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I was the stereotypical 18-year-old. I broke rules, didn’t always respect my parents, and used words like “coolness.” I wore leather jackets, and I also had a mindset that gave me a sense of invincibility.
I was breaking my parents’ rules again when I slipped out one night to join some of my friends at a party. It was a Saturday night, and my parents were out. It was a wild party. Everyone was there. Someone had brought three coolers packed full with beer, so there was a bottle in the hand of every person. Eventually, some neighbors called the police. When the squad car pulled up, everyone dashed for their cars. I didn’t have double vision, but as it turns out, I was definitely impaired.
In the confusion, I slipped away and began driving home. There were no other cars around me, just a couple of girls walking and talking together on the sidewalk. I didn’t have the reflexes to hit the brakes fast enough. I caught a quick glimpse of dark hair before a loud thump shook the car. I sobered up faster than if I had had a bucket of ice water dumped on me. My immediate fear was of being arrested. I didn’t stop; I backed up and drove away as fast as I could. When I got home, my hopes of getting there before my parents was dashed; they were waiting for me. I was instantly grounded for two weeks.
Sunday was spent recovering from a hangover.
On Monday, I went to school like normal. When I walked up to my friends, Jim, Blake, and Riley, all three of them greeted me.
“Hey, Jared! That was a crazy party, huh?” Blake asked me.
“Yeah, dude. Never had cops break up a party I was at before,” I replied.
“Guys, did you hear about the hit-and-run?” Jim asked.
“What hit-and-run?” I stammered. My mind somehow went blank, but was racing at the same time, coming to rest on hazy memories of making my way home last weekend, someone screaming, and a light I may have run though.
“A car hit someone last weekend. Some chick named Rosalyn. Killed instantly,” Blake explained. Like always, Blake and Jim wore their hair the same way: dreadlocks. I dont know the reason why. They didn’t like reggae music or the Caribbean. As far as I know they only wear dreadlocks to look cool. Though they were identical twins, they wore different clothes, so it was easier to tell who was who.
“Wow,” I said. “That’s too bad for her.” In reality, I was thinking: Oh. My. God. I killed that girl?!
“Yeah,” Riley agreed. “Sucks. I hear she was out there because she and her friend had decided to go to see a movie. Apparently she had just won a dancing scholarship and gotten a full ride to a college in New York. Don’t remember how old she was. Maybe 19 or 20.”
I didn’t say anything to the guys and managed to cover up my own role in the hit-and-run. The only witness saw a black truck, but didn’t get a look at the driver or the liscence plate. Lots of people owned black trucks, and my bumper wasn’t damaged, so no one looked at me funny. Life went on as usual. The hit-and-run slid off the news like water over a rock and was replaced by other things, such as a silly feud between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift over a single tweet. In time, I even felt less bad about the entire episode. I convinced myself that it was over and gone, one of those mistakes that won’t be repeated again. Besides, it wouldn’t help anyone if I turned myself in – doing that would only hurt me. I could be a little selfish at times, I know.
About a year later, my parents were out, and I was alone in the house. I didn’t sneak out again, though. I was busy with homework. My history teacher believed that there was no such thing as too much of the stuff. Rain pounded down, and the occasional thunderclap rattled the windows. I was hard at work, starting at a particularily loud peal of thunder, when there was a knocking at the door.
I got up and walked to the door. All the time the person kept knocking insistently. I looked out the peephole. Someone stood there, obviously wet, with a hoodie pulled over their head. The person looked small through the warped glass, and even smaller when I opened the door. With a better view, I could see it was a girl under the hoodie.
“Could I use your phone?” she asked me. I took a step back, and she took a step forward. “Can I call home from here?” she asked again.
“Sure thing,” I replied with as sunny a smile as I could. “Come on in. Here, I’ll get you a towel.” I quickly jogged to the bathroom and grabbed one of Mom’s many hand towels, one of the nicer fluffy ones. Before I left the bathroom, I smoothed my hair a little in the mirror. I wasn’t too bad-looking myself, so I figured I would be able to make her look up eventually.
I walked back out. She was waiting in the living room, which was adjacent to the hallway I had just come out of. Without the blue jacket, I could see that the girl wore a blue dress that went down to her knees, and a pair of snakeskin heels. Her hair was raven black, contrasting with her porcelain skin. She didn’t look at me directly, instead keeping her head down, but I bet to myself that she was pretty. I handed her the bright pink towel.
“Thank you,” she muttered as she methodically toweled her arms and legs, then her hair, and squeezed her dress. All this time, she had not looked at me. She’s probably just shy, I thought. Or maybe her pride is hurting to ask for someone’s help. Offhand, I wondered exactly why I had let her in so quickly.
“So, what’s your name?” I asked, leaning against the wall and putting on my famed cool front that charmed every girl who saw it.
“Excuse me?” she asked, handing the towel back to me.
“Your name. Or at least something I can call you,” I repeated.
“My friends call me Rose,” she said. Funny . . . That sounded almost familiar. Had I met her at a party or something?
“Jared,” I introduced myself, holding out a hand. She didn’t take it, but instead ran her hand along the upholstry of the chair, still averting her gaze. Her fingers brushed the seams lightly before she addressed me.
“Do you know what day it is?” she asked me.
“Uh, yeah. July 27th,” I replied.
“That’s not what I was asking, Jared,” she pointed out to me.
“What were you asking?” I inquired.
“You shouldn’t have driven away,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“You shouldn’t have driven away from the accident. You should have stayed and turned yourself in,” she said. How could a stranger know about that accident? I didn’t know her at all! The nagging feeling that I had missed something came rolling to the forefront of my mind.
Then it hit me. My friends call me Rose, she had said. Her friends called her Rose. Rose wasn’t her real name, but a nickname. My mind flashed back to that second-long glimpse of the accident. The girl had had dark hair and looked like she was wearing something blue.
When she looked up at me, my train of thought was confirmed in the worst way possible.
Her face was round, framed by the dark ebony hair. The lines of her face were hard, as if she were angry. But her eyes were completely black. I could see no distinction between pupil, iris, or sclera, just dark, soulless voids.
“Who – what are you?” I stammered, backing towards the hallway. My eyes were wide with terror.
“You’re a smart person, Jared. Guess,” she told me. “Do you know what day it is?” Rosalyn repeated. I couldn’t let out any sound but a high-pitched, frightened whimper. Her beautiful face contorted into an inhuman expression of demonic fury.
“It’s the day I died!” she snarled.
• • • •
Coming out of my memories, I return to the small, round kitchen table. I stare down at the wood grain, unwilling to meet his eyes just yet.
“So I suppose there are a couple lessons to the story,” I continue to the owner of the table, a man sitting across from me. “The first lesson is not to do what I did, and turn yourself in if you commit a crime. The other lesson is that if a stranger knocks on your door and asks if he or she could come in, but they won’t look you in the eye, don’t let them in. Bow to your better judgement. You never know if the person could be a Black-Eyed Kid like Rosalyn. You never know what his or her intention is. They are dangerous. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let her in.”
I look up at him now. The man recoils, getting out of his chair and backing into a corner formed by the dishwasher and a countertop. I stand up and calmly walk over to him. His eyes, full of fear, meet my own – cold, black emotionless pits.
“Just like you shouldn’t have let me in.”