We love each other, yeah. Even if most of the time they don’t know what to make of their catcher, and our conversations tend to focus on one thing only.

“Maybe if you tried talking to them about something other than softball,” Carolina wonders aloud, her thoughts following mine, like always.

I consider that for a second. “I guess I could talk to them about basketball.”

My friend busts out laughing. “Ay, Dios mío,” she says, wiping tears from her eyes. “I’ll know you’re putting effort into it when you start talking to them about volleyball.”

“Volleyball,” I say, rolling my eyes, which brings another peal of laughter from Carolina, her head thrown back, neck highlighted way too much by the oncoming car that’s brighting us. I flick my lights at them.

Then I’m not driving a car anymore.

I’m lying in a field, surrounded by frost and glass and corn stubble and the constant tick-tick-tick of a motor cooling. I stare at the sky, trying to figure out what just happened.

There’s been a car accident, and I was in it. Actually, I seem to have sailed over it, out and above, to land facedown in snow and dirt, both of which are in my mouth. I don’t understand, but I do know that Carolina was beside me and now she’s not. Which means she’s still in there somewhere, with exploded airbags and twisted metal and broken glass and all the things that make my car suddenly converge into sharp edges and crushing weight, a trap I escaped.

I’m going to save her, going to make it still matter that Aaron most definitely is into her, and probably won’t be shy about it after this. I’m going to stand up and get my friend, pull her out of the wreckage, and see her in one piece, because that’s the only allowable ending to this. I’m going to do these things, but when I try to come to my feet, I collapse.

My legs have a job, and have always done it without question, so I can’t get my head around the fact that I’ve lost the ability to stand up. I spit out a mouthful of snow—the first snow, one my grandfather would have called a sugar snow, the perfect time to go tap the maple trees for their syrup. It doesn’t taste like sugar though; it tastes like blood and dirt.

I try to get up again, and there’s panic in my movement this time, more urgency rather than just a learned behavior—the art of standing. I’ve got one leg underneath me and am considering the other when the lights approach, red and blue mixing into purple as they slice across the field. It makes everything oddly beautiful and accentuates the lazy spin of my tires, treads pointing to the sky. Glass sprays from the passenger window, glistening like snow as Carolina kicks at it, and then crawls out, screaming my name.

I’m balancing on one knee, teeth gritted so tightly in concentration I can’t answer her. I get up on one leg and tell the other to follow, but it simply won’t. I go over again, my bad leg at an odd angle from my hip, one that shouldn’t be possible.

My bad leg . . . why would I call it that?

It’s not a good thought, one that seems to float separately from the world I just came from, the warm interior of my car, music playing from Carolina’s phone, and the smell of the pizza. I don’t know how I went from there to here, from somewhere I was happy to a place where I can’t stand up.

“Mickey!” Carolina calls again, and this time I answer. She comes to my side, backlit by swirls of light, the chaos that we are so intimately a part of removed from us for the moment. It’s quiet out here where I landed, which is a good thing because I don’t have the strength to be loud.

“Mickey?” She says my name again, this time as a question.

Carolina kneels and I notice she’s holding one arm like a baby, cradling it to her chest with the other, like it needs to be taken care of.

“Your arm,” I say, but she shakes her head.

“Your leg,” she says, and I shake my head too, because we both want to believe we still live in a world where we’re whole. No one can tell us otherwise. Not yet.

A beam of clean, white light breaks toward us, a paramedic shouting when he spots us.

“Ladies?” he calls. “Are you injured?”

Carolina wipes a tear from her face as she looks down at me. She takes a deep breath and it hitches, stuck in her lungs, refusing to release.

“Yes,” she calls back.

And just like that, everything changes.

Chapter Two

communicate: to make known information, thoughts, or feelings to another

I’m not good with words.

They don’t come to me fast and strong, like they do for Carolina, who switches effortlessly between Spanish and English, choosing whichever suits her meaning best. She can do that, plus inflect emotion into whatever she’s saying, her body moving with her voice to the extent that when we were kids I always knew what she was saying, even if I didn’t recognize the words. Now I’m close to fluent in Spanish, years spent around the Galarza dinner table giving me a mastery of my best friend’s first language, as well as my own.


In my mind I know what I want to say in either language, but even though the space between my brain and my mouth is a short one, the words never get there. Just like on the playground, the pure joy at being asked to join with the other kids never made it to my lips. So they would walk away, whatever I was going to say coming out moments too late.

Mindy McGinnis's Books