When Disaster Strikes by: Tessa

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“Are you sure you’re ok?” Andie asked

Tatum nodded “Why would I not be ok? Dr. Hawthorn said it’s fine for me to stay on the cheerleading squad until my second trimester, as long I don’t overexert myself.”

“You guys!” Vanessa shrieked as she ran into the locker room “Something is up on the field, two of the guys on the football team got hurt.”

“Oh my God.” Tatum said as she and the other girls followed Vanessa out of the building “Pacey! Are you ok?”

“Yeah.” Pacey told her “I just sprained my wrist.”

“Was anyone else hurt?” Andie asked

Pacey nodded “Randy Stevens.” he pointed over to the field, where the assistant coach and several other players had gathered around the injured linebacker.

“Hey, nice going, Johnson!” one of they guys yelled at the tall senior who had apparently been responsible for the accident

“Is Randy ok?” Tatum said “He’s just lying there.”

“I’m not sure.” Pacey replied as the three of them moved closer

“Randy? Randy, come on now, son.” the assistant coach was saying “I saw the way he hit the ground.” Kevin Lane was saying “I think he hurt his neck.”

“What happened?” Tatum asked

“Johnson was screwing around and showing off again.” the assistant coach replied without looking up “He tripped Randy and Pacey and knocked ‘em both down.”

“Nice going, man!” someone said again

The assistant coach carefully took off Randy’s helmet. Everyone gasped when they saw the way his head just flopped to the side, limp and lifeless

“Oh my God.” Vanessa gasped. She and Randy had been dating for three months.

Vanessa started sobbing and ran back towards the locker rooms, followed by her friends.

* * * *

“How bad is it?” Tatum asked that night at the emergency room

“Not too bad.” Pacey replied “Except for he fact that my ‘sprained’ wrist turned out to be broken.”

“And Randy?”

Pacey looked at the floor “He was pronounced dead at school. Broken neck.”

“Oh God.” Tatum whispered. She put her arms around Pacey “Poor Randy. And poor Vanessa.” she suddenly started to cry as something occurred to her “Pacey, what if it had been you?”

“I don’t know.” Pacey told her “But it wasn’t me, and I’m going to be fine.”

Tatum wiped her eyes “You’re right. Listen, do you need a ride home or something? Andie and I were going to head over to Vanessa’s house. She’s going to need her friends right now.”

“No, I’m fine.” Pacey said “I called my brother, he’s gonna be here in five minutes to get me.”

“Ok.” Tatum sighed. She kissed him on the cheek “Call me.”

Pacey grabbed her arm gently as she turned away “Wait.” he pulled her close and kissed her “I love you.”

Tatum wiped a tear off her face and hugged him “I love you, too.”

* * * *

“Are you going to the funeral?” Bessie asked at dinner the next night

“Of course.” Tatum said “All the girls on the squad are going. It’s going to be hard, though. Randy was such a great guy. Got straight A’s, never smoked or drank or cheated or even got so much as a parking ticket. He was the kind of guy who wanted to to be everyone’s best friend and everyone wanted to be his best friend. I guess sometimes the good really do die young.”

“It’s just so unreal.” Joey shuddered “I mean, Pacey was hurt, too. As much as I hate to say it, God forbid, but-”

“If it had been him.” Tatum interrupted “I know, I know. Everyone at school is saying ‘Wow. You’re really lucky that your boyfriend wasn’t killed. and ‘What would you about the baby if your boyfriend had died?’ You know what? I’m sick of it. It wasn’t my boyfriend. And frankly, the way people keeping on reminding me that it could have been him is starting to freak me out.”

“I can see how it would.” Bessie agreed “Just keep reminding yourself that Pacey is fine, and nothing is going to happen to him.”

Tatum stood up so suddenly the table shook “That’s just it! Don’t you see? Something *could* happen to him! And then what? Where would I be without him?” she ran up the stairs

“Joey?” Bessie said

“Nuh-uh.” Joey insisted “This time, you talk to her. I’m not getting involved in this one, I’d only make it worse.”

“You’re still angry at Pacey?”

Joey laughed “No! I’m more mature than that. I just want to take out a hit on him, that’s all.”

* * * *

“Tatum, can I come in?” Bessie called

“I guess.” Tatum replied

Bessie opened the door. Tatum was sitting on the bed. Most of the lights in the room were turned of, and “Everybody Hurts” by REM was playing on the stereo

“Tate, why are you sitting here in the dark with this depressing music on?” Bessie asked

“Well, you know.” Tatum said “Sometimes when I feel sad I just need a dark room and depressing music.”

“Ok, maybe I’ve got it backwards, but wouldn’t it work better with the lights on and some perky, upbeat music?”

Tatum thought for a minute, then turned on the lights and shut off the music “You know, you may be right.” she sighed and dried her eyes “It’s just-it’s just that I’m so scared. I mean, Pacey was right there. He was hurt. He could have been killed. Oh God, Bessie, what would happen to me if I lost him? What would happen to me and the baby?”

“I know.” Bessie told her “But he wasn’t. I know that this is scary for you. And I understand how having something like this happen to someone you know can really mess you up. But nothing will happen to Pacey. Or to you or your baby. And even for any reason, God forbid, if you didn’t have Pacey, you’d still have me, and you’d still have Joey. Nothing will ever change that.”

Tatum sobbed softly and tried to smile “Thanks, Bess.”

“No problem.” Bessie said, giving her a hug “You should get some sleep now.You need plenty of rest in your condition.”

* * * *

“How’s everyone doing?” Abby asked

“It’s so depressing.” Tatum sighed “I’ve never seen any of them like this.”

“I have.” Pacey said “They were like this when you were...well, this is how they act when something like this happens. Which, fortunately, isn’t all that often.”

“In a twisted way it makes you think about how lucky we are.” Tatum pointed out “I read an article in ‘YM’ that said that kids in inner city schools go to an average of 25 funerals for a classmate or friend in the four years they’re in high school. A lot of us don’t even go to one.”

“That doesn’t make it any easier.” Andie sighed “People like him, who are that young shouldn’t die.”

“Everyone’s completely freaked out.” Pacey said “You guys aren’t going to believe this, but my brother wants me to quit the team.”

“No kidding?” Tatum asked “Doug thinks you should quit the football team? What did you say to that?”

“I told him I’d think about it.” Pacey replied “You know, maybe he’s right. After all, I’m not just looking out for myself anymore.”

Tatum smiled and blushed “That’s sweet. But don’t think the baby and I couldn’t get by on our own.”

Pacey laughed “Yeah, thanks for making me feel needed.”

“Well, just because I could get by without you doesn’t mean I would want to.” Tatum told him “Does that make you feel needed?”

“Absolutly.” Pacey replied

“Oh, barf.” Abby said “Don’t make us ill on top of everything else!”

Tatum looked across the hall “Oh, there’s Vanessa. She looks horrible. We better go talk to her.” she and Andie and Abby hurried over to Vanessa

“Ness?” Andie said “How are you doing?”

“I don’t know, how do I look?” Vanessa sniffed. She looked at Tatum “You seem to be doing ok. Except that you’re getting fat.”

“Uh, yeah.” Tatum replied “Being two and a half months pregnant tends to do that to a girl.”

Vanessa scoffed “Yeah. Always figured something like that would happen to you and Pacey. You know, I had this really weird thought last night. What if it had been your boyfriend who was killed? I mean, you’re like, pregnant and all. What would you do without him? Everyone knows you and your sisters couldn’t support *another* illegitimate baby on your own. You’d probably end up working at some burger joint and get all fat and depressed.” she tossed her hair over her shoulder and walked away

“Whoa.” Abby said “Bitter much?”

“You know something?” Tatum asked “I think it’s pretty clear that she didn’t mean ‘What if it had been your boyfriend?’ she means ‘It *should* have been your boyfriend.’”

“Yeah, it makes sense.” Andie added “I mean, I feel bad saying this at a time like this, but she’s always been jealous of you. You get good grades, you’re prettier than her, you’re the head cheerleader, and you’re younger than her. And your boyfriend was hurt in that accident, and hers was killed. She probably feels like this is just one more thing where you have all the luck.”

“As if I needed to give her another reason to despise the ground I walk on.” Tatum sighed

“She’ll get over it.” Abby insisted “She’s just really upset about Randy.”

* * * *

“So,” Doug said “big game tomorrow night.”

“Not tomorrow night.” Pacey corrected “Next week. They postponed it.”

“I think they did the right thing.” Tatum put in “You guys can’t be expected to play very well after....well, it’s good that you’ll all have some extra time to prepare.”

“I probably won’t be playing, anyway.” Pacey told her “The doctor said I might have this cast on my arm for another three weeks.”

“You’re lucky that’s all you got.” Tatum sighed “Did I tell you what Vanessa was saying to me today?”

“Andie told me all about it.” Pacey replied

“Can you believe she said those awful things?” Tatum asked “I mean, I know she’s really upset and she has every right in the world to be, but that’s no reason to take it out on me when I was just asking how she was.”

“She’s just messed up because of Randy.” Doug said “She’ll get over it.”

“And then she can go back to hating me for absolutly no reason instead of hating me because my boyfriend isn’t dead.” Tatum muttered

* * * *

“So, are you going to quit the team?” Dawson asked the next day at school

“Are you kidding?” Pacey said “That would be letting Randy down.”

“He’s right.” Tatum added “Randy would have hated it if the other guys just gave up. At the risk of sounding like some cheesy movie of the week, if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way in my life, it’s that bad things happen. They can happen to anyone right out of the blue and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about them except learn from them and keep your head up. If you let them keep you down, you’re never going to get anywhere in life.”

“That was really beautiful, Tate.” Joey said “Is that from one of those self- help books or something?”

Tatum shook her head “It’s from the new issue of ‘Cosmopolitan.’ I was reading it at work the other day.”

“Hey, Tatum, could I talk to you?” Valerie said

“Oh, hi, Val. Sure.” Tatum said “Could you guys excuse me for a minute?”

“I just wanted to apologize for everything my sister said to you yesterday.” Valerie said “She would’ve apologized herself, but she wasn’t feeling well today and mom made her stay home.”

Tatum laughed “Are you kidding? Tell her not to worry about it. She’s just upset about Randy. I can understand that.”

“She still didn’t have any right to talk to you like that.” Valerie insisted “She was crying about it last night.”

“Really?” “Well, among other things.” Valerie admitted “She said that you’ve been nothing but nice to her, and she’s been a bitch because of a few petty jealousies.”

“It’s ok, really!” Tatum insisted “Tell Vanessa not to worry about it. Oh, and tell her we’re all thinking about her”

“I will.” Valerie promised “Thanks, Tatum.” Tatum smiled “No problem.” she turned around and walked back to her friends

* * * *

Part 20 coming soon!

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