2:30 PM – Orlando Florida, October 30th
The bell rang, jarring Cynthia from her thoughts.
It’s Friday, she thinks with a small, secret smile, and relishes in the freedom of the weekend.
“You ready for tonight?” A familiar voice squeals in her ear.
Cynthia laughed jovially, and rolled her eyes at her best friend Sammy behind her. “Of course! I’ve been thinking about this all weekend.”
“So tell me, what time are we meeting?” Sammy challenged knowingly.
Cynthia blushed, cursing her constant forgetfulness. “Uh, maybe you could remind me?”
Sammy laughed and shoved her lightly as they walked out of class to their lockers. “9:00 in front of the gym. We’ll leave our cars in the parking lot, and then ride up to Universal Studios in Damien’s van.”
Cynthia grimaced as she veered out of the way of oncoming students. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
Sammy blinked her large doe eyes at her, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve just seen the way he drives in the parking lot-”
Sammy huffed and whirled on her. “You mean the way he drives with Baxter?”
Cynthia chewed on her lip, and hid her face behind her straight blonde hair. She shouldn’t have said anything about it. She knows how defensive Sammy gets of her boyfriend, Baxter, and his friends. But, frankly, her life was about to be in this guy’s hands.
So, she continued, slowing as they neared her locker, “You know what they do isn’t safe. I really think you should say something to them. It makes me nervous just seeing the way they play around in their cars after school.”
“They’re just having fun Cynthia!” Sammy fumed. “Stop being so uptight. You know what? If you’re so worried about riding with Damian and Baxter, maybe you should just drive up there yourself. Or better yet, don’t come at all.”
With that, Cynthia’s best friend spun on her heel and stormed off, her hair streaming behind her in the oppressive Florida heat. Cynthia’s heart broke. She wanted to yell after her, to tell her to come back. But would she take back what she said?
No, Cynthia resolved, as she stuck her books firmly on her locker shelf. A line needed to be drawn, to divide between fun and danger. And those boys were way over the line.
Cynthia stuck out her chin firmly. She knew Sammy would forgive her someday. But right now, an issue she felt very strongly about was at stake. Her cousin across the state went through a tough time recently when her classmate crashed into a light pole, killing herself and one passenger. They were eating burgers from the drive through, and listening to music, and forgot to watch the road.
Cynthia slammed her locker door shut with a bang. No way would she let herself be put in that kind of situation.
She sighed as she trudged to her car. Universal would have been fun tonight. Locking her backpack and her cell phone in the trunk, she let the air run in her car for a little bit before the pulled out of her the school parking lot and started on her way home.
8:55 PM –
Sammy cursed silently. She was going to be very, very late.
Not even bothering to fix her wild, long black hair, she grabbed her purse and raced out the door.
Pulling out of her driveway, she sent Baxter a quick text, saying that she was “on her way”, before tossing the cell phone back onto the passenger seat. With one hand on the wheel as she drove, she started on her make up.
The eyeliner was the hardest. Doing it straight and not stabbing her eye out? Nearly impossible. But Sammy had lots of practice, and she prided herself on her skill.
Her phone bleeped again, and Sammy picked it up, her hand on the wheel steady. Ugh. Cynthia again. How many times was she going to tell her to be safe? And how many ignored texts were enough to give Cynthia the hint that she didn’t want to talk?
Sammy’s glossed lips stretched into a nasty, satisfied grin. I bet Cynthia wouldn’t be texting right now if she knew that I was driving.
Finally, she veered into the school parking lot. Her watch read 9:06. Not too shabby.
“Hey beautiful,” Baxter cooed, and wrapped her in a hug. She beamed, and returned it. “Ready for a scare tonight?”
“You bet,” she laughed, and waved at Damian. Suddenly, she looked around, and noticed something missing. “Hey, where’s your van?”
“Oh,” he flushed, and shuffled his feet, sending baleful glances at his rusty Volvo. “My mom needed it tonight, so now I have to use this monster. And I need to leave early tonight. Sorry, you two are going to have to ride separately if you want to stay late.”
Sammy giggled and said that was fine, and Baxter boomed a laugh. “I bet him that we could get there way faster than he could in that tin can.”
Damien grinned manically. “I could beat you there any day, Granny.”
Sammy’s stomach gave a little dip. This was how it started after school in the parking lots, too.
Cynthia’s words echoed in her head, as if she were standing there with them.
You know what they do isn’t safe. I really think you should say something to them.
Sammy glowered. Well, Cynthia isn’t here. And tonight, she would let loose.
No way would she say something to ruin that now.
Instead of objecting, Sammy loped to Baxter’s car. “Last one there loses!”
They raced after her to their cars, and Baxter, his face contorted with foolish glee, revved the engine. Damian echoed, and they sped off, tires leaving black streaks and smoke.
Sammy laughed and reached for the radio, turning up her favorite song. She felt so free as she tipped her head back and sang.
As they pulled onto the interstate, Sammy looked down, and saw that the thick white lines loop back and forth beneath the tire, finicky, not sure if they wanted to be on the inside or on the outside. Damien’s car did the same thing as he struggled just behind them, in the lane to the side.
She shook her head. Boys will be boys.
“Poor guy,” Baxter chuckled and shook his head. “He’ll never catch-”
A defeating screech of metal on metal pierced her eardrums, as Damian’s car scraped up against theirs. Her door collapsed in on her, crushing her bones, and she screamed.
8:00 AM – Saturday Morning
Cynthia, who couldn’t sleep, made her way to the kitchen, poured herself a bowl of cereal, and tip toed out the door to pick up the newspaper for her parents before they woke.
A headline on the front page caught her eye, and she stood in the driveway of her house, shocked, her heart pounding, wondering what more should she have said?
THREE TEENS KILLED IN FREEWAY COLISION