A/N: Hey, everyone! I'm back with another Keith story! This idea has been in my head for at least a year and I'm excited to finally start writing it. I hope you all enjoy it!
I also want to thank Purple Shamrock 17 for countless late night chats about this story and for being a great beta reader. Without her, this story probably would never have made it on this site!
Chapter One: That Night
"Sit down, Keith. Your dad and I have something to tell you."
Instead of sitting down, Keith blurted out, "Are you guys getting a divorce?"
Silence followed and the longer it lasted, Keith's fear seemed to be confirmed. He sat down at the kitchen table, finally, but only because his legs were shaking so hard he didn't think he could stand up anymore. Then his parents started laughing, and not just normal laughing, but seriously cracking up.
Biting his lip, Keith glanced at his parents questionably. "Oh, Keith," his mom, Sandra, gasped, "your expression. So funny."
"I'm glad you find it so funny," he mumbled. His mom tried to apologize, but she couldn't stop laughing, Realizing he was not going to get any answers from her, Keith looked at his dad, Henry. "Uh, Dad?"
"It was your mom's idea." He looked guilty.
Keith turned attention back to his mom. "It was your idea to get the divorce?" he asked aghast. He still didn't understand why getting a divorce was so funny.
"No, son, that's not what I meant," Henry said quickly. "What I meant was your mom and I are not getting a divorce. Your mom just wanted to freak you out."
"Oh," breathed Keith, relief coursing through him. "Okay. Uh, why?"
"This is your mom, Keith."
Keith grinned. "So, what's really going on?"
Sandra, finally able to calm herself, said, "Look outside."
Keith turned around in his seat and looked outside. It was cloudy, not any hint of blue sky peaking through the clouds and it was snowing. Not much, though, just flakes lazily drifting to the ground. "Snow. Wow, Mom, how…interesting."
"I've decided something."
"Yeah?" prompted Keith, spearing a few pancakes, dropping them on his plate, and dousing them in butter and syrup. Now he knew his parents weren't separating, his appetite came back.
"Well, as the only woman in this family I have decided this family needs another tradition."
"How does being the only woman in the family have to do with this?" asked Keith, before putting a huge bite of pancake in his mouth.
"Good question, Keith," piped up Henry.
"That's beside the point." She took a deep breath and then continued, "Anyway, I herby declare every year we skip work and school on the day of the first snow."
"She's losing it," mumbled Keith. His mom was always coming up with random traditions like putting up the Christmas tree at exactly midnight the day after Thanksgiving, eating cake before dinner on their birthdays, and forbidding eating turkey on Thanksgiving.
"What do you think of our newly established tradition?" she asked, eyes gleaming.
"I think it's awesome," grinned Keith. He would be stupid if he didn't. He wasn't about to complain about skipping school.
"There's only one requirement."
"What's that?" asked Henry.
"Oh no," groaned Keith.
"You guys have to tell me I'm the best wife and mother there is."
Henry immediately leaned over and gave Sandra a kiss on the check before saying, "You are the best wife there is."
Sandra turned towards Keith, expectant. "Mom. Seriously. It's embarrassing."
"It's just your father here, Keith. No other witnesses. But, if you don't tell me I'm the best mother there is you can go to school. I'll call your school back right now and tell them you've stopped throwing up everywhere and you're coming in."
"Ugh," grimaced Keith. "Did you need to be so graphic?" He took a sip of his coffee, saving its warmth before saying, "Okay, fine, you're the best mom there is." He meant it, too; he just wasn't going to admit it. He was a teenage boy after all.
Their day playing hooky was spent with Keith and his dad going everywhere his mom wanted. Apparently his mom had made a list of everything she wanted to do, and there was no discussion allowed for changes. They went to a matinee movie where the three of them spent the entirety of the movie throwing popcorn at the back of people's heads. When they left, Keith wasn't sure how the movie ended, or what it was even about. Then, they got lunch at an expensive restaurant (where they were allowed to get whatever they wanted without worrying about cost), and then the bowling alley where Keith's parents spent the rest of the night trying to beat Keith and were not successful in the slightest.
They left the bowling alley a little after nine. According to his parents, they were tired, but Keith was pretty sure it was because they were sick of losing. The snow and wind had picked up from earlier in the evening; it was now falling down more steadily and the snow that had stuck to the ground earlier in the day had turned to ice.
Keith pulled his jacket closer to him, wishing he had worn a warmer one when his mom suddenly called, "Catch," before throwing something at him. Keith caught the object she had thrown at him; he felt cold metal in his hand and a grin graced his face.
He figured he knew what this meant, but he asked anyway, "Does this mean—?"
"Yup, you can drive."
"Wow, Mom, you and Dad trust me enough to drive your baby? Was your pop spiked?"
"Don't make us change our minds, Keith," said Henry in his gruff voice, but Keith could tell he was trying to hide a smile.
Keith almost slipped on the ice in his haste to make it to the truck. The opportunity to drive his parents around in their truck didn't arise that often so he took the longest route home. It wasn't until Keith started crossing a bridge (it wasn't a very big bridge, but it was the only way to get home) did he realize his terrible mistake.
A terrible mistake.
The first thing he noticed was, on this side of town, the snow was blowing in every direction and was coming down faster. The snowstorm looked like it was going to turn into a blizzard. Keith could see the shimmer of ice on the road with the aid of headlights of passing cars. He gripped the steering wheel so tightly he was sure there would be indents in his hands afterward. He had a bad feeling about this.
Driving and working on cars (especially trucks), were Keith's favorite hobbies. Ever since he had been old enough he had helped his dad out at the car shop they owned. Even though he had been around cars his whole life and had his license for almost a year, he still got nervous driving in bad weather.
He knew, even though he didn't tell his parents how nervous he was, they could tell. The last thing his mom had said was a few minutes ago and it had been something about how this weather was fairly uncommon for the beginning of October in Michigan.
Keith was inching his way slowly cross the bridge. He had almost made it across when his mom suddenly let out a noise, which sounded between a scream and sob (Keith wasn't sure what it was, he just knew he never ever wanted to hear it come out of her again), and he saw headlights coming toward them.
Without thinking, his body reacted before his mind did and he turned the steering wheel to the right—too sharp, too fast, and just all wrong—and he knew it was going to happen before it did, the harsh and painful impact of hitting the guardrail of the bridge.
Keith's head slammed against the car window; his vision went dizzy and his ears started to ring and he lost what little—if any—control he had on the truck. Dazed and disoriented from the pain, it took Keith few seconds to get his hands back on the steering wheel, but he was too late. Just as his hands gripped the steering wheel, there was another impact and Keith's head hit the back of his seat. He couldn't move; his head was throbbing painfully and dark spots flashed in front his vision, making it impossible to even attempt to try and do something. All he could do was sit there and watch as the airbags finally deployed and the front window of his truck shattered, showering the interior or the car like rain. And then, the truck was spinning spinning spinning.
Then the spinning stopped and all Keith could see taste feel was cold. It took his brain a few seconds to put everything together.
The truck was sinking.
Water was flooding the truck.
Keith started to panic.
He didn't know what to do. He tried to remember what he learned in Driver's Ed, but his head hurt too much. It was too hard to focus on anything. He knew he had to do something. But his head hurt and he was so helplessly confused.
The water was halfway up his chest when suddenly everything clicked.
He needed to get him and his parents out of the truck or they were going to die.
At this revelation, he turned to his right, fingers fumbling as he tried to take off his seatbelt while glancing at his parents. His mom's head was resting against the window and his dad's head had lulled forward, chin resting on his chest. As the water steadily rose, he tried to say their names, but he was so cold; his teeth were chattering, and he couldn't form any words. He half climbed half crawled towards his parents, but even though he could barely understand what was going on, against the pounding of his head, he knew neither of them being awake was a bad sign. With the temperature of the water, they should be up by now, cold, scared, and frantic but they weren't.
No matter how hard Keith shook his mom she didn't wake. He knew he needed to try and rescue them, but the water was rising too fast and he only had a few seconds to take frantic gulps of air before water covered him completely.
It was dark and he couldn't see anything, but knew his only means of escape was the broken windshield; he couldn't see what he was doing, he just swam on pure instinct. Just as he thought he was about to pass out from the pain, cold, everything, his head broke the surface of the water and he breathed in deep gulps of air, trying to fill his lungs with as much oxygen as he could, but he didn't have enough energy to keep himself afloat, and he was only able to get a few gulps of air before he was being pulled back under the water.
He wasn't sure which way was up, he was so disoriented. All he wanted right now was air so he could breathe. He felt his body give up before his mind did and all he felt was water; it was suffocating him, surrounding him. Its arms were gripping him, wanting to make him prisoner to their world.
And there was nothing he could do.
It was over.
He was on the brink of unconsciousness when he felt something grab him and start pulling him. And, then, everything went black.
When he woke, he was being laid carefully onto some rocky surface and heard a man's frantic voice calling, "Is there anyone else in the car?" Keith couldn't answer; instead, he leaned over and threw up, causing his head to hurt even more. Someone was rubbing his back and when he was done the same male voice asked again, "Is there anyone else in the car?"
And then Keith remembered.
He couldn't believe he had forgot, couldn't believe it hadn't been the first thing on his mind; he was never going to forgive himself. He sat up so fast his vision swam and his head felt like it was going to rip in half it hurt so badly. "Stop!" a different voice called, a girl's voice. She then gently grabbed his shoulder and laid him back down onto the ground. "Don't move too much, I don't know what's—"
"M-My p-parents." Keith's teeth were chattering so hard he wasn't sure they could understand what he was saying, "My parents," Keith repeated. The man must've understood because he took off in a dead run towards the water.
Keith went to say something again but the women just whispered, her voice gentle and sweet, "Shhh. Alex's gone to save them, honey. It's okay." Keith stared at her blankly, his mind trying to process what she was saying. "Can you tell me your name?"
He had to think for a few seconds. "K-Keith," he finally stuttered out. Yes, that was his name. Keith. Keith Zetterstrom.
"Nice to meet you, Keith. I'm Rachael." Keith wanted to keep talking to her, to ask her questions, but his eyes kept falling closed and he was so tired. "Wait! Don't go to sleep. An ambulance is on its way. You need to wait a few more minutes before you can go to sleep. Can you tell me how old you are?"
"S-sixteen?" He wasn't sure this was the correct answer, but it sounded good enough. His vision was going blurry and everything hurt and he was so cold and so tired.
"That's great, Keith. So you must be a sophomore in high school?"
"Um. N-No. Junior. I'm a j-junior. I think."
"Only two more years to go. Do you have a favorite class?"
Keith knew he did, but right now it was getting harder to form his thoughts together. "Math. No, no, I-I mean s-science. Science is my f-favorite class. O-Or both."
"Oh really? Those were my worse classes in high school. You must be really smart."
"Not-not really." If he was so smart, how did he allow himself in this position? "I-m c-cold," he stuttered.
"Oh. Hang on." He felt something warm fall onto him. "My coat. It's probably not that warm, but I'm sure the ambulance has blankets…it should…"
Keith focused his attention on Rachael's voice. He gripped on to it and tried not to let it go; he needed something to hang on to.
His eyes were getting heavy and it took everything he had to keep them open. Then he heard an ambulance and he hoped whoever was hurt was going to be okay.
Keith took his attention off the ambulance when Alex appeared by Rachael's side.
"I-I couldn't," he started his voice a whisper, but Keith could still hear him. "The car—I couldn't find it."
It took Keith a few seconds to realize what Alex was saying. "No," he whispered. "M-My parents."
Rachael gave Alex a look and he stopped talking, looking guilty. "Shh. Keith, it's okay."
But it wasn't okay. Nothing was okay. He felt himself start to shake harder at the realization at what was happening. Where were his parents?
"I-I think he's going into shock," said Rachael and Keith saw she was talking to two new people. EMTs. When had they arrived?
The EMTs were looking at him now, talking to him (he thought), but their words didn't process. He could only see their lips moving.
Then, he was being lifted onto a small cot, before something—blankets—were being laid on him.
Everything was too much and he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. Everything hurt and he just wanted to sleep.
I'm sorry, he thought as he finally let his eyes drift closed. I'm sorry. I'm sorry you trusted me.
I'm so sorry.
A/N: Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think!