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by Jeremy Michael Trimble

Anna looked across the street and could barely believe what was happening. After so long it seemed more like a strange high or a dream than reality. Anna wanted the moment to come but at the same time dreaded it's arrival. It had to be done no matter how much it scared her.

She parked her car across the street and looked at the small middle class home. It was a nice house to have a family. Anna couldn't help but smile when she noticed the white picket fence.  The home seemed so perfect she could barely believe that it had been so badly marred by tragedy. The flowers bloomed defiantly against the back drop of hopelessness.

Defiantly?  She wondered how they could do anything but blossom on the beautiful day. The sun bathed Anna'spart of the world in golden streams of light. The sky wasn't touched by clouds, a prairie of blue limited only by the eyes.  The day might have been perfect.

It should have been perfect.

Anna opened the glove compartmentand pulled out an envelope.  On the front, "I'm sorry" was written.

Her hand found its way to open the door but she couldn't do it. Anything in her resembling strength evaporated like water on the sun. She tried to move, or focus, or just do something, but she couldn't.

Anna gave up and let tears stream down her face as a torrent of memories streamed through her consciousness.

The can of beer some how found itsway to Anna's lips again. The bitter contents slid down her throat as she watched the cute guy on the other side of the room. Her head ached a little as the pounding music beat her like a hammer. Anna tried to ignore it and took another gulp of beer. It burned as it sloshed down her throat but she smiled with the brief flash of pain.

The guy on the other side of the party seemed to notice her watching him. She looked away for a moment trying to pretend she wasn't looking athim.  Anna focused on the can in her hand.  It was a nice to have some thing to focus on.  Her vision blurred so she blinked a few times to clear her sight.

Again the beer managed to make it to her lips.

When she glanced back in his direction she noticed he was standing beside her.

"Wanna' go outside?" he asked her.

She grinned happily from the combination of alcohol and his smile.

He led her outside into the backyard.  Despite the haze that fogged her vision she noticed how cute he was.

"Hey," he introduced himself, "I'm Michael."

"I'm Anna," she mentioned while thinking something more like I'm yours. Where the rogue thought came from she didn't know, and she couldn't say she cared either.  Anna was too busy admiring the scenery.

All Anna really saw was his inviting dark brown eyes.  Everything about him was perfect.

She took another sip.

"Nice party, eh?" he wondered.

"Yeah, yeah, it is," Anna answered.

Anna sat back in her car and focused but the memories slowly became foggy and then the images of her and Michael simply faded into oblivion.  For a second she wondered what really happened for those few hours she didn't remember.

"It doesn't matter," she whispered to herself.  It didn't. Whatever he might have received from her, it hadn't been enough.  Nothing she could give him would pay him back.  Nothing.

Without effort she rested her headagainst the seat and thought about what was left of that night.  Her surroundings faded away and she couldsee and hear everything.  Anna was back in that night.  She could feel every detail again.

"Mind if I hitch a ride withyou?" Michael asked Anna after a while of oblivion.

"You don't have a car?" Anna asked, her words had become slurred an hour or so before.

"Yeah," he replied, "I do, but the question should be do I have a working car?"

Anna laughed hysterically for a few heart beats until she could barely remember what she had laughed at.

"Yeah, I can give you a ride," she finally told him with shallow breaths.

A bitter laugh graced Anna's lips as she vaguely remembered Michael's joke. Joke?  Is that what it was?  Maybe if she'd been sober she'd have known it was an insanely bad joke—at best.

Why did she give him a ride home?  For a second she tried to remember the drive that would be later interrupted.  After a second she gave up trying to torture herself with fogged memories and switched to frighteningly acute memories.

The chair was comfortable.  Anna would have given anything to be comfortable herself but she couldn't be. She wondered briefly if she would ever be comfortable again.

Probably not.

Absently her hand found its way to the scar on her arm.  She tried not to think about the crash.

The judge entered the courtroom and everyone stood up.  Anna was almost euphoric when the judge sat down; she didn't know how much longer her legs would have been willing to hold her. Her body seemed to be in rebellion at the insult of holding her conscience.

"Anna Ritter," the judge began, "please stand up."

Anna stood again but her legs seemed to be stronger.  Maybe her body wanted to see her punished.  She wanted to break down and cry but she was denied that pleasure; her eyes refused to water and remained dry as she just stared at the judge.

First the judge addressed Michael's parents.  "I am terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your son.  I wish there was something I could say or do to help you heal."

The judge paused for a moment then addressed Anna.  She wanted to cry but her eyes were as dry as the moon. "Anna I don't think you should be given jail time for driving while intoxicated."

"Thank you," she answered meekly.

"Don't be thankful.  You have done something stupid and it has hurt people more than you can imagine," the judge replied.  He paused for a moment.  His gaze was locked on Anna and she struggled to remain calm.  “You just graduated from high school?"


"Jail time would do nothing but destroy your life.  Enough has been taken already."

"Instead, you will be ordered by the court to write a check to Michael's family for one dollar every Sunday for the next four years.  We want to know that for some time every week you will think about Michael and what has happened to him—and to you."

Several seconds swam by.  Anna stood there unable to think.  She couldn't do anything but feel guilty as time continued, seemingly, without her.

"Yes sir."

"What's wrong?" a meekvoice asked from outside her car.

Anna stopped sobbing and watched asmall girl who stood outside her car with the naēve innocence of beingfive.  She couldn't have been any olderfive.  The girl was cute, Anna noted stoically, with short blond hair and ocean blue eyes.

Anna meekly returned, "Nothing, you should be going.  I've got somethingI have to do."

The little girl nodded and ranoff.  Anna didn't bother to notice whereshe ran off.  She was thankful she wasgone.

Four years had gone by quickly.  It didn't seem fair.  It didn't seem fair to Michael, or to his family, or even to her.

With the final check for one dollar and a letter (of, what, apology?) she began her trip.  Anna had no idea what she was going to do.

For the last four years, while she was in college, she simply mailed the checks. At first it was hard but she learned to move on, but those checks did do what they were supposed to.  Every time she filled one out she saw Michael's dark brown eyes tempting her into his death.  The last check had to be paid personally.

She opened the car door with semi-renewed vigor and walked toward the picturesque house.

The dozen paces flashed by herleaving her without a recollection of walking to their front door.  Finally she made it onto their porch.  Anna just stood there for a moment trying to summon the courage to act. Finally she managed to do something.

With weak and awkward fists she knocked on the door.

An ironic smile played across her lips when she thought that maybe they weren't home.  She knew that she wouldn't be able to come back again.

The front door opened.

Air fled Anna's lungs as a middle-aged woman stepped outside.

Shock danced across Michael's mom's face.  Anna wondered if she would cry or yell at her to leave, or maybe slap her.

She was silent.

"Here," Anna declared as she held out the letter.

Michael's mother met her offering with silence.  She seemed too shocked to know what to do.  Michael's mother just stood there staring at Anna with a distant gaze.

For an awkward moment Anna didn't know what to do.  Her hand dropped backto her side with the untouched letter still in its grasp.

Suddenly Michael's mom's eyes were wide with shock.  Anna turned around and saw the girl in the street.

Sickenly close to the girl was a car speeding along the little residential street. Anna didn't bother to think; instead she dropped the letter and sprinted towards the girl.

Anna crossed the distance between her and the little girl faster than should have been possible.  Her steps were measured in massive strides. She pumped her arms as she tried to pick up speed.  She didn't think she'd be able to get to the girl in time.  Frenzied thoughts chaotically jogged through her mind as she continued sprinting.  In the back of her mind she realized joining the track team had been a good idea.

Anna pushed the girl out of the way and quickly felt the car slam into her. Agonizing crack sounds flashed through her ears.  Distant pain sauntered through her but she didn't pay any attention.  Anna was in complete peace as a flying sensation washed over her.  An imagined smile was reflected in mid air, as she simply didn't think.

Anna finally felt like she didn't have to think.  Freedom had come at last.

She landed with more cracks.  Her breath was gone and she could feel blood slide down her forehead.  Anna tried to inhale but failed, rewarded only with a jabbing pain.

"Oh no, Sarana, are you okay?  My poor baby!" screamed Michael's mother.

“I'm okay,” the daughter answered meekly.  Anna doubted the girl knew how close she had come to death.

 Anna tried to roll over to see that the girl was safe. She failed and decided just to close her eyes.