The Lies We Believe

We wouldn’t have been so reckless if we had known that in less than a year one of us would be dead. It’s strange. You never expect a simple choice, like where you’re sitting, to be the difference between life and death, but for me, it was.

Its been three months now. My counselor tells me it takes time to grieve. Be patient, she says, one day you’ll make sense of it all. I find that hard to believe. Make sense of it all? There is no sense in the death of a 17 year old. No reason why someone, months before high school graduation, should die.

Little things make me remember. A blue t-shirt. The song we were listening to. Our favorite restaurant. These memories come in fragments, but these fragments tell a story. I’ll share it with you, if you’d like. It’s the story of five friends and the death that changed us all.

10 months earlier

Carly sat beside me flipping through the radio channels and I wished she’d just make up her mind. The taillights ahead of me disappeared around the corner, but by the time I made the turn, they were out of sight.

“Shit, we lost them.” I said.

By then, Carly had decided on a station and she and Vivian were rocking out to our favorite song.

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t help me look for them or anything.”

I turned down a side street and slowed my pace. I peered out the windows, seeing only parked cars and street lights. After a few minutes Vivian said something but we couldn’t hear her over the music.

“What?” I asked, turning the music down.

“They’re behind us!” she said.

I glanced in my rearview mirror. “How the hell did that happen?” I flew around a corner and pulled over, killed the ignition and the lights. My friends knew the drill. Within seconds, we were down, laughing, as we waited for the car fly past us, oblivious.

“I’m starving.” Carly said.

“Like that’s news.” Vivian said.

I’d known Carly long enough to know that she wanted me to say something to validate her, but I wasn’t in the mood for her drama. Instead, I shoved the keys in, and said, “It’s 10:15. Let’s go.”

When we arrived at our designated meeting spot, Xander and Justin were waiting outside the car.

“What took you so long? We’ve been waiting here for 10 minutes already,” Xander said. His smile reminded me of an exhilrated child.

“What is this, the fifth win in a row now?” Justin said.

“Fourth.” I corrected him.

He shrugged, smiled at me. “Same thing.” I didn’t counter. He could have his victory.

“Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here.” Xander said.

“Its not that cold if you’d wear a sweatshirt.” Vivian said.

“You can be my jacket.” He said, kissing her cheek.

Vivian smiled at him, but didn’t reply flirtatiously. She was too matter-of-fact for that. “Or you could just be prepared for the weather.”

Our conversation at the restaurant wasn’t memorable. It was only the meaningless babble of adrenaline filled teenagers. I don’t even know why this memory sticks out to me. Maybe because the next day my mom checked the speedomoter on the car and saw that I’d put on fifty miles in one night. When she asked me where I’d gone, I just told her I’d been around.

“That’s a whole lot of around. Where did you go?” We were the same height, and I resisted the temptation to lower my eyes.

“Steak’N’Steak with my friends.”

“That’s not fifty miles away. Where else did you go, Rebecca?”

“Vivian forgot something at her dad’s house and asked me to pick it up for her.” Lying was second nature to me.

My mom nodded slowly and I hoped my face didn’t betray me. “Okay,” she finally said. I don’t know if she believed me, or just gave up on trying to get the truth out of me.

“Sorry, Mom. Next time I won’t go so far.”

Only, I didn’t mean that. In fact, the very next week, we had another car chase, which I ended up winning. I had no intention of denying myself anything. I did what I wanted and sidestepped the consequences. Only now, our consequence is staring us in the face. We can’t sidestep or pretend anymore. You can close your eyes, but you can’t close your eyes forever.

11 thoughts on “The Lies We Believe

  1. Nikki says:

    I really liked the first sentence, it hooked me immediately.

    Personally, I felt like there were maybe too many characters too soon, which is always a turn-off for me (but that could just be a personal problem)… But overall I liked it and would keep reading.

  2. David De Alejandro says:

    I like the first few paragraphs of the passage, but as soon as you start the opening scene, I get the feeling that things are moving too quickly, and there isn’t enough time for me to adjust to one part before we’re moving on to something else. I think part of the reason for this is because, like Nikki said, there are too many characters being introduced too quickly with only a little bit of development, but also, there a lot of dialogue and not a lot of action. Try adding a little bit of action or brief descriptions of people between the lines of dialogue. Also, you could probably put in a little bit of the setting, just so it feels like the environments are fleshed out. That way, each scene would be more fully realized.

    It might help to think about each scene as a scene from a movie. It should flow naturally enough to seem as if it’s happening in real time, and it should be long enough to be satisfying. It also helps to read your work out loud because it forces you to zero in on the flow of the writing, especially the dialogue.

    Overall, I like where the story is going, and I like the fact that the decisions the teens are making have life or death consequences. It seems like the kind of novel a lot of young people would enjoy, and hopefully learn from.

    P.S. Parts of this reminded me of the book “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver. If you haven’t read that I would definitely suggest it.

    • Isabel says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing. Your advice is so helpful😊

      Thanks also for the book suggestion. I’m always looking for new books to read.

  3. Shamin Fernando says:

    This hooked me, but I thought there was a problem with the opening and the structure. You pretty much tell us that one of the protagonist’s friends has died. So it’s a spoiler right there at the beginning. And the first three paragraphs are “telling” more than “showing”. I would pare it down and try not to give too much away. Even change the tone completely by depicting something that is lost by the death so that we’re taken on that journey of loss and tragedy.

    I think it suffers by verging on the cliched technique of telling the reader “I’m about to tell you my story…” I don’t think you need to add things like “I’ll share it with you, if you like.”

    It could also be good to include more description of the setting, the cars and more about the other friends. These details could enrich the narrative and allow the reader to visualize what’s taking place.

    These suggestions aside, I liked the story and wanted to read more.

  4. spicychilipepper says:

    The first sentence caught my attention immediately! The characters are realistic, and the plot seems interesting! I like how the whole story looks like it will be a flashback. I would love more description of the setting and what the characters look like, it’s hard to get a picture in my head without those details.

  5. Pete Budic says:

    I really liked this. Good mix of dialog and descriptions. I’m assuming that the very first part before the “10 months prior” part is more of a prologue or standalone chapter? If so I liked it, seemed to flow really well.

    So I’m just going to nitpick a bit. I thought the dialog was very well done. I’m an old guy now, but it reminded me of my friends and I back in the late high school days. If it did that, then I really think it worked 🙂 But some of the descriptive sentences seemed to run on a bit, while others were a bit confusing. Examples:

    “Carly sat beside me flipping through the radio channels and I wished she’d just make up her mind. The taillights ahead of me disappeared around the corner, but by the time I made the turn, they were out of sight.”

    Really small nitpick here, but the *length* of the sentences didn’t seem to fit with the simplicity of the rest of the piece. It could just be me though. Anyway, just split into their own standalone sentences and I think it would fit the tempo of the piece better:

    “Carly sat beside me flipping through the radio stations. I wished she’d just make up her mind. The taillights ahead of me disappeared around the corner. By the time I finished the turn, they were out of sight.”

    Oh, if I’m right and you are fairly young (I’m guessing since you young’uns don’t have much need for those old timey radio thingies and don’t know they are called “stations”), then I am even more impressed.

    Anyway, there are a few times I got a little confused. Why did they duck down? If it was a race why did they even stop? But nothing that tore me out of the story. There is some editing that you need to do, some extra commas and such, but nothing major. Good job.

    • Isabel says:

      Thank you so much for reading and critiquing my writing.

      And my mom told me they were called stations, so I can’t get the credit for that😉

      To clarify, they ducked down so when Zander drove past he’d think it was a parked car, and then when he passed the girls drove behind him.

  6. Gentle Reader says:

    The story sounds like it’s going to be depressing. In order for me to want to go on a journey with these characters to learn which one of them dies, I’m going to have to care first. In the first scene of a novel, it’s usually better not to introduce too many people at once. The reader needs time to get to know what’s special about each character. Rather than come right out and tell the reader that someone is dead, it might be better to hint at the theme of your novel (which, for example, might be something along the lines of how choices that we make in an instant have long-term consequences).

    You need to be really careful about grammar and such. Get a copy of Strunk and White, if you don’t have one already. Learn when to use hyphens and commas. For example:

    “death of a 17 year old” should read “death of a 17-year-old”

    “as we waited for the car fly past us, oblivious” is missing a word in there somewhere.

    Rules For Commas

    “After a few minutes Vivian said something but we couldn’t hear her over the music.” — Here you need a comma before “but.”

    “Vivian smiled at him, but didn’t reply flirtatiously.” — Here you don’t need a comma before the word but.

    Read about the rules for commas here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/

    There are other comments I could make, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much at once. Keep going with your writing, because I think you’re a good storyteller. Work on characterization.

    I agree with the other reviewer who said to eliminate this, btw: “I’ll share it with you, if you’d like. It’s the story of five friends and the death that changed us all.”

  7. Isabel says:

    Thank you for your detailed critique! I know punctuation is one of my weak areas. I’ll look into that book you suggested.

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