Baby Sisters Ride In the Back

December 21, 2009
I open my eyes to brilliantly bright lights. Something stiff and uncomfortable is around my neck, and my eyes sting. "What...?" my words are thick, and my throat raw. "Where...?" The lights above me flash by as I'm moved down a cold and shiny corridor. Voices are whirling around me. I feel a sharp prick on the inside of my elbow, and then slowly, everything goes black.

When I wake up I am impossibly tired. A figure is sitting in the plastic chair by the large wall with closed blinds. The window shades are open to the night, the TV in the corner is quiet and still, and the monitors glow in the darkness. The figure is quietly shaking, hands entangled in his thick, curly hair.
"Mark." I croak. My voice sounds like sandpaper. He looks up, eyes tortured and red from crying. He looks unharmed, save for the cut on his head. This is because he was the driver. In driver's ed they always told us the safest place to be during an accident is right behind the wheel. I never should've been in that car.
"I'm so sorry." says Mark, and his shoulders collapse as he shakes. "I'm so, so sorry."
Mark was drunk when I got in the car tonight. But he was still our ride home. Ours. Me, and my brother Andrew.
"It's my fault." He says. Yes, the accident was his fault. I remember now; a flash of headlights, swerving off the road, and hitting that tree. The accident was his fault, but I never should have been in that car.
"How's Andrew?" I ask. He was the one who insisted Mark was fine to drive. I wanted to call Mom and Dad, but he begged me not to. Neither of us wanted to get in trouble.
"It's my fault." Mark says again, and I start to get worried that he's not answering my question.
"Mark." I say, "Is Andrew okay?"
I already know he's not. He was sitting in the front seat. He kicked my out of shotgun because "baby sisters have to sit in the back".
Mark tries not to look at me. "He's gone, Rachel." He says quietly.
"Gone where?" I ask. I know I'm being stupid. That's not what he means. He's trying to tell me that my big brother is dead, but i don't want to believe it. I want to pretend that he's gone home to tell my parents what happened. That soon they'll all be coming in here with a teddy bear and balloons- like they did when I got my appendix out. But Mark won't let me pretend.
"Rachel, he's dead."
I turn my face away from Mark and my vision blurs as something hot and wet rolls down my cheeks. "I'm sorry." Mark says again. But a thousand "I'm sorry"s can't fix this. I should've called my parents when I had the chance. We should never have been in that car.

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