“I propose we get ice cream.”
Kaitlin is slurring her words so much it takes her twice as long as normal to get this sentence out.
She has had far too much to drink.
Even you, who do not drink regularly, have had a couple of glasses of wine. But your two friends Kaitlin and Rian have been drinking heavily for the past three hours, gulping their way through bottle after bottle. Although you have consumed a comparatively small amount, you can feel a slight giddiness about you. But you don’t think you’re impaired. After all, you're sober enough to see that your friends, unlike yourself, are far gone into the realm of uninhibited drunkenness.
You and Rian had come to Kaitlin’s apartment to console her after her boyfriend of two years had dumped her. You had pictured cozy pajamas and fuzzy socks and popcorn, maybe even a rom-com viewing to induce a good cry, but that image had slowly grown fuzzier and fuzzier until it was unrecognizable, and in its place are you and your friends, surrounded by empty wine bottles, Rian passed out on the floor and Kaitlin stumbling around, imagining she is moving in rhythm to the techno music blaring from her radio.
And now Kaitlin wants to get ice cream.
You are sitting on the couch, resting your head against your arm. It’s been a long day. Work was more stressful than usual, and your boss asked you to stay an extra hour. And traffic on your commute home had been terrible. It was as if no one knew how to drive anymore! But as soon as Rian had called and told you Kaitlin needed her friends, you had not needed a second to think. It wasn’t a choice, it was as instinctive as scratching an itch.
Being an only child, these girls are the sisters you never had. But now you do have them, and they are everything to you. You would do anything for them and know that you can trust them to always be there for you whenever you’re in need. This is why, even though you’ve been awake for twenty hours straight, and the alcohol you drank feels likes it burning away your stomach lining, and all you really want to do is wash off your stale, oil-infused makeup, there is no where else you would rather be.
Kaitlin flops down beside you. “Ice cream!” She throws her arms in the air as she looks at you imploringly.
“Rian’s car is just outside.” She leans onto you and you can smell the alcohol on her breath.
“There’s no way Rian is driving us. She can barely keep her eyes open. Why don’t we walk.”
“It’s too dark," she complains. “You drive then. You hardly drank anything, and no one’s even out right now.”
You know she’s right, you’ve only had two glasses of wine, and at this time of night the roads would be empty, and it was only a few minutes drive to the all-night diner…
“Please, I need ice cream. I just got dumped. Pleaseeee.” She drags out her words, sounding like a child pleading with their mother.
You’ve seen people have a drink with dinner and hop in their cars and drive home. None of them ever had any trouble, except your Aunt Lacey, but that wasn’t so much an intoxication problem as it was that she just wasn’t a good driver. Besides, you really didn’t drink that much, you feel fine, and there’s no way you’re letting either of your friends get behind the wheel.
“You barely drank, you can be our designated driver.” Kaitlin begins laughing hysterically as if she’s made a clever joke. Then she throws her arms around you as she pleads with you once more.
It must have been at least an hour since your last drink, and besides, food would help your friends sober up a little. And you haven’t eaten since lunch, more than twelve hours ago.
Suddenly your reluctance dissipates, you figure it’s best to go now and get it over with before you get even more tired.
“Fine, let’s go get ice cream.” You can’t stop a smile from invading your features as Kaitlin jumps up enthusiastically.
“Yay! I will love you forever!” She plants a sloppy kiss on your cheek before she stumbles over to Rian and clumsily pulls her off the floor.
“Get up sleepy head, we’re going to get ice cream.”
Rian lifts her head and mumbles something incoherent as she lets you and Kaitlin half carry, half drag her to the car.
You wait until they’re both buckled in before you pull out of the driveway, not wanting to take any chances.
“See, this is fun!”
Kaitlin has her window down, the warm night air blowing her long golden hair off her face. “Woohooo!” She shouts into the night air.
You want to quiet her but don’t want to take any of your focus away from the road. Your eyesight is clear and you feel in control, and yet you can't shake the feeling that you’re doing something wrong, the same feeling you used to get when you would sneak into the kitchen to steal a cookie before dinner.
“Woohooo!” Kaitlin is still shouting out the window. As you check your rear-view mirror you can see Rian has passed out again, her head lolling against the back window.
You see a car’s headlights ahead; it must be the only other people awake at this time. Perhaps a mother who has just finished her twelve-hour shift as a nurse, or a young couple arriving home after a night out dancing, or perhaps like you, they’re on the hunt for a midnight snack. These musings roll through your mind as you continue driving down the road towards them.
But something is wrong.
You realize that before you realize what is actually happening. The headlights of the approaching car seem too bright, too close, your heart begins pounding as your alcohol addled brain tries to catch up and figure out what to do.
But it’s too late.
A few seconds longer and maybe you would have had time to steer the car to the right, into the lane you’re supposed to be in.
Instead you drive head on into the oncoming car.
A blaring horn, shouting, headlights shooting into your eyes, and pure fear seizes you.
And then everything goes dark.