Then said Jesus, "Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do..."
Her name exploded in my head, and although my mouth dropped open, I was sure no sound escaped. My mind was screaming at me to run to her side, comfort her, anything besides stand there on the sidewalk like an idiot, but my body was frozen in place as I watched her crumpled form collapse to the pavement below.
I was brought out of my trance instantly when some random bystander shouted out, “Somebody, call an ambulance!”
I was at her side in a second, dropping to my knees and taking her limp body up in my arms. The rusty smell of blood- her blood- filled my nostrils.
“Arielle,” I whispered desperately, pushing her dark hair, sticky with blood, back away from her face. “Arielle.”
Her eyelids fluttered open half-way and she looked up at me through glassy eyes.
“Griffin,” she breathed out in a voice so quiet I was sure that I had imagined it. Conjured it up from memory, perhaps.
“Shh,” I murmured, pressing her head into my chest harder. I was completely drenched in her blood by now; where was the ambulance? “Stay awake, Arielle.”
I found it to be impossible, no matter how I tried, to stop the racing thoughts from rushing into my mind. Her eyes dropped closed. And just like that, I felt that last flicker of hope, the last string I’d been grasping so tightly, snap.
I heard the voice, coming form directly beside me, but I would not tear my gaze away from her cold body in my arms.
“Sir, we need you to step away.”
My body went completely numb as another person came up and gently took her from my arms. Don’t you touch her! I wanted to shout at them. Don’t you dare lay a finger on her! But the words wouldn’t come. No words would come.
“Sir?” It was the same voice from before. “I’m going to need to know what happened.”
I kept my eyes on Arielle the entire time they were strapping her to a gurney and loading her into the ambulance. I somehow managed to withhold the rage, anger, sorrow, and countless other emotions coursing through me as I did this, and, in doing so, I vacated myself of emotion completely. I felt myself being removed from this dimension, into my own little universe within my mind, where there was no pain, no loss.
But as soon as the ambulance burst into life and the sirens began to flash and wail, they all came rushing back into me at once, a massive whirlwind of feeling that brought tears to my eyes and literally brought me to my knees. Pounding my fists onto the concrete, I let out a scream of anguish.
“Alright,” the man said. “Let’s get him out of here.”
A third officer came up and took my by the arm, helping me as I staggered to my feet and forced my body to stumble over to the cop car.
“Go ahead and sit in here,” the man told me. I shut the door in a sad attempt to block out the rest of the world.
This wasn’t real. This was simply another dream. If I closed my eyes, this would all go away.
I told myself this over and over. However, the images that lay behind my closed eyes were ten times worse than the flashing blue and red lights of the half-dozen cop cars.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw the same annoying cop approaching the car. I took several deep breaths in attempt to calm myself, running a shaking hand through my hair. Seconds later, he pulled open the door.
“Are you ready to explain the scenario?” Obviously cops weren’t trained in the sympathy department. Exhaling through my mouth, I nodded slowly. “Can you start with a name?”
“Arielle,” I mumbled. “Arielle Kemp.”
The officer pulled out a notepad and pen, quickly jotting it down.
“She was running…”
For the next ten minutes, I recapped on the events of the last hour and answered each and every of the cop’s questions. He thanked me and then returned to the others.
I remained in the dark cab of the car for several more minutes before finally deciding to get out. I slid out the side opposite the scene of the accident and slowly began the long walk home.
The first thing I became aware of was the fact that I was blisteringly hot. Hot to the point that it was impossible to think of anything else. I longed to look around, to make sense of my location, but all I saw was an endless black sea surrounding me.
The second thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t alone in this blackness. In fact, after a moment, I made out three individual voices. None of them triggered any memory, but I listened to them nonetheless.
“Head trauma,” the first one- a male- said. “By way of car crash.”
“We’ve got her on life support,” a woman added.
I gave up on listening, for listening to them hurt. Instead, I returned to the dream-like state of the shadows I’d been in before. Only did I tune back in when a certain word caught my attention- my own name.
“Was Arielle’s mother notified?”
It was the third voice, another man, who asked this question. For some reason, this inquiry bothered me. For some reason, I had a feeling that there was something that my mother wasn’t supposed to know. Was this what they were notifying her on?
I tried to voice my concerns, but found that I physically could not bring myself to do so. My mouth would not obey, would not open up. The words were nothing more than thoughts in my mind.
It surprised even me that I did not break out into a panic over this discovery. After all, I’d always been the panicky type, stressing over every last detail until there was nothing left to stress about. And yet, I remained calm as ever; my breathing did not falter, my heart did not race. I simply stayed in the blissful state of my very own darkness.
Cordelia greeted me the second I walked in the door with a huge, relieved hug. She held me there longer than she would have under normal circumstances, and I embraced her right back.
“Oh, Griffin, it’s all over the news,” she whispered. “It was...”
I was thankful that she decided to drop the matter immediately, also dropping her arms to her side. “Are you alright?”
“I didn’t bother to answer her question. Because really, did she even need to ask? Arielle was-
No. I would not let myself even consider that possibility.
“You must be exhausted,” she said, taking a step back. “Why don’t you go get some sleep?”
The words were out before I could stop them. “Do you honestly think I’ll be able to sleep? To even close my eyes without reliving that? I need to be with her!”
Cordelia’s warm expression did not falter. “Griffin, I promise-“
I did not give her a chance to finish.
“You can’t be sure of anything, Cordelia!” I shouted. “Don’t you dare tell me she’ll be alright.”
Before either of us could get out another word, I turned and vanished up the stairs. I shut my bedroom door tightly and then crumpled right there on the floor, breaking out into hysterical sobs.
I did not sleep that night. I managed to make it to my desk, and I sat there, holding my charcoal with a shaking hand but not really ever touching it to the paper in front of me.
When the sunlight began to peek in through the crack in my curtains, I forced myself across the room to pull them tighter. It didn’t seem fair that the world should be able to go on.
I crossed the hall to the bathroom and took a long look at myself in the mirror. Honestly, I looked awful. My eyes were all red and puffy, stained around the edges with the last remains of my eyeliner. My clothes were rumpled from being worn for twenty-six hours straight.
But that was the farthest thing from my mind. Quickly pulling a washcloth from the shelf and dampening it in the sink, I scrubbed at my face and brushed through my hair and teeth. What I looked like wasn’t exactly important to me, although I was sure Cordelia would never let me out of the house unless I was semi-presentable.
Hurrying back to my room, I changed my clothes and grabbed a thick black sweatshirt that I found crumpled on the floor- most likely the one I’d been wearing on Friday night. As I slid into it, a faint trace of Arielle’s perfume reached up and tickled my nostrils. I suppressed a sob as I slammed the door hard behind me.
“Griffin, where do you think you’re going, dear?”
Cordelia’s gentle voice came to me from within the kitchen as I silently made my way past the archway. Cursing silently to myself, I paused in the doorframe.
“Out,” I answered simply, keeping my tone as light as possible.
Cordelia set down the paper she was fingering through, looking up to meet my green eyes with her own. Her face was expressionless, the perfect poker face.
“Do you really think that’s in your best interest? Perhaps you should stay here with me.” I could tell by her tone that she was daring me to defy her. It was a dare I was going to take.
Turning on my heel and walking away without a second glance, I called back, “I don’t stay hidden from my fears.”