highland park, il • may 30th, 1998

"baby, you're so beautiful.

lori giggled. "stop it. pay attention."

"no... no, i'm serious. you look amazing."

"shut up and pay attention."

a third voice spoke up over the loud music, from the back seat next to lori: "seriously, if you guys don't shut up, i'm gonna barf. you're being gross."

with one couple in the back seat with lori, crammed in to her left, she still had a good view of her boyfriend, who was driving. technically, his car could only hold five people--but it was prom night, and no one wanted to leave their date behind. the front passenger seat held a friend and his girlfriend, who was perched on his lap, with lori's boyfriend as the driver. she didn't mind that he was so far away, only because she loved watching him from afar sometimes. just watching him interact with other people, the way he moved, the way he did anything--everything--was sexy. her eyes never left him for a second unless they absolutely had to. she reached in her clutch and found her flask, taking a long drink from it. the teens had been drinking all night, prior to prom before taking swigs from her flask, and they were looking forward to hitting a party across town with some older friends. it paid to have upperclassmen friends--eventually, they'd be in college, and they'd get you into college parties. at least, that's how it worked for lori.

"hey, can i have some of that?" lori's attention was drawn to the front seat, and she passed her flask to the girl on her date's lap. she was happy to share, though deep down she hoped they wouldn't finish it off--she had her own stash that she'd been keeping in her room, away from her parents, and that was the last of it. she didn't want it to be wasted on someone else. as she leaned up, she felt a pair of brown eyes on her, and she looked again to see her boyfriend, gazing at her as usual. she silently shook her head, unable to speak over the volume of the music. turn around, she told him mentally, as if he could read her mind. all he did was smile.

that was the last thing lori saw before she felt herself get slammed into the seat in front of her. it felt like the entire world exploded around her, and the sound was indescribable. within a split second there was silence as she felt herself slip into unconsciousness. it felt like a dream, like a nightmare she couldn't get out of, and it felt as though she was dangling upside down, someone holding on to her legs to keep her from falling. she slowly came to consciousness again to hear crying, screaming, the sound of something on fire. her eyes slowly opened--the front seat had been pushed back almost into the back, and the door to her left was open. it looked like a trail of blood on the seat. she looked up and saw the sunroof covered in concrete--it was then she realized she was hanging from her seatbelt. she groaned, feeling her hip bones grind in pain. her drunk brain couldn't comprehend the fact that her pelvis was broken. as she worked on getting her seatbelt undone, her eyes searched the front seat for her boyfriend, only to find the seat empty.

lori finally got herself free from the seatbelt, immediately crashing down to earth. every inch of her hurt, and she soon realized she couldn't use anything below her waist, because it hurt so much. she used her upper body to pull herself out of the car, the pavement scratching against her forearms and tearing up her dress. she knew she was in pain, and probably shouldn't have been moving, but she had to find him. she army crawled toward the front of the car to find three people laying, two people kneeling over them. the smell of gasoline made her choke and cough, nearly vomiting the contents of her stomach. she pulled herself as far as she could before she collapsed, her chest feeling like it was caving in. goddamned seatbelts, she thought.

"lori, oh my god," was all she heard before she felt someone turn her over onto her back. she let out a yelp as her lower body went along with it, feeling like her hips had turned into shattered glass. she wheezed, her head falling to the side. "no no no," the voice said, turning her head back up to face the sky. "you don't need to look that way."

her eyes searched around, only seeing the night sky and a pair of blue eyes--it was the other girl that had been in the back seat with her. "where is he?"

"shhh, it's okay. paramedics are on their way, just lay still."

"where is he?" lori repeated, her voice jumping octaves. hot tears spilled out of her eyes and across her temples as she struggled, trying to pull herself up. two pairs of hands were holding her down, and all she wanted to do was find her boyfriend.

"lay still, lori, and you'll be alright," the voice cracked.

"where the fuck is he? where's jack?"

massachusetts general hospital • july 15th, 2011

never again. never again. it's all lori could think as she lay on a hospital bed, her knees high in the air, her business to the world. never again.

that day marked eight months sober--admittedly, she'd gotten drunk fairly often early in her pregnancy (unknowingly), and it scared her to death to know she might have harmed her child. so far, he seemed healthy, at least that's what the doctors said. but, they never would know for sure until after he was born, and maybe even past that. a strong sense of dread washed over her along with nervousness, anxiety, and excitement, surprisingly. she'd cleaned her life up, and within those eight months decided that she would dedicate her life to her son, and make sure she stayed clean for him. she hadn't had anyone else in her life up until that point, no one important. her parents had been out of her life for some time, and she hadn't had a relationship of any kind that lasted beyond a night of passion, not since her high school sweetheart.

soon that evening, lori gave birth to a beautiful baby boy--six and a half pounds, fair skin, jet black hair, and bright blue eyes. the moment he was placed in her arms, she fell in love. no one in her life would ever be as important as the little boy in her arms, never again. she found herself crying, while the baby cried aloud, and she felt in complete awe of this little person that she'd created and carried. the little boy that she'd let listen to bob marley, that she'd talked to as she ate mashed potatoes and ketchup, for whom she'd set up an entire nursery all by herself. ten little fingers, ten little toes, a cute little button nose, and eyes that wouldn't leave her face.

"what's his name?"

she peered down at him, her gaze not moving. "jack."