  arms.  Her  warm  touch  on   the  cool  night  made  Jacen  hold  her  tighter.     “Just  relax.  He  likes  you,”  said  Karrie  fluttering  her  eye  lashes  up  at  Jacen  with  a  cute,  ornery  look.     “Yeah,  ok.  I  guess  I  can,”  said  Jacen  still  holding  her  to  his  chest.  “At  least  you  smell  good  and  I   don’t  have  to  worry  about  that  tonight.”  Jacen’s  open  mouth  smile  only  made  Karrie  laugh  more  and  more   as  she  tickled  his  sides  for  revenge.  Jacen  playfully  pleaded  for  her  to  cease  her  attack  as  he  guarded  from   the  tickling.  Karrie  stopped  and  pointed  a  warning  finger  at  his  nose,  sporting  a  teasing  smirk.  “Of   course,”  Jacen  confirmed  under  fighting  a  smile  and  laughter.  “No  more.”  He  reached  forward  and  clasped   her  right  earlobe  for  a  gentle  tug  toward  him.  “Only  for  some  kisses.”  Karrie  bit  her  lower  lip  in  a  great   smile  and  gave  in  to  three  quick  kisses  Jacen  placed  on  her  lips.     The  short  drive  across  their  little  town  ended  to  quickly.  Jacen  loved  to  hear  Karrie  talk  about  her   day  as  he  drove.  He  loved  all  the  gestures  she  made  when  another  person  would  come  into  the  story  and   the  curve  of  her  lips  as  they  moved  to  the  rhythm  of  her  sweet  voice.  He  just  loved  being  with  her.  Any   time  else  he  had  to  spend  was  pointless.  



  At  the  entrance  to  the  most  upper-­‐class  subdivision  in  Jacen’s  town,  groups  of  teenagers  stretched   out  from  the  party  thumping  inside  Crag’s  house’s  open  doors  and  windows.  Groups  of  young  adults   covered  the  local  grounds  walking  around  cheerfully,  holding  plastic  cups  full  of  concealed  liquids.     Jacen  was  amazed  at  the  size  of  the  crowd.  The  streets  were  filled  and  Jacen  had  trouble   maneuvering  through  the  masses.  He  knew  or  recognized  most,  but  the  party  also  drew  students  from   neighboring  schools  making  it  hard  to  tell  face  from  face.     Jacen  spotted  one  last  parking  place.  It  was  tricky,  but  he  was  able  to  weave  down  back  the  street   he  entered  on  to  parallel-­‐park  between  a  large  lifted  truck  and  a  small  sedan  that  held  two  very  close   occupants.  When  the  parking  brake  was  finally  set,  Jacen  felt  proud  for  a  moment  about  his   accomplishment,  having  had  to  honk  his  horn  only  once  to  urge  a  passing  pedestrian  to  move  from  out  in   front  of  him.  He  then  noticed  that  his  parking  place  was  actually  much  closer  to  the  party  than  he  first   thought.       Jacen  got  out  of  the  car  and  hurried  to  the  passenger  side  to  assist  Karrie  out,  after  she  had  opened   the  door  herself.     “You  don’t  have  to  be  such  a  gentleman,”  said  Karrie  with  a  smile.     Jacen  gave  her  arm  a  tender  squeeze  and  said,  “You  know  me,  just  a  knight  in  shining  armor.”   Karrie  giggled  at  his  quick  joke  and  wrapped  around  his  arm  as  they  walked  together  through  a  chilly,   Fall  breeze.   Up  the  three  steps  to  Crag’s  porch,  Jacen  felt  a  small  wave  of  anxiety.  He  had  always  been  so   prepared  for  this  and  had  no  second  thoughts,  but  just  for  a  split  second  he  felt  different  about  his   decision.   “Hey  Jacen!  Come  on  in  dude,”  greeted  a  boy  Jacen  knew  from  school.  The  door  to  Crag’s  house   was  wide  open  and  lines  of  people  filed  in  and  out  at  a  constant  rate.  Jacen  smiled  and  nodded  back  at  the   boy  as  he  led  Karrie  into  the  entering  line  of  people  going  through  the  door.  Even  at  the  entrance  of  the   house,  the  air  was  thick  of  the  smell  of  alcohol,  obsessive  amounts  of  men  and  women’s  fragrances,  and  a   slight  haze  due  to  the  high  level  of  smoke  all  around.   Jacen  held  Karrie’s  hand  behind  him  as  he  elbowed  his  way  through  the  congested  living  room.   Hellos  and  other  greetings  followed  their  every  step.  Jacen  exchanged  smiles  and  handshakes  with  the   people  he  knew  as  Karrie  did  the  same.  Laughter  and  speech  flooded  Jacen’s  ears,  and  just  for  a  mere   shred  of  peace,  he  made  his  way  to  the  sliding  glass  entry  door  across  the  house  on  the  far  side  of  the   kitchen.   Jacen  wanted  to  hold  Karrie  as  they  both  walked  outside  onto  the  quiet  patio,  but  realized  she  was   not  with  him  at  all.  He  jerked  around  and  looked  in  sudden  shock  but  relaxed  at  the  sight  of  Karrie   standing  with  a  group  of  her  friends.  He  felt  a  lot  more  at  ease  now  and  his  earlier  thoughts  of  worry  left   him  completely.   The  cool  air  brushed  Jacen’s  exposed  skin  as  he  opened  the  sliding  glass  door  and  closed  it  behind   him.  The  thundering  noise  of  the  party  dimmed,  replaced  by  the  rustle  of  leaves  in  trees  as  the  wind   picked  up  and  quickly  settled  back  down.  Jacen  walked  to  a  railing  overlooking  a  gentle  hill  behind  the   house.  All  was  neatly  mowed  and  led  to  more  rows  of  houses.    He  could  see  more  people  from  the  party   walking  through  the  neighborhood.  Jacen  gazed  out  over  the  railing  for  a  long  while,  thinking  of  the  past   school  day  and  what  possibly  to  say  to  Crag.  Before  all  of  his  thoughts  could  be  organized,  his  attention   was  drawn  back  to  the  glass  door.   Karrie  had  broken  away  from  her  friends  and  gracefully  slid  out  the  door  into  Jacen’s  arms.  The   cold  did  not  bother  her  because  all  was  warm  and  well  where  she  was.  She  pressed  her  head  against   Jacen’s  chest  as  she  wrapped  her  arms  around  his  middle.  With  one  hand  against  her  back  and  the  other   supporting  her  head,  he  could  have  allowed  her  to  fall  asleep  right  then.  Jacen  placed  his  chin  atop  her     3  

head  and  swayed  to  another  rustle  of  leaves  from  the  wind.  Karrie  looked  up,  her  deep  brown  eyes   glistening  with  loving  emotion.   “You’re  all  I  need,”  she  whispered  into  the  night.   “You’re  all  I  could  want,”  replied  Jacen.  He  tugged  on  her  small  ear  and  looked  straight  into  what   he  thought  were  the  most  beautiful  eyes  in  the  world.  Karrie  did  not  need  to  hear  more.  She  knew  he   loved  her  and  he  knew  she  loved  him  just  as  much.  They  kissed  deeply  and  held  one  another  even  longer.    “Jacen,”  called  a  tall  muscular  boy,  who  sulked  out  of  the  house  onto  the  patio.  Jacen  looked  up   and,  to  no  surprise,  looked  at  the  face  of  Crag,  making  an  unfriendly  smirk.  “Never  thought  you  had  the   guts  to  show  up  here,”  Crag  chuckled.   “Jacen,”  called  another  voice  from  around  the  side  of  the  house.  Derek  appeared  with  two  taller   boys  scurrying  behind  him.  Derek  nearly  jumped  between  Jacen  and  Crag.     “Jacen,  stay  over  there,”  demanded  Derek,  pointing  Jacen  back.  “Crag,  I’m  not  g…”stopped  Derek  as   Jacen  pushed  him  aside.   “Crag,  you  want  to  talk  to  me?”  asked  Jacen  smoothly.   “Yeah.  I  do,”  growled  Crag.  “I  want  to  hear  why  you  came  here,  before  I  beat  you  down,”  he  said,   now  no  more  than  a  foot  from  Jacen.  Crag  was  much  taller  than  Jacen,  and  had  to  hunch  his  shoulders  and   lower  his  head  to  look  him  in  the  eye.   Jacen  could  see  Derek’s  mouth  quivering  for  an  insult  or  a  comeback  to  Crag’s  words  so  he  quickly   replied,  “Crag,  I’m  tired  of  all  the  hostility  between  us.”    Jacen  did  not  feel  hostility  to  Crag  but  felt  saying   it  as  a  mutual  problem  might  defuse  Crag’s  one-­‐sided  anger.  “I  came  here  to  apologize  for  how  I  have,   apparently,  insulted  you  in  front  of  everybody.”  Crag  raised  a  lip  to  expose  his  teeth.  “I  want  to  tell  you   that  if  it  wasn’t  for  you,  there  would  have  been  no  chance  for  me  to  have  caught  tha…”       “I  don’t  want  to  hear  your  crap,  Jacen,”  barked  Crag  as  the  other  two  boys  found  their  places  at   Crag’s  sides.  “You’re  not  going  to  talk  your  way  out  of  this  one.”     Jacen  could  tell  Crag  was  acting  very  different  than  the  usual  bursts  of  anger  he  would  exhibit   every  now  and  again  since  Jacen  had  known  him.  Jacen  felt  badly  for  Crag,  because  he  knew  something   was  troubling  him  other  than  the  catch  made  at  the  ball  game.     “Crag,  why  are  you  doing  this?”  asked  Jacen  calmly,  looking  up  into  Crag’s  face.  “We  were  each   other’s  first  friends.  We’ve  played  on  the  same  ball  teams  since  kindergarten  at  the  city  park.  Our  parents   were  friends  the  same  way!  Why  do  we  have  to  make  everything  such  a  competition?”   Jacen’s  words  seemed  to  soothe  Crag’s  anger  a  bit.    His  fists  unclenched  and  the  scowl  on  his  face   began  to  disappear.  Jacen  gave  Crag  a  small  smile  and  a  friendly  grasp  on  his  left  shoulder.   “Yeah,  so  stop  being  such  a  dick,”  stated  Derek,  now  standing  by  Jacen’s  side.     Jacen’s  stomach  flipped  as  those  words  left  his  friend’s  mouth.  He  knew  all  that  he  had  just  said   was  for  nothing.  He  shut  his  eyes  in  painful  disbelief.  Jacen  lifted  his  head  to  retract  Derek’s  last  words,   but  Crag’s  expression  had  already  shifted  back  to  his  enraged  scowl.     Crag  threw  Jacen’s  hand  off  of  his  shoulder  and  glared  at  Derek  with  an  animal  dullness  in  his  eyes.   “I  think  you’ve  said  enough,”  Crag  spoke  through  gritted  teeth.  Jacen  flung  his  left  arm  into  Derek’s   path  to  stop  him  and  waved  his  other  hand  in  motion  to  keep  him  silent.     “Well,  I’m  done  dealing  with  you.  Let’s  get  out  of  here,  guys,”  snorted  Derek  in  Crag’s  direction.     “Be  my  guest,”  snarled  Crag.       As  if  time  had  stopped  and  only  Crag  could  move,  he  flipped  his  jacket  to  the  side  and  withdrew  a   black  handgun.  Jacen  watched  the  world  around  him  as  one  would  from  inside  another’s  body.  Crag   pulled  the  trigger,  sending  a  bullet  from  inside  that  ripped  into  Derek’s  abdomen.  A  spray  of  blood  licked   Jacen’s  face,  as  he  stood,  frozen,  at  the  horror  he  just  witnessed.  Time  slurred  to  a  standstill.  The  



thunderous  explosion  that  erupted  from  the  pistol  physically  tore  the  insides  of  Jacen’s  ears.  How  could   this  be  happening?     Derek  made  no  scream  or  call  for  help.  His  body  rippled  from  the  force  of  the  bullet  entering  his   body.  Flaccidly  he  collapsed  to  his  knees  as  he  turned  and  looked  Jacen  in  the  eyes.    Derek  fell  limp  onto   the  cobblestone  patio  as  blood  seeped  between  each  crevice.       The  world  around  Jacen  came  back  into  a  somatic  reality  once  Karrie  released  a  scream  of  terror   he  too  wanted  to  utter.  Jacen  could  not  stop  staring  at  his  best  friend  lying  on  his  chest,  pooled  in  blood.   Jacen’s  skin  trembled  after  each  heartbeat.  People  moved  in  blurred  lines  on  all  sides,  completely  leaving   Jacen  to  his  horror,  until  Karrie’s  terrified,  clawing  arms  grabbed  his.       Instantly,  he  slung  her  behind  him  and  faced  Crag,  still  holding  the  weapon.  His  expression  and   stance  had  not  changed.  He  peered  down  underneath  his  nose  at  Derek’s  body,  and  then  snapped  his   attention  to  Jacen.     “You  really  have  lost  your  mind,”  said  Jacen  holding  his  voice  as  steady  as  possible.  Crag  ignored   him  and  roared  an  order  to  the  boys  next  to  him,  who  still  stared,  shaking,  at  Derek’s  body  in  awe.       “You  two,  lead’em.”  Crag’s  eyes  dug  deep  into  Jacen’s.  “Ok,  Jacen  lets  go  for  a  ride.”       Crag  tore  Jacen  from  Karrie’s  desperate,  pleading  grasp  and  led  him,  at  gunpoint,  to  his  car.  The   other  two  boys  followed  and  buckled  into  their  own.  Karrie  stood  in  complete  disarray  crying  and   shivering,  not  noticing  the  chaos  the  gunshot  had  caused.  Crowds  of  partygoers  rushed  to  their  cars  or   ran  aimlessly  in  all  directions.       Frozen  in  fright,  Karrie  knew  she  had  to  go  somewhere,  anywhere.  She  tried  to  move,  but  was   stopped  by  Derek’s  hand  around  her  ankle.  Still  in  unsuppressed  shock,  Karrie  watched  Derek  struggle  to   speak.  Blood  trickled  out  the  side  of  his  mouth  coating  his  lips  in  red.  Using  the  very  little  motor  skill  he   had  left  in  his  body,  he  fumbled  car  keys  from  his  pocket  with  his  free  hand  at  his  side.       “Don’t  let  them  get  out  of  your  sight,”  he  whispered,  and  then  fell  into  lifeless  silence.  Without  a   second  thought,  Karrie  snatched  the  keys  from  Derek’s  hand  and  ran  to  his  sporty  Honda.   She  struggled  with  unsteady  hands  to  unlock  the  driver’s  side  door.  Once  inside,  she  started  the   engine  as  Crag’s  two  buddies,  one  in  a  truck  and  the  other  in  a  small  sedan,  pulled  out  onto  the  road.  Both   cars  closely  followed  Crag’s  expensive  SUV,  with  Jacen  held  hostage  in  the  front  passenger  seat.   Karrie’s  tires  squealed  as  she  sped  out  of  the  side  streets  onto  the  main  road  following  Jacen  and   the  others.  Her  purse  strap  fell  from  her  shoulder;  she  was  amazed  she  still  had  it  on.  She  tossed  the   purse  into  the  passenger  seat  next  to  her,  spilling  the  contents.  Karrie  quickly  picked  up  her  phone  and   dialed  Jacen’s  number.  He  picked  up  after  only  one  ring  and  his  voice  was  far  too  calm  for  what  the   situation  pertained.   “Baby,  I  want  you  to  call  the  police  and  wait  with  Derek,  ok?”   “No!”  shouted  Karrie  in  tears.  “I’m  coming  with  you.”     Jacen’s  voice  came  again,  more  shaky  than  previously.  “Karrie,  he’s  headed  to  D  highway.  I  need   you  to  call  the  police  and  tell  them  to  go  there.”  She  heard  Crag  screaming  in  the  background.  His  words   were  distorted  and  Karrie  could  not  tell  if  they  were  even  directed  at  Jacen.   “No.  No,  I  want  to  come.  I’m  going  to  come  with  you,”  she  cried.  Tears  and  makeup  blurred  her   vision.  She  wiped  at  her  face  in  frenzy.     Karrie  saw  Crag  reach  an  arm  out  his  car  window  and  wave  furiously  behind  him.  His  friend  in  the   truck  sped  up  and  approached  the  side  of  Crag’s  SUV  on  the  wrong  side  of  the  road  as  the  convoy  of   drivers  turned  onto  the  beginning  of  D  highway.  Karrie  heard  loud  voices  from  her  phone  but  couldn’t   make  out  the  words.  She  knew  it  was  Crag’s  voice  crackling  in  the  distance  over  the  receiver.     As  soon  as  the  background  chatter  stopped,  the  truck  slowed  from  Crag’s  side  to  meet  the  other   follower’s  car  side.  A  brief  discussion  seemed  to  pass  between  the  rolled  down  windows  of  the  followers.     5  

Just  as  soon  as  the  conversation  ended,  both  boys  slowed  their  vehicles.  The  truck  rocketed  behind  Karrie   in  the  passing  lane  while  the  car  slowed  to  take  the  same  position  behind  her,  using  the  shoulder  of  the   road.   Jacen’s  voice  echoed  over  the  small  earpiece  of  the  phone.  “I  have  to  go,  baby.”  Karrie,  hearing   Jacen’s  calm,  sad,  loving  voice,  began  sobbing.    Before  she  could  answer  him,  he  spoke  again.  “Karrie,  I   love  you  so  much.  I  can’t  describe  it.”  The  words  hit  Karrie  like  a  train.  “No  matter  what,  I’m  going  to  keep   you  safe,  understand?”  Karrie  could  only  nod,  with  tears  streaming  down  her  face.  “Crag  needs  my  help,   ok,  I  need  to  talk  to  him…  I  love  you  Karrie,”  he  said  again.  Karrie  did  not  know  if  she  actually  said  the   words,  but  mouthed,  “I  love  you  too,”  before  the  click  of  the  call  ending.   Streetlights  disappeared  as  the  road  began  to  curve  and  twist  furiously.  Smooth  road  gave  way  to   potholes  and  less  defined  sides  where  the  ditch  was  no  more  than  a  jagged  edge.   All  cars  picked  up  speed  to  keep  pace  with  Crag’s  SUV.  Crag’s  buddies  drove  tightly  behind  Karrie,   trapping  her.  She  kept  as  close  as  she  could  to  Crag’s  vehicle  as  the  entire  group  whipped  around  the   borders  of  the  road  and  their  own  sanity.   The  speed  of  Crag’s  SUV  continued  to  rise.  Karrie  was  beginning  to  lose  sight  of  his  car  in  small   intervals  as  they  made  turns  on  the  road  in  the  wooded  surroundings.  The  two  boys  still  drove  closely   behind,  not  allowing  her  to  slow  down  and  drop  away.  She  was  terrified,  but  wondered  crazily  what  Jacen   was  saying  to  Crag.   She  could  see  Crag’s  head  through  his  rearview  window.  He  was  obviously  shouting  something   aggressively  at  Jacen.    Jacen’s  head  nodded  slowly  in  response,  but  without  aggression.   Without  warning,  Crag’s  car  exploded  in  acceleration.  Jacen’s  head  snapped  back.  Karrie  was  left   behind  in  a  flash  with  the  other  boys  close  behind.  Karrie  could  see  her  speedometer  reading  seventy-­‐five   mph  and  she  knew  Crag  was  now  going  far  beyond  that.  She  tried  to  speed  up,  but  was  losing  control   considerably.  She  had  to  maintain  her  speed.   Karrie  could  not  talk  herself  onto  a  level  of  calm;  her  tears  fell  so  fast  from  her  swollen  eyes.  She   struggled  to  stay  in  complete  focus  to  the  road,  but  her  phone  rang  in  Jacen’s  designated  tune.  She   allowed  it  to  ring  only  once,  then  answered.    To  her  confusion,  it  was  a  text  message  from  Jacen,  not  a  call.   “There  is  a  tree  on  the  right.  Stay  left!”  alerted  the  message.  Karrie  did  not  understand  why  Jacen   would  text  her  but  did  as  she  was  told.  She  pulled  her  steering  wheel  sharply  left  and  veered  into  the  left   lane.  She  was  there  only  an  instant  when  a  massive  tree  that  had  fallen  across  the  right  lane  blasted  into   sight  around  the  next  curve  in  the  road.  She  flew  past  it  but  the  sporty  sedan  behind  her  was  not  able  to   avoid  it.  The  truck  behind  the  sedan  swung  in  a  hard  left  turn,  rolling  over  outstretched  branches  and   then  straightened  its  alignment.   An  immense  bang  of  twisting  metal  and  shattered  glass  bellowed  over  the  sounds  of  the  roaring   engines.  Karrie  winced  at  the  thought  of  what  just  happened  to  the  boy  driving  the  car  that  had  been   destroyed  but  kept  driving.  The  remaining  boy  continued  close  behind  in  his  truck,  revving  the  engine   louder  and  louder  with  speed.   Another  text  message  sounded  on  Karrie’s  phone.  She  turned  back  into  the  right  lane  as  she   flipped  open  her  phone,  thinking  she  caught  a  glimpse  of  Crag’s  car  far  ahead  when  the  road  came  to  a   small  straightaway.   “Turn  away,  Karrie.  Turn  away,”  texted  Jacen.  Karrie  did  not  listen  and  texted  back,  “No.  Not   without  you.”  Karrie  tightened  her  fingers  around  her  steering  wheel  until  her  knuckles  were  white.   Monstrous  seconds  passed  as  she  waited  for  another  text.  There  was  a  flash  of  light  ahead.  Beyond  rows   of  trees,  it  hit  the  night  sky  like  a  spot  light  and  then  fell  again  as  quickly  as  it  came.  Karrie  stretched  in   her  seat,  moving  her  head  in  all  angles,  hoping  to  see  what  it  possibly  was.  She  saw  only  darkness.       6  

Her  phone  announced  a  text.  Before  she  could  even  comprehend  doing  it,  she  had  flipped  the   phone  open  again  and  held  it  against  the  steering  wheel.   “Don’t  let  him  get  beside  you!”  read  the  text  from  Jacen.  Karrie  was  not  sure  what  she  was  reading   meant,  until  she  looked  to  her  left.  She  looked  into  the  dead  and  emotionless  eyes  of  the  boy  driving  his   truck  beside  her  in  the  opposite  lane.  He  had  no  expression  on  his  face.  Karrie  first  felt  an  urge  to  slow   down  and  ask  what  he  wanted,  but  he  had  other  plans.   The  remaining  boy  slammed  his  truck  into  the  side  of  Karrie’s  car,  nearly  making  her  lose  control.   Her  rear  fender  collapsed  into  the  wheel  well  and  was  then  crushed  under  the  wheel  itself  as  it  churned   and  was  spit  back  at  the  truck.  Karrie’s  screams  did  not  faze  the  driver.  The  truck  pulled  higher  up  the   road  and  hit  her  again  and  again.  Karrie’s  front  fender  tore  away  from  the  car  on  the  last  hit  as  she   stomped  the  gas  and  distanced  herself  from  the  truck.   Around  the  next  turn,  Karrie  saw  fresh  black  tire  marks  steaming  in  the  cool  night  air,  weaving   along  the  road.  Another  turn  came  and  far  in  the  woods,  off  to  the  left  of  the  road,  glowed  the  taillights  of   a  car.  It  couldn’t  have  been  Jacen,  thought  Karrie,  sobbing.  There’s  no  way.   Karrie’s  phone  sounded  a  new  text’s  arrival.  She  flung  it  open,  almost  projecting  it  into  the  cracked   windshield.    “He  is  coming  again.  Weave  left…  Now!”  demanded  the  text.   Just  as  Karrie  read  the  words,  she  pulled  left  on  her  steering  wheel,  preventing  the  truck  from   creeping  up  beside  her  again.  She  did  not  know  how  Jacen  could  have  known  this  was  happening  but  she   did  as  she  was  told  by  unknown  instinct.   Another  Text!  Karrie  opened  her  phone  and  read,  “Turn  right!”  Karrie  did  not  think  twice.  In  pure   perfection,  her  car  slid  off  D  highway  onto  an  exit  that  expelled  her  onto  the  parallel  freeway.  She  drove   only  two  or  three  seconds  on  the  wrong  side  of  the  road  to  witness  the  following  truck  miss  the  sharp-­‐ turn  in  the  road  and  careen  off  the  edge  of  a  30  foot  bluff,  plummeting  him  into  an  open  field  below.   Karrie  shot  by  cars  on  the  freeway  as  she  crossed  over  the  median  into  the  right  lanes.  She  slowed   down  to  the  appropriate  speeds  with  the  other  cars  but  could  not  unclench  her  hands  from  the  wheel.  She   looked  down  in  the  passenger’s  seat  where  her  phone  laid.  She  scooped  it  up  with  her  right  hand  and   dialed  for  Jacen.  Her  heart  pounded  in  her  ears.   Jacen  did  not  pick  up.  His  phone  dial  tone  went  straight  to  his  voicemail,  but  Karrie  did  not  leave  a   message.  She  saw  a  silver  highway  patrol  car  parked  ahead  on  the  shoulder  and  aimed  her  vehicle  in  that   direction.  Pulling  her  wheel  to  the  right,  she  slowed  and  drifted  off  the  road.  She  skidded  in  grass,  mud,   and  gravel  and  stopped  beside  the  officer’s  car.  In  park,  Karrie  sat  in  Derek’s  car,  frozen.     Karrie  sat  in  a  loud  hallway  of  the  Greene  County  police  station.  Dried  tears  and  make-­‐up   stretched  the  skin  on  her  face  from  every  little  movement.  Sitting  in  a  cold  plastic  chair,  she  stared   blankly  at  the  gray  concrete  wall  ahead  of  her.  Her  parents  sat  and  held  her  from  either  side.  She  did  not   feel  their  embrace  but  instead  a  hollow  vacuum  inside  her.   “Karrie,”  said  a  slender  female  officer  standing  over  her,  “Can  you  come  with  me  one  more  time?”   Karrie  did  not  look  up  at  her.  She  did  not  even  nod.  The  officer  slowly  helped  Karrie  out  of  her  chair  and   walked  her  to  an  empty  waiting  room.  There,  Karrie  did  not  sit  in  the  seat  designated  by  the  officer,  but   instead,  stood,  and  looked  her  directly  in  the  eyes.  The  officer  shuffled  a  handful  of  official  documents  and   spread  them  over  the  tabletop  ahead  her.  Three  print  outs  of  Karrie’s  last  texts  were  organized  on  top  of   the  pile  of  papers.   “Where  is  Jacen?”  asked  Karrie,  her  voice  barely  understandable  through  hiccups.   The  female  officer  lowered  her  head  and  asked  Karrie  another  question.  



“You  told  us  you  received  multiple  text  messages  from  Jacen  after  you  passed  the  intersection  of  D   and  132,  just  before  the  tire  marks?”   “Yes!”  Karrie  said,  louder  than  expected  and  burdened  by  a  hoarse  drag  in  her  speech.  The  officer   looked  down  and  traced  the  floor,  then  raised  her  head  to  look  into  Karrie’s  brown  eyes.   “Jacen  was  killed  instantly  with  Crag  Netter  before  those  texts  could  have  been  sent  to  you.”   Karrie  fell  to  her  knees,  just  as  Derek  had;  his  last  motions  still  burnt  into  her  mind.  Time  had   stopped.  She  was  alone.                     Echoing  in  silence,  Karrie  felt  a  tug  on  her  earlobe.  She  turned  ready  for  a  kiss.  



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