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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Dark Night by Meg Gray

All she could see was black…

The football game was a total waste.

Erika Evans quit shouting, “Let’s go D-fense,” with the other girls on her cheer squad. What was the point? The score was 45-0 and the spectators were bailing out under a rapidly falling sheet of rain. Even her parents left at halftime with Shelby and Mitchell in tow.

The players couldn’t stay on their feet and the other team was going to get through the line whether she screamed the words or mouthed them. So, she decided to save her vocal chords the abuse.

The game had quickly turned from football to mud-ball. Shaking her black and gold Hornet pom-poms was hardly worth the effort past the first quarter. But she did another high kick and mouthed, “First down. Players on the field moved from their formation and the next thing Erika knew there was quiet groan of disappointment rolling out from the small crowd still in the stands.

Fumble.

Finally, the game ended and Erika hustled out of the stadium. She couldn’t wait to get home. On board the cheer bus, she punched her pillow and propped it against the cold, rain-dotted window. The rain had pulled every last curl out of her head-topping ponytail and soaked her uniform, which was now wadded up in a ball at the bottom of her travel bag. Her dry change of clothes had eased the chill from her bones, but didn’t eliminated it. She pulled a blanket up around her chin.

Through the window beside her she saw Cassandra still in her uniform, holding hands with her senior football player boyfriend Mark. She tossed her limp ponytail from side to side as they talked. Yvette was next to her, eyes roaming the other players looking for what Erika assumed was her next catch, since the last guy she dated had dumped her after graduation and left for college.

Ms. Greene, the cheer coach, hurried through the drizzly rain and flashed five fingers, giving Cassandra and Yvette the five minute warning as she passed. Erika closed her eyes, ready to go home when a loud thud hit her window.

She pulled her pillow away and saw Caden, rain turning his blond hair dark. He smiled, his lopsided grin bringing a ray of sunshine to her heart. She pressed her hand to the glass, over his.

“I love you.” The words silently passed from his lips through the window.

“I love you too,” she mouthed back those frightfully intimate words they’d started saying to one another. The same words that had started the latest mother-daughter standoff. Last night when Erika had said good-night to Caden and included the words I love you, her mother had shot her a deep, wrinkly forehead look. Erika knew what her mother was trying to say, You’re too young to understand love. Her mother didn’t get it that Erika was old enough to have big feelings for a boy. In her mother’s eyes she was still a little kid.

Erika was giving her the extreme cold shoulder as payback.

“Oh, how cute,” Yvette giggled from where she sat down in the seat in front of Erika. “The boy next door is saying goodbye.” She giggled again and Erika ignored her. For whatever reason, her friends didn’t like Caden or didn’t think he was cool enough for Erika to be dating. Every chance they got they tried to set her up with one of the football or rugby players. And Yvette always called Caden cute—which he definitely was—but the way she said it made it sound like he was a puppy, not a person.

Lately, Erika had seriously been rethinking her friends.

Caden stepped back and turned toward the rally bus he’d come on to watch the game. Erika slowly let her hand slide down the glass as she watched him climb on board. They’d meet up back at school and he’d bring her home, now that he had his license and a car. A white Camry.

“Everybody ready?” Ms. Greene asked, doing a quick head count from the front of the small bus.

Erika nodded, making quick eye contact with Ms. Greene before she let her head fall back on her pillow and popped her ear-buds in to listen to Katy Perry on the ride home.

The lights of the coastal town in northern Oregon faded as the bus drove down the winding highway that would take them home.

Erika stared at the seatback in front of her, letting the music cocoon her and keep her out of the silly gossip chain she knew was going on around her.

As Katy Perry’s voice faded out and Meghan Trainor started to croon All About The Bass, the bus made a sharp maneuver. Erika fell forward. She tried to catch herself, but landed on her bag. An ear-bud fell out. Music pumped into only one ear.

Screaming—petrified screaming overtook the vocals. The other ear-bud fell out as the bus bumped and rolled, tossing Erika to the ceiling and back down.

Ouch.

Pain radiated through her body.

The bus came to rest on its side. Erika wasn’t sure which side or if she was still in her same seat. All she knew was the bus wasn’t moving anymore.

Her eyes were closed. Or they must have been because all she could see was black.

The screaming faded as she was sucked into the darkness. The pain she felt, but couldn’t identify faded too.

“Mommy,” she whispered before everything went black.
 
***

To find out what happens to this family sign up for Meg’s Insider Club. Their story will be released as a novel in 2016 and you won’t want to miss the release date!
 
Meg Gray uses a small world approach when crafting her contemporary romance novels, tying minor characters from one story into another—demonstrating how intertwined our human lives really are. The city streets and country roads she takes you down aren’t necessarily a structured series, but the stories are connected. Within the pages, her readers will catch glimpses of some of their favorite characters again and again. This is a concept that mirrors itself in our everyday lives. Our worlds are much smaller than we realize, often times we are unaware of the way our lives intersect with those around us. Visit www.meggraybooks.com to learn more.