Rules are meant to be broken…just not quite like that.
“Bristol, please let’s not do this!” I pleaded with my best friend.
Bristol looked over at me with a raised brow. “Finals are over. You don’t have volleyball practice for two months. It’s time to stop being such a hermit and just be a college freshman like the rest of us.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think this is going to be a good idea. I’m freaking out here, and I’m not even there. I don’t want to go.”
Bristol looked unimpressed.
“I’m going whether you want to or not. The decision is up to you,” she left that hanging in the air, and walked out of our shared dorm, closing the door quietly behind her.
“Shit,” I sighed.
I really didn’t want to go.
But it was more than apparent that Bristol did.
I wasn’t one for parties. I was more comfortable curled up with a good book rather than going to a party or hanging out with friends.
I loved Bristol with all my heart, and I knew she loved me right back.
We’d been friends for as long as I could remember, and I knew that she’d always be there for me. Even if I wanted to be left the hell alone.
Bristol had done her best to ‘get me out of my head’, as she liked to call it, but it would help if I actually wanted to be out of it.
Which I most certainly did not.
I was a very shy person.
Between her and Isaac, my boyfriend, I was doomed.
Something he proved in the next minute when a text showed up on my phone.
Going 2 the party w/ Brooklyn. You better be there.
I looked longingly over at the new book I picked up at the grocery store before I walked to my dresser and pulled out a pair of pants and a black spaghetti strap shirt.
It wasn’t the greatest, but it’d do.
I wasn’t there to impress. I was there because I was being forced.
* * * * *
“No, Isaac. I don’t want any,” I growled four hours later.
I’d already had a beer, and it was one more than I’d wanted.
I was a lightweight. After more than four, I wasn’t gonna wake up for a very, very long time.
Which was why I always stayed with one and one only.
Isaac, though, didn’t seem to care.
“Seriously, I don’t want one!” I said, shoving it away.
After this night was over, so were Isaac and me.
He’d tried to publicly grope me and have sex with me, something we hadn’t done before, and wouldn’t ever be doing.
He’d tried to get me to play beer pong, and when I wouldn’t, he played with a couple of other college coeds.
When I drank the first beer I’d had, he thought he’d won the lottery and kept trying to force feed me more.
“You’re such a fuckin’ downer. Get the fuck away from me,” Isaac slurred.
I wanted to nut punch him.
“Well, I think I’ll go home, then,” I hesitated. “Do you want me to give you a ride?”
His eyes narrowed and he took a look around.
The party had been a ‘bust,’ or so he’d said. I didn’t know if it had or not.
Seemed there’d been a lot of people there for me, but they’d slowly drifted out of the main room until there were about fifteen of us left.
“Yeah, I’ll go home. Let me go get one more drink.”
I wanted to tell him no, but I knew that that was probably the only way I was going to get out of here. We were in his truck, after all.
“I’ll go get Bristol,” I said, wandering away from him.
I found Bristol in the kitchen doing things that I didn’t think were possible.
Mainly those ‘things’ being drinking upside down with a tube shoved down her throat while a few of the football players yelled, ‘chug’ over and over. She even managed to look good doing it, too.
“Uh, Bristol?” I called worriedly. “It’s time to get going, are you ready?”
The football players looked up at me, curiosity in their eyes.
They’d been doing that all night and I had no clue why.
I wasn’t anything special, but they were staring at me like I was the biggest piece of juicy steak they’d ever seen.
“Bristol?” I called again.
The closest football player finally lowered Bristol’s legs, and she hit the floor with a spewing laugh.
Beer covered her from head to toe.
“I think it’s time to go,” I said softly.
Bristol nodded, so glassy eyed that I thought for sure she was going to fall over any second.
With the help of the football players, I loaded a very boisterous Bristol, and a very touchy Isaac into his big three quarter ton truck.
Isaac’s truck wasn’t my favorite thing to drive on the best of days, but it being night and slightly rainy, I knew it wouldn’t be fun at all.
Regardless of my apprehension, I got into the driver’s seat, pulled the seat up so I could reach the pedals and the steering wheel, and started it up.
“Remember, it pulls to the left,” Isaac slurred, leaning over the console to run his mouth along my neck.
I cringed and pushed him slightly to fall back into his own seat.
“Let me drive, please,” I said pleadingly.
Isaac laughed as he turned to Bristol who was sitting in the middle of the backseat, staring at us giddily.
“I knew y’all would make such a great couple!” She cheered, clapping her hands like she was a seal at Sea World.
I wanted to flip her off, but it took two hands to maneuver Isaac’s huge truck.
Did I mention I hated driving it?
He had huge tires on it.
They were so big that they came up to my waistline.
His truck was the size of a tank on steroids.
His daddy bought it for him the day he turned eighteen.
Now, two years later, it still looked brand new because he took such good care of his ‘precious baby.’
Three years ago, when I got my first car at eighteen, it’d been because I’d saved money, since I started working at fifteen.
Although my parents were great, they weren’t the richest.
In fact, they weren’t even middle class.
We were the ‘barely making it’ class.
Even now, with me out of the house, they were still struggling to make ends meet.
But they did have four other kids besides me.
So it was understandable.
But it was also probably why I’d be in debt until I was fifty.
Paying for my bachelor’s degree in nursing wasn’t very easy. Thank God for student loans.
Although they wouldn’t be my friends once I graduated.
“Why are you going so slow, Sawyer? I feel like we’re crawling!” Bristol yelled, leaning forward on the console.
“Put your seatbelt on or I’ll pull this truck over,” I said with as much venom as I could.
Neither one of them ever wore seatbelts. And it drove me nuts.
I heard two clicks, and I turned accusing eyes onto Isaac.
He knew my rule!
“Why is it so hard for y’all to follow that rule? I mean, seriously, it could save your life if we were in an accident!” I growled, turning back when I saw lights flash in front of me.
I couldn’t stop.
The car that’d pulled out in front of me did it at the exact wrong time.
Under normal circumstances, had he done that, I would’ve missed him.
But I was in Isaac’s huge truck, which was hard to slow since it was so big.
I was also driving at night. In the rain.
Which meant that, instead of stopping when I slammed on the brakes, the truck didn’t stop.
The brakes locked.
Isaac, Bristol, and I screamed.
And we hit them with a deafening crash.
It was terrible.
I saw the whites of the man’s eyes before the truck t-boned him.
Saw the woman in the front seat turn to someone in the back.
I couldn’t make my brain make any sense.
And I wouldn’t know it until days later… but I killed every single person in the vehicle I hit.
And it would all be my fault.
* * * * *
Six months later
“After the evidence has been heard, and the defendant’s testimony, we find the defendant guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter,” the spokesman for the jury said.
My world came to a stop.
All my time.
All my dreams.
Every one of them.
Four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
I looked to my mother with tearful eyes.
She looked back at me with the same.
And I closed them, a single tear slipping down my cheek.
“Sawyer Ann Berry, you’re sentenced to eight years in Huntsville. Dismissed,” Judge Abbott declared, finalizing that statement with a slam of his gavel.
My heart hurt.
I couldn’t breathe.
I’d be nearly thirty when I got out!
“Don’t worry, Sawyer. I’ll get you out. We’ll appeal it. I promise you,” my father’s good friend and my attorney, Donald Barber, promised.
I looked at him and shook my head. “Just…just take care of my parents. They’re going to need you.”
He smiled at me sadly. “I will, pumpkin.”
My only hope, once the appeal was denied, was that I’d make parole.
I looked over at my best friend, who understandably felt horrible, and my boyfriend…whom I hadn’t broken up with because he’d become my rock.
Maybe not as much of a boyfriend anymore as much as a huge support system.
The two of them had become my soul reason for making it through.
They’d stayed with me, despite what I’d done.
And I couldn’t thank them enough.
* * * * *
Four years later
My eyes closed, and my heart ripped in half.
The last thread holding it in one piece was gone.
Most likely forever.