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Because of Me
I awoke to the noise of sirens, growing closer and closer. I can barely move-hurt and sore. Opening my eyes, I see red and blue flashing lights, pavement, glass, and metal. I shut my eyes- heavy. Talking, yelling, and footsteps coming towards me. Suddenly I’m on my back, touching the cool ground. There are people above me, faces I do not recognize. Bright lights shining in my face. I don’t remember. I turn my head and I can see her car, Glinda. Upside down, smashed, crunched, and twisted. I can’t help but think no one could survive that crash. Then it all comes flooding back. I remember.
“Come on Alex! The show starts in an hour and a half and we haven’t even left yet!” I yelled.
“Relax, I’m coming!”
Pacing around the kitchen, waiting to leave. It’s her 21st birthday, and I want everything to go smoothly. I want her to have the time of her life because she deserves it. I want her to remember this night forever. My thoughts are interrupted by her coming down the stairs. Her shoes clanging against the wood. She turns the corner, looking like the beautiful big sister I’ve come to know and love. Her red hair is loose, straightened. It looks adorable since she got it cut, now it hangs around her chin. Her green eyes pierce through me, brown eye liner making them pop, black mascara, and shimmery brown eye shadow only enhance her cat like eyes. Her plump lips are always covered in her favorite Burt’s Bees tinted chap stick. Her cheeks flushed from running around upstairs. To top it all off she has on a brown skirt with purple tights, light brown suede boots, and an ivory long sleeve shirt. She always looked studious and fashionable. Grabbing her keys and her jacket in one swift movement she’s jogging towards the door.
“Ready?” I ask.
“Yep.” She replies with a smile.
And we’re on our way.
I awake with cold sweat dripping down my body. Screaming her name as I sit bolt upright. The nurses come running in and try and lay me back down. Thrashing to break free, I tell them I have to go see her and make sure she’s alright. But they won’t let me.
“She’s my sister, let me go!” I scream in rage. Furious and anxious, I have to see her.
One of the nurses runs out of the room and comes back with a doctor. I can hear her telling him my name, my age, and why I’m here. He looks at me, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. I can tell he has no idea what to do with me. The nurses still trying to fight me back into bed, I shove, push, kick and bite. The IVs in my arms holding me back. I rip them out, causing the machine to beep. The doctor finally comes over to me with a syringe and jabs it into my arm.
“What the hell did you just stab me with?!” I yell.
“Just relax. Tori we are here to help you okay? Please, get back in bed and let us do our jobs. Your very unstable right now. You need as much fluids and rest as you can get.”
“Do your job?! Because of you I’m here in this hospital, because of you, I can’t go see my sister. She’s alone and I need to see her. Do you not get that?” All of a sudden whatever he stuck me with begins to work. My knees buckle, the nurses catch me before I hit the linoleum floor. They put me back into bed, and replace my IVs. My eyes feel like led weights, I can’t form words, and unable to help drooling. I feel weak and exhausted. Lying in bed I look at all the nurses and the doctor one last time, and then all I see is black.
Sitting in the passenger’s seat I reach over and turn down the volume on the radio, to an odd number, because even numbers bother her.
“Take a right.” I point out the window to the intersection up ahead. Since my truck has been in the shop we had to take her car, the clown car as I call it. She gets into the turning lane and looks at me.
“Where are we going?” She asks. Her face glowing red from the traffic light. I know how much it’s bugging her not to know where we are going but I just smile and turn back to the road. “Take a left on this road.”
“Tori come on just tell me! Please Pooh Bear.” She smiles a huge grin, her eyes and nose crunch together. I laugh and tell her we’re almost there.
A few minutes down the road, she realizes where we are and turns and looks at me. Her eyes wide with disbelief and excitement.
“You got tickets to this?! I thought it was sold out…I’ve been trying for months!”
“I know, but I have connections.” I laugh and smile at her. I pulled it off. Butterflies flit into my stomach I’m excited to see Dane Cook, and I’m happy she’s just as eager as I am.
We walk into the Verizon Center with a mob of people. I pull the tickets out of my bag, and show them to the lady at the front door. She scans the bar code and hands them back to me. I show our tickets to an usher and he points us in the right direction. I grab on to Alex’s hand and help guide her through the crowd. We turn
into a little corridor where there are cement stairs and we giddily skip up the stairs. At the top we see hundreds of people and the stage right in front. Lit up with colorful lights, the arena looks amazing. Party music is playing through the massive speakers, causing my chest to vibrate with the music. I pull her through the crowd to our seats. Front row, right in the middle. I look over at Alex and her mouth is open, shock and awe taking over her features. I laugh and yell “happy twenty-first birthday!” I run over and give her a huge hug.
It’s dark in my hospital room, the shades are drawn, and my parents are asleep in the chairs next to my bed. I haven’t seen them since Alex and I left for the show, almost two days ago. Curled into a tight ball, I finally stretch out my legs. How long have I been sleeping? I look at the clock and it reads 4:45am. I want to get out of this room, I can’t stand not being able to see her. I don’t even know where she is.
“Tori? Are you Okay?” Says my mom, in a whisper. She looks frazzled. Still wearing her dress pants and blouse from two nights ago. My parents were going out to dinner that night. Her blonde hair is wavy from having it up in a clip, her eye make up smeared a little around the edges.
“Where is she?” I ask. Her face changes a little, tears forming at the corner or her eyes. I can tell something is wrong. “Mom, what’s wrong? What happened?” She looks at me, a half smile on her lips. She moves onto the edge of my bed and takes my hands in hers. They’re freezing. My heart begins to pound in my chest, my hands clammy, my mind racing. I look her in the eyes. Greenish blue and beautiful, but today they aren’t sparkling with life like they usually do.
“She’s in ICU. She just got out of surgery…” The tears were now streaming down her face. She no longer could hold them back, trying to be strong for me. I moved across the bed so I was face to face with her. I threw my arms around her neck and hugged her with all my might, trying to comfort my mother, that has always been there for me.
“Mom it’s okay. I know she’ll get through this. She’s stubborn and determined just like us. She’ll make it.” I tried to make my voice stop shaking but I could not control it. I prayed she would make it but I had no idea if she would…I didn’t know how bad it was. “Why did she have to go into surgery? What was wrong?” I pulled away from our embrace and looked her right in the eyes, trying to make her look at me, but she wouldn’t.
“Once the paramedics arrived they tried to get her out of the car, but the car was destroyed. They had to use the Jaws of Life to get her out. It took a while and there was swelling and bleeding in her brain…they immediately went into surgery.” Her voice was low and quiet, stuttering over her words. I tried to hide
my emotions but I couldn’t help but gasp and cover my mouth with my hand. The reality had hit me like freight train. My stomach was twisting into knots, my eyes pouring over with salty tears, my face hot from trying to keep composure. There was nothing I could do, and I hated that.
“I almost peed my pants!” Alex yelled as we walked to the car. We both burst into laughter. Linking arms and strutting across the street. The night air was cool but refreshing. The moon lit up the night sky, peaceful and serene. Once we reached the car we both climbed inside and turned on the heat. Glinda started up with a shake but then the engine geared up as we backed out of the parking spot. Hysterically laughing and reenacting Dane Cook as we drove home.
“That was the best show I’ve ever been to. Thank you Tori. You really didn’t have to do that. I would have been content with hanging out on the couch watching movies and talking.”
“I know but it’s your twenty-first birthday! We had to do something fun and exciting! Plus, you always give me amazing presents and I wanted to finally repay you.” She turned onto the highway ramp, checking both ways before speeding up to catch up to the flow of cars ahead.
“Well thank you. I had a blasty blast.” She beamed at me and we both cracked up again.
“Ahh don’t make me laugh my stomach hurts. I can’t take anymore.” I said, trying to laugh, breathe, and talk all the same time. After a few more fits of laughter we settled down and turned on the radio. It was 12:30am and we were both exhausted. The hum of the car, the heat, and the quiet music in the background made me sleepy. I put my head back against the seat.
“Aww is wittle Torwe tired?” Asked Alex as she patted my head. I opened one eye, glanced at her and gave her a half smile. Driving along the high way, a steady pace of 70mph. Glinda shaking a little from the wind outside. We exited the highway and proceeded through the town of Auburn, headed home to our house in Chester. It seemed like it happened in slow motion but in reality it happened in a matter of minutes. We turned a sharp corner, and were met with headlights and a truck smashing into the front of our car. Usually people say their life flashes before there eyes before they die, but that didn’t happen to me. Instead I looked at Alex and held on to her. All I remember is the car spinning around and sliding across the smooth pavement on its side. Screaming the whole time, until all I saw was darkness.
The nurses came into my room to check on me, asking me questions, asking if there was anything they could do. I was numb. I didn’t remember how to talk, form words. Instead I sat motionless, staring into the hallway where the doctors, still in their scrubs from Alex’s surgery, talked to my parents. I didn’t know exactly what they were telling my parents but I figured it was not the news my parents wanted to hear. My mother collapsed into my father’s arms, crying hysterically. My dad griping onto my mother, began to cry. The doctors tried to comfort my parents, touching my mother’s back and saying “I’m so sorry for your loss.” As my parents stood in the hallway, hugging each other and crying, I sat in my bed, alone, and shocked. The nurses brought my parents inside my room, because other people were staring. I didn’t know how to react, it felt like a dream and in a few seconds I’d wake up and Alex would be sitting at the kitchen table in her glasses and sweatpants, reading and eating breakfast. I climbed out of bed, pulled out my IVs and ran to the door. I flung it open and sprinted down the halls, searching for the two doctors that finished my sister’s surgery, and brought the terrible news with them. My eyes darting from one person to the next, searching people faces, trying to find them. I saw them, out of the corner of my eye, walking through a pair of double doors. I raced towards them. Once I reached the doors they just disappeared. A doctor coming out crashed into me.
“Woahh, slow down.”
“Excuse me…I need to talk to those two doctors that just…” Then it hit me, looking at his face. It was the same doctor that was in my room this morning. The one I yelled at. His brown hair, wavy and messy. His blue eyes searching my face for the words that I never said. Waiting he was holding on to my arms. I ripped them away and backed up.
“Are you okay? Tori right?” He asked. I looked at his lab coat, it said Dr. Michaels.
“I’m fine. I need to talk to those doctors that just went through these doors. They made a huge mistake and I need to tell them that.” I said, my tone cold, harsh. He turned his head and looked past the double doors.
“Technically you aren’t allowed back there but if you want I can give them your message.” He looked confused but hid it with concern.
“No. I need to tell them. I want to see their face when I tell them they told the wrong family…they told the wrong family they lost a loved one. My sister actually, but they’re wrong because she’s strong and determined and too good for death.” Dr. Michaels was staring at me, his eyes changed, sad.
“Tori, they didn’t make a mistake. They did everything they could. I was in the pit watching, they did every possible thing to keep your sister here, but her internal bleeding and swelling in her brain was getting worse. I’m so sorry.” He
stepped closer to me, reaching out with his hand to touch my arm. I stepped back, angry, confused. My heart began to beat ten times faster. The room was spinning. I staggered backwards. I knew I was going to pass out. Dr. Michaels lunged towards me and caught me before I smashed into the cement floor. I felt nauseous and weak. He yelled for a wheelchair as he sat me on the ground, against the wall.
“Tori, can you hear me?” He asked. I looked at his face once more before I threw up. “I need some paper towels and a cold cloth. It’s okay, I got you.”
After I threw up all the water that was pumped into my body, he brought me back to my room in a wheelchair. My parents were huddled together, crying. He picked me up and put me into my bed again. He pulled up the covers and started a new IV in my arm. After he was done, he walked over to my parents. “Mr. and Mrs. Bacheller? I’m doctor Michaels. I was working with your daughters today. I just wanted to say that I’m very sorry for your loss, I wish there was something I could do. Anything you need please just let me know.” My parents didn’t even look up.
“Dr. Michaels?” I asked. He turned back to me and came and sat on the edge of my bed. “When can I go home?”
“It depends. If you’re vital signs are better by tonight, you can probably go home tomorrow. But you still have a few cuts that aren’t looking so good. I’ll tell you what. If you let me look at your cuts and eat something, I can try and see if you can go home tonight.” I must have been crying because he handed me a tissue and started rubbing my arm.
“I just want her to come back. It’s my fault…I took her out for her birthday. She was tired but said she would go out. I killed my sister…I…” I couldn’t finish my sentence because I was crying too hard to form any more words.
“Tori, look at me. It is not, in any way shape or form, your fault. You were hit by a drunk driver, he was out of control. It’s his fault. He’s the idiot that got behind the wheel when he was drunk. He’s the one to blame. It is not your fault.” For the first time, I let everything out. I cried until, there were no more tears.
Once I got home from the hospital there were visitors constantly at my house. Friends, family, neighbors, dance girls, everyone we have ever met. Food and flowers filled our house. It was like living in a nightmare. Every time I began to think about something else, the doorbell would ring and all the worries, thoughts, nightmares would come back. Most days I laid in my bed, staring blindly at the ceiling, waiting for Alex to fall through the clouds and land in my arms again. I didn’t eat, I couldn’t eat. I rarely showered, because that meant I had to go upstairs where her room was, and I wasn’t ready for that yet.
Days passed and all I thought about was putting an end to all of this. I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore. I could end all of it here and now. There were so many ways to do it, but I never did. It didn’t matter to me how I died, as long as I could see my sister. As long as I could lay next to her, laugh with her. I missed her more and more everyday. It never went away, that guilt. The guilt that ate away at me, the guilt that I lived and she didn’t. If I could go back to that night. Switch places with her, I would, in a second. She means more to me than anyone. She comes first, even before myself. She was the only person I confided in, the only person that brightened my day. Without her, I didn’t want to live anymore. At night I would dream about her. All the memories we shared. I would wake with sweat dripping down my face, calling out her name. There was nothing I could do to bring her back, nothing I could say to take away the pain. Useless, angry, and depressed were the only words in my vocabulary. Each day was a battle, to focus and stay strong. Even though my desire to be here on earth was no longer there, something told me Alex wouldn’t want that. I came close to actually making it happen, but her presence, her smile, her laugh always brought me back, like she was there with me. I began going to see a therapist, trying to make this nightmare go away. Trying to regain back my will to live.
A few weeks into therapy I began talking. Afraid to let someone see the vulnerable side to me, scared of what they would think. After I told Kathy, my therapist, all my deep dark secrets, all the thoughts swirling around in my head, she looked at me with her hazel eyes and I felt like she really understood. “Your parents could not go through losing another child Tori. They have barely begun climbing the steps toward healing and recovery” she said as she moved in her chair, switching legs. After she said that I began to realize that if I committed suicide it wouldn’t bring Alex back, it wouldn’t make the situation any better. In fact, it would make it worse. She was right, my mom just recently started talking, showering, and eating; acting like a human being. My dad was never home before, always out going for walks, or taking long drives, started spending more time comforting me and my mom. Things were starting to look up and I couldn’t ruin all the progress they’ve made by being selfish and taking my own life.
Once I got home from my therapy appointment I ascended the stairs towards Alex’s room. I opened the white wooden door, and stepped inside. I looked at the light purple walls, small twin size bed covered in a white quilt, all the dance posters hanging from her walls. Photo’s covering her bookshelves and bureau, books piled in the bookcase and excess piled on the floor. It smelt like her, it reminded me of everything she was, everything she brought to my life. It was over
whelming but after a few minutes I took a few steps into the room. I opened her closet doors and saw all the clothes hanging, color sorted, in a row. Boots and shoes placed neatly on the floor, sweaters and sweatshirts folded with care on the shelves. I touched the pure white quilt and laid down, breathing in her scent. I curled into a ball, pushing my face against the quilt. Breathing deeply. “Are you alright?” I jumped and sat up. It was my mom standing in the doorway. A long baggy sweater, dance pants, and wool socks covered he petite body. Her blond hair wavy and crimped from sleep. She was pale and tired, but she looked better than she had in days. I crawled off the bed and walked over to her side. I put my arms around her and hugged her close.
“I will be.” I whispered in her ear. I took another look around. This was where she used to sleep, this was where I used to come when I was scared. My heart ached, missing her more than I have in months. As I turned to shut the door I felt something brush against my hand. I looked down but nothing was there. I suddenly felt her presence next to me. I smiled knowing that even though she wasn’t here physically, she was with me in spirit. I shut off the light, but I kept the door open because I knew I’d be back to visit her. Healing had just begun.