Jenna stood in the driveway for a long time just crying and staring at the tire marks the Jeep left in the road. She hoped the gut feeling that had enveloped her stomach all morning had been wrong. She didn't want the last memory of her friends to be that of an argument where she tried, unsuccessfully, to discourage them from going on a trip that was months in the making. Second guessing took over her mind. I should have done more, laid it all on the line. Or I should have stood behind the Jeep and physically stopped them from going. Not knowing what else to do, she finally went back into the house to figure out how to occupy her week.
Since the time off for the trip had already been granted from The Perk, where she was a barista, Jenna's manager had already filled the schedule and couldn't give her any hours. That left only two options; stay home and sulk or go and help out at Aunt Donna's bookstore. The latter seemed the better choice. Interacting with other people would occupy her mind infinitely better than watching endless hours of mindless television and allowing her thoughts to run free, inventing multitudes of scenarios of what could go wrong for her three friends during the trip. Although the four days at the bookstore passed quickly, the camping girls were never far from Jenna's mind, but with each passing day allowed her to relax a bit more. Maybe the dream wasn't about the camping trip at all, the thought of which gave Jenna chills because that meant The Dream foreshadowed a different event.
On Thursday, Jenna left the bookstore in the early afternoon because it was a nice day and she felt like cooking. She still had all the groceries meant for the trip and hated to see them go to waste, so she headed home with a sweet and spicy edamame-beef stir-fry recipe in mind. While she was cutting the yellow bell peppers into strips for the mixture, her hands began tingling wildly. Within seconds, the phone rang. Jenna immediately knew what the call was about.
"Hello?" she said reluctantly into the receiver.
Mrs. Dalton's weary voice was on the other end, "Jenna?"
"This is Jessica's mom," she paused to sob. "There's been an accident..."
"Mrs. Dalton, no..." Jenna didn't want to hear the rest, but she already knew.
"It was a drunk driver. He hit the girls head-on while they were on their way home," she struggled against the urge to cry. "None of them..." Jessica's mom fell into sobs and couldn't finish the sentence.
"Oh my God! I'm so sorry," Jenna fought to maintain control herself.
"I just thought you should know..." She didn't wait for an answer before hanging up the phone.
Jenna held the receiver for a long time until the shrill REET, REET, REET reminded her the handset was out of its cradle. She looked at the tear-blurred phone in her hand as if it was the first time she had ever seen one. The shock numbed all of her senses and it sounded as if the noise came from another room or even across the street. It didn't matter at the moment because her friends were gone, not just gone, but also stolen from her. She hung up the phone and the mental inquisition started. Why the hell didn’t they listen? What good is The stupid Dream if it can’t be used to help people, especially loved ones? Why them and not me? How will I go on without them?
The next few days passed slowly but in a blur. The weather turned to the typical Northwest grey of spring, which seemed appropriate for the girls’ funerals and perfectly matched Jenna's state of mind. One thing Jenna wondered, once she was thinking clearly again, was why Jessica’s mother called her when she found out about the accident; how she knew Jenna was not with the rest of her friends on the camping trip. At the funeral, she asked Mrs. Dalton how she knew to call. Mrs. Dalton told Jenna that Jessica called when they arrived at the campsite to let her know they had made it safely. She told her mother that Jenna had changed her mind and decided not to go. Jenna did not press the matter further, but hoped that Jessica had not relayed how she tried to convince the others to cancel the trip. Jenna didn't want Jessica's mother to have to live with that burden.
The rest of the school year was spent in a grey haze, similar to the drizzly Seattle springtime, and Jenna simply went through the motions, surviving day-to-day. She did what was necessary at school to make it to graduation. She also worked as many hours at The Perk as her manager would allow, just to keep her occupied. She helped out at the bookstore on her days off. All because she didn’t want idle time to think about how unfair it was for some drunken idiot to rob three girls of their existence, especially when they were only beginning to blossom. The thought of the injustice made Jenna’s blood boil. Worse yet, he was virtually unscathed from the accident. “Just a few scratches,” they said. “He was very lucky,” they said. Jenna didn’t call it luck though, instead she thought of it as a travesty of the natural order. She did her best to keep it pushed to the back of her mind so she could merely function.
Time passed and graduation day came. Emma, Nicole, and, Jessica were the only students from the graduating class who died. their smiling pictures were shown and favorite music played in tribute at the ceremony, which served only to tear the scab from Jenna’s heart that had only recently begun to form, and she was painfully reminded how empty she felt without them. Around graduation time, Christopher Stark was standing trial for driving under the influence and three counts of vehicular homicide. Although Jenna knew she couldn’t handle being present in the actual courtroom, she did pay close attention to news coverage of the trial. The image of the three girls' parents’ reaction in the courtroom would be forever burned into Jenna’s mind, when the judge announced the sentence of five years probation for the crimes. As it turned out, one of Stark's relatives was a detective or something and pulled some strings to get his sentence lightened. This is not right! she thought. How can he walk free when my friends never had the chance to plead their case; to tell a jury why they should be allowed to live? Jenna was repulsed and thought it unacceptable. A sickening knot of rage grew in her stomach. She silently vowed that someday; somehow, the deaths of Emma Waters, Nicole Starr, and Jessica Dalton would be avenged.