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What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Read Online What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler Young Adult Book

Overview: Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

Read Online What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler Book Chapter One Free. Find Hear Best Young Adult Books And Novel For Reading And Download.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Read Online What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler Book Chapter One

THIS VIDEO DOESN’T show you everything.
For instance, you can’t tell that it’s been raining or that the grass is still wet beneath our cleats. I’m five years old in the shaky footage, which was shot before you could make a video using your phone. I pull out Dad’s old camera every once in a while and watch my first game. This tape from twelve years ago is always inside when I do. Nobody else has used this weird little machine with the flip-out screen for a long time. Back then, Dad says every gadget had a single purpose: Phones were for making calls, video cameras were for shooting videos.
Soccer games were for making friends. At least that’s what Mom said to me when she French-braided my hair the morning this video was made. I was nervous because it was my first game, and I wanted to do a good job.
“I don’t want to mess up,” I told her.
“It’s okay if you mess up,” she said. “Everybody does. All you can do is try your best.”
I told Mom that Ben didn’t ever mess up. She asked who Ben was as she twisted an elastic onto the end of my braid.
“My friend.”
You never see Dad on-screen, but his is the only voice you can hear clearly most of the time. He was holding the video camera in one hand and an umbrella in the other. You can’t see Will, either, but you can hear him fussing in Mom’s arms every time Dad stops shouting.
My father yelled himself hoarse that morning: “Hustle, Kate!” “Atta girl!” He cheered me on while I did what five-year-olds playing soccer tend to do: chase the ball around the field in a giant herd. All the good intentions and sideline instructions from the coach to “play your position” and “hang back” are no match for the thrill of seeing the ball bounce your way, the hope for a clear shot, the rush of true connection.
The moment when Ben breaks away from the pack with the ball still makes me smile. He was a couple inches shorter than I was back then. He didn’t pass me up until the summer before seventh grade. As he taps the ball out ahead, I turn on the speed and run at his heels, just the two of us leaving the group, my braid flying behind us. Dad yells his head off behind the camera and the picture bounces wildly as he jumps up and down, then remembers he’s filming this and zooms in on us.
If you look closely, you can see Ben’s tongue sticking out of his mouth slightly, pressed against his lower lip, his forehead wrinkled in concentration as he exhibits the early makings of a great athlete: control, stamina, dexterity. Of course, he’s only five years old. This brief glimpse of what Ben will one day be goes down in flames as the ball hits a bump in the field, bounces up against his knee, and trips him. Not a major error, but he goes down hard. His feet were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I pause the playback at this point and wish that all of life could work the way this camera does.
Sometimes, things happen too fast.
On the screen, my five-year-old self is frozen in mid-stride, right foot raised. My body is still running as my brain attempts to adjust to the fact that Ben isn’t where I saw him just a moment ago. In the next few frames, I’ll scramble. I’ll fight to stay upright. I push play and watch as young me tries to adjust, to not hurt Ben, attempting to keep my feet beneath me and avoid a collision.
Even now it makes my stomach drop when I see my right cleat clip Ben in the back of the head. I’ll never forget that feeling, wheeling around and seeing the small stream of red trailing down the skin behind his left ear. I didn’t do any major damage—just a cut near his hairline—but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew is I had kicked my friend in the head, and now he was bleeding. A couple of stitches fixed it right up. You can barely see the scar now. Unless you know where to look, you’ll miss it completely.
As Dad runs toward me on the field, the sky and ground bounce back and forth across the frame. The picture goes still as he lays the camera in the grass. You can see a few blades of green and a wide patch of blue sky, the lens telescoping in and out as it attempts to focus on the goal and net beyond.
You can’t see it on the tape, but Ben didn’t shed a single tear. I was the one crying. “I hurt my friend. I hurt my friend.” I say this over and over again.
Sobbing into my father’s shoulder, I felt a hand on my back. It was Ben. Suddenly, his mother was there. Coaches and teammates surrounded us. His forehead was creased once more, but this time because he was worried about me. The camera picked up his voice. Over my sobs, you can hear him saying, “It’s okay. It’s going to be fine.”
What you don’t see is that Ben has wrapped both arms around me and is patting me on the back. What you can’t learn from watching is that this was the moment when I knew for the first time what it really means to have a friend. What this tape can never show you is the instant I first felt true connection.
And in that sense, this video doesn’t show you anything at all.

I’VE BEEN WORKING up the courage to open my eyes again.
I tried once about ten minutes ago. Stab of light. Vise on my brain. Jackhammer in my stomach. Deep breaths. Don’t throw up.
Lately, I’ve been having these moments where I examine my life and think, Kate Weston, how did you get here? How did this happen? Sometimes it’s a situation so excellent I’m convinced I did something truly selfless in a past life to gain the extreme good fortune of my present.
This is not one of those situations.
When I woke up, I was pretty sure I’d managed to park the old pickup I inherited from Dad last year on top of my own head. A glimpse of the curtains as the room spun by confirmed I’m in my bedroom and not in the driveway. This allowed me to rule out a dinged-up Chevy Silverado as the source of my pain and work backward through the events of last night to find the true cause. I did so while holding one pillow over my head and moaning, facedown, into another. After several minutes of deliberation, I’m pleased to announce I’ve reached a verdict:
I blame John Doone’s grandma.
If Betty Lee Troyer hadn’t decided to try sushi for the first time at a mall food court in Grand Island, Nebraska, a few days before Christmas, she wouldn’t have spent the last two weeks of December in the hospital. If her mother hadn’t been in the hospital, Margie Doone wouldn’t have postponed the family ski trip until spring break so she could rush to Grand Island. If the Doones had gone skiing over Christmas instead of spring break, John would’ve gone with them. Instead, he stayed home alone so he wouldn’t miss the final basketball practices before the state tournament. If John hadn’t had the house to himself, he never would’ve been allowed to throw a party that inspired its own hashtag. And if there had been no party last night, I wouldn’t have lost count after three shots of tequila, and wound up lying here terrified to open my eyes again.
I waver back and forth between the fear of dying and the fear that I will not die—that instead this pain will continue indefinitely. There are a few snapshots of last night in my head—animated GIFs at the very best. No video so far. The only thing I remember for sure is more of a feeling than a conversation.
Something about Ben.
His arm around my waist, propping me up. His hand in the pocket of my shorts, fishing for my keys. His breath on my neck as he said he wasn’t letting me drive my truck home. I know we were on the sidewalk, but I can’t remember what I said back to him. Maybe “thank you”?
His cheek against mine. Spring breeze. Goose bumps. That grin.
“Sure,” he whispered. “What are friends for?”
I do remember one thing for certain: Ben, leaning in toward me. So close our foreheads touch. Closer than we’ve been in a long time.
It was different.
It was more.
More than chivalry. More than playing soccer as kids. More than just friends. The certainty of this is a laser, slicing through the thick fog of too much tequila. I replay the scene. This time I remember how close his lips were to mine.
And the hiccups.
The first one occurred at exactly that moment, his forehead resting against mine. Any other girl in any other town in any other state on any other sidewalk with any other guy—that’s a sure bet, right? I mean, forehead to forehead? You just close your eyes and lean in.
Not me.
Nope, one inch from the lips of a guy who’s had a few beers on a night when Coral Sands, Iowa, is the center of the universe? Kate Weston comes through with the hiccups. Just the way I roll.
He laughed as he pulled away, taking my keys with him.
Shit. The truck.
Did Ben drive me home in my truck or his? This thought pulls me into a panic. My stomach rolls like a ship in heavy seas, threatening to crest my tongue and spill across the rug. If I left my truck across town, I won’t have to worry about the alcohol killing me. My father will be happy to assist.
My phone chirps and flaps across the nightstand, a rooster that’s been crowing for the last ten minutes. Each new alert sends a rattle through the fossils I’ve arranged there, little petrified skeletons, three of the specimens for geology that Ben and I collected last fall. Who knew Rocks for Jocks would get us talking again? Eyes still closed, my fingers fumble for the phone, knocking a piece of coral to the carpet. Finally, I squint at the screen. Seven texts from Rachel Henderling.
The last one is a picture of me from last night.
It isn’t pretty.
I appear to be a member of the Cross-Eyed Zombie Invasion. There is a strand of my own hair stuck in the corner of my mouth, and my arm is thrown around Stacey Stallard’s shoulders like she’s my best friend.
We’re both holding tiny glasses upside down, and there’s a strange green stripe, which I can only hope is a lime, peeking out from between my lips where my teeth should be. Stacey’s eyes are wild and her cheeks are flushed, but a big smile is plastered across her face. If it weren’t for the bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila on the Doones’ kitchen island, she might be standing at the top of a mountain after a brisk hike, a cold wind in her face.
I just look trashed.
The phone buzzes in my hand. Rachel again:
DEF your new profile pic.
Dunno. You look pretty hot.
Ugh. What. Just. Happened?
My phone rings the moment I press send.
“Good morning, sunshine!” Rachel’s voice is so perky I wince.
“What the hell are you doing up so early?” I croak.
“Those preschoolers don’t teach themselves Sunday school.”
“Will you be teaching them to make the margaritas you mixed last night?”
Rachel giggles. “You’re the one who switched to shots.”
“Which I would not have done if that margarita hadn’t gotten me hammered. I can’t believe they let you step foot in that church.”
“Please. Even Jesus turned water into wine. If I can find a guy who performs that miracle, I’ll never let him leave.”
A guy.
My truck.
Jumping out of bed, I pause only briefly to adjust myself to the fresh hell of standing upright. “Shit.”
Rachel scolds me for my language on the Lord’s day. I would usually retort that he is her Lord, not mine, but right now I need all potential deities on my team.
Running down the hall to Will’s room, I blow past our family Wall of Fame. Fifth-grade me leers back from a gallery frame: braces, shin guards, rubbery sports glasses strapped across the wavy hair bursting from my braid in all directions. Over the past few years, my exterior has been transformed by contact lenses and a flat iron, but most days I’m still surprised not to see that little mess in the mirror.
Will’s bed is empty, and I scale a mountain range of high-tops and basketball jerseys like the Von Trapps escaping over the Alps. The window in his room faces the driveway, and as I pull back the curtain, I take in the glorious vision of my truck parked at the curb.
“Yes!” I hiss this at the phone while performing an unplanned fist pump that sends an electric shock through my forehead, as my stomach reels in a hoedown of misery.
“What?” Rachel is confused.
I take a deep breath and grasp the back of the chair at Will’s desk, trying to persuade my insides not to rebel. “I wasn’t sure how I got home. I guess Ben drove me back here in my truck?”
“Uh, yeah. He was gone from the party for like an hour. Must’ve walked back.”
“Wait, he went back to the party?”
“The night was still young. You were toast by ten forty-five.”
“Again, your fault.”
“Whatever. I left a little before midnight. Ran into Ben coming up the Doones’ driveway. Oh—” She pauses.
“What?” I ask.
“Just a tweet. Looks like we aren’t the only ones who had fun last night.” She giggles. “And there are some Instagram pictures to prove it.”
“Who is it?”
“Crap. Gotta go. I have to get there a few minutes early so I can make copies of the coloring sheets. Text you later.” Rachel yells down the hall for her mom to hurry, and my phone beeps that the call has ended.
“How you feeling, rock star?”
Will is standing in the doorway. He’s wearing the shiny gray basketball shorts he sleeps in and stretching, his fingers hooked onto the top of the doorframe. I am briefly dumbfounded. When did he get that tall? His hair is doing its own electromagnetic experiment, and as I take a step toward him, I trip on a pair of Nikes and collapse onto his bed with a groan.
He laughs. “That good, huh?”
Will slips into the room and closes the door behind him, gingerly sitting next to me so as not to bounce my head. A blurred memory of slipping past him in the hallway last night flashes before my eyes.
“You’re not gonna tell Mom and Dad, are you?”
“Depends . . .” There’s a smirk in his voice. I squint at him through my headache.
“On what?” I try to affect my imperial Katherine the Great voice. He’s not buying it.
“On whether you take me with you next time.”
It takes every ounce of strength I can muster to sit up, grab a pillow, and swing it at Will. He catches it easily with one hand and tosses it back at me. We both laugh, me grasping at my head and begging him to make it stop.
“You were pretty wrecked last night,” he says. “I think I should chaperone next time.” Ignoring him, I gingerly pick my way across the mounds of stuff between me and the door. He jumps up and clears a path. “Please?”
I stop and try to press one of his enormous cowlicks down on the side of his head. It springs back like a hydra—messier, angrier. “Let’s see if I survive this time.”
A grin spreads across his face. “That’s not a no . . .”
I laugh, and give him a little push so I can get to the doorknob. “I’ll think about it. Just don’t tell Mom and Dad.”
“What are you doing today?”
“First, Advil. Then, a shower. I haven’t allowed myself to dream beyond that.”
Will smiles as I step into the hall. “Brush your teeth,” he whispers. “You smell like the bar at Don Chilitos.”
I try to punch him in the arm, but he dodges and pulls the door closed. Off balance, I stumble gently into the Wall of Fame, narrowly avoiding a collision with a picture of me and Ben. We are in second grade, standing in the front yard, soaking wet. I am wearing a red swimsuit with white polka dots. Ben has on little board shorts covered in cartoon monkeys. I should text him to say thank you for getting me home, but back in my bedroom my fingers pause over the screen, and I toss the phone on my bed. Something about that shot of us in the hall changes my mind. If I can rally after my shower, I’ll go over to his house and offer my gratitude in person.
Still smiling about the picture, I gulp down three ibuprofen, holding my hair out of the sink and slurping straight from the tap. We were playing “rainstorm on the beach” the day that shot was taken. Mom had put the sprinkler next to the sandbox, and Ben tried to explain what it felt like when the surf boils over your toes.
Stepping into a steaming shower, I remember the question I asked him that day. Can you see all the way to the other side?
He answered me with wide blue eyes and awe in his voice.
There’s only one side. The waves go on forever. 

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