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“No,” she said aloud as her voice finally kicked in gear. No one paid her any attention. Her boyfriend and his friends were too busy filling backpacks with booze. “I can’t do this.”

She used all the strength she possessed to lift her heavy legs, turned around, and took a step toward the door. Right as her palms hit the cool glass, a shot rang out, and she jerked as though she’d been the one hit.

But she hadn’t.

Air rushed from her lungs.

Turn. Find out if Carl shot the man behind the counter.

Her muscles had gone rigid. Her joints locked. She couldn’t move.

“Oh shit. Oh fuck. We have to go. Now.”

Carl’s panicked voice pinged around in her head, and she forced herself to turn around with a pit of dread in her stomach. The gas station attendant slumped against a wall of cigarettes, clutching his side.

“Oh God.” She gasped.

“Go, go. We gotta fucking move,” Aaron shouted.

Instinct kicked in, and Harper rushed toward the injured man with her pulse pounding in her ears.

“What the fuck are you doing? We need to go,” Simon shouted at her.

She stopped, gaping at the wounded man. “We have to help him,” she said, voice pleading.

“For fuck’s sake, A. Get your fucking girlfriend before she lands us all in jail.” Carl ran past her and out into the night.

Aaron appeared before her. He crouched to her eye level and gripped her shoulders. Stark fear shone in his usually glittering blue eyes.

“H-he shot him,” she said, staring over Aaron’s shoulder at the groaning man.

“Hey,” he screamed in her face.

His fingertips dug into her shoulders, but she didn’t react.

“We have to get the fuck out of here before the police show up and all our lives are ruined.”

She blinked at her boyfriend. This man she thought she loved had gotten bored and dragged her into an armed robbery for shits and giggles. “Don’t touch me,” she whispered, trying to wrench from his hold. “I have to help him. What if he dies?”

Aaron released her with a harsh burst of laughter. “Who the fuck cares? He’s nobody. I’m the one who loves you.”

When she didn’t take her eyes off the bleeding man, Aaron shook his head. “Fuck this.” He ran toward the door, turning around at the last second. “You’re in here wearing a mask. Same as us. If you’re still here when the police come, you’re going to jail for a long time.” He pushed out the door as it jangled above his head.


Harper started to shake.

She couldn’t go to jail.

Who would help take care of her mom? Who would keep their home clean? Who’d feed the dog? How would she finish high school?

“I’m s-sorry,” she whispered as the man met her gaze. Her heart sat like lead in her chest. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

She walked backward, shaking her head as tears soaked into the fabric of the ski mask.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered again.

Her back collided with the door, jolting her out of her semitrance. She took one last lingering look at the man Carl shot. All color drained from his face, and he panted as he stared back at her.

The realization that her life would never be the same crashed over her like a tsunami. No matter what happened, this would be the defining moment that ruled for years, maybe forever. The night she pushed aside her misgivings and trusted a man who’d never care about anything but himself. The night she participated in an armed robbery where a man was shot.

A choked sob ripped from her throat.

“I’m sorry.”

She turned and fled the scene of the crime.



Maybe. Should she change it?


No. These clothes worked fine—tan linen slacks she’d purchased at a thrift store paired with a maroon button-up that still fit her from before. The outfit wouldn’t make anyone look at her twice, but it was professional, clean, Florida-appropriate, and pressed, though a few years dated style-wise. Not that she knew anything about current fashion trends.

Bottom line, the outfit would do.

“No,” she said aloud to her reflection in the mirror. “The skirt would have been better.”

She turned and took two steps toward her closet, then shook her head.

“No. This is fine.”

She spun to the mirror for another glance.

“No.” She shook her head again. “It’s boring. Too stuffy. Too old.”

Another few steps toward her closet.

“No. Argh.”

Back to the mirror.

Harper huffed in frustration. The woman staring back at her wore a harried expression.

She had skin shades paler than before.

Hair shorter than before.

Eyes devoid of the youthful sparkle they’d twinkled with before.

And a mind full of doubt, nerves, and insecurities she’d never had before.

Everything in her life could be divided into two simple categories by a harsh line.

Before and after that night.

Harper sighed. “Get your shit together,” she whispered to the mirror. She hated this wishy-washy self-doubting mess she’d become. Hopefully, time would shore up her backbone and give her some confidence. Though, what the hell did she have to feel confident about?