Ace of Spades Sneak Peek(10)

Suddenly, even though I don’t want them to, memories start piling into my head. Junior year, winter break. The night I’ve spent every moment since trying to forget … Screeching tires, louder than our singing voices moments before as we yelled the lyrics to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The sound of a shrill scream making him swerve and slam into a tree, jolting us forward. My head bashing against the dashboard—

“Fuck!” Jamie shouts. “Fuck, fuck, fuck … I think we hit something.”

My entire body trembles, chest squeezing as I try to breathe but can’t. The sound of the car unlocking sends a sharp wave of nausea into my system as Jamie staggers out into the road.

“FUCK!” Jamie screams. He stumbles back, tugging at his hair. The sound of the radio drowns him out. I desperately hit the off button.

“Chiamaka, we hit a fucking girl!”

I can hear her scream in my head again—I’m going to throw up.

Jamie leans into the car, hair wet from the rain that’s pouring down outside and sticking to his pale forehead. He’s breathing fast, like he just finished a marathon. The smell of the leather car seats mixed with Jamie’s musky cologne is overpowering, making my brain feel heavy.

“Chiamaka, we need to do something. My dad can’t find out!” He’s pleading. Rain pounds the road as I peer out the window at the body—her body. Through the rivulets, I see her face. Blond curls, pale skin, a dark pool forming a halo around her head. I gag, gripping on to the cold, hard dashboard, closing my eyes.

I feel so sick.

I should get out—see if she’s breathing. But I can’t move; my limbs are stuck in place.

“W-we should check if she’s breathing. And we need to call an ambulance, the police—” I say as I take my phone out of my coat, fingers trembling.

Jamie’s eyes are desperate as he snatches my phone from my hands, shoving it into his pants pocket. “We can’t, my dad will kill me!” His voice rises. I jump in my seat as he kicks the side of his car, hard. “He’s gonna fucking murder me.”

Jamie hunches over, the rain pouring down his face, and places his hands on his knees, breathing harder than before.

I shake my head. Jamie’s figure is getting hazy as tears blur my vision.

“We have to, she looks really hurt.” My words clumsily spill from my lips. I need to get out.

“It’s gonna be okay—no cops and it’ll be fine,” Jamie says, his voice cracking. “We can’t go to prison, so no cops. We need to do something. My dad … He can’t fucking find out about this.”

Prison? I hadn’t thought of prison.

The words stab at my chest, stopping my lungs from functioning the way they should. Each time I try to breathe, there’s not enough air; when I try to swallow, it’s like there’s something lodged in my throat.

I can hear myself crying, but it’s almost like it’s someone else. I can’t feel the tears, but I know it’s me. The girl’s doll-like face is scratched into a distorted image in my mind.

I should get out and make sure she’s okay. I reach for the door handle. I have to see that she’s still alive. She’s not moving. The blood. We hit her really hard—

The next part happens so fast. I hear the loud slam of the car door as Jamie suddenly reappears next to me. The sound of tires screeching on the wet road as he backs the car away. There’s a pause and I look at him.

I have to get out—

There’s a click as the doors lock. I rattle the handle uselessly.

“What are you doing?” I scream, banging on the window.

We can’t leave her. We can’t leave her.

Jamie looks at me briefly, eyes glazed over. Then in one quick motion, he swerves around the girl’s body and races forward, not looking back.

“Chi?” Jamie says, dragging me back into the present.

“You’re right,” I say, dizzy, gripping the bench as the sound of people talking in the distance fills my ears once again.

He smiles.

Jamie is good at rationalizing everything, making sense of the cracks in reality.

Especially when it’s the things we need to forget.

* * *

My dreams, since the accident, always begin like this: Water enters my body in every way it can, flooding my organs, squeezing and squeezing as I yell for help, which only makes more water seep through, burning my lungs, my throat, while my skin prickles on fire. I turn to the side and Jamie is there next to me in the car, frozen, staring blankly at the road ahead. I wave my arms to swim out, away, but I’m no longer in water. I’m dry and I’m back in the passenger’s seat, watching her scream, eyes wide as we stop and she falls to the ground. In my dreams, I stumble out of Jamie’s black car, palms stinging as I hit the gravel. I try to stand. But I can’t. I drag myself toward the body, watching the blood seeping into the holes in the gravel, away from her blond curls—everything is silent. Her face is the last thing I see. The face I will never forget.

Then I’m gasping for breath, choking on air as I jerk myself awake.

I’m up like this every single night, in my dark bedroom, sweating and heaving. Some nights I have that dream more than once. Other nights, that dream is accompanied by another that is just as disturbing. Me trapped in a dark room, drunk, disoriented. Hundreds of blond, bloodstained dolls surrounding me as the girl Jamie hit stands over me, a grin plastered to her pale face.

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