Horrified, my eyes widened. My mouth began to form a horrified shriek of my little brother’s name, but my terrified voice could not find the sound needed to make it audible. I heard Marie to the left of me curse under her breath as we both stood there, dumbfounded.
“Dammit, Josh!” Ray yelled. He began sprinting towards my brother, his long legs moving so quickly that they were merely a blur. Jumping off of the curb, he landed right in front of Josh and scooped him up into his arms, standing to run back to me and Marie as we stood petrified on the curb. But, before he could even completely unbend his knees to stand, Josh screamed and pointed to their right; there was a blue truck barreling right towards them.
Instinctively, Ray tossed Josh away from him and to the sidewalk. He landed on the curb with a harsh thud, but still stood and joined me and Marie as we looked on helplessly at Ray and the blue truck. Before any of us could become aware enough to do something to stop it, the truck’s bumper slammed into Ray’s shins, sending him over the hood and crashing into the windshield.
Somewhere, somebody’s voice shrieked a blood-curdling “NO!” It took me only a moment to realize that the scream had come from me, and then I was running; running toward the surely-gruesome scene.
Ray had slid off of the windshield and was now slumped in a heap on the ground in front of the truck. As soon as I reached him, I turned him over so that I could look at his face. His normally tan skin was now paler, and held a sickly greenish undertone. A trail of blood trickled from his forehead where he’d been gashed by the glass of the trucks newly-shattered windshield and ran down the middle of his face. His eyes, usually a deep brown that twinkled and shined, were faded and dull.
“Mother fuck, Ray,” I said quietly, trying to keep the tears from my eyes. “You really got yourself into a predicament this time.”
“Yeah,” he said weakly. “I guess you could say that.”
“Somebody call and ambulance!” Marie yelled behind me. I barely heard her; the only thing I was concentrated on was Ray.
“Quinn,” he coughed, “is Josh okay?”
“Yes,” I said, “he’s fine…fine.”
He turned his head and looked at the sky as blood began to pool around his head. I took his hand in mine and squeezed it lightly, trying to assure him that I was there and wasn’t going anywhere.
“Hey, Quinn?” he said suddenly.
“Am I dying?”
The question took me by surprise, and made my heart ache. My eyes suddenly flooded with tears, which began to spill onto my cheeks.
“No,” I said, my voice breaking. “No, you…you’re going to be okay. Help will get here and—“
“Nope,” he cut me off. “I’m pretty sure I’m dying right now.”
“Don’t talk like that!” I shouted, horrified at his negative bluntness.
He smiled crookedly. “Sorry…I’m just trying to lighten the mood.”
“How the hell would that lighten the mood?” My bottom lip shook, which made my voice sound weak and unsteady.
“Well,” he said, “…I’m…not sure…whatever was supposed to happen didn’t, I see. ‘Cause now you’re crying.”
I laughed mockingly and looked him right in the eyes. “You’re going to be fine.”
“Alrighty,” he said under his breath.
We sat silently, his hand in mine, until the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took him away on a stretcher.
“You’re going to be okay,” I called after him.
In response, he merely gave me a thumbs-up from inside the ambulance before the doors were closed and he was taken away.
“Oh my God,” I said as I paced in the waiting room at the hospital. “Oh my God…Oh my God…”
Marie sat in a chair, holding her knees to her chest and obviously trying not to cry. Josh sat in the chair next to her, twiddling his thumbs and hanging his head.
“Sissy,” he said to me, “did I kill Ray?”
“No, sweetie.” Marie put her arm around him. “Ray killed Ray.”
“No he didn’t!”
I spun around to look at her; her eyes were rounded with surprise at my sudden outburst.
“He’s going to be fine!” I snapped at her. “He’s just a little messed up right now, but he’ll be fine! He has to be!”
Marie stared at me for a moment, and I repeated “He has to be,” in a low whisper. Tears started to roll down my cheeks again, and I sat down in a chair and rested my head in my hands.
I looked up to see my mother looking down at me, concern apparent on her face; she, apparently, had just arrived at the hospital.
“We have to go home, sweetie. I’m sorry.”
“No!” I yelled. She took a step back, not expecting my reaction.
“I have to see him!” Desperately, I stood and pleaded. “I have to, mom!”
“He’s going into surgery,” she said in an attempt to soothe me. “You can come see him when he recovers a bit more.”
“No buts…it’s late, we have to go.”
Reluctantly, I stood and took Josh’s hand and we followed my mother out the doors. Marie’s mother passed us on the way out; she glanced at us, not bothering to hide her disdain at our presence. I glanced back at Marie, who looked at me sorrowfully as her mother grabbed her sharply by the arm and dragged her out of the building along behind her.
“Anna,” my mother said to her presently.
“Carrie,” Marie’s mother replied curtly.
I opened the door to my mom’s Subaru after I helped Josh get buckled in and we drove away, turning to watch the hospital until it was out of sight; I knew that somewhere in the building, Ray could have been dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The call came late that night.
I laid in bed, exhausted, but unable to sleep as worry ate at my mind and forced me awake. My pillow was soaked with tears from the fits of sobbing that plagued me throughout the night. I had a terrible pain in my head; I knew that was from the crying. There was another terrible pain in my chest; I assumed that was from a broken heart.
I’d never been given a chance to tell Ray how I really felt. I mean, yes, I knew I wasn’t madly in love with him or anything, but I did LOVE him. He had always been there for me, no matter what; he’d called me every night after my dad left years ago just to make sure that I was doing okay. He’d brought me flowers and soup when I got the chicken pox and was gone from school for three weeks. He’d done so much for me, and I never had told him how much I loved him and appreciated his friendship; I’d taken him for granted…and then, I was at risk of losing him forever.
There was a knock at the door, killing the silence that enveloped me.
“Quinn,” my mom said behind it; she’d known I was awake, for my name was spoken softly. “Can I please come in?”
The tone in her voice made my stomach knot up, and I tensed.
My bedroom door opened, and my mother switched on my light. I sat up to look at her; she had clearly been crying. I felt my face contort as sorrow rose up in my chest and pushed hot tears onto my face; I knew what was coming.
“Oh God, no,” I whispered.
Slowly, she nodded, and she started to cry again.
“Get out,” I said sharply. “Get out now.”
At first, she looked at me. Then, without another word, left my room and closed my door tightly behind her.
For a few minutes, I sat on my bed, motionless and without making a sound. My head was spinning, and I tried to remain in denial.
No…this couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be…he couldn’t really be…
I stood calmly and took ahold of my guitar… I caressed it gently, looking down at the shiny, black, wooden surface. I took the pick from its weaved position in the guitar’s strings and looked at its metallic purple shine; it had been a gift from Ray.
I walked to my door with my guitar and stood still for a moment. Then, without a word, I took the guitar by its neck and smashed it into the wall. Over and over I did this, screaming and sobbing as I swung with more force until, finally, it shattered and rained wooden shards all over my room.
I walked to my electric keyboard and raised it above my head, slamming it down onto the ground in front of me. I took the bench and threw it at my door, leaving a huge crack down the middle.
My mom burst into my room as I was smashing the lamp on my bedside table with one of my shoes, and she rushed to me and took me in her arms, stroking my head. I relaxed as she held me, pressing my face into her shoulder and sobbing.
We sat on my bed together, crying silently. After a while, she stopped crying and left me alone in my room. I curled up in the middle of my bed; I wanted to cry, but I’d reached the point where I’d been crying for so long that no tears would come. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling; anger, yes…sadness, of course. Regret, loss, longing, denial, all rolled into one.
I tried to think of how Ray’s mother was doing, if she was feeling the same way I was. I thought of Marie, and if she’d yet received the news.
I thought of Ray…his naturally-tanned skin, he deep brown eyes, his unruly brown hair…of his smile that always warmed my heart, of his voice that always seemed to calm me and make me feel accepted.
Slowly, I drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep that I sometimes wish I had never woken up from.