Here’s how I remember that night:
At 8:53 p.m., there were thousands of people watching my best friend. Me and Seth and Coach and Daphne and Luke and every other person in that gym. Jake brought the ball down the court for one last shot as the clock ticked down to that row of zeros, and the crowd chanted along: “Three . . . two . . . one . . .”
There’s always been something pure about the way Jake plays, like some wild animal doing exactly what it was born to do. A mountain lion, maybe—sturdy and silent, and when it’s coming for you, you might as well piss your pants as try to stop it. In the final seconds, he drove hard to the hoop, then pulled back for a fadeaway with more finesse than Van freaking Gogh.
When the shot went up, I was ready to grab the board, even though I knew he wouldn’t need it. Even though the buzzer was already blaring in my ears. You practice something that many times—the shot goes up and you seal your guy off—that you do it without even thinking. That’s probably why even now I look for Jake when I get out of world history. Why I expect it to be him every time my phone vibrates.
With one perfect flick of his wrist, the rock’s through the rim, and the state title is ours. Then it’s all cheering and chest bumps, and half the guys are crying, and the whole crowd’s got their phones out, trying to catch this moment so they can put it in their pocket and pull it out anytime, like they’re witnessing their own little moment of world history.
There’s more I remember about that night. The satisfying snip of cutting down the net, the roar of the crowd when we brought the trophy straight over to the student section. But none of it’s as important as this: at 8:53 p.m., there were thousands of people watching my best friend. Hundreds of cameras snapping and shooting his every move.
But when the show’s over, we all look away.
So nobody saw it happen. Nobody knows how or why or even exactly when he disappeared.
All we know is that by the next morning, Jake was gone.
Copyright © 2021 by E. B. Vickers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.