Chapter One: Lost Time

My entry for NaNoWriMo.

“I lived for those moments when we were together, those few times in my life that I actually felt alive.”

– Melissa de la Cruz

It all began the night she told me she loved me.

We were standing at the curb of main and Haddenfield, trying our best to hail a taxi. Ryan Andrew’s party had been an epic fail of epic proportions. The guy was wasted beyond conscious thought when the cops showed up to break up the party at the warehouse. It was good timing considering that Wendy and I were already halfway down the street. It was her idea to leave the party I’d drag her to and like always she was right and pissed off at me for the trouble with the law we’d skated past once again.

She was quiet beside me, her arms crossed over her chest as she shivered, the frigid air nipping at her exposed arms. I shrugged off my jacket and draped it over her shoulders, hoping that it would serve as an unsaid apology and offer her warmth.

Wendy flashed me a grateful smile and just like that the tension between us dissipated. She didn’t say anything, instead it seemed like her mind was somewhere else as she stared out across the street. I dug my hands into my front pockets and looked around me at the handful of people going about their night. There was a bum, sitting contently in front of a low key Chinese restaurant. In his right hand he played with an old metal tin and whenever someone would come his way he’d reach up, asking for spare change. A few people stopped and dropped money into the can, but it never seemed enough for the old guy.

“Your watch,” Wen’s voice caught my attention and I turned to see her downcast eyes staring at my wrist. “It’s broken.” I looked down and saw that my grandfather’s watch was indeed broken, the glass fractured and the hands held in suspension at 11:37.

“Dammit,” I mumbled. “How the hell did that happen?”

Wendy shrugged and shook her head sadly. “Dunno. But that’s weird.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s not eleven thirty-seven. It’s,” she pulled her cell from the front pocket of her jeans and unlocked it, illuminating her white skin with bright LED light. “It’s just eleven o’ eight. It probably happened earlier today.”

I tried to recall where I was at that time, but nothing stuck out like a sore thumb.

“Ian?” she asked. “Can I tell you something?”

“Only if it doesn’t involve ripping my head off.”

A faint smile sprung on her lips and she elbowed me playfully. “No it’s not. Well, I don’t even know how…” She let out a sigh. I turned my body towards her, the sound of her voice grasping my attention and holding it captive. Whatever she wanted to tell me was serious.

“You can tell me anything,” I reassured her. “Always.”

She lifted her head and met my gaze, her normally light green eyes dark in the shadows.

“I don’t think you’d want to hear it,” she whispered.

My brows knitted together with confusion as I tried to read the emotions playing in her eyes. Wendy let out a sigh and looked away, finding something fascinating on the ground, focusing on it like her life depended on it. I stepped closer, looking down at her bowed head and reached forward, turning up her chin.

Her eyes met mine for a second before she went back to looking at the ground.

“What is it?” I asked, curiosity twisting my stomach.

She gulped and shook her head. Then as if the internal battle that waged inside her had come to a close she looked up and said words that I never imagined she’d say to me.

“Ian, I’m in love with you.”

In that moment, a taxi pulled up to the curb; the headlights momentarily blinding me. I peered through the windshield and saw a guy around my age behind the wheel, casually lighting a cigarette.

“Someone call for a taxi?”

I began to shake my head when Wendy said, “Yeah.” She started towards the car, but I reached forward, circling my hand around her arm.

“What did you say?”

She recoiled at my touch like it was a snake and gritted her teeth. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes hard, flashing dangerously.

“Nothing,” she said quickly. “Forget it.” She climbed into the cab and looked back at me, expectantly. “Well, are you coming?”

I stared at her, completely disconcerted. I was trying to put together what she’d said. Maybe I had even heard wrong. But I hadn’t. Wendy’s face fell, a hurt expression flashing across her eyes like lightening. In a swift motion, she grabbed the handle of the car door and slammed it shut.

“900 State Street.”

The driver nodded and looked at me through the window, his eyes flickering between me and Wendy’s direction. I shook my head and dug my hands into the front pocket of my jeans as he pulled away from the curb, heading in the direction of the university.

I walked down the street, the yellow taxi a distant speck on the road. It was sitting on a red light and for a second I considered running towards it, wanting to settle the matter with Wendy, but I thought better of it. What would I say anyway? It was a situation best to avoid for a few days, at least, until the water settled, and we could both forget about that moment.

The car turned the corner and out of my sight it went. It couldn’t have been more than a minute when I heard the shrill squeak of tires and a thunderous crash reverberating from the direction Wendy’s cab had gone. Something made me run towards her, my feet pounding on the concrete. I quickly navigated around strangers who had stopped dead in their tracks and craned their necks to get a better look at the uproar. My heart roared in my ears as I skidded to a stop at the corner of Terrace Drive.

Fresh black skid marks zigzagged wildly across the asphalt, leading to what was left of a mangled yellow cab. The scorching odor of brunt rubber filled my nostrils as I tried to process everything. My thoughts could barely comprehend that the piece of twisted metal that had melted and molted into a sickening embrace with an eighteen wheeler semi had been a car. Flames rippled at the semi’s crumpled hood, and a black cloud of smoke rose up in the crisp night air; the acrid smell so thick and overwhelming it suffocated me.

In the midst of the searing heat and the sizzling snap of flames, I realized with an all-to clear clarity, that Wendy was in the wreckage.

It was her cab.

Logic told me to wait for the fire department, wait for professionals to do their job, but it was Wendy.

Wendy, who had helped me study into the wee hours of the morning for my finals, even though she had seven of her own to worry about. Wendy, who had been there for me through everything.

Wendy.

There was no time. I made my decision without a split second of hesitation. Cries of protests sounded in the distant but I didn’t turn back. I stumbled to the wreckage beneath the intersection, pushing past sobbing onlookers tearfully explaining the scene to the police on their cell. The searing heat of growing orange-black flames made my face flush and sweat glisten on my skin. Reaching the hot twist of metal, I tried the handle to the back door, burning my hand, and swearing loudly when it didn’t immediately give. I scrambled around the car’s other side, and nearly cried out in relief when the door opened, but my elation was short-lived when I saw Wendy’s body slumped down, halfway crumbled on the floorboard. Blood matted her orange-red hair, turning it a dark copper.

I pulled her into my arms and carried her out a safe distance away from the wreckage. People immediately swarmed around me, asking if she was okay. I didn’t answer, gently laying Wendy down on the cold concrete, positioning her head in my lap.

“C’mon, Wen,” I begged, brushing back the stray strands of hair on her forehead. “Come back to me, Wen, please.”

She didn’t stir. I leaned forward and pressed my ear to her chest, hearing the distant and faint beat of her heart still fighting. Desperation clawed up my throat with the agonizing thought of not being able to do anything.

She looked like she was sleeping and I shook her, willing for her to open her eyes if only for a second. I just needed her to open her eyes. Everything would be okay if she opened her eyes.

The sudden wail of sirens broke through my mental state, sending a surge of unrelenting hope through my body. Seconds later a paramedic was taking Wendy from my arms. I stared with wide eyes as he checked her pulse and looked at his partner, shaking his head.

“I’ll call it,” the paramedic who had taken Wendy away from me said. “Time of death: Eleven thirty-seven p.m.”

“No,” I breathed out. “No…she can’t…it can’t be…”

The second paramedic pushed himself off the ground and put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry for your lost. We’ll need you to come back to the hospital….”

His words became muffled, my brain unable to register anything he said afterward. Only flashes of images entered my mind: Wendy’s body being covered with a white sheet, a man pulling me away from the scene and into the ambulance, the kind and sympathetic face of a nurse, giving me a cup of hot coffee.

“What was her name?” she asked.

I stared ahead, unshed tears burning my eyes. I didn’t want to speak, knowing full well that if I so much as breathed a word I wouldn’t be able to stop the heart wrenching sob that constricted my chest.

She reached forward and laid her hand over mine. I looked down at her wrinkled yet soft hand and then met her eyes. “I know this is hard,” she said softly, “but you have to tell us something about her. Anything will help.”

I swallowed and nodded my head. “Her name is – was – Wendy Hardwicke. She was my best friend.”

*

I was sitting crumpled on the floor out in a hospital corridor after I’d broken down in front of Rita, when someone put their hand on my shoulder. I looked up, dazed and confused at seeing my roommate Keegan towering over me.

“C’mon, man. Let’s go.”

I shook my head and leaned my head back on the wall, looking up at the white plastered ceiling. “I won’t leave without her.”

He shook his head, putting his hands behind his head and looking up at the ceiling. Later, Keegan had someone coaxed me back to going to our dorm – the details of the matter lost and muddled. My eyes were heavy and swollen as I sank into my bed, and felt something hard beneath the covers. Fresh tears brimmed my eyes as I unveiled what had been lying precariously underneath. It was Wendy’s art journal, the cover rough and tattered after years of being used. She had left it here just this morning when I dragged her to our favorite coffee shop across campus.

I toed off my shoes and settled into bed, while repeating a mantra silently in my head.

Breathe. Keep it together. Breathe.

Keegan flicked off the lights. Old, creaky groans escaped from his bed as he shifted his weight under it. The tention was palpable in the air, filled with all the things that could be said but weren’t.

I laid there, staring up at the ceiling with her journal clutched to my chest as the hours dragged on by. Sleep eventually came, pulling me under into a dark and empty abyss.

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1 Comment

  1. Okay, am I creepy to stalk your blog and found these beautiful stories? Ahh! I love it! Dropping by to the other stories next! ❤

    Reply

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