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Authors: Alex Van Tol

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BOOK: Redline
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Alex Van Tol


Copyright © 2011 Alex Van Tol

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Van Tol, Alex
Redline / Alex Van Tol.

(Orca soundings)

Issued also in electronic format.
978-1-55469-894-3 (bound).--
978-1-55469-893-6 (pbk.)

I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings
43 2011              

First published in the United States, 2011
Library of Congress Control Number:

Jenessa uses the thrill of illegal street racing to deal with the tragic death of her best friend.

Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover photography by Getty Images

Box 5626, Stn. B
Box 468
Printed and bound in Canada.

14 13 12 11    •    4 3 2 1

For Mum and Dad, who watched me crash
my cars...and trusted me enough to keep
giving me the keys to theirs.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen


Chapter One

Time for a change.

I spin my thumb around on my iPod, looking for a different playlist. I glance up at the road, then back down. The highway is quiet tonight. Must be because it's a Monday. Everyone's back in town. Back from a weekend in the mountains, getting those last few runs in before the hills close down for the spring.

I used to like driving west, toward the mountains. Sometimes, if I was out late enough after work, I would see the aurora borealis. The northern lights. Usually they're just a green fringe moving slowly across the sky. This one time they were a brilliant, crazy violet.

No matter the color, they always take my breath away.

But tonight, instead of heading west, I point my car south, toward McCandless Creek. The mountains hold too many painful memories.

I drive through ranch country. Sometimes I take the hilly back roads through the huge, barn-studded acreages.


Usually I just take it out the six-lane and punch it. It helps me outrun the pain.

I reach for a cigarette, then pause. Maybe not. Maybe that's one thing I should let go of. I punish my mind enough by reliving that awful day on Mount Watson. I don't need to punish my body too.

Without my permission, my mind drifts back. To a day that will forever be burned into my brain. Every detail of it.

It was November, just before midterms. Adrienne and I had been about to wrap a primo day of boarding. The sun was out. Conditions had been perfect. We'd been chatted up by some sweet boys in the lift lineup and had plans to meet up with them later, back at the resort.

It was almost four o'clock. Ade was tired. I could see that. I was too.

We'd just come off what we had agreed would be our last run of the day. Swooping to a stop at the end of the lift line, I glanced at the clock over the lodge. Still enough time. If we went now, we could catch just
more run. I was feeling pretty flush, ready for another crack at the Terminator 2. A triple black diamond. I'd smoke it this time. I was sure of it.

But Adrienne hadn't wanted to. She was cold and hungry, and she wanted to go in.

“Just one more, Ade,” I said, hoping the energy in my voice would somehow flow into her and make this possible. “Let's run T2.”

The look on her face told me she didn't want to do it.

“Come on,” I said as she started to shake her head. “You did it this morning. You killed it!”

Adrienne snorted. “I
didn't kill it, Jenessa. It almost killed

I shrugged. “You'll ride it better this time. You've already done it. Your brain's mapped it now.”

Adrienne sighed. “I don't know.” She squinted at the sun, low on the peaks. “Don't they say that ski accidents increase by something like two hundred percent in the late afternoon? When people are tired?”

I bent down to fiddle with my binding, pissed that she was holding out on me. “You go on in then,” I said. “I'll catch up with you in a few.” I knew I was laying on the guilt.

“You can't go up there alone, Ness,” she said. “What if you get hurt?”

I stood up and leveled my gaze at her. “You forget, my friend,” I said. “
don't get hurt.
boarders get hurt.” I tucked an escaped strand of hair back under my helmet. “I'm no lightweight,” I added. I couldn't help myself.

So she came.

How could she not? I'd thrown down the gauntlet, daring her not to join me. I'd done it so many times before with Adrienne. And she always pulled it out for me. Taking that one step outside her comfort zone. To keep the peace.

We caught the lift up, our chair bobbing on the wire, high over the quickly emptying hill. The patrols were getting ready to do their sweep runs. Ade was jittery. “Don't worry,” I told her. “I got your back.”

We were halfway down the Terminator when an out-of-control skier smashed into Adrienne.

She was ahead of me. I saw the whole thing. His scarecrow scramble as he tried to avoid her. Her helmet whiplashing backward on impact. Her board, sliced clean off its leash, bolting down the hill. Her body, thrown into the spruce tree at the side of the run. Her neck bending impossibly.

Lesser boarders get hurt.

The redness of the snow as I held her in my arms and screamed for help.

I'm no lightweight

The blueness of her eyes as she looked at me, confused.

I got your back.

The blackness of my heart, knowing I had just killed my best friend.

The memory runs its course. It leaves me slowly, like a cold blade being eased out of my chest. My teeth are hurting, and I try to unclench my jaw. My knuckles are white on the steering wheel.

I press my foot to the floor, my eyes unblinking as I watch the speedometer climb. Seventy miles an hour. Eighty. Ninety. A hundred.

One twenty. The engine roars its pleasure. The needle climbs.

I crack my window and spark up a smoke. What the hell.

Tonight's a good night to die.

Chapter Two

But I don't.

Three hours later, I pull into the driveway of my dad's new house, deep in the suburbs of our city. I'm exhausted, spent, shaking.

Adrienne died six months ago. Half a year. But in my mind, it feels like yesterday.

Ade was my only real friend. I never considered that I might ever need more friends than her. I don't have anyone else. I didn't think I needed anyone else.

I lift my chin. I
need anyone else. Dad's right when he says we're all alone in this world. It's best to figure out how to be on your own. Not depend on other people for things. For favors. For friendship. For love.

Back when Adrienne moved onto our block, I had tried to keep to myself. But she just wouldn't give up. She saw something in me that she liked, I guess. I was twelve at the time. She just kept dropping by the house to talk. I got tired of trying to push her away. So I let her in. I let her like me. And I let myself like her.

Which I should never have done, because look how it turned out for her.

And look how it turned out for me.

God, look how it turned out for my dad. Fifteen years of marriage, a ten-year-old kid, and boom: Mom just up and leaves.

I don't need anyone else. I don't
anyone else. It just complicates things. Because as soon as you let someone in, you're done. You're not standing on your own anymore.

I went to my mom's place over Christmas break, shortly after Ade's death. I spend my vacations with her at her place in Palm Springs. It was good to go away this time. I needed to put some distance between me and what had happened. Between me and all the whispers that erupted as soon as I'd pass people in the hallway at school.

At first, Mom tried to help me sort through some stuff. But in the end, she just gave me space. It was all I could handle.

BOOK: Redline
4.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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