The Weight of Guilt by John Ripslinger
THE WEIGHT OF GUILT
The Weight of Guilt
A Red Adept Publishing Book
Red Adept Publishing, LLC
104 Bugenfield Court
Garner, NC 27529
Copyright © 2014 by Jon Ripslinger. All rights reserved.
Like the others, this book is dedicated to the love and light of my life, my wife—Mary Colette Shannon Ripslinger. We still have a lot of good times to come, Colette. Trust me.
Riley's drunk, and it's all my fault. Swaying near the blazing bonfire with a dozen other kids, she's guzzling beer from a red Solo cup. They laugh, jostle, and slop beer over themselves.
Damn! I should have been paying more attention to her. I should have kept better track of time. You idiot, John! I need to get her home and tuck her into bed—now—or we'll both be in deep crap. I step up behind her in the brilliant firelight. The heat feels good on my face and arms, but the smoke curls into my nostrils, and I cough. Someone must have piled wet logs onto the blaze.
I touch Riley's shoulder. "We better go."
She whirls. "Where have you been?"
"Checking out Brian's weightlifting equipment. I forgot the time. Sorry."
Flames leap and crackle into the crisp night air, casting flickering shadows across Riley's face. Her eyes glitter like stars in the inferno. A few kids rotate, trying to keep all sides warm. Earlier, we roasted hot dogs, bratwurst, and marshmallows over the oak blaze.
"What time is it?" she asks, her words slurred a little.
"Midnight." I’d promised her folks I'd have her home already. I don't need them yelling at me again. Or breaking us up. That thought jars me. I'd rather lose an arm and a leg than lose Riley. She's the only thing good in my life, except wrestling.
"They never come home before two or three," she says and gulps her beer.
"Let's throw that away. You've had enough to drink."
She smiles, her mouth crooked. "Look who's talking."
"I haven't had a sip." True statement. I never drink the night before a wrestling tournament. I dump Riley's beer but hang on to the cup—I don't litter. I also help little old ladies cross the street. "I can do without your folks being pissed at me. They already don't trust me."
"Yes, they do." Riley grabs my free hand and squeezes.
After planting a kiss on her forehead, I say, "C'mon, pretty lady. Home we go." I guide her by the elbow away from the fire.
The party was a spring break bash at Brian Holdorf's parents' farm pond. Dense woods block out half the sky, and a breeze ripples the treetops. My arm around her waist, I guide Riley across the pasture to my car, which is parked by the farmhouse. A squatty barn and a tall silo loom close by. Brilliant stars and a huge moon light our way. Laughter drifts up from the pond, and the scent of pigs floats in the air.
Opening the car's passenger door, I toss Riley's cup in the back. Then I slip her into the seat and close the door. After I climb in, I close my door and poke the lock button to make sure we're secured. "Buckle up."
Rather than take Interstate 80, I drive a ribbon of country blacktop that twists through hilly farmland. I think I can drive the blacktop faster than the highway—hardly any traffic and less chance of the cops picking me up for speeding. I don't need another face-off with them.
"I'll bet my parents aren't home," Riley says after we've been on the road a minute or two. She leans over and kisses my cheek. "Let's park somewhere. This road's dark." Her hair smells of wood smoke, her breath of stale beer.
I smile. I wouldn't mind parking for an hour or so and making out. "We need to get you home and into bed."
Wisps of fog curl in my headlights. I'm zooming downhill toward the Des Moines River, and the curtain of fog thickens quickly. I cut my speed from seventy to fifty, then to thirty. I don't want to be going too fast if a deer darts into the road. Fifteen…
The fog turns dense—a gray, billowing wall that reflects the glow of my headlights back into my eyes. I squint and dim the car lights. I swallow and slow the vehicle to a crawl: ten miles per hour. I glue my eyes to the yellow center line and guide the car's left fender along the line.
"Why are you slowing down?" Riley asks.
"Can't you see how soupy it is out there?"
I'm not sure when I cross the bridge over the river. The fog is too thick to see even the side rails. But when I head uphill, my grip on the wheel eases. I fill my lungs and exhale slowly. I've escaped the danger. The moment I can see ahead of me though—still going ten miles an hour—I spot headlights racing toward me. They blind me. I barely have time to swear.
This can't be!
Even Riley sees the headlights. She screams, and the next sound is the wail of my horn and the hideous grinding shriek of brakes as I try to swerve and evade the headlights.
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After Jon Ripslinger retired as a public high school English teacher, he began a career as
an author. He has published many young adult novels and truly enjoys writing books for
teens. He has also published numerous short stories in Woman's World magazine.
Jon and his wife, Collette live in Iowa. They are the proud grandparents of thirteen
grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
When not working writing, Jon enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing. He waits patiently
for the next "big one" to strike.
The Weight of Guilt by Jon Ripslinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found this to be a very powerful and moving story.
John and Riley are around the bonfire with other friends, Riley has been drinking but John has this rule, he never drinks before a wrestling tournament.
All he wants to do is take Riley home and tuck her safely into bed.
On the way home there is an awful accident in which Riley is killed.
At the opening of this read you are thrown, literally thrown right into it. The collision that happened in the back is a collision course you too find yourself on with John after he finds his beautiful girlfriend Riley is dead, and he blames himself.
John is a High School Senior and the prom is coming up. Megan is a popular girl and she wants to tease John out of his depressive state and show him, life really does go on and so he agrees to go with her to the prom, against his better judgement.
HE just knew something was about to happen, and it did, there was an ugly row between Megan and her ex boyfriend. They leave together. John makes it home, but the very next day Megan is missing.
Four days later her body is found. John is being framed for Megan's murder.
There is another voice within this book, her name is Charley and you will meet her in alternative chapters between John's.
This is a very well written book, although this is meant for YA I still found myself enjoying it.
I felt sorry for John, first his home life, then his girlfriend dies in the car accident, he blames himself so he has that on his shoulder weighing him down THEN he is being framed for Megan's murder. He just can't stop getting into trouble.
I have to thank Red Adept Publishing for my copy.
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