Prologue

(A/N: a revamp and completed version of this)

“God, you sleep like a rock.”

Will lifted his arm from his eyes, squinting against the glare of sunlight pouring in from the window. He searched for Kate, blinking furiously until her silhouette took shape. She was standing by the other end of the couch in a tank top and pajamas, one bare foot resting on top of the other as she surveyed him over a glass of orange juice.

“What?” he asked, rubbing at his eyes.

“Your alarm’s been going off for the last half hour,” she said, throwing his phone onto his stomach. “Don’t you have some lunch thing to go to?”

He yawned. “What time is it?”

As if to answer him, his alarm started ringing again. 11:40! it announced on the lit up screen. He swore, cushions and bedding falling with him as he tumbled off the couch into an unceremonious heap on Kate’s dorm room floor. He flailed for a moment, tangled in the comforter, but managed to extract himself so that he stood victorious in his boxes, hands akimbo, surveying the mess of the couch at his feet.

“I’m okay,” he declared. “Where are my pants?”

Kate took a stoic sip of orange juice and gestured vaguely behind the couch. “You fell asleep in your clothes, but evidently you stripped in the middle of the night.”

“Oh.” He found his jeans in a pile on the floor, and his t-shirt inside out on top of his shoes. Now that she mentioned it, he did somewhat recall waking up around five and deciding it was too hot. It was mid-May after all, and even with the window open—but there was no time for explanations. He was supposed to be in Woodside in twenty minutes, and preferably better dressed than this.

It unnerved him that Kate was watching him pull his jeans on, not that he had anything to hide. Usually she would say something to break this kind of silence, to jibe at him even when she knew he was in a hurry. Usually. Who was he to say what she would usually do? This was only the third time he’d seen her in the past month, and before that, it had been almost a year. And whose fault is that? he reminded himself. He pushed that thought away and forced himself to think about his dress shirt. It was still hanging in the backseat of his car. He’d have to make do with yesterday’s t-shirt for now.

“Sorry to skip out on you like this,” he apologized, flipping the shirt right side out and pulling it over his head.

“It’s fine,” she said. “I mean, I knew you were planning on leaving in the morning.”

“No, I’m sorry, I would’ve stayed to have lunch with you, except I mentioned to my boss that I was coming down here, and he wanted me to have lunch with him and his wife—”

Kate set her glass down and went over to him. “Will,” she said, putting her hands on his shoulders, “it’s okay.”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m sorry. We’ll hang out again soon, though. I promise.”

Resigned, she smiled wanly, and he could still see a wistful sadness in her eyes. That, more than anything, pushed against that stowaway guilt hiding in the back of his mind. But again he buried the feeling and instead bent to pick up his wallet and keys from the coffee table.

“We’ll see each other soon,” he insisted. His shoes took a little stomping to get into, but they gave way by the time he reached the door.

She nodded and gave him a quick hug. “At this rate, yeah. I will be seeing you soon.”

“Yes,” he declared, placing a hand on top of her head and looking into her eyes. “Take care of yourself?”

“Always do.”

He left her standing in the doorway and pounded down the stairs, his footsteps echoing wildly in the cold cement stairwell. I’m sorry, he thought again, hoping somehow he could beam his apology to her. He threw open the stairwell door to the courtyard between her building and the one next door. Trees shaded the lawn from the harsh morning sun, though a light haze of pollen and dust filled the air. He looked up through the branches and thought he saw Kate watching him from her window, but a glare crossed the glass and when it was gone, so was she.

His car was already baking. He fetched his dress shirt from the backseat and stripped off his t-shirt right there in the parking lot. A Range Rover passed him while he was undoing buttons, and he thought he heard someone yell, “Sun’s out, guns out!” but ignored it. He checked his reflection in the passenger window—good enough. He probably should have done something with his hair—wet it down or something—but it ought to flatten by the time he reached Woodside. His engine started with a grinding roar, and with a steady hand he steered his car out of the parking lot. He hit the gas and sped around the corner, Kate’s building disappearing from his rear view mirror. See you soon, Kate.

The lights were all green to the highway, and Will sped through each with a silent thank you, one eye still on the clock. With the on-ramp in sight, he shifted into high gear, taking it a little faster than he usually would have. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d taken this on-ramp leaving campus on his way north towards the city. Accelerating down it was second nature to him—but it had been a few months since he’d last driven it, and now a narrow strip of newly paved cement crossed the curve of the ramp. His tires hit the dip just wrong, and Will felt the car lurch under him. In slow motion, he saw the world tilting—

He was going too fast—

The road was sliding away from under him—

He saw the pale blue sky for a suspended moment and then everything went black.

(Edited 6/19/11)

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