A BAD NIGHT FOR DRIVING
The car swerved and went into a 360 degree spin and crashed head on into the vehicle we had just overtaken. It was eerily quiet and black as pitch, as all the headlights on our car and the other vehicle were smashed.
I had somehow managed to get out of the car and immediately smelt petrol fumes. I remember two people running towards me, shouting something, then the flash and whoosh as the car burst into flames.
I woke up in hospital. My mother was at the side of the bed and I could see my father asleep in a chair across the other side of the room. I tried to speak but my mouth felt as if it was full of cotton wool and only a strange gurgling noise came out. My mother jumped up, startling my father awake. “He’s come round, Charles. Quick, get someone.”
Charles Hatherby rushed out of the room and quickly returned with a nurse. My parents left the small private side ward and sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours: in fact it was only twenty minutes later when a doctor told them that I had fully recovered consciousness and seemed to be suffering only minor burns to my hands, arms and legs. They were allowed back in to see me but only for a short while.
“Where’s Matt, Mum? Is he okay?” Charles and Julia Hatherby exchanged anxious looks; I turned to my Father, “Dad, is he hurt?”
He stood and came to the bed; I saw by his face that something dreadful had happened to my friend. “I’m sorry, Simon, but he died in the accident. Clarissa and Megan Weston were killed too. The car burst into flames and they all burned to death. You were very lucky to get out of the car.”
Mrs Hatherby started to cry and said, “What in God’s name was Matt doing taking his father’s car? You and Matt are just 16, Simon; those poor young girls were 15 and 16. You must have been out of your mind to have gone with them.” She stopped and looked at him “This wasn’t the first time Matt took his father’s car, was it?” I turned away feeling sick inside.
“Julia, please. Leave it for now,” Dad said “Let the lad recover properly first.”
I knew my mother would not let it be, she had always disapproved of my close friendship with Matt.
“No, I thought not. Matt’s always been a bad influence; it’s no excuse though, you should not have got in that car, Simon. Were the girls in your class?’
“No,” I replied. “They go..er..went to the Comprehensive. They were always hanging around me and Matt.” I looked at my father. “Dad, it was raining really hard, how could the car have burst into flames?”
My Mum started crying again and my Dad shook his head. “I don’t know, Son, they’re still looking into it. Can you remember what happened? The police will be coming to see you soon. Try not to get too upset now, but you will have to give it some thought.” The nurse came in then and asked them to leave as I needed to rest.
The Police came to interview me later in the day. I told them that I remembered Matt taking his father’s car about half past ten. We had picked up Clarissa and Megan, and we drove around for about half an hour and then it started to rain. Matt had said that he had never driven in the rain before and I thought he seemed worried about it. The rain had been torrential and Matt had pulled over and stopped the car. I told the Sergeant was the last thing I remembered.
I was discharged from hospital after a few days. I was visited by the police again to see if I had remembered anything else. The only other thing I could remember was a big white van passing us when Matt pulled over because of the rain.
The funerals were arranged for the following week. The parents of the Weston sisters said they did not want me to go to Clarissa and Megan’s funeral, as it would be private. I could not understand the reason for this, but my mother wrote a letter of condolence to the family.
The funeral for Matt was to be on the following Thursday afternoon. My father was a member of the same golf club as Matt’s father so our families knew each other quite well. Matt’s father had rung to say that if I would like to say something at the funeral, they would be very pleased for me to do so.
I had not been sleeping well and had lost a lot of weight, so my mother was concerned that this would not be a good thing for me to do. Although I could still not remember what had happened the night of the accident, I felt this was something I had to do. Matt was my best friend and I wanted to speak at his funeral.
When I woke up on the morning of the funeral, I felt better than I had at any time since the accident. I told my parents I had to go out to do something in the morning, but I was back in plenty of time for the service.
Our family had been the first to arrive at the church and we sat near the front. My mother was fussing that I had my notes for my speech. After the Vicar had outlined the short life of Matthew Delaney, he beckoned me to come to the front and say a few words.
I started by saying how Matt and I had met at school. “He was the popular, good-looking, clever chap and I was the spotty nerd. Matt, my brave and daring best friend: he wasn’t the one always lurking at the back, he wasn’t the one to ever turn down a challenge and he wasn’t the one driving the car that night – I was.”
I heard the gasp reverberating around the Church. I saw my mother’s ashen face looking up at me. I saw my father put his arm around her shoulder.
I continued, “Yes, he took the car – not for the first time – we wanted to impress the girls, but he was worried when it started to rain. The car was swerving about and the girls were crying. He pulled over and stopped and a following vehicle was flashing us. I think he was frightened and I said I’d drive. I don’t know why I said that, I’d never driven a car before. I am so sorry – it was all my fault – I caused the death of my friend.”
I looked at Matt’s parents. His mother stod up and walked towards me. She put her arm around me and said, “Thank you, Simon.”
She led me back to my seat and I said, “I remembered everything this morning. I’ve been to the Police Station and told them. The Sergeant said it was a bad night for driving.”
Janette is also on Twitter and Facebook