Charlie Gunther threw the best parties of anyone in high school, so it was only natural that the hottest graduation party in town was at his house. Roger Jacobson wasn’t one of the most popular kids in school, so he was pretty excited to be at Charlie’s house the night of graduation. Roger had gotten the invite from Adam, who had in turn been invited by some girl who was in love with him.
The party was kind of intimidating though. Most of the guests were popular kids that Roger had never talked to at all during school. Roger had borrowed his father’s car, had a few beers to loosen up, then tried approaching one of the girls. That was over an hour ago and now he was sitting alone on Charlie’s couch, nursing a half-finished beer. But the night was still young—all he needed was more alcohol.
Adam Harding, Roger’s best friend since junior high school, was talking to some hot blonde across the room. The blonde kept giggling and touching Adam’s arm suggestively. Adam wasn’t a popular kid either, but for some reason he had a lot of luck with girls. Adam was a good-looking guy, but not enough to warrant the attention he got. It was hard for Roger not to get a little jealous sometimes, but he supposed that was Adam’s gift. Anyway, Roger knew for a fact that there was only one girl who Adam was interested in, and he didn’t have a chance with her.
That girl was Maggie McConnelly. Maggie was at Charlie’s party too, just like every other hot girl in the school, but she was the prettiest of all of them. The first time Adam had introduced Roger to Maggie three years earlier, he had felt his pants getting tighter. But somehow they had become good friends. Maggie, Adam, and Roger did nearly everything together in high school, except Adam was head over heels in love with Maggie. Maggie knew exactly how Adam felt about her, and she made it clear that the feeling was not mutual. But Adam never gave up hope that maybe she would change her mind.
Adam had confided in Roger that he planned to have a serious talk with Maggie that night. Roger wished him good luck, but wasn’t too optimistic. Maggie had been rejecting Adam for three years now and it seemed unlikely that anything would change tonight.
Adam Harding had been talking to this girl, Janine, for about half an hour and he was so bored, he could scream. He could tell by the look in her eyes what she wanted, and by the looks of her tight skirt, he knew he was crazy not to want it back. Any other night, he probably would have been making out with her by now—after all he was only human. But tonight was different. Tonight he was a high school graduate. And tonight he was going to let Maggie know he really felt about her.
Of course, Maggie knew he was in love with her. She probably knew even before he had spontaneously kissed her during sophomore year, as they studied linear equations. “Don’t do that again, Adam,” she said and calmly went back to studying. She had fended off his advances through all of high school and they had somehow remained good friends. But tonight all that was going to change.
Janine had her hand on Adam’s arm. “My parents lent me their car,” she said suggestively. “I know a secluded place we could... get away to...”
Adam groaned inwardly. He wondered how he could break this to her gently. Then he remembered that earlier in the evening, he had seen Janine snubbing his friend Roger’s clumsy advances. Poor Roger, he was a nice enough guy but girls seemed to avoid him like the plague. In any case, Janine had it coming to her.
“Actually,” Adam said, “I already made plans for later tonight.” He smiled at the shocked look on Janine’s face. “Would you excuse me?”
Adam searched Charlie’s house and finally found Maggie in the backyard, talking to her ex-boyfriend Derek. Adam got steamed just seeing them together. He knew he cared about Maggie a million times more than Derek ever could, but instead she chose to waste three months of her life with that jerk. After Derek, Maggie had sworn off dating for the rest of high school. Now that asshole was probably looking for one last score.
Adam went right up to them and took Maggie’s arm. “I need to talk to you, Maggie.”
“Hey!” Derek protested. “We’re talking here, man!”
“Your dad called the house,” Adam said to her. “He’s been looking all over for you and he’s really pissed.”
Derek must have experienced Mr. McConnelly’s famous temper firsthand because he started backing away. “Listen, I’ll talk to you later, Mags...”
When Derek was safely out of sight, Maggie rolled her eyes. “Nice lie, Harding,” she commented. “Thanks for saving me.”
“No problem,” Adam said. “Hey, I have something to show you. Can we go someplace quiet?”
They wandered through the house and managed to find a bedroom that appeared to be empty. Adam locked the door behind them. “Hey, you’re not going to rape me, are you?” Maggie joked.
“You wish,” Adam retorted. They were both still virgins.
“So what did you want to show me?” Maggie asked.
The moonlight came in through the open window and reflected off the contours of Maggie’s face. She was so beautiful. Adam realized that he loved everything about Maggie McConnelly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a velvet blue box.
Maggie hesitated. “What is it?”
“Open it,” Adam said.
“Just open it.”
Maggie reluctantly took the box. She gasped as it opened to reveal a gold bracelet. “Oh my god,” she breathed.
“Maggie, I love you,” Adam said. “I have always loved you and I will always love you.”
Adam stared into Maggie’s beautiful eyes, waiting for her response.
“I can’t accept this,” she said.
Adam’s heart sunk. “Yes, you can.”
“Because...” Maggie’s eyes filled with tears. “Because I don’t feel the same about you.”
He didn’t believe her for a second. Then again, he knew her well enough to know that nothing he could say would change her mind. But he knew as he stared into her eyes that no other girl would ever be able to compare. “I want you to keep it anyway,” he said, swallowing hard. “It’s engraved.”
Maggie read the inscription: To my dearest Maggie, Love Adam. “I’ll keep it,” she said softly.
“Are you still riding home with me and Rog?” Adam asked. He was having a hard time even getting the words out.
“If you still want me...”
“I do,” Adam said. “You know I do.”
Roger was on Beer Number 8 of the evening but it wasn’t helping at all with this girl Cecilia. He was pouring on the charm just like Adam always did, but somehow it wasn’t working.
“So I think we were in Mr. Green’s math class together,” Roger was saying.
“Oh yeah?” Cecilia said as she scanned the party for someone better to talk to.
“Yeah,” Roger said, talking another swig of his beer. “He was a jerk, wasn’t he?”
Cecilia shrugged. “I thought he was okay.”
“Oh yeah,” Roger said quickly, “maybe I was thinking of someone else.”
Roger felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Adam standing behind him. From the look on Adam’s face, it was pretty clear that Maggie had once again shot him down. Not that it was any big surprise.
“You ready to go?” Adam asked in a low voice.
“I was just talking to Cecilia,” Roger said, although as he turned back around he saw that she was gone. “I take it things didn’t go well with Maggie.”
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Adam mumbled.
Adam shrugged. “No, not really.”
“Anything I can do?”
“I’ll get over it,” Adam assured him. “I mean, she’s just a girl, right?”
Roger knew how deeply Adam cared for Maggie, but he could see that his friend didn’t want to talk about it. “Is Maggie still riding home with us?”
Adam nodded. “Yeah, I think she’s had about enough of guys hitting on her for one night.”
Roger waited by the car while Adam went to get Maggie. The car ride would probably be excruciatingly awkward, but he had already promised his friends a ride. He felt his last beer taking effect and he was sorry they were leaving so soon. There were a lot of hot chicks at the party who hadn’t hooked up yet.
Adam emerged from Charlie’s house with Maggie following close behind. Adam tried to insist that Maggie sit up front, but she said she wanted to sit in the bac and sleep. Roger was relieved to hear that.
Roger was surprised to find that he was having a lot of trouble fitting the keys in the lock. After trying for nearly thirty seconds, he dropped the keys on the ground.
“Jesus, Rog,” Adam said. “How many beers have you had?”
Roger shrugged. “Four or five?”
Adam rolled his eyes. “Okay, give me the keys. I’m driving home.”
“No way, man,” Roger protested. “This is my dad’s car and nobody is s’posed to drive it except me.”
“But you’re trashed,” Adam pointed out.
“I’m not trashed,” Roger insisted. “Anyway, I’m still a better driver than you, asshole.”
Adam turned to Maggie for help, but she was unconcerned. “He seems okay,” she said. “Anyway, it’s not that far.”
Adam sighed. “Fine, but drive slow, okay?”
Roger started the car with Maggie strewn across the backseat half-asleep and Adam riding shotgun. Despite Adam’s whining about Roger’s driving, he didn’t even buckle his seatbelt.
“So how did you make out tonight?” Adam asked Roger.
Roger snorted. “How do you think?” He shook his head. “Man, what’s your secret?”
Adam shrugged. Roger hated it when Adam acted like it was no big deal that he got all those chicks. Roger would have given anything for even a tenth of the attention that Adam got.
“What happened with, um, Janine?” Roger asked.
“She was a bitch,” Adam said. “Anyway, I’m not up for it tonight.”
“Easy for you to say,” Roger complained. “At least you got laid on prom night. I didn’t even have a date.”
“I didn’t get laid,” Adam protested. “I’m still a pathetic virgin like you.”
“Well, you got head.”
“True,” Adam said with a wink, “but so did she.”
Roger laughed. “I guess you have to give in order to receive, huh?”
“I’m more than happy to give,” Adam said, casting a glance back at the sleeping Maggie.
“I’m sure she doesn’t know what she’s missing,” Roger laughed.
“Thanks for the confidence, pal,” Adam laughed back. “With friends like you... hey, watch it...”
Roger must have blacked out for a second, because the next thing he knew, the car was stopped and his head was on the steering wheel. He touched his forehead and felt that it was wet. When he looked at his hand, he saw bright red blood. For a minute, he had no idea what had happened, but then it came back to him: the screeching tires, Adam screaming, and then...
Roger saw through the windshield that they had collided with another car. The windshield on the other car was smashed and decorated with dark blood. It took him a second to realize that his own windshield was smashed to pieces and he was looking through a gaping hole in the glass.
That was when Roger noticed that Adam wasn’t in the seat next to him any longer.
His hands shaking, Roger opened the car door and stepped out of the car. He felt dizzy and nauseous, which he assumed was from the bump on the head. “Adam?” he called out.
Roger rounded the side of the car and saw the glass scattered all over the hood of his car. In the distance, he heard sirens. He leaned over the hood of the car, barely even noticing the shards of glass that pressed into his palm. He suppressed the urge to vomit.
Adam was lying several feet from where the car had crashed, apparently having been thrown through the windshield. His body was very still and there was blood pooling beneath him.
“Oh god,” Roger whispered as he fainted onto the sidewalk.
Adam was dead in one technical sense of the word. His heart stopped when he hit the pavement and his breathing ceased as well. But his vital functions started up again on their own volition exactly six seconds later. He did not regain consciousness at that time, however, which was probably fortunate.
Adam only came to for a few minutes when he first arrived at the hospital. His eyes cracked open and he saw a lot of white and flashes of flesh. He was moving forward and he realized he was on a stretcher, being pushed into the elevator. “We’ve got to get him to surgery now,” someone said.
Through the haziness, Adam knew that he was hurt very badly and might die. He rolled his head, blinking his eyes, trying to sustain these last few moments of consciousness before they put him to sleep. People have very odd thoughts when they believe they are close to death and all Adam could think about was that he was an only child, and if he died, his parents wouldn’t have any children. His mother would fall apart.
“He’s waking up,” a voice said from above him.
Adam felt a soft hand on his cheek. “Just hold on, sweetie,” a woman’s voice said, “we’re going to fix you up and you’ll be fine.”
“I can’t die...” Adam whispered. “My parents...”
“It’s okay, sweetie,” the woman said, stroking his face. “You’re not going to die. You’re going to be just fine.”
Another voice, further away: “Shit, his pressure’s dropping…”
Then it all faded away.
to be continued....