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    MJTay3
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Reasons - 2. Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Matt flew back, as did most of Rachel's close high school friends. It didn't do much good, but there was strength in numbers. The school held a memorial, but Matt left after a few minutes. It felt hollow.

The story Matt got after a day or two is that Rachel's car ran through a red light in their hometown. She was back to pick up some extra winter clothes, and agreed to pick up Mikey from his first high school dance. It was a road she knew well, and the light had been there forever. But the police could find no problems with her car, so they pronounced Rachel at fault for the accident. Matt had driven with her a million times, and he didn't believe it was her fault for a second.

In the other car, four teenagers were heading back from New York. They were speeding, almost 18 mph over the limit, but it was their right-of-way. They hit, no, "t-boned," Rachel's car right where she was sitting. Two of the teens had minor injuries, but the other two had critical injuries. On the second day after the accident, when Mikey was released from the hospital, one of the two teens died.

Everyone said that Rachel died on impact, but the only one who really knew was Mikey. Matt saw him once before the funeral, when he went to the Burke's to pay his respects. He didn't say much, and neither did they. There was a lot of hugging, and tears. Mikey sat in the corner and looked out the window, his head bandaged -- he got cut by the window shards and had a concussion. He had a particularly nasty gash above his right eye that was going to leave a scar, Matt's father said. He was unconscious when they brought him to the hospital, and according to Matt's dad, he told the police he didn't remember the accident.

---

Matt flashed to the funeral. It was beautiful -- Rachel was a singer and her drama/singing troupes from Brown and Ridgewood came and sang a few of her favorite songs. Matt remembered her singing those in high school -- really, indoctrinating him and Mikey with Le Mis, Rent, and other showtunes. Matt laughed a bit, but cried a lot. He tried to hold it together, but there was just nothing he could do. He sat separately from his parents. He wanted to be there to support his friends, and they did the same.

---

A lot of people don't know this, but Jersey has all kinds -- from backwoods rednecks all the way to high society hookers. Matt loves New Jersey, but he will never move back because of what happened at Rachel's funeral.

As the group filtered outside for the burial, some (drunk) relatives of the teen who passed away started heckling and yelling about the "Rich BITCH" that killed their child. It's common for funerals in NJ to have an off-duty police officer, and while he tried his best to diffuse the situation, there's free speech and what not. It was awful. Matt wasn't proud of it, but he started yelling back, as did a lot of the Ridgewood High clan.

The last memory Matt had of Mikey was that day -- Matt wasn't sure where he came from, but Mikey walked from the big group through the DMZ the cop had created, and straight up to one of the people yelling. He was still bandaged, but he held his cool -- he talked to them, which Matt couldn't hear -- and when he walked away, so did they. It was something that got kind of lost in the day, but it was amazing looking back on it. Matt's mother later remarked at how proud Rachel would have been of her baby brother, and it's so true.

---

After the dust settled, the Burke family got sued by each of the teen's families that were in the other car. It was awful -- the police had put the blame on Rachel, so the Burkes were forced to defend their daughter and fight for their livelihood. Matt went back to school, but his mother told him that the Burkes liquidated basically everything they had to settle with the families without admitting wrongdoing on Rachel's part. They wanted to make sure their child was remembered in the best light possible. Apparently, the families would have settled for less if the Burkes publicly apologized, but they refused. Matt was so proud of them for that.

Matt felt like he had no point of contact to the family anymore, so he demurred on contacting them. Matt spent the "winter" in Palo Alto, taking extra classes, and when he returned back to New Jersey for the end of the summer in 2005, he found out the Burkes had sold their house and quietly moved out of town. They didn't tell anyone, including Matt's parents.

---

All of this flashed through Matt's head in an instant after getting up from the floor in Mino's, but he still had a dumbfounded look on his face. Mikey looked at Matt quizzically, and said, "Matty, hey! It's me, Mike Burke? Don't you remember me?" Mikey sounded kind of hurt.

Matt regained his wits and responded quickly, "Mike, yes! Of course! I'm just shocked to see you on stilts!" They both laughed at the bad joke. "What are you doing here?" Matt said.

"I'm seeing friends and stuff," Mikey said. "I hadn't been back in a while, so I wanted to see the old place. My parents moved to Maryland back in 2005, so I haven't been back in like 8 years."

"Wow..." Matt said, trailing off. It really had been a long time. Matt was looking at Mikey, as he was talking, but was focused on his eyes.

"Sooo, I can't believe I ran into you? How freaking weird is that?" Mikey said, trying to carry on a one-sided conversation.

Matt kept having to remind himself to pay attention, asshole. "I know, I mean, it's... yeah. How are you? What are you up to these days?"

Mikey laughed and said, "Well, the short answer is, high school, college, a year volunteering, and now I just started grad school in California for Environmental Science." There was another pause, and Mikey continued, "Hey, you went to college out there, right? Any advice on how to get a job? I am already totally freaking out about loans and stuff -- Maryland was free and this is just a whole new thing." Mikey was babbling, but to be fair, he was basically talking to a functional mute at the moment.

Matt felt his phone buzz (text from Mom: "Where are you? Don't forget cannolis!") and then again rejoined the real world. "Um, yeah, sure, I know tons of people out there." Matt knew he was lying -- what the hell is environmental science anyway?? -- but he couldn't think of another answer. "Here, let me give you my card, and drop me a line or something and I'll do what I can." Matt fished a card out of his wallet, and Mikey took it.

"Woof, look at you Mr. Big Shot Lawyer!" Mikey whistled, and Matt turned red. "It's really not that big a deal," Matt said. "The cards are the best thing about the job."

Another awkward pause, and Mikey had had enough. "Well, my friends are waiting for me over there," he said, pointing to a table of two girls who had been staring the entire time, "so I'd better go." Just then, saved by the bell, Mama Mino rang the "your food is ready!" bell and Matt said "Yeah, and I have to go too. Great to see you, Mikey." They both stopped for a second -- it was the first time Matt had called Mikey by his nickname in almost a decade. They awkwardly hugged, and parted without another word.

---

On the way home, Matt struggled to articulate, even to himself, why he was so affected by that encounter. Going into full-on lawyer mode, he made some mental lists:

"Caught off guard. Yes, that makes sense. A totally different guy -- he was 14 the last time I saw him and he's now, what, 22? 23? I don't even know. He's so self-assured and outgoing now! And so, so tall -- where the hell did that come from? Mr. Burke is like 5'9". Jerk."

But really, the thing Matt kept coming back to: "My God, he looks exactly like his sister. No, he looks *at me* exactly like she did. It's his eyes." Matt couldn't explain it at all, but he felt like Mikey looked at him the same way Rachel did -- it was a certain look, of love and understanding. Every time Rachel gave Matt that look, it made him feel safe and loved. The last time Matt saw that look from Rachel, it was on his graduation day.

 

Copyright © 2014 MJTay3; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I don't know what rock I've been hiding under that I missed not one, but TWO updates of this terrific story.

 

Such a horrible thing the Burkes had to endure - their daughter tragically dying in a car accident, and then the families of the teens in the other car suing them. For what? Will it bring back the dead teenager? So, so sad.

 

Ok, on to the next chapter.

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