It was supposed to be the best night of his life. Kale, my boyfriend, was going to make the winning touchdown. He was going to win state. It would have been the first state win in Charlottesville High history. He looked up at me for a split second; enough to wink at me. And then the ball whizzed past his outstretched arms. In less than a second, he became the most hated guy on the football team.
I didn’t watch the other team celebrate. I got up and ran for the locker room entrance.
It was connected to the field house on the south end of the field. I could hear the opposing team’s stands boo as the defeated Charlottesville Hawks made their way across the field. The coach was screaming something about bad defense as the rest of the team came into view. Kale was all the way at the back. His head was hung low with his shaggy brown hair hanging in his face. He looked absolutely defeated.
Liam, Kale’s best friend, came up to me. “Don’t let him be too hard on himself,” he said, and passed by me to get to the locker room. Every guy on the team didn’t exactly look happy, but Kale was the most upset.
“Kale.” I ran towards.
“Please Raelin, I don’t want to talk right now.” There was real sorrow in his voice. I wrapped my arms around him.
“Fine,” I said, his chest muffling my words, “no talking.” He returned my hug and kissed the top of my head. “Call me later.” I slipped out of his arms and walked towards the parking lot. We were supposed to hang out after the game, but I knew all he would want to do, is go home and take it out on the hanging punching bag in his garage. I found my mom’s red jeep and drove home.
I knew what was coming as soon as I walked into the locker room. I was bombarded with towels, empty water bottles, sports cups, and sweaty uniforms. I covered my face and sulked over to my locker. It was bad enough that I embarrassed myself in front of Raelin and the whole school, but now to add to it, I was being disrespected by my team. I grabbed my bag out of my locker and ran for the door. I didn’t want to take my chances changing in there.
Denny, our quarterback and team captain, was waiting by the door. “Leaving so soon Delerobi?” he mocked.
“Come on man,” I pleaded. I really wasn’t in any mood for his s***. I wanted to get home and call Raelin. I felt like a jerk for just pushing her to the side earlier. Plus I was afraid I might throw some punches. I had all kinds of built up anger.
“No man, you don’t understand. There were college scouts here tonight,” Denny said. “You blew all of our chances of getting scholarships.” The rest of the guys started to crowd around. “You,” he poked me in the chest hard, “are the reason most of us aren’t getting into any good colleges.”
I was going to argue, but it wouldn’t have done any good. Most of the guys on the team were dirt poor and dumb as rocks. I probably did blow most of their chances.
Before I could tell Denny to back off, I felt something come down on my head. Everything went dark.
When I came too, I was on my back with a cloth bag over my head. I sat up and pulled the bag off. Denny and the rest of the team were standing around me. Most of them were drinking beers or smoking joints. I turned around and saw Tangled River. We were right behind the school.
“Oh look everybody, the game loser’s awake,” Denny slurred. He was obliviously drunk. I looked around again, for some way to escape, but I was surrounded by the team. The situation was looking grim. “Greg, get the crowbar.”
My heart skipped a beat. I started thinking of potential weapons. My nails were too short. I always knew that biting them would catch up to me one day. I could throw some punches, but there were thirty plus guys on the team. No way was I getting out of this. Someone was going to hit me over the head before I could cause damage.
Greg entered the circle with this rusty crowbar and rope. “Now play nice Kale.” Greg came at me with the rope. I was quicker, though, because I was completely sober. I jumped up and put my fists up. Greg backed off momentarily, then grinned. “Dude, there’s like a million of us and one of you. You can’t win.” That earned a laugh from everyone. The smell of alcohol quickly attacked me.
“Enough funny business,” Denny broke in. “It’s time to finish this.”
Five guys held me down while Greg stripped off all my clothes except for my boxers. Then he tied my arms and legs together. I was trying so hard to escape their grips, but it was no use. Even years of working out couldn’t loosen the grip of five Charlottesville football players. A bandana was used to gag me. Everyone backed up when I was tied up good. Then sounds of cell phone cameras were going off left and right. Even Liam, my best friend, was snapping pictures of my humiliation.
Denny emerged from the back of the crowd with the crowbar. “Ready for a little pain, Delerobi?”
I knew Kale needed some time to cool down, but wasn’t four hours long enough? It was past midnight and I was getting worried. I tried his cell twice, but he wasn’t picking up. I didn’t want to call his house phone because that would wake up his little sister. I tried calling Liam, but he wasn’t answering either.
I told myself I was overreacting, but I really did feel like there was something wrong. It was almost like a sixth sense; I could always tell when something was going on with Kale. Instead of leaving a voicemail, I sent him a text and hoped he got it. I looked at the picture we took on the Ferris wheel at the annual Charlotte Fair. I had a stick of cotton candy, and Kale was holding the stuffed whale he won for me doing a ring toss. I always kept that picture right on my nightstand. I loved the way Kale was smiling. He wasn’t even looking at the camera in the picture.
He was looking at me.
The crowbar came down hard on my shoulder. Denny had this satanic smile on his face. It made me sick. He brought the crowbar down on the same shoulder and there was a loud snapping sound. I fell over in pain. My collar bone was definitely broken. Denny started laughing like a madman.
“That’s what you get!” he kept yelling. Then he hit me again in the same shoulder. I screamed in pain through the gag. My heart completely sank when I heard my phone going off.
Liam came running to Denny with my bag, like a good little puppy. Denny searched my bag and found my cell. It was done ringing by the time he figured out how to work it.
“Looky here. Two missed calls from Raelin,” Denny taunted. “What a slut. I heard she did half the wrestling team.” Denny laughed at his own joke. I tried to yell curses at him, but the stupid bandana was in the way. I swore right then, that if I ever got the chance, I would beat the living s*** out of Denny for talking about Raelin like that.
Denny flipped my phone open. I could see the smile spread across his face before as he read the text. “It’s from the slut. ‘I know your upset about the game. Wen u get the chance call me. I love you.’”
“Aww the whore loves the loser!” someone yelled. I ignored it though. I kept thinking that that text was the last I was going to hear from Raelin. Denny was sick and twisted enough to kill me. I love you too Raelin, I thought. That’s when Denny brought the crowbar down onto my skull.
The first thing I did when I woke up was check my phone.
I didn’t panic though. Kale was a senior. He was a big a boy. Not hearing from him for, I checked my clock, twelve hours wasn’t a big deal. It was only seven. If Kale took his anger out on his punching bag last night, then he was probably tired. I’ll give him till noon, I told myself, then I’m going over to his house to see what’s wrong.
My mom wasn’t up when I went downstairs. My dad was making French toast and bacon though. I could smell it from the other side of the house.
“Morning,” I said as I entered the kitchen. I stole a piece of bacon from the stove.
“You’re up early,” my dad replied. He flipped a slice of French toast and poured me a glass of orange juice.
“Thanks, and I know. I haven’t talked to Kale since the game last night. I’m just a little worried.” I sat down at the table and spun one of the forks around.
“I’m sure he’s fine. You know guys get over things a lot quicker than girls do.” He brought the piping hot French toast and bacon to the table. “We’re not as emotional as you girls.”
“Well, I know. I’m just worried. That was a big game to lose and he only missed that catch because he was winking at me. I feel like I’m partly to blame.” I piled my plate with food and flooded it with maple syrup.
“You can’t blame yourself for something like that honey.” The doorbell rang. “Enjoy your breakfast and forget about Kale for one morning. God knows you could use a couple of stress-free hours.” Dad got up to answer the door. I stuffed my face with bacon and tried to take my dad’s advice. I did need to just stop worrying about everything. I had been studying like crazy for the ACT and PSAE tests I was going to take in May. Being a junior in high school was not a walk in the park.
“Raelin?” dad called. I put down my fork and ran to the door. Standing in the front hall were three stern faced police officers.
“Hi Raelin. I’m Officer Lloyd, this is Officer Vice, Officer Johnson. We have a couple questions for you about your whereabouts last night.”
Kale immediately popped into my head. “Well, I was at the football game until seven, then I came home and went to bed. What is this about?” My heart started beating faster and faster. It couldn’t be about Kale, right? He’s eighteen. What could happen to an eighteen-year-old football player? He’s practically indestructible.
“Kale Delerobi went missing last night.”
I woke up banked on Tangled River. I gently touched my broken collarbone, but there was no pain. I slowly sat up and rotated my arm around. It was like new. Then it hit me. I hadn’t realized it before because I was fascinated with my fixed collarbone, but Tangled River wasn’t that nasty green-blue color it usually was. It was gray. So was the ground and the trees.
Everything was gray.
I jumped to my feet and ran out of the small forest surrounding the lake. I hit 134th street. It goes all the way through Charlottesville and I was at the Western most side of town. I thought it was kind of funny how there were no cars driving past at all. Of course, having all colors disappear from the world was a little funny too.
I walked down 134th street, away from town. I took less than ten steps and had to stop. The road just stopped and dropped off into nothing. It looked like some kind of giant monster just took a bite out of the road. I followed around the drop off to Tangled River. It emptied into the darkness like a waterfall.
“What the hell is going on?”
I followed the road back into town. It was completely deserted. The park on Peach Avenue, which is usually jam-packed, was abandoned. I jogged to my house, a block away. Everything looked in place, except the lack of color. And my family missing.
I went up to my room and sat down on my bed. I was so confused. The more I thought about it, the more I started to realize that I was dead. There was no other logical explanation. This was some kind of in-between limbo that I was stuck in. I punched my wall in frustration. I didn’t feel a thing. I was almost disappointed. If there was pain, I would have known I was alive. I got off my bed and punched one of my windows out. Still no pain. I went down into my kitchen and grabbed a chocolate bar out of the freezer. I ripped the wrapper off and shoved the whole thing into my mouth. I spit it out into the sink after a couple seconds. The chocolate had no flavor at all.
A colorless, painless, flavorless world with no way out, as far as I knew. That’s what my situation was. I didn’t have any way of contacting Raelin, or my family. I sat down at the kitchen table and let the realization that I wasn’t ever going to see Raelin again sink in.
The interrogation room was just like in those stupid cop and lawyer shows. I was sitting at a small table, facing a two way mirror. There was no doubt in my mind that there were cops on the other side, gawking at me. Maybe even coming up with a reason to accuse me of killing Kale.
Kale wasn’t dead though. He couldn’t be. He probably got drunk and passed out at some park last night. He’ll show up eventually. He has to. I rested my head on the table and went through everything the cops had told me before shoving me in this room and taking off.
Kale’s car was found in the school parking lot that morning, so he couldn’t have gotten far.
The football coach saw every guy leave the locker room last night.
Kale’s body hasn’t been found yet.
I hated to think about number three. It’s exactly how Officer Lloyd said it too.
“His body hasn’t been discovered yet.” Like there’s no hope of Kale being alive? Please. Charlottesville has never seen a missing persons case, murder case, or even an abusive parent case. The most action these low-life cops got was finding someone speeding down 134th street. I wasn’t going to give up hope just because some officer did.
The door opened and Officer Lloyd entered with a small notebook.
“Can I leave yet?” I asked, and fidgeted in my chair.
“No, not yet. I just have a few questions, then you can go home. What time was it when you last saw Kale last night?”
“It was around seven, right after the game ended. I met him in front of the locker room.”
Officer Lloyd nodded and scribble something in his notebook. “Were you very close with Kale?”
“Yes. We’ve been dating for almost a year and a half.” I looked back at the two way glass and stared at my reflection. I looked a mess.
“Okay. Did Kale have any other really close friends?”
“Yeah, Liam Frank is his best friend. They’re on the football team together.”
Officer Lloyd’s cell phone started to ring. “Excuse me,” he said and left the room. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. A few seconds later, Officer Lloyd came back in. “I have to take off. We might have a lead. You’re free to go.” He laughed at his lame joke and escorted me out.
I’ll be honest, I was excited when I heard we had a missing person’s case. This little Podunk town barely sees any crime. When I was told who was missing, though, I wasn’t so excited. Almost everyone in Charlottesville was at the game. I saw Kale Delerobi miss the winning pass. I had a good idea of what happened to the kid. Then I got the call when I was talking to Delerobi’s girlfriend. That call just solidified my theory.
When I arrived at Tangled Forest, right behind Charlottesville High, it was a gruesome scene. There were tire tracks and beer cans strewn all over the ground. As I went deeper into the forest, I could see my colleagues searching around for evidence. A trail of blood was leading into Tangled River.
“What have you found so far?” I called over to George Vice. I trusted him the most just because we had been working together for almost ten years.
“We found a bloody crowbar a couple feet away from the blood trail. Took some pictures and bagged it.” George walked over and joined me next to the river. “We estimated that the kid lost almost seven pints of blood, boss. It’s not looking good.” He let out a sigh. “I have a team searching down river for the body. If we don’t find him, I have some divers coming in tomorrow morning to search the river.”
“Damn. This kid didn’t deserve this.” I squatted down and examined the trail. “He was only eighteen.”
“Should we question the whole football team?” George asked. “They must have something to do with this.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they had something to do with this. I’ll make some calls and meet you back at the station. Keep me updated on what you find.”
“Sure thing boss.”
I was a little annoyed when I saw Officer Lloyd’s number pop up on my caller ID. He did ask for my cell phone number, but I didn’t expect him to call. I almost didn’t answer it either. I was sitting up in my room sulking. Contemplating what happened to Kale. In my mind, there was no way he was dead. He probably went to the next town over, where his aunt lives. He doesn’t handle losing very well. And with pretty much the whole school and town being at the game last night…
“Hello?” I reluctantly answered the phone.
“Hello Raelin. This is Officer Lloyd. I have some bad news.” My whole body went frigid. “We found what we believe is Kale’s blood behind Charlottesville High. It hasn’t been confirmed it’s his yet, but there haven’t been any other calls about a missing person or murder so odds are, it’s his.” He paused and let that sink in. I told myself that it had to be an animal’s blood or something. Anything but his blood.
Officer Lloyd continued. “We’ve estimated that it’s about seven pints of blood. It’s not looking good Raelin.”
“Thank you Officer,” I mumbled and closed my phone. Seven pints? That’s more than half the blood in a human body. How could someone survive that? My whole body went numb with terror. Just a couple minutes ago I was positive that Kale was alive and well. Now I wasn’t so sure.
It was almost noon when I woke up that morning. I had the worst hangover of my life and I didn’t remember the night before at all. It was so hazy. My mom was already at work by then and my dad was probably at a strip club spending all of my mom’s hard earned money. I went into the kitchen and made a sandwich. I was still searching my memory for even the slightest idea of what I did last night. It wasn’t a big deal to me; waking up and having no recollection of the night prior. Most of the time I didn’t want to remember what I did.
Just as I was about to take a bite out of my sandwich, the doorbell rang. I peeked out the window and saw a squad car. Well, I thought, I guess I did do something last night. I dropped my sandwich and ran out my back door.
“And where do you think you’re going?” A police officer was standing right next to my car with a huge grin on his face.
“Oh, you know, out for a jog.” It was worth a shot.
“Where were you last night?” Officer Lloyd asked me. We go way back. The first time I met this tight-ass was when I shoplifted for the first time. I was ten.
“After the game I went home,” I said nonchalantly. In the squad car on the way over to the station, everything came rushing back to me. I remember the way Delerobi squealed when I hit him with the crowbar over and over and over again. I was getting a rush just thinking about it. The stupid loser deserved every broken bone I gave him, and more. And if he was dead? Fine by me. The prick cost me a huge scholarship to any state school I chose.
“Can you prove it?”
“Ask my mom. She was home with me. We watched one of those stupid cooking shows.” I knew my mom would stick up for me. She told me countless times that she wouldn’t be able to live with dad alone. She would go crazy. “She’s at work right now though. You’ll have to call her after nine tonight.” She usually got off at six thirty but I needed time to tell her the whole story. She needed to know what to tell the cops so that our stories would sync up.
“That’s alright; I’m going to go pay her a visit after out little talk,” Officer Loser said. He wrote something down in his small notebook.
“What?” I was starting to panic a little. If I couldn’t tell my mom the lie then I was screwed. I would be put into jail for sure. I could feel sweat break out on my forehead even though it was fifty degrees in the little interrogation room.
“What’s wrong Denny? You said she was with you. I’m just going to stop by the diner and make sure her story is the same.” He smiled like a serpent. He knew he caught me in a lie. The best thing I could do is bluff and hope he doesn’t call me out on it.
“Nothing’s wrong. I just don’t want you to scare away any of her customers. But if you really need to talk to her, go ahead. I’m not gonna stop you.” I crossed my fingers under the table and hoped he wouldn’t go.
“Oh Denny, you say that like you actually could stop me.”
I knew Denny was involved in it. He was sweating like he just ran a marathon. I could smell the stale alcohol on his breath. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Denny Johnson had something to do with the disappearance of Kale. And I was going to take that little murderer down. I just needed proof.
“Hey boss.” It was George. He was on the phone in his office. He waved me in. “I’ve got blood work on the phone. They haven’t finished the test yet but so far the blood is matching Kale Delerobi’s perfectly. They gave us the go ahead.”
“Thanks George.” This was the worst part of the job. I had to call Kale’s mother and girlfriend and tell them that there was a 90% chance Kale was dead.
“One more thing, the search team got about a mile down Tangled River and there’s still no sign of the kid.” George went back to talking on the phone.
I stepped outside and punched in Mrs. Delerobi’s number.
“Officer Lloyd. Any good news?” There was desperation in her voice. How was I supposed to tell her that her son was most likely dead? It’s one thing to know for sure, but to tell her that there’s a 10% chance that her son is alive, I felt like I was just giving her false hope.
“Mrs. Delerobi, the blood work is still being done but so far it matches Kale’s perfectly.” She didn’t gasp or scream. She just quietly asked me to continue. “There were seven pints of blood at the scene. It’s not looking good.” I paused and took a deep breath. “Mrs. Delerobi, there’s a 10% chance your son is still alive. I would plan for the worst.”
“Thank you,” she whispered and hung up.
When I got home from the police station that morning, my dad demanded to know what was going on. I told him everything I knew and then ran up to my room. I didn’t feel like being near anyone at the time. But later, when my mom got back from the night shift at the hospital, she came straight up to my room. I was still lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling like a zombie.
“Are you okay sweetheart?” I didn’t even hear her come up the stairs, and yet there she was, standing in my doorway. I didn’t answer her.
Then my cell started to ring.
I came to life and answered it on the second ring. I held it to my ear like it was my lifeline.
“Hello? Officer Lloyd?”
“Raelin, it isn’t good news…” He trailed off. My face fell. My mom came over and wrapped her arms around me.
“It’s okay. Go on.”
“We tested the blood we found by Tangled River and the test isn’t complete yet, but so far it matches Kale’s DNA perfectly. There’s a 10% chance he’s still alive.” I couldn’t say anything. I had no words. I dropped my phone and collapsed into my mom. My mom rubbed my back and let me get everything out. By the time I was done, her shirt was soaked.
Eventually I fell asleep with tears still in my eyes.
I woke up an hour later. I knew sleep wasn’t going to ease the pain for long. I checked around the house. Mom was asleep on the couch downstairs and dad was probably at work. He usually got called into the office Saturday afternoons. I slinked back upstairs and into the bathroom. I looked terrible. There were huge rings under my eyes, even though I was well rested. My usually shiny, curly red hair hung in greasy knots. It’s crazy what a couple of hours of nonstop stress can do to your appearance. My eyes wandered over to a picture of me and Kale at his first varsity football game. I pulled it off of my mirror, ripped it in half, and let it drop to the floor. I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulder. I took another picture and ripped it in half. Ten minutes later, all the pictures of me and Kale were shredded on the floor. Every frozen memory even taken of us was ruined.
Then I started to look for other things that reminded me of him.
I ended up in Raelin’s house. I don’t remember how I got there though. I was in some kind of shocked state. I went up to her room and stopped at the door. All the pictures of us were just lying there, shredded to pieces on the floor. I bent down and picked a few up. I recognized the one of us on the beach from last summer and the one of us at her dad’s 45th birthday party.
That’s when I felt it. Her. Raelin. I smelled a hint of her perfume; the first smell I had encountered since waking up here. And then there was a small breeze like someone had just walked past. I could feel her presence. She was in that room with me; I knew she was! Then the framed picture of us on the Ferris wheel at the Charlotte Fair just lifted into this air. The picture slid out of the frame and ripped itself into tiny pieces.
“Raelin,” I whispered. I saw just the smallest ghostly glimpse of her face, staring right at me. There was such sorrow in her eyes. I wanted to reach out and pull her into my arms. Tell her everything was going to be okay. Then, she was gone and every feeling of her being there was gone too. The picture she had just ruined was on the floor with the rest. The smell of her perfume was completely gone. I was alone again.
Denny’s mom worked at a diner at 134th and Bridgeview. It was a small joint, but it was always packed. Besides the hotdog stand on the other side of town, this was the only other restaurant in Charlottesville.
“Table for one?” a perky waitress asked. I didn’t recognize her, which was weird because I knew almost everyone in Charlottesville.
“Oh, no, thank you. I’m just looking for Lyn Wallis.”
The waitress bounced into the kitchen and emerged with a woman who resembled Denny. She looked to be in her forties with slightly graying hair. As soon as she saw me, her expression completely changed. I had a hunch she knew Denny had done something bad. Again.
“Hello Officer Lloyd,” she said approaching me. “Mind if we talk outside?” She nudged her head towards the perky waitress.
“Not a problem ma’am.” As soon as we stepped outside, I got straight to the questions. “Denny says you were with him last night after the game. Is that correct?” I expected her to agree and give her son a good alibi. I was surprised when she said no.
“Do you know what time your son came home last night?”
She looked like she was having some kind of inner struggle. I thought, again, that she was going to defend her son, but she didn’t. “He came home at four in the morning. I found a bloody tee-shirt on his floor this morning.” She burst into tears and started yelling about how, real deep down, Denny was a good kid. Finally, when she calmed down enough, she asked what he did.
“Well ma’am, he have reason to believe that Denny was involved in Kale Delerobi’s disappearance. There was blood found by tangled river and there’s a good chance he’s dead.” I couldn’t have been more blunt than that. My last comment sent Mrs. Wallis into more hysterical crying. I managed to calm her down again and got her to tell her boss she needed an hour to go down to the police station and be questioned. First, though, we stopped by her house to pick up the bloody shirt.
My room was destroyed. I had no clue that there were so many things in there that reminded me of Kale. I had three full garbage bags that I shoved out into the hall. I just wanted to roll up into a ball and forget about life. It was all too much. Then I saw the last trace of him. The picture on my nightstand of us on the Ferris wheel. I picked up the picture frame and slid the picture out. I shredded it up and let the pieces fall to the floor. All of a sudden, all the color in my room disappeared. My once blue walls where slate gray. I spun around and saw him. Kale was there in my door way staring at me. He looked like a ghost.
“Kale!” I cried and ran towards him, but he was gone. That’s when I knew he was dead. I knew it in my heart that I had just seen Kale’s ghost and that I probably was never going to see him again. I ran to the bathroom.
“We caught you Denny. It’s over. I talked to your mom and she said you didn’t come home until four this morning. So, tell me Denny, what were you doing last night?” I saw the realization pass across his face. I resisted the erg to the smile. I finally caught this little prick.
“I was out,” he mumbled.
“Fine!” he yelled. “I killed Kale! He ruined my chance at a scholarship! I could have got a full ride to any state school I wanted! That fucking klutz ruined my future.” Denny was laughing now. “I took a crowbar and messed up his face. I messed it up real good.”
“Denny, where is Kale.”
“Kale. That stupid bastard. I threw him in the river.”
I pulled out my cell phone and made some calls to the search party.
“The whole football team helped me!” Denny yelled in the background. “I wasn’t the only one!”
I left Raelin’s house. I wanted to see her again, but I couldn’t stand seeing all those ripped up pictures of us. I didn’t want to go back to my house either, so I went to the park where me and Raelin had our first kiss. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the second time we had hung out. I called her and told her to meet me at the park with the baseball diamond. It was halfway between our houses, so I figured it was the perfect place to meet. I saw her sitting on one of the swings. She looked beautiful with the sun shining down on her like an angel. I remember walking over to her and her face just lighting up. I loved her smile. Then, she was in my arms and our lips met. I swear time froze around us. It was the best day of my life.
So that’s where I went. I sat down on one of the swings and just thought about Raelin and my family. I was never going to see them again. I looked around. This is where I’m going to spend the rest of eternity, I thought. I saw something move from the corner of my eye. There was something at the end of the baseball field. I got up and started walking towards it. I immediately thought that maybe there were other dead people here. That maybe I wasn’t so alone. Once I got closer, I realized that it was a girl with curly red hair.
Raelin has curly red hair.
I ran. No, I sprinted. So did Raelin. “Kale!” she shouted. And then we were in each other’s arms and we were both crying tears of joy. I didn’t think I was ever going to see her again. I pulled away from her embrace and took her face in my hands. My smile quickly faded as a realization came to me.
“Raelin, why are you here? What happened to you?”
Her smile disappeared right away. “I wanted to be with you, so I took my dad’s sleeping pills.”
“How many did you take?”
I could see more and more tears falling down her face, except they weren’t joyous any more.
“All of them.”
I was in the bathroom when Officer Lloyd called me. He told me that they had caught who killed Kale. Denny, Liam, and the rest of the football team had beat him with a crowbar after the game. And then they threw him in Tangled River. He said that they hadn’t found the body, that it was only a matter of time. I hung up and stared at my phone. All of Kale’s friends, his second family, had killed him. His best friend, Liam, had killed him. It was too much. I went into the medicine closet and found my dad’s sleeping pills. There was about thirteen of them left. I downed every last one of them. I kept telling myself that each pill I took would get me closer and closer to where Kale was. After the thirteenth pill, I collapsed onto the bathroom floor.
As soon as I left the station, after talking with Denny, I headed straight to Tangled River. I wanted to help the search team find the poor kid’s body. George was about a mile and a half from the crime scene. I met up with him and about thirty other people in neon orange vests searching.
“We still haven’t found him, boss,” George said.
“It’s only a matter of time,” I told him. “The kid confessed. Kale’s body has to be here somewhere.”
We searched for about an hour before a woman screamed. She was farther ahead than anyone else. I ran over to her. Kale’s body was stuck on the bank of the river, covered in leaves, dirt, and blood. I could hear George calling an ambulance. I didn’t want to tamper with evidence, but I did check his wrist for a pulse. It took me a couple seconds to realize it, but there was still a small pulse. Just barely there.
“George, that kid’s alive.”
He was the most handsome guy I had ever seen. I couldn’t help but run into his arms. I missed Kale so much, and to see him again, even if it was the last time, was amazing. I told him I took sleepng pills so I could see him again, and his face turned from ecstatic, to pure sorrow. I was dead, and so was he. He should have been happy. We were going to be together for a long, long time, but instead he was sad. He would rather be without me, than see me dead.
“It’s going to be okay,” I said. “We’re together and that’s all that matters.” He wiped a tear away from my cheek. I could see his face start to fade. “No, no, no!”
“What?” He looked down at himself.
“What’s happening?” I cried. “I don’t want you to leave!”
“Raelin.” He took my face in his hands and kissed me. It was just as perfect as our first kiss. I could feel butterflies in my stomach. Everything was perfect. “I love you,” he said as he pulled away from me.
“I love you too.” I grabbed onto him and we stood there, hugging, until he was gone, and I was left there hugging air.
I woke up on the bank of Tangled River again, and I could see color. Someone’s face was right above mine. He looked like a cop. I turned and puked up water.
“Out of the way!” someone yelled. The face disappeared and was replaced by a new one. The new person put a light in my eye.
“Get a stretcher over here! Now!” the person yelled. “We’re going to get you to a hospital. Everything’s going to be okay,” he said to me.
“Raelin?” I asked again. “Where’s Raelin?” I was starting to wake up more and more.
A paramedic came at me with a stretcher. “Calm down sir. We’re going to take you to the hospital.”
“No! You need to go to 9086 Peach St. Raelin Johnson overdosed on sleeping pills.” I sat up and felt excruciating pain in my shoulder. The cop that was above me when I woke up, helped me onto my feet.
“Are you sure?” he asked me.
“Officer, we need to take this young man to the hospital. He shouldn’t even be standing up right now,” the paramedic said.
“Put his arm in a sling, get him something to wear, and let me take him to the hospital,” the officer demanded. He had such force in his voice that the paramedic didn’t even argue. I looked down at myself and realized I was still in my boxers.
The Officer helped me walk through the small forest and to the ambulance. I had a sling on my arm, a pair of hospital shrugs, and was in the Officer’s car in less than ten minutes. He put his siren on and got to Raelin’s as fast as possible. I didn’t even wait for the car to stop; I jumped out and ran into the house. I knew her parents were probably at work. The Officer ran in after me.
“Call another ambulance,” I yelled at I sprinted up the stairs. I burst into the bathroom and found her on the floor with an empty pill bottle in her hand. Even though it caused me extreme pain, I pulled her into my arms.
“Raelin?” I whispered. I could see her chest raising and falling. It was very labored though. “Raelin, it’s Kale,” I whispered again.
Her eyes fluttered open. As soon as she realized it was me, a small smile spread across her face. “Kale.” Her arm reached up to my face and brushed away a tear. “Don’t cry. I love you.” Her arm dropped and her breathing slowed.
“I love you too, Raelin.” I reached out and held her hand.
“I’m so tired,” she said, opening her eyes again.
“I know, I know. Go to sleep,” I told her.
“Don’t let go of me,” she said with her last breath. And then she was gone.