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In the Third Degree
“ Rach shut up will you. I’m trying to think but I can't when your pacing all over the place.”
“ I can’t Cher. I can’t believe we let this happen. What are we going to do?”
Cheryl grasped Rachel by the shoulders and brought her in close. “ We will figure this out as long as we think straight. I mean this isn’t our fault he drank too much. This is his fault we're all here. Carter why couldn’t you have been smarter and actually think for once,” Cher whispered as she crouched over his face. “ Rach, grab his arms and I’ll grab his feet. Head out the front door and get in my pink lamborghini.” As both girls picked up Carter's body, they headed out the door, placing him in the trunk. “ Oh Rach, be a doll and grab two shovels from the shed as well. This is going to get messy.”
Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the abandoned property out of sight from the few farm houses that sat on the outside of Grandberry. The road that leading here turned to rocks and dirt, creating a dust bowl around ourselves as we sped through. The car ride was long and silent. Neither of us bothered to turn of the radio nor talk to each other. In the back of the car, you could hear Carter’s body thumping around with no control to stay still. Cher parked the car, turned her keys to the left, got up and slammed the door hard against its frame. I slowly rose from my seat and calmly shut the door behind me. As I turned around Cher looked at me, then handed me a shovel. “ Dig,” she said pointing to flat dried dirt in front of the car. I knelt down and touched to ground softly with my hand as I picked up some dirt. Rocks fell into my palm as the wind blew the dried dirt right out of the hand and into the distance. I dug my shovel into the ground with force in hopes I’d make a hole in the ground. Tipping the shovel, rocks fell onto the ground nearby making thumping noises as they dropped. The wind whistled through my ears as it whipped throughout the deserted area. My hands began to tremble in fear of the mysterious future yet to come. The moon in the sky revealed my faint shadow on the ground in front of me. Sweat dripped from my forehead the harder I worked. At this point I just wanted the night to end and wished it never happened in the first place.
“ Hurry Rach, get Carter and dump him in. We need to go back to my house and wash off before people start waking up.” Cher glared at Rachel knowing if one word of this got out, prison would soon come next.
Pating down the last of the dirt mounted on top of Carter's body, Rachel knelt down to the ground. “ Oh Carter. I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you and now I’m here burying your corpse. I don’t deserve your acceptance after all my wrongdoings.” Tears began to drip down my cheeks at the end of my words. I knew this would eat me up inside, but can I trust someone enough to keep my secret.
Arriving back at Cher’s house, I jumped into the shower to rinse of my nightmares that were created tonight. I looked at myself in the mirror and instead saw a stranger rather than Rachel Greenwood. Thoughts ran through my mind of what both Cher and I were thinking. Cher was probably thinking about this kid who dug his own grave yet dragged her in just to ruin her future. I wish I had helped Carter out instead of hiding his death from those in our town. And why’d I do it in the first place? No one will forgive me for the deed I’d done.
Rays of sunshine peeked through the glass windows throughout the house bodies crowded in the night before. Noise began to lurk around the house as floor boards began creaking, letting out the dirty secrets that lay inside. The last few guest finished searching through the house to find their belongings that lost their way. As the door shut behind them, tension began rising once again.
“ Cher, I don’t think I can keep this secret anymore. I know it’s only been a few hours but Carter deserves more the a sloppy grave we dig for him.” Silence filled the room after the last words Rachel said left her mouth.
“ After all I’ve done for you. You just want to backstab me to get off clean for Carter's death. Well one things for sure Rachel. You can’t tell anyone about what we did. Or we both go down for his murder.” Cher’s glare at Rachel was deadly. Cher pointed to the door walking closer to Rachel, “ Now get out! Don’t ever come back to this house again! Don’t look at me ever again, we are to never speak to each other.”
“ You don’t mean that Cher you know that. Please let’s talk about a way to…”
“ No more it’s and no more buts, get out of my house and never come back,” Cher turned around and walked up the stairs. And with that, I walked out the door to my car parked in the driveway. Tears streamed down my face in surprise. Cher, my best friend of many years turned on me when we needed each other the most. I slammed the door as hard as I could, as if it were our friendship falling apart.
The birds chirped as dawn appeared. Thoughts roamed my mind of how Carter wouldn’t be able to hear another bird whistle songs during the day; hear the ocean crash against the sandy beach; feel the snowflakes fall onto his skin and melt away to his warm touch; the taste pineapple acid melting onto his tongue. Guilt rushed through my head knowing this was all my fault. And today I have to walk through the halls with a smile plastered on my face covering up the crime that was committed. School would never feel the same with one less body filling the jock table; one less voice being heard within the classes; one less lunch being bought all because of a party. It won’t be anytime soon I’ll be able to tell someone what happened that night.
My fingers gripped the door handles leading into the high school. I knew I wouldn’t be ready for today. First, my best friend doesn’t want anything to do with me. Then I took a part in a murder of a high school jock who was innocent. I know I won’t be able to keep this act up for long but for now, I just need to survive today's gossip circling the school. My shoes clambered down on the tiles as I walked on edge. My eyes focused on the ground, making no eye contact to those around me. For once I don’t want to been seen as apart of the populars. I hope to keep a low profile and become a book nerd, barely noticeable within a crowd then the center of attention. Nobody dared to stop me as I wandered further into the depths of the halls till I reached my locker.
“ Rachel what's up!” Chad yelled as he slammed his fist against my locker moving in front of it, facing me.
“ I’m not looking to play your little games Chad. Now is not the time,” I lowered my face in hopes he wouldn’t wander into my eyes and search for an answer as to why. Before Chad could say another word, I walked away. I couldn’t face anyone included someone who’s had so much faith in me. My bag draped on one of my shoulders as I walked to the bathroom. I sat in the hidden corner, my hands on my forehead in defeat of my own actions. When I about got up to wipe off the rest of my emotions, a couple girls walked into the bathrooms to fix their fake complections.
“ Do you know where Carter is? I haven’t seen him since Cher’s party on Saturday.”
“ I can’t believe you can remember things from that night. Once I walked through those doors I couldn’t remember one moment I was there.” They talked on and on about how much fun they had, but they don’t know the real truth of that night. I wondered how so many people could have good memories of that night and all I have are nightmares that haunt me every minute that passes.
Days turned to weeks. Carters whereabouts were still a mystery to all except Cher and I. His parents filed a missing person's report with help from the police and printed out fliers throughout Grandberry. Everywhere I go, his face is plastered on boards. As I look closer, I see a teenage boy, his emotion happy and uplifting. In his eyes, the reflection of his father taking the photo with a camera and his mom smiling right beside. I can’t help but think of the love this family held for one another that I destroyed. I knew Carter as a high schooler looking for fun yet keeping his grades and athletics on track. Since the incident, I don’t see myself as a teenage girl anymore; instead, a monster hiding her identity to help her future while ruining another. I wish I could turn myself in but I can’t. Not only would I be a failure to my family, but my town. I have to go through life with Carter’s weight on my shoulders. Yes, I know this isn’t all my fault, but I went through with it. Who could I talk to that never sees me for someone else? I dialed the number. My arm began to shake in fear, fear of being exposed.
“ Hello this is Chad.”
“ Chad I’m scared,” my breathing increased rapidly.
“ Hey Rachel calm down. What is it you want to talk to me about?”
I paused and took a few deep breaths before I began speaking, “ I need to talk to you, it’s urgent. Meet me at the rock in 10 minutes, ” and with that I hung up. When Chad and I were younger we used to explore the town by foot. Once, we walked along this stream and there laid a boulder in the middle. Water ran calmly along the sides while fish swam around it to get to a nearby pond. On the left side of the stream, the ground slope upward, making it easy to jump onto the boulder and watch the the water pass by.
As I arrived to the rock I saw Chad sitting on top looking down at the colored fish passing. A twig snapped as I stepped down, causing him to look my direction. He patted the top of the rock, signaling for me to jump on. Once I made myself comfortable I began to talk, “ Can I trust you? Because if not were both making a mistake being here.”
Chad turned his body so he was facing me. “ Rachel, you know you can always trust me just like I know I can always trust you. I’ve noticed something has been bothering you for the past weeks. You can tell me what’s wrong. Is it about Carter?”
I looked at him in the eyes. I have to tell the truth sometime. “ Yes, but it's not what you think.” And with that, I told Chad what happened that Saturday night leaving out no details. He deserved to know the truth just like everyone else. His eyes were fixed on me. He looked sympathetic but I didn't know for who, Carter or myself. “ And that's all that happened. Nothing more, nothing less.” I sighed in relieved to not have to bottle up this information. Not a moment later, I found Chad's arms wrapped around me. His embrace was the safest place i’ve felt for the longest time.
He let go and stared into my eyes. “ Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out, but for right now, stay quiet. You can count on me to keep this a secret. Go home and sleep ok. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” And with that, Chad jumped of the boulder with a soft landing. His stride normal as he walked. I watched as his figure faded off into the distance. I leaned over to watch the fish swim by. Their fins moved within the water, shimmering colors of orange and white reflected against the sun within the waters current. I got up, hopped off the boulder and walked along the stream to my car.
My heels clicked along the concrete as walked up to the school. The rough handles of the front doors felt cold under my touch. Chad waved to me, standing by my locker. A glare came from Cher as I walked past her with a smile on my face. As I got closer to Chad a smirk appeared across his face. “ Oh Chad what have you done now,” I said laughing knowing what he’d done was troublesome.
“ Just remember I will always be here for you and everything I do is for the best.” His eyes closed almost as he didn’t know what was going to happen next. He gently put his hand on my shoulders and turned me around so that I was facing the front doors I had just come out of. As I looked toward the ground, large black army boots entered the doors in a line. My eyes move up to find black shirts tucked into black pants with a black leather belt around their waste. In their hands held shiny gold badges that were flashing in our eyes. They stepped in sync with one another as they walked through the halls. It seemed as if the lights dimmed everywhere except one area, myself and Cher. I looked up at Chad in fear. Had he turned on me for justice. He shook his head, then looked at Cher. At this point the officers had walked passed me, stopping in front of Cher. One flashed is badge in her face saying, “ Cheryl Conaway, you're under arrest for the 3rd degree murder of Carter Rose. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.” Doing so, the officer slapped cuffs on both her wrist then led her out the door. She began to slow till she stood in front of me. Her head tilted toward my direction, “ Rachel you better watch yourself. You just made a terrible mistake.” The officer pushed her along, trudging her through the halls. Her last words that escaped her mouth before the doors slammed were, “ Call my daddy! I want my lawyer present before I talk to any of you clowns.”
I quickly hugged Chad and began to walk out towards the doors Cher just left out of before he grabbed my hand.“ What are you doing Rachel? I never mentioned your name to the police, just Cher’s doings. Your free!”
I looked at him in his eyes. A smile appeared on my face as if the nightmare has ended, but the truth still hasn’t been told fully. “ Trust me I know. You have always been there for me and right now I have to make peace with myself. I’m going to drive to the station and give up any information they need.”
“ Then let me come with you.”
With that we walked past all the empty expressions on the students faces who had just heard the news. Both Chad and I pushed the front doors open with such force, they slammed together as we walked off. In this moment I realized I wasn’t confessing to everything to save myself and to feel less guilty, I was doing it for Carter; his family; my family; and our little town.