“I can’t calm down!” His wild eyes looked up and down the street, as if he meant to sprint towards an escape.
I moved across the car and sat next to him, wrapping my arm around his back. “Will, you can do this.”
The door swung open as the driver got out of the car to let us out. At the sight of the reporters standing by with their cameras, he swallowed hard.
“Go on, I’ll be right behind you.”
It was so bright outside that I flung my hand in front of my face. Remembering that I was supposed to be Will’s “girlfriend,” I took his hand and tried not to look at the cameras following us across the neatly trimmed lawn. He stopped in front of the door, his face a blank mask. He closed his eyes and grimaced every time he heard the cameras beep.
“I can’t do this with them there.”
Will gave me a pleading look and I sighed and nodded.
“Guys, I need you to wait outside,” he said to the two reporters behind us.
“That’s not what we agreed on.”
“I know, but I can’t do this if you’re both inside with me. Just stay the fuck outside.”
“Your father paid us to go inside.”
I placed a hand on his arm and stepped forward, blocking him from the reporters. “This will all go easier if you stay outside. You’ll get the photos of them together, I promise.”
Will nodded, looking relieved. “Okay, I’m ready.” Before he could rap his knuckles on the door, it unlocked and swung inward. I grabbed Will’s hand in a vice grip.
A tall, heavyset man with graying hair answered the door, unsmiling. “You must be William.”
He flinched as if the man struck him, but there was no anger in his voice—no accusatory stare. He just sounded tired.
“Yes, Mr. Metsky.”
I never heard him speak in such a quiet voice, and then I realized with a shock that this must be the father of Julian Metsky, the youngest victim. That’s why he looks so terrified. I could see him forcing himself to look the man in the eyes.
“Come in,” he said in his rolling, deep voice.
I followed Will, feeling horrible as I walked through the narrow doorway, brushing past Mr. Metsky. Inside was a small, carpeted family room. Two couches surrounded a large coffee table where a large portrait of a young girl sat upright, grinning toothily. Will shuddered to a stop and stared in horror at the photo until I sidled up against him and pinched his arm, hard enough to snap him out of it.
On the couch were several people with varying degrees of hostility. There were Julian’s mother, a teenage boy, and several others who I assumed to be part of the Ramos family. I froze. What do we do now? Do we shake their hands and introduce ourselves?
Will shoved his hands deep into his pockets. “I’m Will. This is my girlfriend, Natalie.”
I gave them a weak smile and flinched as their eyes flicked to me like hot, stabbing knives. What were they thinking? Perhaps they were disgusted with me.
“I’m sorry that it took so long for us to be in the same room together.”
Mr. Metsky gestured towards the couch and Will and I crammed ourselves beside the others, uncomfortable beyond belief. The tall man sat down on the leather chair directly opposite us.
“You’re having some week, aren’t you?”
Having nothing to say to that, William kept silent. He couldn’t stop staring at the giant portrait of Julian, which was in front of him. It seemed like it was placed there deliberately, to remind him of the beautiful little girl he destroyed.
“I wanted to visit for many years, I just couldn’t pluck up the courage. I—”
“Give me a break,” the boy suddenly spat out. “He’s just here because he wants to make himself look better.”
“Jimmy!” The father snapped at his son.
So he’s Julian’s older brother. That would explain the hostility.
“We wanted you to come because we thought that the media was treating you unfairly,” Julian’s mother spoke softly beside him.
What? I shared an incredulous look with Will.
The father cleared his throat. “You weren’t the driver. We don’t blame you at all.” His eyes flicked towards the Ramos family, who so far said nothing. From the looks on their faces, they didn’t seem to agree.
He shook his head, looking miserable. “I told Dan to drive.”
I saw them exchange glances. This was clearly not going how they expected.
Will was slowly breaking down. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the picture; he couldn’t quiet the grief stirring in his body. “I’m sorry!” he burst out. He opened his mouth to speak but all that came out was a strangled sob, then he broke down completely, his back heaving with sobs.
Julian’s parents looked at me with extremely shocked expressions. Julian’s mother, a woman with long blonde hair, reached out and held his hand, and Will looked at it as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Neither did I.
“You killed my daughter.” The dark-haired woman who sat on the other couch looked disgusted. “And you expect us to feel sorry for you?”
“He didn’t kill your daughter,” I said suddenly. “Dan did.”
I burned as the whole room turned around to stare at me.
“So what?” she snapped. “He said himself that he’s just as responsible. You’ve no idea how much we’ve suffered. Your boyfriend and his stupid friend destroyed our lives, and all they got was a slap on the wrist. It’s disgusting.”
Will sobs subsided and he took a tissue box on the table and dabbed his eyes. “Every day, I hate myself for what I did. I didn’t come here to absolve myself of responsibility. I just wanted to come here and apologize and—and ask you whether I can—if there’s anything you want me to do.”
Forgiveness, I urged him silently.
“Can you bring up my daughter and her husband from the dead?”
He swallowed. “No.”
“Then there’s nothing you can do.” She turned around to her husband. “Tim, let’s leave. I can’t stand looking at this guy.”
Will looked stricken as they stood up to leave. Mr. Metsky stood up. “Please don’t leave. You said in the beginning that you only wanted to see if he felt any remorse.”
“I can’t take it,” she said, gathering her coat from the stand.
Tim shook Mr. Metsky’s hand and looked at Will, whose fist held the crumpled tissue. “You rich people think you can get away with anything. You’re going to burn in hell.”