That morning at breakfast, Dylan sat perched on his usual seat at the table, sketching happily. I grabbed the milk and a spoon and sat down. I poured myself a heaping bowl of Cheerios, most of which spilled on the table. Dylan’s pencil scribbled away, and he periodically blew huge breaths over his paper to get rid of the shreds of eraser. Curious about what he was working so diligently at, I leaned over to get a better view.
“Dylan!” I shouted. He was adding onto one of my drawings, and had already reshaped a good portion of it. Startled, Dylan looked up.
“I’ve been working on that forever!” I snatched my notebook out of his hands. He’d made the people cartoon like and unrealistic, and shaded in all the wrong places.
“You totally screwed up the whole thing!” I yelled.
“I didn’t screw up anything!” he said, defensively.
“I’ve told you a million times not to touch my stuff, and specifically not my sketchbook!” I flipped through the pages to see if he’d ruined any other drawings. He hadn’t. I flipped back to the drawing he was working on. I examined it closely, looking for flaws to point out. The faces of the people had become less dimensional and smudgy. Dylan always drew details with tons of shading, most of which wasn’t necessary. Sometimes I’d teach him where to shade, and help him with drawing figures, but he still resorted to his box-like, over shaded style.
He’d added onto drawings before, but those were just sketches I’d whipped up in a few minutes. I’d been perfecting this one for at least a month. The paper was so worn out from my erasing, that there were shreds of it peeling off. And since Dylan pressed so hard that graphite was sprinkled all over the paper like snowflakes, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully erase what he’d done without making a hole in the paper. I also saw he smudged over the shading that had taken me forever to get right.
“God Dylan, you completely ruined it!” I said, the anger boiling out of me. “You know you suck at drawing figures. In fact, you suck at drawing, period, so why did you have screw up my sketch?”
“I didn’t ruin it! And if you’d actually show me how to draw people, like you always promise, then maybe I’d be better!”
“You’re so annoying! Why would I want to waste my time teaching you?”
“Oh yeah? Well then I’m glad it’s ruined!”
“I hate you!” I said through my teeth. Even though he was still frowning at me, I could tell he was hurt. He started to say something, but I cut him off. “Never ask me to teach you anything ever again. And don’t ever add onto any of my work.” Not waiting for a response, I stomped out of the kitchen. I thumped into my room and tossed my sketchbook on my bed. I threw it so hard it slid off the edge and onto the floor. I just left it there. When I passed by the kitchen on my way to the front door, I didn’t look in. I impatiently waited for the bus, fuming.
On the way home from school, I sat crammed into the gray leather bus seat, intensely sketching, disregarding the world around me. Frustrated that my pencil wasn’t conveying the image in my mind, I flipped to a fresh page. The page I flipped to happened one of Dylan’s drawings. All day had been thinking about what happened, and by the time I’d gotten on the bus to go home, I’d realized I’d been a jerk. I decided I should apologize. When I got off the bus, I was blasted with cold air and snow. The snow crept up my ankles as I trudged to the front door. When I got inside, I dropped my backpack on the floor, which made a loud thump, then slid off my boots and tossed my coat on the floor.
“Dylan?” I called. The light in the kitchen was on, but nobody was there. My bowl of dried Cheerios was still on the table from the morning. He must be in his room.
“Hey, Zoe,” my Dad called up from the basement.
“Is it really coming down out there?”
“Yeah, there’s already a solid 4 inches.”
“Wow, I didn’t think the storm would actually hit.”
“And it looks like it’s just the beginning,” I added, glancing out the window. It had started piling up around noon, and there was already a thick white blanket covering everything. I went upstairs to Dylan’s room. His door was closed.
“Dylan?” I called again, pushing open the door. His room was empty. His bed was unmade, and a book was propped open, face down on his bed. The phone rang. I ran downstairs to the living room, but my Dad picked it up before I got there. I looked outside again. Snow swirled around vigorously, and the wind whipped the side of the house. Where was Dylan? I was going to ask my Dad, but he didn’t like it when we interrupted him when he was on the phone. I sighed. I’d just apologize later. I walked into the kitchen to look for a snack. I grabbed the Ritz crackers out of the cabinet. The wrapper crinkled as I dumped the crackers on the counter. I stood munching on them.
My Dad came running up the stairs from the basement. His face was pale, and his eyes were big and wild. “Come on Zoe, we need to go now.”
“We need to go to the hospital.” He grabbed his coat off the hook near the door.
“What?” I asked, shocked. I started to panic when he didn’t answer.
“To see Dylan.” He jammed his hat down on his head and started to tie his shoes.
“Why is Dylan in the hospital?” He didn’t respond at first, but just stood there,
“Dad?” I yelled frantically.
Slowly he said, “His elementary school sent everyone home at noon, because of the snow. But then Liam’s mom took Liam and Dylan to the movies. They were heading home, but then they slipped on some snow or ice or something, and they went off the road.”
I blinked and shook my head in disbelief. My heart thumped in my chest like horse’s hooves hitting the ground. I imagined it in my mind. Their car skidding off the road, the windows shattering as it crashed into trees. I imagined his scream, echoing over the empty roads, cutting through the silence of the falling snow. It replayed over and over. Millions of questions swirled through my head. I brushed away most of them, but one stayed, clear as the ice that covered the roads. It scared me so much, I didn’t even want to think it. But I needed to get it out.
“Is he dead?” I said, my voice trembling. My words held in the silence. I bit my lip, tears welling up in my eyes. I had always assumed that my Mom and Dad had the answers to everything. I always assumed that they always knew what to do. But for the first time, I could see the fear in his eyes. I could see the uncertainty.
“They said he was taken to the ER, but they couldn’t give me any other information.”
I nodded, and swallowed hard. I tried to process it. Waves of guilt flooded over me. I thought of the last thing I’d said to him. I felt like I was being broken, like I was falling into a world of pain. What if I’d lost him?
“Come on, we have to go.”
My legs felt like lead as I walked to the door. I shoved myself into my coat, which was damp from melted snow. When he opened the door, my tears stung, frozen against my face. I walked to the end of the porch, but then stopped. I stared into space. The wind blew my hair around wildly.
“Zoe,” My dad said. He put his hand on my shoulder and walked me over to the car. I got in the car feeling numb. Tears slid down my winter jacket.
Just as he was about to pull out of the driveway, I shouted, “Wait!” I pushed open the door and jumped out of the car.
“Zoe!” He yelled after me.
I ran to the front door, flung it open, and charged up the stairs. When I reached my door I stopped and caught my breath. I pushed the door open and ran around to the other side of my bed. It was still there, lying on the floor face down, with my name scribbled on the back. I picked it up, and grabbed a pencil from my desk. Then I ran down to the car, clutching my sketchbook to my chest.