"Shut up! Just shut up!"
My hands were over my ears and my throat was raw with screaming. I saw Mom open her mouth to retort, but before she could say anything, the front door opened and Drew came in, leading his new girlfriend by the hand. They froze, the smiles sliding off their faces when they saw the scene within. Without waiting for anyone to say anything, I stormed past Mom, past Drew and his staring girlfriend, and out the door. I had to leave. I had to get away.
The sun was shining; a rare occurrence in this part of Washington state. It was too hot for a jacket, but I was too angry to take it off. I reached my car, a faded old white Subaru that I had gotten for my seventeenth birthday four months ago, and yanked the door open. I stuck the key in the ignition and peeled out of the driveway. Too fast. The wheels squealed on the pavement as I slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into my neighbor's mailbox.
Then I was driving down the road, faster than was safe, but not even caring. I didn't know where I was going. I just had to get out of here. The wind from the open window made my face cold. I realized I was crying. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Faster. I tore around a corner, narrowly missing a fancy red convertible, whose loud honk trailed down the road after me.
"Breathe," I whispered. It was a command. I forced air into my lungs, then whooshed it out. Again. My foot let up a little on the gas pedal. I lifted a hand and wiped my tears away. Relax.
I took a moment to look around to see where I had ended up. I was coasting up the long road that branched onto the freeway ramp, which was a steep, winding upward slope. Okay. I was calm now. My heartbeat had returned back to normal, and my eyes were dry.
Then I heard it. The honk of a horn, the ear-splitting squeal of brakes. It came from the freeway ramp. Then the crunch of impact.
Time seemed to slow down. I watched as a small blue car crashed through the concrete barrier, its side bashed in. It flipped over once, twice, on its journey down to the bottom of the slope. It came to a rest on its back, at the bottom of the hill, barely thirty yards from where I was.
Reality snapped back. There were screams and the screech of brakes. But all I could hear was a small voice in my head, shouting, "Stop the car." I pulled over too quickly, plowing over a bush on the side of the road. I didn't care. I threw open my door and sprinted toward the upside down car.
I was the first one to reach it. Most people were still standing there beside their doors with their mouths open, staring. The car's driver door was too crushed to open, so I kicked the window, as hard as I could. No luck. My toe throbbing, I ran around until I found a rock – actually a hunk of the concrete barrier – the size of my hand, and started pounding on the window with it. Cracks appeared in the glass. Finally, with one final blow, the window shattered.
The driver of the car was stirring feebly, and relief rushed through me. He was alive. I crawled halfway through the window, managing somehow to reach upward and unbuckle his seatbelt. Then I grabbed him under the armpits and pulled as hard as I could. Somehow, he moved. I kept pulling, even when I heard him cry out in pain. Glass shards cut through the knees of my jeans, but I hardly felt it. Finally, I dragged him all the way out of the car.
That was when I realized that I knew him. Louis Kelley. He went to my school; was in my grade. I had never spoken to him, but I recognized that sandy hair, that long thin nose.
There was so much blood. There was something – a cut probably – on his forehead that was bleeding hard, turned the left side of his face completely red. His eyes were wide open, staring at me. His breathing was ragged and too quick.
I tore off my jacket and stuck it under his head to use as a pillow. "Breathe," I told him. "Come on, breathe."
His eyes still locked to mine, he started taking deep breaths. "In. Out," I instructed, breathing with him.
"I've called 911," I heard someone say behind me. I turned to see a tall man with a cell phone in his hand. He looked as terrified as I felt. "Here, press this gently to where he's bleeding." He was holding out what looked like a white t-shirt. I took it and turned back to Louis, carefully pressing the cloth against the wound. His eyes widened and his breathing began to speed up again.
"Calm," I reminded him. "Just keep breathing."
He didn't look away from my eyes until he fell unconscious. I guess the blood loss and pain made him weak, and he couldn't stay awake any longer. The ambulance got there barely thirty second later, and everything spun into a blur of sounds and voices. Someone thanked me. I was led into the back of the ambulance, where Louis had already been carried and was being worked on. I looked away; I couldn't watch it.
Before long, the ambulance reached the hospital, and everyone was loaded out again. I heard a medic ask me my name, and somehow I managed to answer. Someone led me into the hospital, in a different direction than where Louis had been brought. I was taken to a room of my own, where I was sat down on a bench and told to wait.
The room was blue. I was glad, because plain white hospital rooms scared me. I wondered vaguely what was happening to Louis. I felt a slight twinge of pain in my hands and looked down. My palms were torn and bloody, with shards of glass still stuck in them. The same was the case for my knees. I winced and looked away.
Five minutes later, a nurse with straight blonde hair and a kind smile opened the door. "Anna Shepard, is it?" I nodded. "Your family is on their way. We told them what happened."
I got a thrill of anxiety at the thought of my mom. "Oh."
"What you did was very brave, Anna," the nurse said. "Especially for someone your age. Not many people would do that."
"Is Louis okay?" I asked.
"He'll live," she replied. "He's broken both his legs, so he'll be in a wheelchair for a while, and it looks like he got a serious blow to the head. That will take some recovery."
I nodded again, then looked down at my bleeding hands.
"Let me take care of that," the nurse said. She cleaned my hands and knees off, picking the glass shards out with tweezers, and bandaging them up carefully. Finally, when she was done, she looked me straight in the eye.
"How do you feel, Anna?"
"Um," I said. "I guess I'm kind of in shock."
She smiled understandingly. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I…talk about what?"
"What happened with your friend Louis and the car crash."
"He's not my friend. I don't even know him. We just go to the same school."
"Anna, if you want to talk about it—"
Before either of us could say anything more, the door burst open, and Mom appeared. She cried out and flung her arms around me.
"Oh, baby, you were so brave…" she sobbed, crying real tears onto my shoulder. I tried to push her away.
"What if you had been hurt and you were still mad at me—"
"I wasn't even the one—"
"I can't imagine if it had been you—"
"Mom, stop!" I shouted, finally shoving her away. She looked shocked. I didn't know why I was so angry. "I wasn't the one that got in the accident! It's not me you should be worrying about!"
Her stunned look transformed into an understanding smile. "Honey, I know you've been through a lot just now, and—"
"No! Quit worrying about me! Nothing even happened to me!"
"Anna, perhaps it would be best if you went home with your mother," the nurse said quietly.
"Yes, come on, Anna," Mom said tersely, her sympathetic façade vanishing. She took my arm at the elbow and stood up, making me stand up with her. She turned to the nurse. "Thank you for all your help." Then she dragged me out of the room.
Drew was waiting in the hall, his face white and his hands clasped in front of him. He caught my eye as Mom pulled me toward the exit, and I stuck out my tongue to express my annoyance. His lips curved into the ghost of a smile.
There was silence as we got into the car in the parking lot and drove towards home. Dad wasn't here – he must still be at work. I wondered if he had heard about this whole incident yet. Probably not, or he would have gone to the hospital with Mom. There must have been a reason for her not to tell him.
That evening, my family left me alone. Dad found out about the crash, but he didn't ask any questions, as per Mom's instructions, no doubt. Drew didn't speak; he seemed almost wary, as if he didn't know who I was. I went to bed that night with an odd feeling of isolation.
Hope you all enjoyed! Thoughts? Questions? REVIEWS? :D Please let me know, it's always great to get feedback!