He could see from the corner of his eye that she had that stubborn grin on her face again. "Just buckle up. I don't care about you, but I'm not getting a ticket." She'd probably cave eventually, but she always had to fight everything. He could smile at her, show that he was amused, and that would be that. But she wasn't the only one who knew how to be obstinate.
"I don't know if you've noticed," she shot back, "but we're in the middle of no where. I highly doubt you're going to get pulled over. Unless... Uh-oh, I didn't think about this: What if the farm boys have started their own vigilante traffic patrol? Sure hope this thing can outrun a John Deere." It was always something. She did it just to show him how independent she was. And he usually punched her to show her the consequences of independence.
He took a deep breath and studied her profile in the fading light. They had gone shopping all afternoon so she was dressed a little nicer than usual. That was the main reason he agreed to go on these trips. The always started out as a trip to get a new video game or CD and ended up with him sitting on a bench in the middle of the mall while she tried on way too many ugly things. Today had been a little different though. Summer was quickly approaching and she wanted a new bathing suit. He definitely had an opinion on that topic.
It had been a bleak afternoon. Evening wasn't looking any more promising. The sky was an unbroken shade of grey and a fine mist made everything just wet enough to be uncomfortable. It was nothing like the hours they spent playing in the lake. Splashing like children, trying to drown each other. Hot sun sparkling on the beads of water that ran down her smooth bare skin. Last summer it had been what he lived for. He had had the worst summer job ever, but he knew when he was through he could stop by the tiny party store where she worked and have a popsicle. Frozen sugar water was great, but that wasn't really what he found so refreshing. And when she was done, they'd swim.
He slugged her in the arm. Hard. That ought to wipe the smirk of her face. He never held back a whole lot when he did that. He would hit his brother just as hard. And he suspected she appreciated that. What she didn't know was that sometimes when he slammed her into a wall he wasn't sure if he really wanted to tear her clothes off or just keep slamming his fists into her face until things started to crunch. Either way the emotions infuriated him. She was a tease for even speaking to him when she belonged to someone else. But whatever kind of twisted friendship they had, it was somehow worth the torment.
He spent many quiet moments wishing he could go back in time. If he had been out riding his bike around the block instead of playing Mario in the basement, he would have met her first. At least he would have seen her first. He probably wouldn't have spoken to her because he never dreamed a girl could actually be so interesting. He'd had the same thoughts and feelings as every other boy his age, but girls just always seemed so shallow. If they didn't take the time to get to know him, their loss. Unfortunately, no one ever did. Until her.
"Put the belt on. I'm not going to say it again." Now there was another look in her eye that he wasn't quite sure how to interpret. He had a pretty good idea though. He reached across her to grab the seat belt and the back of his fingers brushed her thigh. They both went awkwardly stiff and her cheeks glowed pink. She felt it, too. Such a light touch for such a strong reaction. It was maddening. It was wonderful.
He was watching her pointedly not watching him when the deer sprang into their path. He knew better than to swerve to miss it but his rationality was very far away. The slick road offered little purchase at that speed. Time slowed to a near halt. Little fragments of crimson glass floated past him. He had time to wonder at their color. And then his body ached and he was alone in the car.
He found her twisted body in the brush several yards away. There was no need to check for a pulse. For a moment he froze, his mind unable to process the scene in front of him. It looked like something from the horror movie they had gone to last weekend. When it finally came, the realization crashed down on him in an avalanche of pain and fury. He tipped back his head and released it all: the love, the hate, the frustration and rage. He screamed for the loss of something he never had. He screamed until his throat and chest burned, until he couldn't utter a sound. No one heard his cry but the birds in the trees along the road, and they flapped away in fear.
He didn't remember lifting her tiny frame or setting her gently in the back seat. He didn't even know where he was going until he was there. He put the car in neutral. Gravity would see to the rest. Their cold, black lake at the bottom of the hill was getting slowly closer as he climbed over the seat to hold her. With all the tenderness he'd never dared to show before, her cradled her beautiful, blood-soaked face and pressed his lips to hers. He had never experienced a moment so perfect, so right as this one; the very last one.