(Just a little note before you read this. Three people helped me out. On Facebook, I asked for someone to give me the first line, cause I had no ideas for my short story this week. I got three responses. I used the first one as the first line, and the other two are highlighted in blue and in the middle somewhere. Thanks for your help Chris, David, and Lydia!)
“I Write the First Line Last! Are you kidding me?” I smacked Casey upside the head. It didn’t hurt him cause he has a hard head. “That’s not funny. You know I’d do anything for those tickets.”
“Shut up.” This time I punched him in the arm. One day he’s going to hit me back, but so far he’s acted as if I’m not even a force to be reckoned with. “You’re not funny. They’re sold out.” I rubbed my hand.
“Well, not completely.” He stopped at his locker and yanked on the unlatched lock. When the door opened, I almost fainted. He had drawn “Surprise!” in that fancy, art way he does and tacked to it were two tickets to the concert. “Surprise,” his voice did not reflect the incredible thing he was telling me.
I jumped, hugged, screamed, and yes, cried a little.
“Would you pull yourself together…we’ve still got to get through chemistry.” He slammed the sweet door shut (with my tickets), and guided me toward the lab. It was seriously useless for me to even try to concentrate on equations and elements. I have no clue what we’re doing in that class on a good day, so it was going to be completely hopeless now. I stuck a headphone in my left ear and let I Write the First Line Last guide me into bliss with their latest musical epiphany.
I’m pretty sure Dr. Alkin had finished his lecture. He lectures then gives us time to work on stuff in class. Casey was actually doing the homework, and ignoring my attempts to talk about the tickets. Les Henderson overheard us and started in about the two songs he actually knows. I was typing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a chair rolling toward me. He had, once again, pushed it my way. I don’t know what it is about chair surfing and high school boys, but I really don’t get it. I kicked it back toward him when the door slammed open. For a second, I thought I’d kicked a little too hard.
In the doorway stood Mrs. Cramer, the school secretary who happens to be Casey’s nutty aunt. She was crying. Ms. B. squeezed through the doorway around her. We call her Ms. B cause her real name is Ms. Bumgartenfrier, but who would want to go by that name. You’d think she’d get married so she could get a new one.
She headed straight for Casey. “You need to come with us.” Her voice had that strained, deep sound to it. The kind of way a person talks when their holding back. Casey pushed away from the desk and gave me the “get over here” look. He’s been my friend since fifth grade when he punched Bobby Mankin in the stomach for making fun of my stuttering. I don’t stutter anymore. Well, not that much. I jumped up, but Ms. B. held up her hand and shook her head. I don’t think she could talk anymore.
After they had left, the class started to chatter. Everyone had their own hypotheses about what was going on. I didn’t want to guess though. I knew it was something terrible. After about five minutes, I asked to go to the bathroom. Mr. Alkin knew where I was really going, but he waved me on. I ran through the halls. Why’d they put the labs in the back of the building?
When I came around the corner toward the counseling office, a group of about twenty adults were standing around. They hushed when they saw me, and then my older brother, Davis, barreled through them, pulling his Covenant College hoodie over his “Sometimes God does things we don’t understand” t-shirt. I took a step back. The look on Davis’s face told me I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
“Casey’s parents and little sister were killed in an accident about an hour ago.” He sounded older than 21. He’d just come home from college on spring break, and every time he came home, there was something different about him. This time it was the way he talked. It was more adultish. “Some lady hit them on the interstate.” He wrapped me up in his arms and kept me standing. “Mom and dad are on their way,” he whispered in my ear. “They went to the hospital first, but …” he didn’t finish the sentence. He stayed quiet until he got me home. Our parents stayed with Casey. He didn’t really have any other family around. His aunt was a mess with no inkling that she would be able to pull it together, so they took him home to get his things and then brought him to our house.
I stayed in my room. I know he needed me. But I just couldn’t face him. How could something so horrible happen? How could three innocent people be lost so quickly. What could I possibly say that would help? I couldn’t even stop crying.
When someone knocked on my door, I figured it was Davis trying to get me to eat, so I ignored it. But then the door cracked open and Casey’s shadow filled my room. I couldn’t see his face very well, but I knew he was crying. I wanted to say something, but what do you say? I’d just stutter and cry and not make any sense, but I went to him and took him by the hand and pulled him into my room.
We never spoke. We just sat there and cried together until he fell asleep. I covered him with my fluffy blanket. His strong face was puffy and still damp from all the crying. People that aren’t from around here always think we’re siblings. I guess it’s the brown hair and the constant bickering, because there’s nothing else about us that matches. He’s smart, likable, religious, and has literally never done anything wrong. I, on the other hand, make C’s (except in chemistry, but we won’t talk about that), have an “attitude” (or so I’m told by my mother EVERY SINGLE DAY), have been unsuccessful in figuring out ways to get out of going to church, and start from the world of wrong. But somehow we’re best friends, and seeing this happen to him breaks my heart in two.
I’ll never forget that first night. I went back to Davis’s extra bed and stared at his glow in the dark star map until I heard Casey moving around and then crying again. That kind of pain and loss should never happen to anyone, and when it does it can change them forever. For Casey it took him deeper into his faith, and his kindness, and his ability to make the most out of every single second. I watched him work his way through it all, but the path he found was beyond me. It just didn’t fall anywhere close to how I felt. I struggled to see things his way. He moved ahead, but I dug my heals in stuttering out my why’s and how come’s and crying silently at night when I’d think about all he’d lost. It wasn’t fair. It would never be fair.
I asked him once how it was he ever picked up the pieces and moved on. It took him a long time to answer. I think he waited until he knew I was really listening.
“You don’t move on really. How can you?” He started. “There’s no putting it behind you when every day you think about what you’ve lost. No. I don’t start there. My story, they’re story, yours…I don’t look at our lives as if they are “playing out” on some stage of life. You know that group you used to like?” I knew who he was talking about, but I wouldn’t say their name. Those tickets never got used. I just nodded. “Well, I do the opposite. I don’t write the first line last. I write the last line first. I know the end of my story. I know how this is going to end. I know where I will be. I know where they are and where I hope you will be.”