BLUE Excerpt: Jack’s Letter

In this scene, Blue receives a letter from her brother, Jack, who is currently serving a six- month sentence in a boot camp style program for his part in the accident that killed the father of her classmate, Maya. He asks Blue to come and visit him—something she hasn’t yet been able to make herself do.

I hold the letter in my hand for a moment, just staring at his familiar scrawl, not really reading the words. There’s an ache in my chest as my eyes begin to focus again and I can hear his voice clearly in my head as I read between the lines.

Eventually, everybody will get tired of talking about this and life will go back to normal for you. So at least one of us gets that.

Life will never go back to normal for any of us. My parents will always be the parents of that kid who killed a man and got off with a slap on the wrist. Sure, their friends would never be impolite enough to bring it up, but just like my friends, they’re all probably thinking it. My parents know that. They carry on like none of it ever happened, like if nobody talks about it, it’ll just go away. And I suppose it will to some degree. Eventually something juicier will happen to somebody else in their circle—an affair maybe, or a business going under. Their friends will all have something new to gossip about, but it’ll never be totally forgotten. Not by them and not by us.

A year and a half from now, I’ll be graduating and going away to college. If I’m lucky, I’ll pick a college nobody from my school is attending and maybe nobody there will know or even care that any of this happened to my brother. A logical part of my brain knows that even here at Audubon, the whole school can’t talk about this forever. It’s already starting to fade a bit on the edges. Not fast enough for me, of course, but it’s fading all the same.

But life will never go back to normal for Jack. He might sound like he’s making jokes and just keeping his head down and getting through this, and that his life will just continue in forward motion when he goes to college and he’s away from here. But he lived that night. He lived it firsthand. He felt his car swerve, heard the squeal of the tires, and watched in horror as the other car tumbled down the incline. He made the call to 911 on his cell phone, knowing full well that he might be over the limit when the EMTs and the cops arrived. He still made the call anyway.

And then he sat there by the car, watching as they used the Jaws of Life to pry the door apart and pull Maya’s father from the wreckage. Jack watched as they worked on her dad right there on the side of the road and continued to work on him as they loaded him into the ambulance.

I was with my brother at the hospital when the doctor came in and told us that Maya’s father had died. I had no idea he was her father at the time—none of us did. We didn’t even know his name. They told us the dead man had a wife and three kids. I watched Jack’s face as they told him that. I watched it crumple, watched as his hands came up, pressing hard into his eyes. Watched his shoulders shake.

Then my dad put a hand on Jack’s head, telling him softly that it was all going to be okay. They’d called the lawyer, and it was all going to be okay.

I was sitting on a chair next to the hospital bed—they were keeping Jack overnight for observation since he had a concussion. I reached across and put my hand on his leg, just to let him know I was there. I was there for him. He dropped his hands, closed his eyes, and then reached down, sliding his fingers over mine.

My mother put her arms around him and told him the important thing was he wasn’t hurt.

I remember thinking, No, the important thing is somebody’s dead. Were just grateful it wasn’t someone we love.

BLUE is out October 26th!

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