Their Broken Pieces by Jessica Gomez
Growing up on the wealthier side of town may seem grand from the outside, but the life on the inside is anything but glorious. You never know what’s going on with the people living behind those fancy little doors. For instance, I have problems at home with my mom. I know practically every teenage girl does, but our problems delve deeper than any teenage angst. My life has turned into an ongoing nightmare I cannot escape.
To understand, we have to go back. Back to before. There’s a line drawn down the center of my life, much like the proverbial sand—a Before and an After. The accident drew a line in my sand.
Before, I had a twin brother.
He was my other half. I loved him more than anything, and still do. More than a brother, he was my best friend, my confidant, my ride or die. The one person in my life I trusted implicitly.
Every time I look in a mirror, the same silky-raven hair and ocean-blue eyes stare back at me, replicating my brother’s features. The only actual difference between us, other than gender, was that he towered over me by almost a foot. Standing at five-foot-three, it was clear he inherited all the height genes. All our similarities, and even our differences, are constant reminders that he’s no longer with me.
Jace was the popular one in the family. He started playing on the varsity basketball team our freshman year and was quick to make friends. The girls drooled all over him, but he pulled me right along with him. His friends were my friends.
Our best friends lived next door. Marisol Navarro was my best gal-pal, and Marisol’s brother, Alex, was my brother’s closest friend. We’ve been neighbors for a good ten years. Marisol was a junior, while Jace, Alex, and I were all sophomores.
Their family was pleasant. Mr. and Mrs. Navarro came from a rough past, coming to the United States from Mexico when they were young, hoping to start a new life. And they did. Our fathers worked together at a research company, both making a generous living.
The only hiccup in my before was my mom. She treated me as if I were a burden. She never showed any compassion or love toward me our entire lives.
My father was a normal, doting dad. He spoiled us every chance he got, while my mom always favored Jace. She never hid her intentions, gloating over him in front of me and everyone else. On our tenth birthday, she forgot to write my name on our birthday cake. I mean, seriously? How could she write one name and not remember to write the other? You don’t forget things about your children like that, especially when they share the same birthday. It just doesn’t happen.
Jace was my buffer against Mom, always stepping in to defend me, which I think caused her to hate me even more. Whenever she was up in my face about one thing or another, Jace always stepped in and defused the situation. God, I miss him.
Now that you know a bit about my before, let’s get to that day; the day my Before and After existed simultaneously.
My day was like any other Wednesday at school. My dad was there, watching my practice in the upper gym, while my brother practiced in the lower part. I remembered everything about that Wednesday. I’d been worried sick over a boy asking me to an upcoming dance. There are times I wonder, if I had waited to see him after practice, would our family have missed such a tragedy?
“He’ll ask you, Jasmine. Don’t worry,” Marisol assured me.
“While I love your confidence, I’m not so sure. He doesn’t talk to me much, other than to offer me a flirty comment here and there.”
“He’s a guy, Jaz. What do you expect?”
I met her smile with one of my own. “All right. We still have three weeks until the dance, so I’ll wait impatiently for him to ask. But enough about me. Who are you going with? Has anyone asked you?”
Marisol’s manicured brows pinched together, creasing her caramel skin with guilt. She had the most beautiful long, black hair, which she flicked off her shoulders, looking nervous.
“I’m not sure yet. I need to speak to you about something, but I want you to come over later… after I’ve taken a shower.” She sniffed her armpit, throwing out her last words with sarcasm.
“Sure. As long as my mom doesn’t freak out on me again like last time,” I replied. The last time I came home from practice, she chastised me for looking a mess. I had just finished practice, so there was no way I could look anything but after sweating a bucket of stank onto my clothes.
Marisol gave me an apologetic smile, knowing that my mom was a complete psycho when it came to me.
“All right. At least call me if you can’t come over.”
“I will, don’t you worry.” I turned to see my brother strolling over to us. “I better go. I think my dad’s ready.”
As I turned around, my brother draped a sweaty arm over my shoulders, sliding across the bare skin around my tank top. I didn’t bother moving him, knowing that the punishment would be even grosser if I tried to get away.
“Hey, Marisol,” he said, but there was something different in his voice. It had a singsong tone that I had never heard from him before. I watched as Marisol’s face lit up like a light bulb right in front of me, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what she needed to speak to me about.
“Hey, Jace,” she returned, her cheeks blushing. We’ve known her since childhood, and it was the first time I’d ever seen her get flustered around Jace.
I looked back and forth between them, putting the pieces together. I gave Marisol a knowing look and a smile, letting her know: If this is what I think it is, then I’m cool with it. She smiled back at me. I could tell by the look in her eyes she wanted to spill the beans, but kept her lips sealed.
“I’ll see you tonight,” I told her, knowing I couldn’t wait to hear her news.
Jace gave her a wink before turning with me to walk toward the parking lot. I thought I could get some of the information I needed from my loving brother.
“So…” I started.
Jace turned and gave me his goofy smile. I had only seen that expression once when he fell in love with a puppy we had when we were six.
“I was wondering when you’d notice,” he said.
“How long has this been going on?” I sounded a little more hurt than I intended. I was happy for him, but I couldn’t understand why they would keep me in the dark.
“A few weeks, but Marisol doesn’t want to ‘title’ us.” Using air quotes, he laughed at himself. “She’s worried that us being together will upset you. She wanted to tell you and swore me to secrecy. Believe me, it’s ridiculously hard to keep secrets from you.”
Nevertheless, it hurt. “Of course I’m not mad,” I lied. “I think it’s great, as long as you’re good to her, and you don’t treat her like one of your groupies…” I gestured to all the girls, waving to him and drooling as we walked by.
“I think we both know that Marisol is nothing like them, and I can’t imagine ever treating her with anything but the respect she deserves. Trust me.” I could see it in his expression that this was the real deal which caused me to sport a giant grin.
“Good,” I said as we reached my dad’s Chevy Malibu. Jace claimed shotgun before I could, dooming me to the backseat.
“Hey, Dad,” we said in unison.
“Hey, kids. You both looked good at practice tonight,” he praised, smiling as he pulled out of the parking lot.
“Good,” Jace and I echoed again.
We had driven a few minutes in silence before Dad spoke again. “Jasmine, honey, your mom has had a bit of a rough day, so would you mind making dinner tonight?” In reality, Dad meant Mom had drunk too much and couldn’t function enough to do anything, especially cook dinner.
“Sure.” I was more than happy to cook, because it was something I was good at, and it drove her crazy.
“What do you feel like eating?”
Once we figured out what we wanted, Dad swung us by the grocery store to grab milk and other ingredients before heading home. We were only a couple of blocks away when my dad glanced at me in the rearview mirror for a fraction of a second. A single breath. But it was long enough for him to miss the car headed straight toward us.
Everything felt as if it were moving as slow as molasses, but in reality, it happened so fast. A blink of an eye.
I only recalled one thought… That car looks familiar.
There was a BANG, and that’s when all hell broke loose. Metal was grinding and twisting; windows shattered and popped. Voices were screaming, tires screeching, and the smell of burned rubber filled the air as my dad tried to stop us from the inevitable car flip we were about to endure. The noise was horrifying and deafening.
When the car came to a stop—I wasn’t sure how many flips later—everything was eerily silent. So silent, the only thing I could hear was my ears ringing.
I hung upside down, held in by my seatbelt. Blood was rushing to my face, making it feel as if my head would explode, and my eyes were practically popping out of my skull. My hair hung down like those little troll dolls with their hair spiked straight up. Wet, warm liquid began coming from my mouth, traveling to my nose and eyes. I was scared I’d choke on it, but I got myself together so I could adjust my eyes enough to take in the scene before me.
The smell of burning rubber and car fluids was making me light-headed. The first person I saw was my brother. He was hanging mostly out of his seatbelt, still strapped in, but his neck and upper body were lying in an awkward, contorted position because the roof of the car was smashing him in. I could see blood and glass from the shattered windshield covering him. He wasn’t moving.
Next, I took in my dad, who was halfway out of his window. One of his legs was twisted, with his knee directly in his face. The seatbelt wrapped around him in an odd position, and there was blood soaking his clothes. He wasn’t moving, either.
I knew I needed to get out of the car to help them, so I attempted to move my left arm to unbuckle the seatbelt. Just as I moved, a searing pain shot through me. I reached down with my right hand, but fiery lances were shot through my side. My leg pain caused me to draw in a ragged breath as I choked on a scream that drowned out the thumping of blood to my head.
Finally, I could move my left hand over enough to get my finger on the button of my belt. I hesitated for only a second after realizing it was going to hurt like a mother when I hit the roof of the car, but all I could think of was getting to my dad and brother.
That click was the last thing I heard, as more pain than I could have thought possible for one person to handle and survive shot through my body. The pain covered every inch of me, every nerve, every bone, and every surface.
I blacked out.