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Gila River Review
Ashley Bray

Alive

            Five minutes before the accident, Kristy Evans was among the other seniors filing out of Washington High School’s auditorium after rehearsal.  This year, the seniors decided to put on a performance at graduation.  Students, staff, and parents were excited for the performance that would be put on by seniors in band, orchestra, choir and dance.  As Kristy left the final rehearsal, she felt confident that her part in the dance would turn out great.

            “Two days!  Two days!”  several seniors shouted.  Kristy’s stomach did a back flip at hearing them shout.  Graduation was only two days away.  Kristy could hardly believe it and at the same time she was happy to begin a new chapter in her life.  She was especially happy because in two days, her father she had not seen in 8 years would be in town to see her graduate.  They had not spoken for a long time, but a few months ago, Kristy tracked him down and they started talking again.  He promised he would not miss her graduation for the world.

            Kristy loaned her mother her car that morning and rode her bike to school.  Her mom’s car broke down the day before and her poor mom worked so hard to make end’s meet.  Tonight, her mom traded shifts with another nurse at the hospital so she could have the night of Kristy’s graduation off work.  Kristy walked quickly to the bike rack, in a hurry to get home.  Her nine year old sister was with the neighbor until Kristy could get home to baby sit her sister. 

            “Kristy!” 

            Kristy turned to see her best friend since 7th grade, Shane Andrews, running to catch up.

            “Hey Shane, what’s up?”  Kristy asked as he caught up to her.

            “I have a question,” Shane asked, grinning.  “My parents are throwing me a graduation party this weekend and-”

            Kristy laughed, “I know!  I got the invitation, I’m so gonna be there.”

            “I know, but I…well…”  Shane paused.  Kristy noticed he was playing with his hands.  He only did that when he was nervous.

            “I um, well, I was wondering if you would go as my date?”

            Kristy stopped in her tracks and looked up at Shane.  She had a crush on him forever!  She always figured he was her best friend though and nothing would ever happen between them.  Kristy ran her hand through her shoulder length curly blonde hair and looked around for a moment.  Really?  Go as his date??

            “Yes!  I’ll be your date!”  Kristy blurted out, then grinned.

            “Great!  Ok.  Yeah!”  Shane replied.  He smiled too.  Kristy laughed.  His bright green eyes sparkled, he looked so happy.

            “Hey, do you want a ride home?”  Shane asked as Kristy bent to unlock her bike from the bike rack.  “I have my dad’s truck, we can put the bike in the back.”

            Kristy debated it.  She half wanted to go, but figured it was a nice night for a bike ride.  She wanted to hurry up and get home for her sister, but she lived right down the street from the school anyway.

            “Umm…No, its ok, I’ll ride.  I should be fine.”

            Shane nodded, “All right, well, I’ll see you,” He said as he held out his arms for a hug.

            Kristy gave him a hug, then turned and walked her bike down the steps.  Shane went the other direction.  She got on her bike and started pedaling home.

            The evening air felt cool on her face as she rode her bike home, her hair blowing away from her face.  It was only a minute before she got to the cross walk.  She stopped and waited for the green light so she could cross the street.  Kristy could see her house from there.  Her sister was in the neighbor’s yard playing with their two year old daughter. She could hear them laughing as they ran around the yard.  Kristy could feel her heart pounding like crazy, in a good way.  Her stomach had butterflies.  She thought about everything from her father coming into town, the dance, graduation, and Shane.

            Her last thought before the car hit her was how she loved life and couldn’t wait to start living the rest of it.

#

            Five minutes before the accident, Scott Nelson weaved in and out of traffic.  Angry at the world, he swore at the little red Prius that cut him off.  His four year old son, Jamie, was sound asleep in the back seat.

            Earlier, Scott was just fine.  His ex wife would be moving Jamie across the country in less than twenty-four hours.  Scott was grateful that she let Jamie spend the whole week with him instead of just the weekend.  He and his friends and the kids had a barbecue and everyone went swimming and had fun.  Right in the middle of the barbecue, his ex wife called him and demanded he bring Jamie home.  Immediately, Scott became enraged that she would dare take away the last bit of time he had with his son.  He argued with her only to lose and reluctantly load up Jamie in the car.

            Angry and not entirely sober after a few beers in the sun, Scott sped the whole way to his ex wife’s house.  He still had a lot to say to her.  She left him, which hurt enough.  But their divorce was just final not too long ago and in two weeks she would be getting married to this new asshole in Florida.  And she was taking his son away.  That was the part that hurt the worst.  The thought of his son moving so far away made him want to rip his heart from his chest. And what if he called this new man “daddy?”

            Scott saw the light change from green to yellow and slowed down.  He waited.

            Red light. 

            Green, go.

            As he got to the next light, he weaved into the other lane to get around a slow old lady in a  gray and rusted Buick. 

            The light changed, but Scott gunned it, positive he’d make it.

            Shit.  Did the light change?

            He slammed on his brakes as he soon as he saw the girl on the purple bicycle, but he was too late.

#

            Joan Evans stifled a yawn as she checked her next chart.  As usual, the emergency room was full and busy.  Most people were being polite and waiting patiently in the waiting room.  She could hear the cries of a few sick or injured children and some groans and moans of other not-so-patient adults, eager to be seen by the overworked doctors.

            Joan read the chart and was ready to go check on her next patient, but she heard her name.

            “Joan!  Joan!”  Lori Walters, another R.N., ran towards her.

            “Lori, are you ok?”

            Lori shook her head furiously.  “Stop, put the chart down.  Someone else will take over your shift.”

            Lori spoke so fast Joan could barely understand her.

            “Lori!!  What’s wrong?”  Joan asked, frowning now.

            “There’s been an accident.  Joan, its Kristy.”

            “What?  Is she ok? Where is she?”  Joan felt as though all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room at the mere mention of the words “accident” and her daughter’s name in the same sentence.

            “They’re coming in now!”  Lori pointed down the hall at the ambulance entrance.  At that moment, the doors opened the EMT’s ran a stretcher in.  Sure enough, Kristy was on that stretcher.

            “OH MY GOD!”  Joan cried, running to her daughter.

            Suddenly, everything erupted into chaos.  Doctors shouted out orders and nurses checked Kristy’s vitals, their goal was to stabilize her. 

            Joan was frantic.  For the first time in her life, she felt faint at the sight of blood.  Her daughter was unresponsive and the doctors and nurses were racing to save her.  She wanted to jump in and help save her little girl, but knew she would only be in the way.  All she could do was stand off to the side as doctor’s worked on her.  Joan’s heart sunk when one of the EMT’s informed a nurse that Kristy was not wearing a helmet and flew pretty far off her bike upon impact.

            The next several hours were a blur to Joan. 

            Everything seemed unreal and in slow motion.  The next thing Joan knew, she was sitting beside her daughter’s hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit.  Kristy was on life support with tubes and cords sticking out of every which way. Doctors ran test after test and brain scans, they worked so hard to get the swelling in Kristy’s brain down.

            One of Joan’s coworkers and great friend was taking care of Joan’s other daughter, Caitlin.

            Joan held Kristy’s hand tight.  She shut her eyes and took a deep breath.  What do you do in this situation?  Pray?  Joan had not prayed since her marriage ended years ago.  But today she felt the need to beg God for mercy.  God, if you can hear me, let my baby girl be ok, Joan asked, unsure of how or what to say to God.

#

            Scott Nelson left the scene of the accident in a panic.  He didn’t know what to do.  He was positive someone identified his vehicle.  His son woke up and screamed the whole way to his mother’s house. 

            His ex-wife stood outside her house, arms crossed, tapping her foot.

            “What the hell took you so long?”  She demanded.  Then her face twisted in anger at the sight of Jamie crying and sobbing uncontrollably.

            “What did you do to him?!”

            Scott hugged Jamie quickly, then turned back to the car he left running in the street.  Jamie’s mother didn’t see the damaged front of the car.

            “Scott!  What did you do?”  She shouted now. 

            Scott got back into his car and sped away.  He took the longer way home, away from the scene of the accident.  On his way home, he picked up a bottle of whiskey.

            His hands shook and beads of sweat popped up on his forehead.  He was absolutely terrified and consumed with horrible guilt at what just happened.

            As soon as he got home, he parked the car inside the garage and locked all the doors and windows.  The house phone was ringing.  It kept ringing.  It would stop, the answering machine picked it up.  His ex wife’s voice filled the room.

            “JAMIE SAID YOU HIT-”  Scott quickly yanked the phone and answering machine up and threw them across the room.  After they broke and clattered to the floor, the room was silent except for a ceiling fan.

            He sat down and opened the whiskey, hands still shaking.  Tears streamed down his face.  A million thoughts ran through his head.  His son, his ex-wife, their new life.  They didn’t need him now.  Nobody needed him.  That girl.  Oh God, he hated himself for what he had just done.

            An hour later, Scott was completely and totally in a drunken oblivion when police officers knocked on his front door.

            Scott sat in the back of the house in his dark bedroom.  He could hear the banging on the door.  He saw movement outside his bedroom window.  He ignored them.  Guilt and grief and fear controlled him now.  His hand was no longer shaking now as he moved the gun…then pulled the trigger.

#

            Joan’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of a knock on the door.

            “I went by the house and the neighbor came out and told me what happened…” Robert Evans said. 

            Joan forgot all about her ex husband and Kristy’s high school graduation.  Joan noticed for a moment that Robert looked much older than she figured he would.  His once dark brown hair was now mostly gray and he had wrinkles by his dark blue eyes.  For a moment, Joan felt self conscious that maybe she looked much older to him too.  As quickly as that thought entered her mind, she pushed it back out.  She was sure he wouldn’t care. 

            “What have the doctor’s said?”  Robert asked as he pulled up a chair to Kristy’s bed on the other side.

            Joan cleared her throat.  It felt so dry.  She hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in hours, or maybe a day, and she had been crying a lot.

            “They’re doing tests.  She’s on life support right now.  They’re trying to get the swelling down in her brain.”

            “Mr. and Mrs. Evans?”  A doctor asked as he knocked on the door.

            “Um, we’re not married,” Robert corrected.  “We’re her parents, but…yeah…”

            Joan flinched at his correction.

            “I’m sorry.”  Dr. Iverson was newer at the hospital and worked exclusively in the intensive care unit, so Joan barely knew of him.

            “I have to talk to you about Kristy’s brain scans.”

            Dr. Iverson showed them the scans of Kristy’s brain.  Joan knew what she was looking at, Robert did not quite understand.  Dr. Iverson used technical terms to explain Kristy’s condition.  Joan could feel a lump in her throat and fought back tears as the doctor explained.

            “So, what are you saying?”  Robert finally asked.

            Dr. Iverson opened his mouth to answer, but Joan cut him off.

            “She’s dead,”  Joan whispered.  Her hands flew to her face and she began to sob.

            “What?”  Robert asked, alarmed now.

            “Essentially, yes.  Kristy’s brain is not functioning.  She is brain dead.  The only thing keeping her alive is the life support,” Dr. Iverson said.

#

            The ride home was silent.  Robert and Joan were both in shock and stricken with grief at the news of their daughter’s diagnosis.  They decided to go home for a couple of hours to get showers and clothes and to get somewhat refreshed before facing what happens next:  decisions.  Decisions regarding Kristy’s organs, her funeral.  Joan needed to call family.

            Joan sat up straight as soon as they turned onto the street.  Her house appeared to be lit up brighter than Christmas.  Joan recognized neighbor’s, family, friends, Kristy’s friends outside in the front yard.  People had candles and flashlights, signs and flowers.  As soon as they pulled up and got out of the car, Joan was met with hugs and cries.  Several people were singing and praying. 

            “What’s going on?”

            Joan recognized her neighbor, the crazy cat lady named Francine, running over to Joan.

            “Joan, I don’t know if this is ok or not, but…well, word spread quickly about Kristy and…and…well, they just showed up.  It’s a prayer vigil…for Kristy.”

            Francine studied Joan’s tired face.  Joan nodded in approval.  She was absolutely touched that so many people cared about Kristy.

            Joan recognized several of Kristy’s friends from school and dance classes and church.  A tall boy with dark hair walked over to Joan.

            “How is she?”

            Joan recognized him.  Shane.

            “She’s…”  Joan stopped.  Did she tell them Kristy was basically dead and they needed to prepare her funeral?  That they decided to donate her organs?  All of them except for her beautiful blue eyes because Joan couldn’t bare the thought…that Kristy had such gorgeous bright blue eyes, like her father’s, and they belonged to Kristy…?

            Shane nodded in understanding at Joan’s silence.  Awkwardly, he leaned in and gave her a hug.  Slowly, Joan’s arms moved up and hugged him back.  Shane stepped back and shook his head.

            “Can I see her?”  He asked in a whisper.

            Joan nodded, “Yes.  You need to say goodbye.  You can come up to the hospital later tonight.”

            Shane returned to his group of friends and remained quiet.  Joan stayed outside for a few moments and prayed with other people. 

            Joan was so torn.  Part of her hoped and prayed and desperately wanted Kristy to wake up.  She wanted Kristy to be alive and well and ok and she longed to hear Kristy’s voice again and hear her laugh. 

            Part of her also knew the reality if death and dying and car accidents and brain damage and life support.  She knew that it would take nothing short of a miracle for Kristy to pull out of this one.  As a nurse in the emergency room of the hospital, Joan knew tragedy and death all too well.

            Robert handed Joan a candle.  Together they prayed for Kristy, with several of their family and friends.

            After a few minutes, Joan felt that she needed to hurry up and get back to her daughter.  She blew out her candle and watched the smoke rise before running into her house to change her clothes.  In a moment, Joan and Robert were back in the car on the way to the hospital.  Joan kindly let Shane know she was going back and he said his mother would be driving him up there, that they’d follow their car.       

#

            Joan held her ex husband’s hand for the first time in eight years.  Her heart felt as though it had been shattered into a million tiny little pieces.  She and Robert decided they would take Kristy off of life support in the morning.  They would give people a chance to say goodbye first.  Joan couldn’t imagine what this would do to Caitlin, her 9 year old.  Caitlin idolized Kristy, they were best friends and adored each other. 

            Shane knocked on the door and entered.  His mom waited in the hallway.  He gave Joan and Robert hugs before turning to look at Kristy.  She looked so small and lifeless in the hospital bed.  A day ago, she was bright and happy.  He picked up her hand. 

            “Kristy, I love you, you’re my best friend,” Shane whispered in her ear.

            God, please, please, please don’t let her die.  Not like this.  God, please. 

            Joan watched quietly.  Shane had his head bowed quietly, his eyes shut tight.

            Suddenly, Shane bolted upright and turned to them, grabbing Joan’s arm tightly.

            “DON’T DO THIS!  DON’T KILL HER!”  Shane begged frantically.

            Joan pulled away in shock.  Robert grabbed Shane’s shoulders and shook him.

            “Stop, Shane, you’re only making this harder-”

            “No. You can’t do this!”  Shane wiped tears from his eyes.  “I can’t explain it, but I know she’s going to be ok!”

            Robert pulled Shane toward the door, determined to make him leave.

            Shane turned away. 

            Robert looked defeated as he dropped his arms at his sides.

            “Shane-”  Robert said.

            “No, Mr. Evans, no…” Shane walked over to Kristy and picked up her hand again.

            Joan watched from a safe distance.  She wanted to do something, but what?  Watch Shane have a complete mental break down? 

            At that moment, it was as if everything went into slow motion.

            Shane shoved his thumb nail hard underneath Kristy’s nail.  Her hand jerked back.  Then, he moved to the end of the bed and moved the blanket, exposing her foot.  Shane pulled a small pocket knife out.  He left it closed, but dragged the edge along the bottom of her foot…which also jerked back.

            Joan watched Robert’s face go from sadness to confusion to joy.  Her movement…reaction meant Kristy was not brain dead after all!

            Joan turned and ran out of the room, quickly to find a doctor.

#

Six Months Later

            Kristy took a deep breath.  Cool fresh air filled her lungs.  She took joy in the sun warming her face and arms.  Kristy smiled and laughed.  Her little sister ran up ahead of everyone else to get to the park first, her blonde pigtails bouncing with each step. 

            “Come on, Kristy!”  Caitlin called.

            “Yeah!  Shane!  Go faster,” Kristy said with a laugh.

            Shane pushed Kristy’s wheel chair a little bit faster to catch up, but refused to break into a run, being overly careful with Kristy.

            Kristy turned a little in her wheel chair to see her parents walking behind them.  Both of them.  Together, hand in hand.  This brought an amazing feeling of joy and peace to her heart to see her parents happy and together again.  For whatever reason, after Kristy awoke from the coma and eventually learned her parents were back together, this did not surprise her in the least bit. 

            Kristy had only been out of the hospital for a few weeks. Doctors said she was a miracle at how she healed and so quickly.  Aside from her nearly healed broken leg and sprained wrists, Kristy was almost back to 100%.  Kristy was grateful to be alive and grateful for Shane because if it were not for him...well, Kristy did not want to think about that.  She was just happy to be alive and have family and friends around her who love her so much.



Ashley Bray is currently studying fiction writing at Mesa Community College.

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