Half an hour later the party starts to wind down. Inside, someone has ripped the Christmas lights off the wall and they're trailing along the floor like a snake, lighting up the dust mites in the corners. I'm feeling better now, more like myself. "There's always tomorrow," Dakota said to me, when I told her about Rob, and I run the phrase over and over in my head like a mantra: There's always tomorrow, there's always tomorrow.
It's the time of the night I like best, when most people are asleep and it feels like the world belongs completely to my friends and me, as though nothing exists apart from our little circle; everywhere else is dark and quiet. I leave with Dakota, Hannah, and Sarah. The crowd is thinning as people take off, but it's still hard to move. Dakota keeps calling out, "Excuse me, excuse me, move it, feminine emergency!" Years ago we discovered at an under-eighteen concert in Poughkeepsie that nothing clears people faster than referencing a feminine emergency. It's like people think they can catch it.
On our way out we pass people hooking up in the corners and pressed against the stairwell. Behind closed doors we hear the muffled sounds of people giggling. Hannah slams her fist against each door and screams out, "No glove, no love!" Dakota turns around and whispers something to Hannah, and Hannah shuts up and looks at me guiltily. I want to tell them that I don't care- I don't care about John or missing my chance- but suddenly I'm too tired to talk. We pass Birdget McGuire sitting on the edge of a bathtub with the door just cracked open, she has her head in her hands and she's crying.
"What happened?" I ask, trying to fight the feeling of swimming in my own heard, of my words coming from a distance.
"She dumped Alex." Dakota grabs my elbow and she seems sober, but her pupils are enormous and thw whites of her eyes are bloodshot. "You'll never believe it. She found out that the Nic Nazi busted Alex and Anna togehter. He told her that he had a doctor's appointment."
"Boys are asses!" Hannah screams, raising her beer and spilling some of it. I don't even think that Hannah has any idea about what we are talking about.
"She better not hurl in the tank." Dakota whispers, tipping her head back towards Hannah.
John is stretched out on a sofa downstairs, but he manages to grab my hand as I go by and pull me down on top of him. "Where're you goin'?" He slurs, eyes unfocused and his voice hoarse.
"Let go John." I sigh, pushing him off me.
"We were susposed to..." John's voice trails off and he shakes his head, confused, then narrows his eyes at me. "Are you cheating on me?"
"Don't be stupid." I say, rolling my eyes at John. I want to rewind the past few weeks, go back to the moment when John leaned over, rested his chin on my shoulder, and told me he wanted to sleep next to me, go back to that quiet moment in that dark room with the TV blue and muted in front of us and the sound of his breathing and my parents sleeping upstairs, go back to the moment I opened my mouth and heard, "I do too."
"You are, you're cheating on me. I knew it." John screams before lurching to his feet and looking around wildly. Kennedy, one of John's best friends, is standing in the corner laughing about something, and John stumbles over to him. "Are you cheating with my girlfriend?" John roars, and pushes Kennedy. Kennedy stumbles and knocks against a bookshelf, a porcelain figurine topples over and shatters before a girl screams.
"Are you crazy?" Kennedy jumps back on John and suddenly they're locked together, wrestling, shuffling around the room and knocking into things, grunting and yelling. Somehow John gets Kennedy down on his knees and then they're both on the floor.
"Let's go Hayles." Dakota whispers, squeezing my shoulder from behind.
"I can't just leave him here." I say, though a part of me wants to.
"He'll be fine, look he's laughing." Dakota's right. John and Kennedy are already done fighting and are sprawled on the floor, laughing their asses off.
"John's going to be so pissed," I groan, and I know Dakota knows I'm talking about more than just ditching him at the party.
Dakota gives me a quick hug. "Remember what I said." She starts to singsong, "Just thinkin' about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow.."
For a moment my stomach clenches, thinking she's making fun of me, but it's just a coincidence. Dakota didn't know me when I was little, wouldn't even have spoken to me. She has no way of knowing I used to lock myself in my room with the Annie soundtrack and belt that song at the top of my lungs whenever my parents would argue. The melody starts repeating in my head and I know I'll be singing it for days. Tomorrow is a beautiful word, when you really think about it.
"Lame party huh?" Sarah says, coming up on the other side of me even though I know she's pissed that Jeremy Davis didn't show, I'm glad she says it.
The sound of rain is louder than I thought it would be and it startles me. For a moment we stand under the porch eaves, watcing our breath condense into clouds, hugging ourselves. It's freezin. Water is falling in steady streams from the eaves. Pat and Garret, John's friends, are throwing empty beer bottles in the woods and every so often we hear one shatter, and the sound comes back to us like a gunshot. People are laughing and screaming and running in the rain, which is coming down so hard everything looks as though it's melting into everything else. There are no neighbors to call the cops for miles. The grass is churned up, great black pits of mud exposed. Headlights are flashing in the distance, in and out, on and off, as cars sweep down the driveway towards Route 9.
"Run for it!" Dakota yells and I feel Sarah tugging on me and then we're running, screaming, the rain blinding us and streaming down our jackets, the mud oozing into our shoes; rain so hard it's like everything is melting.
By the time we get to Dakota's car, I really don't care about the awful way the night turned out, We're laughing hysterically, soacked and shivering, woken up from the cold and the rain. Dakota's squealing about wet butt marks on her leather seats and mud on the floor, and Hannah's begging her to go to Mic's for an egg and cheese and complaining that I always get shotgun, and Sarah's yelling for Dakota to turn on the heat and threatening to drop dead right there from pneumonia.
I guess that's how we started to talk about it; dying, I mean. I figure Dakota's okay to drive, but I notice she's going faster than usual down that awful, long, penned-in driveway. The trees look like stripped skeletons on either side of us, moaning in the wind.
"I have this theory," I'm saying as Dakota skids out onto Route 9 and the tires shriek against the slick black road. The clock on the dashboard is glowing: 12:38. "I have this theory that before you die you see your greatest hits, you know? The best things you've ever done."
"Duke baby." Dakota sings, taking one hand off the wheel to fist pump in the air.
"First time I hooked up with Jeremy Davis." Sarah breathes, a small smile reaching her lips.
Hannah groans and leans forward, reaching for the Ipod. "Music please before I kill myself."
"Can I get a cigarette?" Dakota asks, and Hannah lights one for her off the butt she's holding. Dakota cracks the windows and freezing rain comes in, Sarah complaining about the cold again. Hannah puts on "Splinter" to piss Sarah off, maybe because she's sick of her whining. Sarah calls her a bitch and unbuckles her seat belt, leaning forward and trying to grab the Ipod. Dakota complains that someone is elbowing her in the neck, making the cigarette falls from her lips and land between her thighs. She starts cussing and trying to brush the embers off the seat cushions, and Hannah and Sarah as still fighting, and I'm trying to talk over them, reminding them all of the time we made snow angels in May. The clock ticks forward: 12:39. The tires skid a little on the wet road and the car is full of cigarette smoke, little wisps rising like phantoms in the air.
Then all of a sudden there's a flash of white in front of the car. Dakotayells something- words I can't make out, something like sit or shit or sight- and suddenly the car is flipping off the road and into the black mouth of the woods. I hear a horrible, screeching sound- metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two- and smell fire. I have time to wonder whether Dakota had put out her cigarette-
That's when it happens. The moment of death is full of heat and sound and pain bigger than aything, a funnel of burning heat splitting me in two, something searing and scorching and tearing, and if screaming were a feeling it would be this.
I know some of you are thinking maybe I deserved it. Maybe I shouldn't have sent that rose to Juliet or dumped my drink on her at the party. Maybe I shouldn't have copied off Lauren' Lornet's quiz. Maybe I shouldn't have said those things to Josh. There are probably some of you who think I deserved it because I was going to let John go all the way- because I wasn't going to save myself. But before you start pointing fingers, let me ask you: is what I did really so bad? So bad I deserved to die? So bad I deserved to die like that? Is what I really did so much worse than what anybody else does? Is it really so much worse than what you do?
Think about it.
Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I just got really angry when I noticed that Chapter 33 of Oceans Between us has been deleted and I don't have a back up saved so I've been working on trying to re-write it but it's kinda hard. Hopefully I'll get that up soon and post Chapter 34 as well but until I do I hope you enjoyed Chapter 16 of When It Rains.