The Last Time I Saw Him
The last time I saw him, he was young, vibrant. Alive. It was three weeks after he passed his driving test, and he’d been going out every night, taking his new car for a spin, relishing the freedom. I usually stayed at home with his parents, though he did take me out with him sometimes.
That night, we were meant to be going to a concert together, all four of us, at the Albert Hall. It was a big, important thing, his mum’s fiftieth birthday, and we were incredibly excited. And then I got ill. A terrible stomach ache, sickness, bleeding. It was unavoidable, and we couldn’t get a refund on the tickets. I persuaded them to go without me, and I could tell he was worried, but I went up to bed and said I’d be fine.
I’d never learned to drive. That’s how my parents died, in a car crash when I was nine. I remember the flashing blue lights through the door, the aunt who was babysitting me that night collapsing into the police officer’s arms.
The same happened the night of the concert.
This time, there wasn’t a police officer; there was no aunt. Just a phone, ringing. I let it ring out the first time, and then it rang again, so I pushed myself from the bed and grabbed it, hissing through the pain, “yes?”
“Yes?” I couldn’t be bothered to correct them, even though Miller was only my adopted name.
“Well, Miss Miller, I’m afraid I have some bad news. I need you to come to the hospital, now. Can you do that?”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I can.”
I found his mum’s keys and got into her car. I managed to drive to the hospital. I turned on the wipers somehow and couldn’t get them to turn off again, but I didn’t care. I didn’t lock the car when I reached the hospital.
All three of them, the Millers, my new family. All three of them, dead, died in a car crash just like my parents did.
They were putting a sheet over his face when I got there.
I drove home, remembering being in the car with him when he was practising for his driving test, him showing me what everything did. I remember smiling at him. “That’s great,” I said. “You’ll do brilliantly. You’re a great driver.”
I hit my hand on the wheel. I don’t look where I’m going, I get caught up staring at the red light and drive straight through, not registering what it means.
I never saw the lorry.
The last time I saw him, he was young, vibrant, alive. The next time I saw him was less than two hours later. He was dead, bloody. It hurt to look at him, to imagine the pain he’d been through.
But I didn’t have to imagine, not anymore.
I took his hand when he said, “Come on, Lil. Being dead isn’t so bad.”