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Racing The Wind This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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My therapist and I had a game we played. We looked deep into each other's eyes, daring the other to break the silence. Whoever spoke first lost.

I never lost.

Today was different, though. As soon as I walked into his office, I noticed his usually flawless windows were covered with thick curtains I'd never seen before. I blinked in the darkness.

“Over here, Carrie.”

I squeaked in surprise and spun around. Next to the door sat two overstuffed arm chairs. And one was occupied by Dr. Evans.

Even in the dark, I could see his pale blue eyes. That was a feature I liked about him.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” I whispered, lowering myself into the chair across from him. “And what's with the curtains? Are you goth now?”

Dr. Evans watched me with a leveled gaze, and didn't answer my question. I swallowed and shifted in my seat. Was he beginning the game already?

When he finally looked away, he let out a heavy sigh almost of disappointment. I felt a pang in my heart. The last thing I wanted to do was let him down. “Carrie,” he finally said, still not looking at me, “every day you enter this office, you never say more than a paragraph. I think it's time we changed that.” He met my gaze. “You can't keep your feelings bottled up, you have to say something.”

It was my turn to look away. “I never have anything to say,” I mumbled.

Silence.

We sat in the crushing silence for almost twenty minutes, never looking the other in the eye, even when I felt his eyes boring into the side of my head. Then I whispered:

“It was my fault, you know.”

I heard him move, the leather creaking. “What was your fault, Carrie?” he asked.

My mouth parted to speak. I wanted to tell him, tell someone, how I felt. Maybe this feeling of guilt will pass. Maybe I will finally live in peace. But then my lips sealed again. I shook my head, and jumped to my feet. There was no way to stop the tears. I was falling apart, and I couldn't bring myself to admit it.

I couldn't bring myself to tell the only person I trusted that my dad died because of me.

A sob escaped my throat, and I snatched my bag. He didn't stop me; he just watched with those eyes of his.

The eyes that reminded me of my father.

Next thing I knew, I was yanking the door open.

Then I was running.

From what, I wasn't sure. But I just wanted to get away. I didn't want anyone to see me break.

My feet pounded down the corridor in time with my heart. I raced through the lobby and burst out into the cold November air. Down the street I flew. Colors blended into browns and grays. Tears clouded my vision as I dashed down alleys and sidewalks. Concerned looks were thrown my way, but no one approached me. No one ever did.

Eventually, my feet gave up on me, and I crashed to the ground. The cement sidewalk showed no sympathy as it dug loose bits of gravel into my palms. The shock of the fall drove away the lump in my throat and the tears from my eyes. I just sat there, watching the blood bubble up onto my skin. Pain left my body, and I felt nothing. Blinking, I pulled myself to my feet and looked around, hoping I was somewhere I recognized.

The unwelcoming sight of a large cast-iron fence made my blood cold. My eyes traveled down the length of the fence and came to rest on the gate.

The open gate.

My feet moved on their own, treading down a path I had traveled hundreds of times. Through the gate, straight 30 steps, right 12, next to the willow tree. I collapsed by the smooth marble stone, feeling exhausted.

“Hey, Dad,” I whispered, putting my palm on his gravestone.

Gently, I lowered my head to the grass, pressing my ear to the earth – hoping, praying that I could hear him answer. A tear slid down my cheek, and I made no move to wipe it away.

“I'm sorry,” I breathed, clutching the grass as anger and guilt washed over me. No matter how hard I tried to block my memories, they flooded my mind, sending me spiraling into a pit of darkness.






The summer heat made me curse, causing Dad to smile. “Don't say that around your mother,” he said me.

“Who do you think I learned it from?” I retorted, making us both shake with laughter.

With my bare feet propped up on the dashboard, he drove us slowly through town, marveling at the clouds and how they looked like animals. I rolled my eyes and smiled. He always had his eyes on the sky. I had always wondered why he looked there so much. Maybe he was wondering what it would be like to look down from up there.

He swung left onto an country road and laid on the brakes “Why don't you give it a spin, Carrie?” He smiled, hopping out of the car.

Me, driving my dad's Camaro, one of his prized possessions! The only thing he ever got from his father before he died when Dad was nineteen – and he trusted me to drive it! I giggled as I climbed into the driver's seat. “Take it slow, okay?” He laughed nervously.

“Sure.” I said, then pushed the gas pedal flat to the floor.

Our shouts – mine of enthusiasm, his of fear – mingled with the summer air and the roar of the engine. I whooped and turned sharply around a corner. Dad braced himself and shouted something I couldn't hear. Like I cared – this was the most alive I had ever felt.

The city rose in the distance, and I raced the wind there. Once in city limits, I slowed to an acceptable speed. “Just like your mother,” Dad muttered, relaxing his grip on the armrest.

I cruised for ten minutes before he told me to pull over. “Enough fun for now,” he said. Pulling the Camaro into a local alley, I slumped in the driver's seat. I wanted nothing more than live my whole life with the feeling of weightless eureka when speeding down that back road.

My thoughts were interrupted by a thump on the bumper. I spun around, surprise making my heart skip a beat. The back of my dad's head blocked the view of the person he was trying to talk to. I could tell by the tenseness in his back that something was wrong. Easing the driver's door open, I leaned out.

“Son, I think you're making a mistake,” I heard my father's strained voice say.

The person in front of my dad shifted position, giving me a clear view of his face. He was young, maybe a few years older than me, and he was holding my dad against the car with something.

My breath caught in my throat when I saw the glint of metal.

It was a gun.

“Shut up, old man!” the boy growled, his eyes flicking over my dad's shoulder. He and I made eye contact, then he turned the weapon on me. “Who's that?”

My dad didn't turn, but instead stepped in the path of the gun. “My daughter, and your goal will not be reached by harming her.” His back straightened and he spoke calmly. “Is it money you want? Then have it, and leave us be.”

I watched as my dad shoved his wallet into the man's hand. Fear made my throat tighten and I found it hard to breathe. Was this really happening?

“And the car,” the man said, his voice shaking slightly.

My dad moved aside and motioned for me to get out of the car. I hesitated, my hands tightening on the door. Was he really going to give up his car that easily? It was like a second child to him.

The boy saw my hesitation and sprang forward. His hand grabbed my hair and yanked me to my feet. I
cried in pain as he shoved me to the ground.

Then my dad was on top of him. He grabbed the boy's shoulders and flung him into the alley wall. The gun flew from his hand and landed by my feet. I watched in horror as the two wrestled. My dad was a head taller, but he was younger than my father. And quicker.

He punched my father in the gut, making him to double over. Then he lunged toward me. I screamed and threw my hands in front of my face, but no impact came.

Just a gunshot.

My eyes flew open, and I gasped in shock. My father leaned against the alley wall, clutching his belly. The boy dropped the gun and stumbled back, his face sickly pale. He looked at me, then to my father, then back to me. Fear flooded his eyes. He spun around and ran.

Turning back to my father, I saw blood bubbling up through his fingers. He slid down the wall and blinked in surprise, as though he didn't know what had just happened. I crawled ­toward him and placed my hands over his. We looked at each other, and I whispered, “Daddy, are you okay?”

He smiled sadly, but didn't say anything. Tears fogged my vision and I felt a sob building in my chest. I knew I had to find help, but my body refused to move.

I watched my dad die, and I did nothing.

And I hated myself for it.






“Are you all right, hon?”

I raised my head with a moan. I must have fallen asleep, I thought. “I'm fine.” I mumbled, pushing myself into a sitting position.

The first thing I noticed about the man standing over me was his sleeveless T-shirt. Even with my fleece, I was still cold. I didn't know how this guy was even functioning in this cold.

Frost crunched under his boots as he kneeled next to me. His concerned look made my heart squeeze. Slowly, he reached out his hand and poked my arm. I blinked and tilted my head. “What was that for?” I asked, wondering if I should poke him back.

He smiled, and I felt an odd giddiness wash over me. I couldn't help but smile back. “Well,” he started, running his fingers through his sandy brown hair, “my pa told me once that sometimes people you see in graveyards aren't always people, sometimes they're angels.” He gently took my arm and helped me to my feet.

“You actually believe that?”

He nodded. “You don't?”

We both walked slowly from the graveyard, and I considered his question. No, I wanted to say. If there were actually any such thing as angels, then would my father have died? Weren't they supposed to watch over us, protect us?

Taking my silence as an answer, he said quietly, “You never know, anybody could be one. I hear they walk among us, watching and stuff. Heck, my ol' man could be wandering around, just checking on me. But he probably won't be himself, you know? He always said he liked being 17. Maybe he got his wish after he passed. Maybe the seventeen-year-old him is watching out for me.” He smiled at that thought.

I looked back over my shoulder ­toward my dad's resting place. I wondered if he was watching out for me right now. “Maybe.” I said softly.

“Oh hey, you need a ride?” he asked suddenly, coming to a stop. I turned to face him. “'Cause, you know, I hear it's gonna get real cold, and I don't want you to get sick or nothin'.”

I remembered my dad telling me never to get in a car with a stranger, but right now, I was in no mood to walk halfway across town to get home. “Why not?” I sighed.

He led the way. I read the back of his shirt while he walked, and noticed it listed the names of cities some band had played at. My dad had owned that shirt, I realized. I wondered where this guy got one. The shirt had to be at least 28 years old. I didn't think the band was even around anymore.

We left the graveyard just as the groundskeeper was locking the gate. “Sorry for staying late, Bert.” the guy said to the groundskeeper.

The groundskeeper completely ­ignored him and narrowed his eyes at me. “You're lucky I didn't lock you in all night, young lady,” he grumbled.

The guy came to a stop and waved his hand dramatically. “My chariot,” he said, opening the passenger door for me.

My feet froze.

I blinked repeatedly and swallowed a gasp.

Not possible, I thought, staring at my father's Camaro. It can't possibly be the same one. My mind spun as I took a tentative step forward. After he died, my mom sold Dad's Camaro, but was it ­possible this guy had bought it?

“It won't bite,” he teased, motioning to the door with his head.

I rolled my eyes and slid into the passenger seat. A lump formed in my throat as I ran my fingers over the dashboard. The seats even still had the light odor of the cinnamon soap my dad always used. Tears threatened to overflow, but I fought them as the driver's door opened.

For a moment, it was summer again. My dad climbed behind the wheel and turned to me. He smiled and said, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Then it was gone.

And so was my dad.

Summer faded and was replaced by winter. I shuddered and turned away. “No reason,” I mumbled, closing my eyes in hope of ­seeing my father on the ­inside of my eyelids.

For a moment, all I could hear was my broken heart beating which was interrupted by the jingle of keys and the roar of the Camaro coming to life. My hand gripped the armrest as he made an illegal U-turn and raced down the street.

We came to a red light and the guy turned to me. “So, where to?” he asked, flicking the fuzzy dice that dangled from the mirror.

“Where did you get this car?” I said, completely ignoring his question. I had to know if this had been my dad's. He smiled and ­affectionately ran his hand over the cracked leather of the wheel. “This old girl? It was a gift from my pa. Purrs like a kitten, don't she?”

I nodded. “Sure does,” I whispered. This time I flicked the fuzzy dice. “Take a right.”

Silence fell onto the ­inside of the car, and I found it oddly comforting. Every now and again, I would give ­directions, and I was glad he didn't try to strike up a conversation. He was a nice person. If only I hadn't met him in a graveyard.

“Stop here,” I said, pointing to a one-story house with horrid green shutters.

“Thanks for the ride.” I smiled awkwardly, quickly stepped out, and was greeted by a teeth-chattering blast of wind. With my shoulders arched against it, I took a few steps toward my house, but the sound of a window rolling down made me stop.

“If you need anything at all, just holler, okay?” He smiled.

I barely know you, I thought. Why do you want to help me? “Sure, thanks again.”

He nodded, and I saw something in his eyes that I didn't ­understand. It looked like a mixture of pride and, well, love. I felt oddly comforted. “See you later, Carrie,” he said, then slowly pulled away.

I stood rooted to the curb for maybe four minutes. Even after the car had disappeared, I stared at the place where it had been. I thought and thought but couldn't figure out the answer to:

How did he know my name?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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