“No,” I said, jerking away from him and standing up, but I was off-balance and everything slanted off to one side. I leaned against the door, fumbling with the lock. “I think—I think I need to go home.”
“Home?” He said it like it was a dirty word. “Halley, it’s early. You can’t go home.”
I couldn’t get the door open, the lock slipping past my fingers as I tried to find it, and suddenly I could feel everything on its way up, slowly. “I have to go,” I said. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Wait,” he said. “Just calm down, okay? Come here.”
“No,” I said, and I was crying suddenly, scared in this strange place and I hated him for doing this to me, hated myself, hated my mother and Scarlett for being right, all along. And then I heard it: voices, counting down. Ten, nine, eight, and I was sick and lost and the lock wouldn’t budge even as I felt everything coming up, the first taste in my mouth, and then finally the door was somehow open and I was running, seven, six, five, down the hallway, busting past the people crammed and chanting the numbers in the kitchen and living room and out into the cold, down the steps and the driveway four, three, two and into the woods and then, as the one came and everyone cheered, I was finally, violently, sick, alone on my knees in the woods, as the New Year began.
He didn’t speak to me for the first part of the ride home. He was mad, as if I’d elaborately planned getting sick. When he found me in the woods I was half asleep, wishing I was dead, with leaves stuck to my face. He put me in the car and peeled out down the driveway, going way too fast and fishtailing as we headed out onto the main road.
I was huddled against my window, my eyes closed, hoping I wouldn’t get sick again. I felt terrible.
“I’m sorry,” I said after about five miles, as the lights of town started to come into view. Every time I thought of that litter box, and those sheets, my stomach rolled. “I really am.”
“Forget it,” he said, and the engine growled as he changed gears, careening around a corner.
“I wanted to,” I told him. “I swear, I was going to. I just drank too much.”
He didn’t say anything, just turned with a screech onto the highway that led to my house, gunning the engine.
“Macon, please don’t be like this,” I said. “Please.”
“You said you wanted to. You made this big deal about spending New Year’s with me and what that meant, and then you just change your mind.” We were coming up on the main intersection to my neighborhood now, the stoplight shining green ahead.
“It’s not like that,” I said.
“Yes, it is. You never really wanted to, Halley. You can’t just play around like that.”
“I wasn’t playing around,” I said. “I wanted to. It just wasn’t right.”
“It felt fine to me.” The light was turning yellow but he kept pushing it, and we were going faster and faster, the mall shooting by in a blaze of lights.
“Macon, slow down,” I said, as we came up to the intersection, faster and faster. The light turned red but I knew already we weren’t stopping.
“You just don’t get it,” he said, punching the gas as we got closer, under the light now, and I turned to look at him, wondering what was coming next. “You’re just so—”
I was wondering what he was going to say, what word could sum me up right then, when I saw the lights come across his face, blaringly yellow, and suddenly he was brighter, and brighter, and I asked him what was happening, what was wrong. I remember only that light, so strong as it spilled across my shoulders and lit up his face, and how scared he looked as something big and loud hit my door, sending glass shattering all across me, little sparks catching the light like diamonds as they fell, with me, into the dark.
This is what I remember: the cold. The wind was blowing in my face and it was shivery cold, like ice. I remember red lights, and someone’s voice moaning. Crying. And lastly, I remember Macon holding my hand, tightly between his, and saying it finally, in the wrong place at the wrong time, but saying it. I love you. Oh, God, Halley, I’m sorry. I love you, I’m right here, just hold on. I’m right here.
When the ambulance came, I kept telling them to just take me home, that I’d be okay, just take me home. I knew how close I was, all the landmarks. I’d traveled that intersection a thousand times in my life; it was the first big road I’d crossed alone.
I tried to keep track of Macon, his hand or his face, but in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, I lost him.
“He had to stay at the accident scene,” a woman with red hair kept telling me in a steady voice, each time I asked. “Lie back and relax, honey. What’s your name?”
“Halley,” I said. I had no idea what had happened to me; my leg hurt, and one of my eyes was swollen shut. I couldn’t move my fingers on my left hand, but it didn’t hurt. That was strange.
“That’s a pretty name,” she said as someone shot something into my arm, a slight prick that made me flinch. “Real pretty.”
At the hospital they put me in a bed with a sheet pulled around it and suddenly people were hovering all over me, hands reaching and grabbing. Someone came and leaned into my ear, asking me my phone number and I gave her Scarlett’s. Even then, I knew how much trouble I would be in with my parents.
After a while a doctor came and told me I had a sprained wrist, lacerations on my back, stitches to bind the cut by my right eye, and two bruised ribs. The pain in my leg was just bruising, she said, and because I’d also banged my head they wanted to keep me overnight. She said again and again how I was very, very lucky. I kept asking about Macon, where he was, but she wouldn’t answer, telling me to get some sleep, to rest. She’d come back later to check on me. Oh, and by the way—my sister was waiting outside.
“My sister?” I said, as they parted the curtains and Scarlett came in, looking like she’d just rolled out of bed. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and was wearing the long flannel shirt I knew she slept in. Her stomach was bigger than it had been just hours ago, if that was possible.
“Jesus, Halley,” she said, stopping short a few feet from the bed and looking at me. She was scared but trying not to show it. “What happened to you?”
“It was an accident,” I said.