Prelude:


Early Afternoon, Last Day…

 

The final bell rang out releasing me from one of many stifling classrooms I’ll never again step foot in.

 

Today was suppose to be a jubilation of newfound freedom, the celebration of a world without structure… and all I could do was imagine how furious Maddie would be when I told her my plan of escape.

 

I wanted to see the world, and my best friend, Maddie wouldn’t get it, she couldn’t imagine leaving this place. We’ve finally come to a fork in the road and here I am, feeling guilty for wishing we’d branched out separately over the years. Our past together mixed with Maddie’s way with words could keep me trapped here. The closer I am to freedom, the more I seem to realize my bindings extend outside of these brick walls.

 

Slapping my locker shut I sonder toward the door.

 

Evening of the Last Day…

“What do you mean you don’t want to go?” Maddie begins, “Alice, we’ve been looking forward to this for ages…”

 

I could hear her waiting on the other end for me to cave, as always. A long sigh follows. “It’s the senior send off… for us… the one we’ve talked about since freshman year???”

 

“I know, I know…” Feeling a headache coming on I rest my forehead in a palm and release a sigh of my own. “It just seems, juvenile, like one of those stupid town customs we always make fun of.”

 

“Uuuuuuh, ya can’t win ‘um all Alice and you are being a real buzz kill.” she sounds annoyed. “Gawd, at least come for my sake? If nothing else we can watch the jocks get wasted.” I considered the options… Doing this for her could soften the blow when I leave.

 

“Look, you aren’t going to be around forever, I’m not stupid, you’ve got big plans. I just want to spend the time we have making memories. Okay?” Only Maddie ever leveled with me this way.

 

I felt a smile tug at my lips. “Fine, okay, yeah but remember I’m your DD so no peer pressure,”

 

Maddie laughed.

 

“Think you can get your dad’s fancy ‘stang?” I add.

 

“That’s more like it, done and done!” This is why we had become such good friends, in her domain, she’s my catalyst … always pushing me, and because she required so little from life outside of ordinary, I’d always felt it was my duty to supply her with all the things she never known to ask for.

 

“I’ll be at your house in an hour, please wear something cute Alice Kensington I want to see that wanna-be booty woman!…” Any idea of soft pants, furry boots, and a warm flannel… one at a time deflated to the back of my mind.

 

FIIIIINE-AAAH…” We both laughed with a simultaneous click.

 

11:55 P.M.- The Last Night

 

Four friends flow over a lonely road on their way home from a successful night. Only one remains alert, eyes peeled to the gravel rushing beneath their wheels.

 

Endless thoughts cross over her mind, melding with the stars shining rebelliously through the building cloud cover. Buckle up, there’s still thirty miles of this missy. Glancing through the thought to the passenger side of the topless convertible, she notices her best friends seatbelt twisting uselessly beside her. Pulling to the side of the road gently, trying not to jostle the bodies from their boozy slumbers she sets the brake and kills the engine.

 

Maddie groans as delicate fingers lightly expand the belt buckle over her limp body, as Alice clicked it into place.

 

“There.” Smiling into the sleeping audience she tucks a strand of long blonde hair behind her best friends ear while enjoying a moment of silence. In second grade, after cutting most of it off, the two best friends began a new challenge, Who could grow theirs the longest? Maddie hadn’t cut hers since.

 

An endless sea of fields tosses softly around the parked vehicle. As midnight dawns amidst the symphony of the sweet spring breeze. Resting her head against the seat she soaks it in. The wind brushes her hair from her face. Her mind drifts over an especially invigorating drive home from the quarry after their first skinny dipping venture. The crystal clear spring fed pool was so deep they were convinced at one point there was no bottom. If life with Maddie was limitless, life without her would be impossible.

 

Telling Maddie she wanted to leave this place would be the most difficult thing. She’d begun to dream of bigger endeavors than the grand adventures they’d shared to this point. She wanted to take the stories they’d spent their childhood exploring, the lessons they’d learned to publishers, they would eat them up.

 

Sitting taller she thrusts the pedal to the floor, the baby blue sports car careens forward as tires grind into gravel. Dust and rocks flying into the air casting shadows to follow in their darkening wake.

 

Alice watched the small frame of the strongest person she’d ever known, snoring against the door. Laughing she turned back to the road, failing to notice the loose bottle at Maddie’s feet, the missing piece that could change everything should it teeter too far.

In the meantime she watched the brilliant sky of stars disappearing behind a gathering cover of clouds, glowing orange and threatening against the moon.

 

Alice thought of the similarity to her life. The truth was, Maddie had always been a part of it, and up until now that had been a good thing, a grand adventure…

 

She hated seeing her best friend as a looming cloud. It had never been that way.

They’d built a friendship on a million different memories, little stars that had fueled her desire to experience the adventures they’d invented stories over. Adventures Maddie would never leave this place behind for. Seeing them in her mind seemed to be good enough.

The truth was there, whether they wanted it or not time had finally come between them. Her best friends loyal roots ran too deep to be torn away by anything outside of Death.

Maddie had tethered Alice to their history… In her book, life without Maddie was like, dark without morning, what would be the point? They’d always been together and as long as they were both alive, tethered they would stay.

 

Through their first horrible haircuts, to the mad dash from a watchdog after skinny dipping in a private quarry. A moody rumble of thunder echoes over Alice’s solitary thoughts.

When will be the time to tell her?

You’ll know when the time is right… The intuition rises with the smile on her face as she shifts up a gear ready to race against the storm. Long blonde hair catches the breeze flowing all around them. Whipping in the wind. Maddie shifts in her seat through a bend in the road, as Penny picks up speed against the impending showers.

“Tink, Tink.” 

The bottle shook loose, spinning into the open area below the peddles.

 

“Crap.” Alice blinks through the headlights glare doing her best to watch the road while reaching for the rogue bottle, hoping to catch it before it became a problem. Imagining it lodged beneath the brake pedal just as she found the need to slam it.

 

Her thoughts ponder the consequence of an accident as she stretches her fingertips. Touching the empty bottle her eyes instinctively lower, and the steering wheel follows.

 

She shoots straight in her seat as the convertible fishtails.

 

Alice gripped the wheel, fighting to correct their direction for an upcoming curve in the road. The bottle flies beneath her feet as she frantically cranks the wheel to one side, then the other kicking the bottle away recklessly as the wheels catch sideways slinging them flipping into the ravine below.

 

Just after Midnight…

 

My head throbs, lifting my hand to the massive lump it comes away sticky. Raspberry jam?

 

No… It’s blood… The light’s from a concussion, maybe… Shock… The words rise through a fog understood yet unfathomable as I blink at a spider web, not a spider web, a windshield, not fog, it’s smoke…

 

What’s left of the baby blue sports car is straight from a nightmare. I try to focus through the eerie silence… One word rips free of the mist, Maddie. In the quiet, fear curls around my heart, I won’t look.

 

Pulling myself from the wreckage an insane voice breaks the stillness.

 

“Maha! Maddie, everything is going to be okay!” I realize the broken voice is mine. As darkness replaces the muted chaos, one last thought wanders across my mind.  I didn’t know death would smell like pepper?…

 

Lub Dub… Lub Dub… Lub Dub

 

… Lub… Dub.

 

….

 

I open my eyes slowly drinking in the peaceful quiet, something’s changed. The foreign thought piques my focus. I blink, once, twice… I’m sitting in a seat the belt tight across my chest. Red and blue lights flash. shouts pierce through a ringing in my ears. Two long black bags respectfully drape across the dirt road beside the shattered passenger window…

 

Lub… Dub…

 

My gaze, as if magnetized, drifts toward the driver-side locking with Maddie’s hollow eyes. Blood crusted lips hold an expression I’d never seen there… Surprise, betrayal, confusion?

 

The scene feels fabricated, somewhere inside a raspy voice screams ‘Wrong, wrong wrong…’

 

Lub… Dub

 

… I remember the moment your heart stopped beating as if it’s suspended in time. That slow beat has become the soundtrack of my life.

 

… I could have saved you, maybe… but instead, I chose to save myself…

 

No one else can ever know… It’s for the best.

 

This is our secret.

 

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