Chapter Forty-Nine - Together

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River

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River

Two months later

       Spending too much time in my bedroom is toxic. I keep repeating things in my head: why couldn't I have been there at the party? Why couldn't I have stopped Nick from driving Emily? Why did she have to go?

       I keep coming in and out of different emotions. When I wake I feel okay, I feel like I'm capable of dealing with it, but as soon as my feet hit the ground and I go about my day, reality slaps me in the face, and I fall back into a dark pit. I tell myself this is only temporary, this will get better, yet it doesn't seem to be.

       Heading to my desk, I sit on the ground and reach for the piles of photographs I still haven't arranged into albums. The first picture sitting on top of the pile is of us all: Emily, Nick, Jake, Flo, Ky, Georgia and me. It was taken two years ago in our back garden; we're all huddled together, arms flung over each other's shoulders with massive grins plastered on our faces. Studying each person, in turn, it's scary to think of how we've all changed and how all of our lives have altered. Relationships have broken, friendships have been lost, and new people have entered our worlds. The moment at which we took this photo, however, everything was sound.

       Glancing at the time on my watch, I carefully bury the picture in my denim jacket pocket before making my way to Ashbridge Juvenile Prison.

***

       There are two things I've learned this year.

       1) Don't be a dick to people; it's not cool.

       2) Don't be a dick to people; it's really not cool.

       Right now, I'm finding it truly difficult as I sit opposite Nick, only a glass wall separating us. I still consider him the reason for my sister's death, so staring him in the eye as he sits with his hands tied with handcuffs is harder than I thought it would be. After the accident, he didn't get arrested since his father is more powerful than I anticipated. Although all this time I figured he hated Nick, it seemed his pride and his family's reputation was too precious for ruination. He wouldn't be dragged down just because of a mistake his son made, so he managed to get Nick off the hook, only God knows how. It goes to show how corrupt the justice system really is.

       But after Emily's death, his father couldn't save him because Nick turned himself in.

       Pleading guilty to drink and drug driving causing serious bodily injury and eventually death, Nick received a ten-year sentence. This is what I wanted, right? I wanted justice, right?

       However, seeing him in this state drives me to wonder about the Nick I saw in the photograph, which is weighty in my pocket. That Nick held an endless array of opportunities; he was waiting to seize them in hopes of escaping his father's strangling grasp. This Nick has sunken eyes, a blood-drained complexion and a buzz cut, with no future for ten years. Unable to pinpoint exactly how this Nick makes me feel, the simplest word I can use is hurt. I'm hurt that my once best friend is no longer. I'm hurt that he's in here. I'm hurt that he was responsible for Emily's death. I'm hurt that she died.

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