Her Bravery

I distinctly remember the day my mom first showed me her bravery.

We were in my parent’s Chevy Celebrity. I think I was five. The corduroy seats itched the back of my knees, so I kept tugging on my skirt hem. I played with the hand-crank on the window, turning it up and down repeatedly. Each time it was down, warm air seeped inside and got stuck in my nose. And despite the floor being out of reach, I kicked my feet back and forth trying to touch my toes against the carpet.

We were car-dancing to Madonna when my mom gasped and slammed on her brakes. Our heads flew forward then slammed against the seats with a thud. I stopped kicking and car-dancing. Stopped playing with the window. Stopped breathing for the shortest moment.

Everything stood still as our eyes connected in the rear-view mirror. There, I saw concern and love, then determination and strength. All before she blinked.

“Oh, God!” she shouted. I exhaled and the world rotated again. “That car hit the little girl so hard she…” her voice trailed off. I heard the clicking and clacking of the car going into park and her seatbelt being unbuckled, then the slapping of the belt raveling up.

She climbed out of her seat, slammed her door, and stopped in front of my window. “You stay here,” she said, using her voice that meant business. Perseverance filled each line on her face in a way that I had never seen before.

I gulped down a breath bubble and scratched the corduroy seat to feel the fibers under my nails. I nodded yes.

“I mean it, Danielle,” she said.

“Okay, Mommy,” I whispered to her, but she was already jogging away.

I craned my head up to peek out the window and the smell of exhaust fumes overwhelmed me. It was a busy street that felt close to home, but I couldn’t tell which one it was. I saw my mom approach a girl lying face down on the pavement. She wasn’t much bigger than me. And behind the girl was a car. Its windshield was caved in and shards of glass glittered against the street. I looked away, afraid and unsure of what was happening.

Time isn’t the same when you are a child, so I don’t know how long I sat there avoiding the scene out of my window, but it felt like hours. I heard sirens and voices just beyond our car. I saw the flashing lights, but I couldn’t bear to lift my head and watch.

Eventually everything slowed. No more sirens, lights, or commotion.

My mom opened her door, sat back down in the driver’s seat, and cradled her head in her hands. “I couldn’t save her,” she wept. “I couldn’t save the little girl’s life.”

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Two Inches From Losing It All

Thirteen years ago, when my husband was my boyfriend, before we had our two beautiful children, two crazy dogs and our forever home, before our degrees and jobs and life together, before we created our happily ever after, we could have lost it all.

***

I was sleeping on the blue leather couch, our first purchase together, and the television was on. Some lady was trying to sell me cheap jewelry on QVC when I was startled from a dream. I looked around, unsure what woke me. I looked outside my 19th floor window onto the empty city streets below. Nighttime lights twinkled in the empty office buildings that dotted downtown.

What time is it?

Something wasn’t right. I looked at the clock.

After 2:00 a.m.?

My boyfriend should have been home by then.

Where is he?

He’d gone out with friends. “A guys’ night out,” he told me. I picked up the cordless phone to call him. His number, our shared cell phone number, was on the caller I.D. three times. I had missed three calls in ten minutes from him.

Was that what woke me? The sound of the phone?

My heart started palpitating and a mass started swelling within the walls of my throat. Before I could dial him back, the phone, again, started to ring.

“Shit,” I gasped. It rang once, twice, three times before I finally gathered enough courage to answer “Hello?”

“Babe,” he responded.

“Where are you? Is everything okay? It’s so late,” the words started falling out of my mouth faster than he could answer.

“I’m at the hospital. There was an accident, but I’m okay” he responded quietly. I dropped the phone, quickly found my shoes and keys and drove to the hospital as fast as I could safely.

***

I ran inside the hospital emergency room and found my boyfriend with a broken arm and scratches across his face and head. Aside from the arm, he had mostly minor injuries.

As it turns out, his friend’s friend, the driver, made the choice to race someone in his souped up car on their way back home from the bar. He didn’t realize a cop was behind him.

The officer tried to pull him over, but he didn’t stop. He thought he could outrun the radio. He raced through parking lots, flying over speed bumps and barely missing pedestrians with his front end. He sped through a 40 mile per hour zone going over 80 miles per hour. He eventually tried to make a turn, to hide on a residential street, only the tires refused to grip the pavement and he spun out, wrapping the back of his Mitsubishi Eclipse around a telephone pole. The wooden beast came crashing through the backseat, where my boyfriend was sitting. If my boyfriend would have been on the other side of the car, he would have been crushed instantly.

A paramedic and firefighter assisted my boyfriend, getting him out of the car. They explained to him that there was a live wire, hanging only two inches from the roof of the car. Had that wire touched it, the three of them would have been electrocuted.

Upon being breathalyzed, it was found that the driver was well beyond the drinking limit.

He offered to be the designated driver.

***

Thirteen years ago, when my husband was my boyfriend, before we had our two beautiful children, two crazy dogs and our forever home, before our degrees and jobs and life together, before we created our happily ever after, we could have lost it all to an idiot, a friend of friend, drunk behind the wheel.

Photo courtesy of Jilbert Ebrahimi/Unsplash