The screech of tires on pavement is more terrible than the heavy, burning rubber smell that fills my nose and lungs. I know what is coming. My scream vibrates my whole being, tip to toes. Blink and it is done. The blood seeps out in two distinctly concentric circles, one at his head, the other underneath his back. Not a single muscle moves, making him look more like a discarded rag doll than a child. A flurry of obscure colors rushes past me. Passersby. Not one able to actually help. The ground falls out from underneath me as horrible realization explodes inside me and I vomit in the street.
My eyes flew open. I blinked a few times, staring at the far wall of my poster-filled bedroom until I was certain of where I was. Musicians, actors, and artsy flowers (done by Mom, of course) stood sentinel around my room as I sleep. But even the army of my latest obsessions couldn’t prevent the memory from twisting its way back into my nocturnal escape.
I ran a hand over my eyes. Dry again. I hadn’t cried in months. Maybe I was getting better? I made the Sign of the Cross and whispered a quick prayer to Saint Nicholas of Myrna, patron saint of children.
Willing the thoughts away, I tossed my comforter aside and headed for the bathroom. A cool shower would help wake me up fully and wash off the remnants of the dream. After showering, I made my way to my closet. The night before, I had spent an hour choosing the perfect First Day of Senior Year outfit but as I stood examining my choice, disquiet bubbled in my belly. The shirt was a tomato red number with black ribbon edging, pretty and brand-new but the color made me uncomfortable. The dream still seared in a dark corner of my mind. Realizing I was being ridiculous wasn’t enough to convince me to wear that shirt. With a small shudder, I put it back in the closet.
I threw on a new lavender cami and electric blue tee that I thought made my hazel eyes really pop. An old pair of jeans and black ballet flats made me feel more complete, steadier. I pulled my shoulder-length auburn hair up into a messy ponytail. It was too hot to wear it down, I knew already. August in Brayburn, Pennsylvania was so hot and miserable, just walking to and from your car was torture.
“Krista!” I heard Mom call up the steps. “Are you awake honey? It’s already seven-thirty.”
I spun around yanked my cell phone out of its charger. Craaaaap. Stupid alarm! I brushed my teeth at record pace. Cell in hand, I bolted down the steps and headed for the door.
“Krista! Aren’t you going to eat something?” Mom called from the kitchen.
“No time Mom. I love you and I’ll see you later.” I slid my backpack over one shoulder and took the keys off their hanger. Rushing to leave, I had just placed a hand on the front door knob when Fenn’s photo on the wall of our entryway caught my eye. I kissed my lips and gently laid the kiss on his forehead. “Love you big guy.”
His grin stared straight back at me, slightly lopsided and ketchup stained on one side. Whoever chose to have the fourth grade photos taken right after lunch obviously wasn’t thinking of kids like my little brother who usually ended up wearing more of their food than actually consuming it. With a last glance at his portrait, I opened the door and headed for school.