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Kat wondered what had taken him so long. At this rate, she expected to arrive late to the football game as well. Neither of their parents had bothered to show up for dinner, so they would need to grab food on the way. She prepared to lecture him on the simplicity of portable chargers as she walked to the front door. But it wasn't Kyle on the other side. A tall, dark-skinned man stood on the front step with a squared jaw. He was dressed in a police uniform.
This is where the leading actress of the melodrama will testify that she knew something was horribly wrong. Maybe it would have been that way for Kat too if the man on the porch had been a stranger. But it was Mr. Fields, Josh's dad. His expression morphed as their eyes met. His frown tightened and more lines formed around his eyes.
"Mr. Fields, what are you doing here?"
"Kat," he glanced into the foyer behind her," are your parents home?"
She shook her head and explained that her mother was down the street at the Davidsons's house and her dad was probably on his drive home from work.
"Katherine, you need to call them. Have them come home," he said.
"You can come inside and wait for them if you want. Mr. Fields, something's wrong, isn't it?"
He followed her into the living room but avoided her gaze as she called. By some merciful miracle, they arrived simultaneously. Kat heard the car doors slam, heard their running footsteps pound against the pavement. And she wanted to go to them. But she couldn't move. They froze at the sight of Mr. Fields, pacing uncomfortably in front of the fireplace. He sat rigid in the French armchair as they cautiously entered the room, seating themselves beside Kat on the sofa. Her ears were ringing. She couldn't understand Mr. Fields was saying.
He placed a plastic bag gently on the coffee table. Her mother recoiled, howling. Her dad remained silent and stoic but leaned back as well. Inside the bag was a pendant, the shape of a sea turtle carved into emerald sea glass. She lifted an identical necklace in pale teal from around her neck. This necklace is the only Floridian thing I kept, he always joked. It wasn't until she saw it, covered and dormant on the glass table, that she realized something was horribly wrong. Her brother was gone.
Kat heard her parents talking. She saw them, crying and struggling. She was aware when Mr. Fields finally left that night, allowing an unbearable silence to take up residence. The Martins didn't speak. They sat huddled together on the sofa, barely moving. Barely breathing.
It felt like days later when Kat peeled herself off the grey upholstery hoping to find solace in her bedroom. Her phone buzzed violently in her pocket, alerting her to the dozen unread text messages. She closed the door loudly, pointedly, before scrolling through them. Half of them were from Shaun. Shaun. She hit the green icon next to his name, anxious to hear his voice. He never answered. Four calls and he just wouldn't pick up the phone. Maybe that was a good thing. How was she going to tell him about this? How was she going to tell anyone? The other texts were Taylor, asking why she had never shown up for the football game, and Quinn. He had seen the police car in the drive and wanted to make sure everything was okay.
She had to tell him before Josh got home and learned the news from his father, and before the next morning's news articles. Unsure if she could risk walking out the front door, and afraid to tell her parents where she was going, Kat pushed open her bedroom window. In high school she cut the screen off, making it easier to slip in and out. She ran across the street and around the house to Quinn's window. The blinds were down, but light shone through the cracks. Wind chimes from the front porch tolled in time with her taps on the glass pane.
A few moments later the exterior lights switched on, and Quinn emerged from the back door, hiding beneath a burgundy hoodie. He was mumbling something about Josh's dad and the homecoming game. But Kat couldn't focus long enough to string the words together. She could see Kyle, years ago, running down the field in the #23 jersey with the ball gripped tightly. Quinn had stopped talking, his eyes were scanning her face.
"Kyle's dead," she whispered.
He pulled her against his chest, arms tight around her shoulders. She hugged him back as the tears came for the first time that night.
"What happened?" He asked when she pulled away. She hadn't realized he was crying, but the light reflected off the streaks against his cheek.
"Car accident. He was driving in from the airport and there was a cooler on the road. When he swerved he lost control. The car flipped." It sounded too simple as the words left her mouth. That was all it took, a cheap plastic cooler, and her brother was gone. Forever.
Her phone buzzed in her back pocket. The photo of her and Shaun last New Year's Eve lit up the screen.
"I don't know if I can tell him," Kat sighed.
"I can talk to him if you want," Quinn replied, hand outstretched.
After handing him the phone, she walked through the backyard to the old tire swing. Quinn's dad had hung it nearly two decades ago, and they used to joke that it was indestructible. It had survived three hurricanes, and Quinn couldn't pull it down in middle school after his dad left. The distressed rubber was comfortable, its smell a lingering memory from their adolescence. Kyle had been here. Quinn leaned against the oak tree.
"You should go, Shaun's on his way. But call me if you need anything, okay?"