The wipers couldn’t keep up with the deluge. The sound of rain upon her car reminded Jen of the applause from a home game, the way it drowned out all other noise. She squinted through the glass at the blurry shapes beyond, unable to see painted lines or the curb on either side of the road.
Ash thumbed through Tik Tok videos beside her; every so often Jen’s peripheral vision caught movement on the glowing screen in her sister’s hand.
“Find something good?” Jen asked, elevating her voice so she could be heard.
“You should be watching the road,” Ash lectured, not lifting her eyes from her phone.
“It’s not like I can see anything,” Jen mumbled her complaint, unwilling to get into an argument. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she did see something; a shadow racing across the road, directly in front of her.
“What the—?” she said, stamping on the brake. The phone flew out of Ashley’s hands and clattered along the dash. There was a muffled thud and then the front wheels bounced like they’d hit a speed bump.
For a long moment there was nothing but the sound of rain before Ash cried out, “What was that?”
“I don’t know.” Jen stared at the rain-blurred glass before her. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles shone white. I don’t want to know.
Faintly, she could hear a man talking. Confusion and unreality washed over her. The man was laughing about something—she couldn’t make out words but there was definitely a tone of amusement.
Understanding dawned on her when her gaze shifted and landed on Ashley’s phone on the dash. It was still playing a video. She reached for it and pressed the button that put it to sleep.
Jen heard the distinct click of a seatbelt latch and the whirr of it retracting into position. She grabbed Ashley’s arm. “No, wait! Where are you going?”
“We have to see who you ran over, if we can help!” Ash said, her eyes wide and fearful. Jen felt a cool assessment taking over, giving her enough sense to wonder why her sister was so upset. She wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat, after all. I’m going to jail.
When the car door opened, the sound of rain deafened her. She watched as Ashley got out of the car, unworried about getting wet. Drops ricocheted off the car door to spray haphazardly on Jen’s face. She blinked and wiped them away, opening her eyes to see that Ashley hadn’t bothered to shut the door behind her. Annoyance trickled through the numbness.
Jen switched off the car engine and unclicked her own belt, letting it slide along her palm into its housing. With trepidation she opened her own door and stepped out, immediately drenched. When the car door slammed shut Jen looked for her sister, seeing her nowhere.
“Ash?” she called. “Ashley!”
“Oh no,” Ash wailed from the opposite side of the car. Across the roof Jen saw nothing and knew that Ash must be on her hands and knees, looking under the car. Do I really want to see this?
Compelled beyond understanding, Jen crouched. Her jeans stuck awkwardly to her, forcing her to shuffle and pull up the material of each leg before she could bend further and peer under the car. The first thing she saw was Ashley’s face on the other side. Her gaze shifted. Close to the back wheel on Ashley’s side was a shaggy animal. A dog. Not a person.
Jen felt both relief and guilt at once.
She spoke to her sister across the undercarriage. “Why was it running around in the rain? Is it a stray?” She could hear the hopeful tone in her voice and wondered why it mattered less that it had no owner. A dead dog was a dead dog either way, right? Strays can bite kids. Strays are pests. Strays get put down.
Her thoughts didn’t make her feel any better.
“I can’t see a collar,” Ashley said, bobbing her head back and forth.
“Can you move it? I don’t want to run over it with the back wheels.” The memory of the car thudding over it made her gag.
“Oh my god, Jen. It might just be wounded.”
“Even more reason to get it out from under there,” Jen insisted.
“I don’t want to get bitten,” Ashley said.
“Don’t be such a wimp. It’s probably dead, anyway.”
“Then you do it! You’re the one who ran it over.”
And there it was, thrown in her face. Anger stuttered her mind, making her scramble for a retort. Ashley didn’t wait for a reply, getting to her feet so that Jen was left staring at her sneakers. Jen stood up straight to yell at her.
“It’s on your side!”
“So? Walk around!” Ash snapped back. She got back into the passenger seat and shut the door.
Jen’s mouth opened in her indignance. She’d just had her first car accident with a fatality and her sister wasn’t being supportive. Or nice.
Jen opened the driver’s side door and hopped in as well, squelching as she sat behind the wheel. She glared at Ashley. Her sister had retrieved her phone to send a bunch of quick texts.
“Who are you texting?”
“I’m letting mum know what happened.”
“You mean letting her have your side of the story,” Jen snarked.
Ashley pulled a face at her. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
The question must have been rhetorical because Ash resumed her texting.
With a trembling voice, Jen gave her command. “You get the dog out from under the car, or we’re not going anywhere.”
Ash threw her a different expression, this one of contempt. “You’re not serious.”
“I’ve never been more serious,” Jen replied triumphantly.
She would pay for this in one way or another because her sister would find a way to get back at her. But right now she wanted that dog moved out from under the car and she didn’t even want to look at it, never mind touch it.
“You’re such a shit,” Ash complained, but she threw open her car door and stepped out.
“And shut the door!” Jen yelled over the rain.
Ashley turned and that was when the van hit her, the thud of impact horribly familiar. Jen blinked her shock as screeching brakes sounded over the pouring rain.
“No, no, no, no, no,” she said through a dry mouth. That didn’t just happen.
Ashley’s phone on her seat blooped, catching Jen's attention. Their mother had texted back.
‘I’m so sorry. Just be careful getting it off the road.’