“Who’s drivin’?” Gus held up the keys to his sporty little Audi RS 5. They usually fought over who got to drive. Tonight no one stepped forward. They were all stumbling and laughing, just as plastered as he was. He resigned himself to be the scapegoat. If anyone was going to crash his car, it might as well be him. Then he couldn’t blame someone else when he had to pay for a new paint job. “All right, pile in.”
Alex sat in front and Gus’s older brothers crammed into the tiny backseat. None of them considered seatbelts a priority anyway so it didn’t matter that they were practically sitting on each other’s laps.
“Drive fast,” Hayden said. “Cause I’m gonna need to puke eventually and I’d really prefer not to do that in the back seat of yer pretty car.”
“You’ll be payin’ to git it detailed if ya do,” Gus said. “But gest in case, I’ll put the peddle ta tha medal.”
“We all appreciate that, l’ill brother,” Owen said.
They rolled down the windows and let the night air flood them with wind in their hair, whooping and laughing and singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody as if they were staring in their very own Wayne’s World video. When it came time to do the headbanging, they gave it all they got, complete with air guitars.
Complete with flipping cars.
And broken guardrails.
Fallen telephone poles.
Gus awoke to a loud hissing, smoke and dust choking him, broken glass, chaos, lights, sirens, Hayden puking loudly somewhere nearby, hanging half his body out the side door from how it sounded. Owen moaned from the backseat, and Aaron kept calling Alex’s name over and over, presumably trying to get him to respond to the sound of his voice.
Trying to disentangle himself from the airbags, Gus attempted to push his door open, but it was locked in a mangled twist of metal and fiberglass. His head hurt too bad for him to think about what to do next. He decided to wait until someone else thought for him. His eyes wanted to close, but he forced himself to keep them open.
Someone called to him from outside his window and a bright flashlight blinded him. Strong arms pulled an unconscious Hayden over his own vomit and laid him down on the road beside the car. The words jaws-of-life made some sense, but the words didn’t fully register until there was a gaping hole in the side of his Audi. That didn’t make as much sense for some reason.
Until he felt strong arms pulling him and a voice. “Sir, are you hurt?”
Sir? Who are they talking to? Me? Am I sir? Gus wanted to correct him. We’re just a bunch of kids.
“No,” Gus managed to choke out. At least he didn’t think he was hurt. Then the strong arms were tugging him again, up and over and around the gaping hole and away from the bucket seats, and out the door.
Gus almost hurled when they dragged him hear Hayden’s puddle of putrid beer and partially digested Doritos. At least that’s how it smelled. The strong arms rested Gus next to his older brother, who was still passed out.
“He won’t wake up,” Aaron said. “Git him to wake up.” Was Aaron crying?
“Sir take a step back. We’re doing everything we can for your friend. I need a gurney over here. Get his neck stabilized. On my count. Three, two, one. Sir, step back. I need you to move out of the way.”
“Alex, wake up!” Aaron cried. “Wake up, dammit! Wake up!”
“Sir come this way, please. Can you tell me your name?”
“Prince Aaron of Madain Saleh,” Aaron choked out through tears. His standard answer whenever asked. As crown prince he’d always been determined to carry on their name and monarchy even if they never had their homeland again. Now it just sounded haughty.
“What?” a police officer questioned.
“Aaron,” he cried. “Just call me Aaron. Where are you taking Alex?”
“He’s going to the hospital, sir. Can you tell me Alex’s last name?”
“Stephenson,” Aaron managed to tell the man.
“Is he related to the real estate developer, Alex Stephenson?”
“Yes, Alex’s his son.”
“And did you claim to be a prince?” the officer asked.
“Yes, our father is Prince Marcos of Madain Saleh. Alex Stephenson is our father’s best friend.”
“The other three men in the car are your brothers?”
“Yes.” Aaron’s sobs had lessoned to heavy breathing.
“How old are you, son?”
“And can you give me your brother’s names and ages?”
“Gus was driving. This is his car. He’s seventeen. And Hayden, the one who was puking a few minutes ago, he’s eighteen. And Owen, he’s still in the car,” —the interrogation was halted by heaving in the backseat— “I guess he’s puking now too. He’s nineteen.”
“How much have you had to drink tonight?”
“Uh… a lot?”
“Yeah, that sounds about accurate.”
“Is Alex gonna be okay?”
“I’m sure the paramedics are doing all they can. What is your father’s phone number?”
Aaron gave the man their father’s phone number.
“And do you know Alex’s father’s phone number?”
“No,” —Aaron glanced over at Gus. “Do you know?”
“No,” Gus managed. His head was pounding, and the lights were too bright, but he focused on this important conversation happening above him as he lay on the pavement beside his mangled car and his unconscious brother.
“Okay, we’ve got ambulances on the way for each of you so sit tight.”
“I don’t need an ambulance,” Aaron said. The officer shone his flashlight into Aaron’s eyes, and he cringed away.
“Hmm, you’re probably right. But your brothers do,” the man said.
Gus didn’t have the capacity to argue. Did he need an ambulance? Maybe. He decided to lie still until someone came to take him away. Eventually Aaron came to sit beside him, and they held each other’s hands, waiting.
“Is Alex gonna be okay?” Gus looked up at his brother, pleading with his eyes.
“I dunno, buddy.” Aaron squeezed Gus’s hand. “I hope so.”