Maggie stumbled through the field, mumbling to herself as she recounted the night’s events. Graduation Night. It was supposed to be the biggest night of her life. The night before the first day of the rest of it.
Graduation was everything it was supposed to be, except for the parts that came before and after the ceremony itself. Her father never showed. And he didn’t answer his phone. The text from Lyssa that came mid-commencement wasn’t helpful.
Out with IT. Should be here??
Maggie had smiled when it came, thinking back to her older sister’s texts before the advent of auto-correct. “IT” meant their father’s new girlfriend, Carol. Lyssa hated her. Lyssa didn’t have to live with her. Carol really wasn’t all that bad, except for the cocaine, and the booze, and her immature tantrums, and of course Maggie’s father’s absence on just the biggest night of her life. At the end of the ceremony he still wasn’t there.
Lyssa offered to drive her home, but she was turned down. Everyone who was anyone was going to a big graduation party at Raven’s Nook. Steve was going, and so Maggie was going. She was already dressed for it under her gown. They arrived together, but were quickly separated and she never saw him again so she had no idea how she ended up wrapped in his jacket.
Steve said he wanted to talk… alone. They found a private place. He fumbled with his words for an awkward minute before getting on one knee in front of her. The finality of a childhood that was gone, the love of a young man, the magnitude of responsibility of life and of challenges… the racing pulse in her ears made it hard to hear, but Steve still wasn’t finding the right words anyway and then they were interrupted by Myra, Steve’s ex-girlfriend, who insisted she had to talk to him.
“I’ll bring him right back,” Myra said, as she dragged him away by his shirt.
Maggie sat down. Anger filled her with more adrenaline than her interrupted proposal had. He was going to propose, right? Why else would he get down on a knee? Myra knew it, too. That bitch! She wanted to chase after Myra and tear her hair out, an ironic desire as it would turn out. Instead, she sat. Someone handed her a drink. She thought it was Jeff, Steve’s best friend, and she absent-mindedly accepted it. The next hours were a blur.
She was alone with Scott – Oh God. Why Scott? – conscious enough to keep pushing off his advances, but unable to stop the onslaught of alcoholic kisses and groping under her clothes. On the plus side, she barely remembered it and he didn’t rape her. At least she didn’t think so. She was still dressed.
Later, there were some really bright lights and she was sure she remembered Myra’s face and her hideous laugh. That was most likely when her hair disappeared. I hope that bitch doesn’t think she can get away with this just because school’s out!
When she finally passed out, she was alone. She had managed to get away from everyone and find her way outside where the hyperventilation of fresh air sent her pitching face first to the ground. When she woke up, the noise from the party had died down some and she was wrapped in Steve’s jacket. Why would he just leave me lying like this?
It was more than two miles down the cliff beneath Raven’s Nook and out across the fields. That was at least a mile and a half shorter than walking the road that wound down the back side of the hill and a hundred percent less likely to produce company. The summer weeds tore at her ankles. The warm breeze felt strange where her hair had been chopped away. Finally, she could see the highway ahead in the dark, the road home.
Home. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to go home. Why didn’t he come to my graduation? She began to cry. Softly at first, but little by little, the frustrations of the evening poured themselves down her face. Her sobs were interrupted by the sound of a lone car on the highway, freezing her in her tracks. She didn’t want to see anyone. She didn’t want anyone to see her. She would wait for it to pass.
When the headlights came flying through the air, as the car hurtled over the embankment, Maggie could only stare blindly into them. They were so unnatural. Cars don’t fly. But this one did. It came straight at her, an eerie invader from outer space, hovering toward her in slow motion, the lights blurred into duplication by her tears, engine screaming with no ground to restrict the wheels. Her mind couldn’t process what she saw and heard, only the cool sting of her cheeks drying in the warm summer night air.
Driving under the influence.
Possession of narcotics.
As he lay in the hospital bed, alone with his thoughts, none of those charges could mean a thing compared to the crime that had no punishment. The driver’s girlfriend was dead. Fraught with grief, he knew that if her head hadn’t been in his lap when the car went off the road, the airbag wouldn’t have snapped her neck. And the poor girl he saw right before the crash. They said she died instantly. Good God! What was she doing in that field? But it was the unpunished crime that would haunt him far longer than the others. He knew it was that crime that caused them all. If he had just taken Carol to his daughter’s graduation, none of this could have happened.
© 2012 Anne Schilde