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January 23rd, 2011, 09:38 AM
“I don’t really like roller coasters,” Scott said, as Kacey glanced out the window of the passenger’s seat. Scott could tell she was considering going to the theme park visible just a few miles away. She ignored him completely until it was no longer in view.

Kacey was persistent. “We should go,” she said with a great deal of enthusiasm in her voice. This girl was always perky. “It could be fun. And I’m not as stupid as I look. It’s not that you don’t like them. You’re scared. Ever even ridden one before?”

Scott had been on plenty a roller coaster. But Kacey was right: he was afraid. She didn’t need to know that, though. Scott figured he’d lie just a little bit, and hopefully shrug off the subject without digging himself in even deeper. He was nervous. This was the girl of his dreams. What kind of man couldn’t handle a roller coaster?

“Nah, it’s just the--” He thought for a second. He allowed himself a little while to think up a story. A few seconds went by. Nothing.

Kacey winked.

God! Was she trying to make him feel stupid? He shook in his seat. This was hard enough already. Now it was awkward. Either he couldn’t lie or he’d landed on the one brain at camp.

Scott was happy to be where he was, despite his lacking in smoothness. He had no swagger, but at least he’d scored his father’s Corvette for the night. And he was on his way to a concert -- their favorite band. Spinelessness didn’t matter when Scott had the ride, the tickets, and the house empty later on. He had begged the keys out of his father’s pocket just hours prior. Kacey was the top of the totem pole at Lanchester High; the pickup truck was not an option. Scott had been lying awake nights on end. It took more guts than he’d thought laid within him simply to ask Kacey out. The Corvette was luck; Kacey was a miracle.

She rolled down her window. Strong wind and the roaring sounds of the freeway were menacing to him. Kacey enjoyed it.

She undid her pony tail and let her long brown hair flow backwards. Scott eye boggled her. For a minute he stared happily nervous. The luckiest man alive. It wasn’t until the asshole behind him honked that he’d noticed he’d slowed down drastically. His foot had become lazy. So he pressed it hard again without hesitation. Back to normal.

Kacey stared back with her cute little smile, and Scott couldn’t help but concentrate yet again on her only. It was sunny that day. The brightness complimented every aspect of Kacey’s appearance.

Everything seemed right with the world.

Just then he gazed into her eyes, but saw nothing pretty, only a dark, square figure getting larger and larger miraculously quick.

Scott had been enthralled by his situation. He realized it just then: he’d pumped his foot on the break instead of the gas. The accident would cost him more than he could ever recover from. It wasn’t until after the crash that he’d realized his error. A car had been unable to stop behind him in time. Thirty more cars drove behind that one. Scott’s heart skipped a few beats. He knew what was coming.

No time to scream. On impact, Kacey was tossed to the front of the car and into the windshield, like a rag doll. Scott’s head slammed against the steering wheel, and he nearly lost consciousness. He suffered a concussion. He could feel the pain signals running down his spine and then slowing, and then numbness. Kacey hadn’t penetrated the windshield, but she’d done a number on it. There was a spider web-shaped series of cracks. Blood soaked her torso. And she’d lost several teeth.

The beloved vehicle span in circles. Kacey’s lifeless body blocked Scott’s view of the road. He couldn’t see. There was no way to avoid the oncoming traffic; nothing could determine which direction it was approaching from. So he winged it, in an adrenaline rush. But nothing would work; neither did the car do anything but swerve. There was a slim chance of ending up on the grass medium and surviving. A sixty-five mile collision was a thousand times more likely.

It wasn’t fair.

Scott caught a glimpse of a bright orange figure out his window before glass shattered in his face. He felt the car raise off the ground. One moment the sky was above, the next underneath. This was unreal.

He fell hard on the metal floor. Screeching sounds grew louder and louder, until he could hear nothing but ringing. His vision deteriorated; his body was at war with itself. In a split second, his world turned red, then darker, then finally black.

__________________________________________________ ___________________

Seventeen-year-old Kacey was an adventurer. She had hitchhiked to the unremarkable spot in Virginia out of impulse. Her parents were oddly lenient. Nobody could understand her, so why stick with anyone? Her mother and father were lost, caught up in their own lives. Her school was a joke. She had nearly dropped out. This job offer seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel. And it was. The miracle was her running into a long-lost friend at a gas station, who offered her a position as a counselor. The place was beautiful. Kacey saw pictures. Her decision was final within ten minutes. This would be her home for a short while.

The friend, Jake, who’s family ran the joint, seemed to love Kacey. He checked her out so much that it became quite annoying. But she used it. She would be turning eighteen in two weeks -- after the place got up and running -- so she shouldn’t have been allowed to hand in her papers without a parent’s signature to her health included, and much more. But the kid’s parents let it slide -- they would never hear the end of it from their son if they had directed Kacey back to her parents. It was a risk, lots of issues concerning liability.

Kacey felt odd taking advantage of someone like that, but she couldn’t let three months of smooth sailing slip through her fingers. She would not get another opportunity like this one.

The job began. Carrie, a longtime counselor, showed Kacie around. Initiation was always boring, but Carrie kept a light mood on purpose, goofing off at the archery range, doing some ditsy target practice. Kacey got the message: Carrie digged Jake and had obviously picked up on his interest in the new girl. Kacey never brought him up, though. She never tried to get it out of her. And although Carrie was tough, she eventually she let it all out regardless, weeks later. She was in love with the kid. Kacey rolled her eyes. Carrie hardly knew the guy.

By that point her and Kacey were friends -- and as a friend, she assured her that she was in no mood for any kind of relationship with anyone. But Carrie still seemed pissed. That was the exact kind of behavior Kacey resented -- why wouldn‘t she believe her? Her self-confidence was probably on a low. Carrie looked pretty plain, after all: straight brown hair, tired eyes, a bit pale, a little pudgy. Kacey didn’t consider herself Ms. America, but she saw things in terms of reality and understood the concern. If she wanted the boy she could have had him.

Kacey felt annoyed. She didn’t try to insist anything anymore. She was done. She let the situation linger. But when it got too mucky and trash talking got on the rise, and it felt as though an argument was brewing, Kacey worked up a confrontation. She dangled herself in front of Carrie’s lunch table during a time in which she knew the most drama would be exchanged between those bitchy girls. After Carrie took her up to the bathroom for the chat, Kacey turned her back and walked away. She didn’t just let the situation linger any longer-- she abandoned it without so much as a word. “That’s the kind of girl she was,” said a friend. “She saw drama as bullshit, everything as crap. She saw the big picture of things only. She was different.”

The friendship fell. The two would speak seldom for the remainder of the summer. Kacey’s first friend at camp had become a nobody.

Though later on Kacey found herself an unlikely friend. Mrs. Kalston, the camp owner’s wife, wasn't the friendliest. She was cute at first, the way old people usually were. Of course she ticked Kacey off, passing her off as a snotty teenager before allowing her to utter a word. She did so to everyone. Kacey could sniff out a high-chinned phony with one whiff and turn her head in a heartbeat. She wouldn't take that from anyone, of any age -- not her parents, not Carrie, not a wisdom filled elder. As soon as Kacey extended her hand she could see it in the old woman’s eyes: pity for the dumb youth. But Mrs. K knew nothing about her; Kacey fumed. There was no cell phone in her pocket, no iPod, no Blackberry. Yet Mrs. K felt her time on earth had upped her place on the ultimate ladder -- what right did she have? How infuriating. Sixty-two years of bitchiness couldn't earn the woman any points on Kacey's scoreboard. Not even a million could.

But Mrs. K had her moments. Who didn’t? Kacey gave her some credit -- but she reminded her peers to take it all lightly. That was until one day near the end of the summer. Mrs. K. had been in bed for two days straight. Nobody could help her. Her brother had died of colon cancer -- the woman was broken. And her husband had too much work to do. He couldn’t be with her for the most part. The lady had no one.

One sunny morning on a lively week, though, while the campers chomped on their eggs in the dining hall just down the street from Mrs. K's shack, Kacey slipped into her bedroom and got a hold of her while she slept. She held a tray with both hands -- an omelet sat atop, along with freshly squeezed orange juice, rather than the watery fluid the fountains provided. Most counselors wouldn't go near a higher staff member for the more trivial activity. It wasn't as though they were enemies -- the kids were afraid. They felt awkward. But Kacey had a mindset nonetheless. Mrs. K was old, after all; she would enjoy hospitality, the thoughtfulness.

Kacey budged at her arm, half expecting to be snapped at. Instead the woman awoke and showered the girl with stories -- nothing too interesting, of course, but just sitting at the corner of the bed without fear of smiling felt like a revolution to Kacey. It was a godsend that stressful week. Both girls changed that night.

There was a connection between those two. Kacey could feel it; Mrs. K. made it clear. They were all laughs that morning together. Finally Kacey wasn’t afraid; she worked up the courage to grin. She'd never flaunted one so wide in front of her boss's wife. Mrs. K's face got warm at that moment. Kacey knew she had made her feel special; the woman was dazzled knowing she had caused such a leap.

Before bed that night, Kacey slipped into the room once again, this time to leave a calling card on the mantle. No talking, of course, because the husband was asleep inside, too. Kacey had made her way across the room on the tips of her toes. It was difficult not to chuckle.

Inside the envelope laid an invitation to a rock concert scheduled a week later, coincidentally in the same hometown Mrs. K had grown up in. Kacey’s buddy, Scott, would be driving up to camp and giving her a lift home the next afternoon. The position was over; summer was coming to a close. Kacey had really wanted to invite the woman. The sentimental value would surely spark something in Mrs. K, who had listened to such tunes in the noisy room behind the cafeteria, where the dishes were washed. She liked classic rock. She would like that.