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The blood in my mouth tasted like salt. It oozed from everywhere, every open wound where the smooth metal sliced into my warm skin. I saw myself at Rosemary beach, my baby feet leaving dimples in the grainy sand. Dad ran forward and swooped me up into his tan, hairy arms. He plopped me down on his strong, secure shoulders, making sure my chubby fingers were tangled into his thinning hair before letting go and running along the shoreline.
When I opened my eyes, all I could see were the shapes of passing cars, clouded by my tears and the thick grey smoke that swirled upward from where I lay. I was dying. My body crumpled up like aluminum foil, I was damaged beyond repair.
Bright, flashing lights raced towards me, accompanied by the shrieks of police sirens. I didn’t understand how this could have happened. One second, I was yapping about the annoying new girl in my world history class, and in the next instant I was sprawled across the cold, coarse asphalt, shards of glass deeply gorged into my arms and torso.
I tried to stand up, but to no avail. My once strong, muscular legs collapsed underneath my fragile body. As I was falling to the ground, I bonked my head on the rubber tire. There were pieces of a plastic windshield-wiper sitting in the shiny silver rim. I stared at my reflection.
At one time, the sea green eyes that looked back at me had been so bright; they surprised me whenever I glanced in a mirror or a shop window. But, in the dirty, shining rim, my eyes were bloodshot and dark. My dark brown, even, flat-ironed hair was cut off at unattractive angles and matted like a bird’s nest. Fresh cuts and pieces of glass covered up my light freckles and made me dizzy. Before, I was worried about zits, but they were nothing compared to the way my face was scarred from the glass. I wasn’t absolutely positive that the girl I was looking at was me. With two purple shades under my eyes and a bump on my nose the size of a marble, I was unrecognizable. The confused look on my face twisted to show pain when I realized what had happened.
It wasn’t Valarie’s fault. Her usually reckless driving was under control, for once. Instead of powering over sidewalks and nearly trampling small children, my sister stayed focused on the speed limit and didn’t touch her cell phone. It was purely the fault of the other driver, the middle-aged man that appears to be unscathed. He was yelling at his kids, who were fighting over a movie in the DVD player. He was calming them down, he would claim later in court. While he was blowing his top over a meaningless DVD, he lost control of the wheel and his tires spun out of control on the icy road. They led his shiny black Hummer straight into the front of my sister’s smaller Honda Accord.
“Katrina!” Valarie gasped. I turned my head fast enough to watch my sister die. Suddenly, I was furious. The other driver was stupid and my sister was dead because of it. It was like a hole had been ripped through my chest. Valarie was the only person who was ever actually there for me, for while Mom was a drunk, Dad left us all when I was just five. She was the only person in the world I could talk to, the only one who understood me for who I was. And now, she was dead. I wasn’t sure if I could live without her. I reached for a piece of glass and raised it above where I thought my heart was. When it was just inches away from penetrating my skin, I realized how much of a coward I was and tossed the glass aside. I wasn’t mad at myself, or mad at Valarie. I was mad at the ignorant old man who caused my sister to die. When the cars collided, she suffered from whiplash and disconnected a vain in the back of her neck. I, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky.
The much larger Hummer smashed the Honda like an accordion. The impact from the crash sent me flying through the front windshield and landing on the ground between the two cars. I hit the asphalt face-first, breaking my nose and knocking out one of my twelve-year-old molars. I wailed and moaned for what seemed like ages.
Suddenly, thick, sturdy arms lifted me from the wreckage ungracefully. The elbows buckled and almost dropped me back onto my face. I feebly squirmed in the person’s arms, but I was too weak. An unexpected fire rushed through my veins, making my limbs feel as though they were being stuck with nails. Then, everything went black.
I woke up in the emergency room three days later. The doctors thought I had slipped into a coma, I had slept so soundly. Doctor Arthur was the first to greet me when I was awake again.
“Doctor Arthur!” I choked through chapped lips. “I’m dead, right? I have to be dead…or dying at least. What happened to…”
“Miss Mason, calm down. You’re not dead, or even dying for that matter. You just broke a few ribs and your nose.” Doctor Arthur interrupted.
“But, the blood,” I winced, “the blood was all over me.”
“Well, we spent hours picking glass shards out of your body. One particular piece came a few inches away from your heart. You’re lucky that you’re not dead.”
I didn’t feel like I was lucky. “Oh, yeah. I…I…I can’t remember everything exactly. Is that bad?”
“The medicine kicked in relatively fast and you passed out. You hit your head extremely hard, Katrina.”
“Oh, okay then…” I fainted again.
My mom came to pick me up four days after Doctor Arthur authorized my release. I could hear her coming from down the hall in my room. She was talking at a young nurse for getting in her way in the hall. Mom always had a way of getting what she wanted. All she had to do was stare into their eyes and raise her right eyebrow, and she had whatever she desired.
She pounded on the hardwood door. “Katy! Katy, come on, I’ve got a dentist appointment to get to. Now, let’s go!” she screamed through the hospital door. I opened the door and stepped back a few feet. I was ready for the slap. Her short, stout figure gave her the appearance of a squash. Cropped blonde hair didn’t compliment her rounded face.
“Well, that wouldn’t be a problem if you were here to pick me up four days ago, like you were supposed to, now would it?” I said under my breath.
“Did you say something?” my mom threatened.
“Nice to see you, too, Mom. Really, I’m fine, no need to ask or anything. Thanks for caring.” I snapped at her.
“Katrina Mason! Don’t you dare use that tone with me, young lady!” she shrieked. Her spearmint gum bubble popped just inches from my nose.
“Fine, whatever, let’s go.” I mumbled as a stalked out the door. Being with my mom always gave me a migraine. I hopped into the bed of the beat-up red pickup and turned my back to the hospital. I leaned my injured shoulders against the tailgate and closed my eyes. I remembered a time when we were all happy, before my daddy went off to California with this redhead girl Valarie’s age. He kept Mom’s temper tantrums under control, but maybe that’s why he left. He was tired of being his wife’s babysitter. But I never told Mom that. If I did, I would have been hit so hard, people three towns away would’ve heard it.
We pulled into Mom’s dentist’s office. “Samuel Martin, DDS” the glass on his green-framed door read in orange print that was so large, I could see it from the truck. Mom got out of the cab and slammed the rusty metal door. Flicks of red paint floated to the ground.
“Don’t move an inch,” she threatened, “or I’ll have to take you back to the hospital. By the way, you’re bill is in the ashtray. It needs to be paid by Christmas.” She turned her back and stomped into the office, a small bell ringing when she pushed open the door. I quickly sat up and peered through the back window. In the ashtray, as Mom said, laid a bill from the hospital with a total of $95,000. The world started spinning and I slumped back against the side of the car. I knew what I would have to do.
I looked back at the dentist office over my shoulder. When I knew that my mom was definitely inside and not watching me, I crawled to the other side of the truck. With one last glance at the office, I jumped out of the truck. My knees buckled under me, but I caught myself before I hit the ground. In front of me were probably three hundred trees, a safe hiding place until Mom came out of the dentist and realized I was gone. Without looking back, I ran with all my might at the forest. When I was safely under the cover of the foliage, I slowed my pace but kept running. I had never run so fast in my life, and it felt good to finally be free. I didn’t stop running until I came to a creek in the woods, where I would rest until I knew that my mother would never find me.