The snow is falling in elegant, graceful patterns. I'm sitting by the window sill, reading "The Book Theif" when Mama comes over. Her hand is soft like butter, but her eyes show pain.
"Mama?" I ask.
"Tell me again," I say. I know that I'm only 12, but I still listen to Mama's story. "Tell me the story about you and Auntie Carel and the one who had the same name as me. I want it to be fresh in my mind before she comes over tonight."
Mama sighs a deep sigh, full of knowledge and tears and love.
"It's a true story, Annemarie. It's a true, sad story about my mistake. The only reason I tell you this is so you will learn from my mistakes."
"I know, Mama."
Mama sighs again, and I feel bad. She does not want to remember.
"Mama, actually, it's okay. You don't have to tell me again."
"No, no, I will."
I settle in, because Mama tells the best stories. She has a way for words, and she tells them in the strangest ways.
"Sometimes, the world seems to slow down," Mama begins. "One moment, you're laughing with friends, driving down a long winding road. You're just teenagers, and the world seems so diminutive that it can fit in your sweaty, greasy palms. Music is blasting into your ears along with the delighted yelps of singing friends. All is good. Your head starts to hurt a little, so you take a swig of the bottle of half-drunken beer that trembles in the cupholder. This is not your first sip. Your vision gets a little blurry, and your eyes start to sting. The steering wheel looks like it's shrinking farther and farther away. Maybe if you just grabbed another bottle from the back..... the steering wheel slips out of your hands like water. The next moment, your swerving, and the whole universe is swerving with you. You and your friends plummet down into a ditch of grass, the sound of glass shattering and long outstretched shrieks are penetrating your ears. The moment where the van flips seems to last forever. You can make out the figures of your 2 flailing friends, who are holding onto each other for their lives. You see their long and short hair, entwined together, and the movement of their mouths. It's as if somebody had taken a globe and spun it a thousand times. Your stomach feels like it's on fire, the flames rising with each passing second. What if you're dead already? No, that's not possible. You can feel yourself spinning. Your head is spinning too, and you hear a loud buzzing, which seems to be inside of you. Oh wait, that's you. You're screaming too."
Mama's voice cracks, but she continues.
"The van finally flips. A loud crunch silences the wails. You're upside-down, face first on the roof of the car that has finally landed.
"Are.....are...y-..you guys...o-okay?" A trembling voice asks, but it seems far away, almost like an echo. Still, you can hear the pain that resonates inside of it.
Your plan is to lay there with your pounding head and burning limbs, waiting until any help of some sort arrives. There is a horrible buzzing in your ears, the noise of the present fading in and out, in and out.
But no matter how much it buzzes, you can still hear the cry.
Of course, all of you were crying, silent or out loud, but this cry was more of a scream.
"ANNNNNNNNNNNN!" the cry wails. "ANNNNNNMAAARRIEEE!"
Annmarie? You have a friend named Annmarie. Actually, she's your best friend, along with the others in the car.
Why is somebody screaming her name?
You force yourself to move. Tears are running down your cheeks. You turn your head - ouch - and look into the back seat. Your best friend Carel (besides the fact that she is bloody and stabbed with shards of glass) is hovering over Annemarie.
Annemarie is in a pile of blood. She's face down. Her head is not attached to her body.
"How the hell did that happen?"
You think you're going to be sick. You let out a low cry, which causes your voice to crack, but you don't care.
Your best friend is dead. Because of you.
"Violet, are you hurt? I swear I will kill the universe if you are ..." This was Carel
"I'm, I'm fine. Ann......"
Your sobs grow bigger.
"I'm sorry. I'm so freaking sorry! This is all my fault, I can't f-ing believe this. I hate myself, what was I thinking....."
Your voice trails off into sobs.
"It's not your fault, it could have happened to any one of us," Carel says consolingly, but he doesn't sound convinced. Her voice is more of a raspy whisper.
You do not respond. You sink your head into your arms shamefully. You bite your lip to hold back your tears, because you think that if you cried anymore, everyone would drown.
"Come...on..." Carel grunts. She is struggling to get out of the van. Once she's out, Carel grabs your arm. Through the shattered glass you go, and finally, your free. The air is so much nicer out here. It's cold, but you do not mind. Blood is piled around you and your remaining friend, and suddenly, your legs turn to water. You collapse onto the hard pavement of the road. There is no civilization near. None of your brought phones, and it's almost 4:00 am. Carel collapses on her knees, too, and then you scream. You scream because you are stupid and you were driving drunk. You scream because even though you had too much beer, you are not going to forget a single moment of today. You scream because you killed your best friend. Carel screams too.
Time did not stop. The world is still spinning, and time is still passing. But there you are, three teenagers, screaming with fury at the world, because everything seems wrong. The world is getting blurry. You thought it was great, that you could be as big as you wanted, driving too fast on a too-long road on a too-cruel world. You scream in pain because you are hurt, and so are your friends, and that's your fault.
You scream because even though you don't want to, you will get through this. You are holding the hand of more than your best friend. These girls (well, only girl, now) are like your family.
You scream because you will get through this together, even though you are missing one person in your group.
Why did you have to be so stupid?
Why Annmarie, not you?
You scream, holding the hand of your un-biological sister, because life, as simple as a cliche can get, is utterly and unconditionally, not fair."
Mama takes a deep breath.
"And that's it."
I hug Mama so tightly that she might burst.
The doorbell rings. It's Auntie Carel.
Mama was right. They did get through it.
And, they are like family.