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Driving Away This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "There's a box of Band-Aids in the back," Jen said, her voice quiet andtoo high. Her eyes did not leave the road to glance at Joe while shespoke.

"I know there's Band-Aids in the back. I packed the car,remember?" Joe let his head fall back against the headrest and closed hiseyes with a sigh. He hoped the sigh sounded sort of apologetic; he hadn't meantto snap at Jen. It wasn't her fault, of course. Jim clenched his teeth againstthe pain and with his eyes still closed he quickly thought of something to say tomake her forget what he had said a moment before.

"What happened inthere, Jen? Tell me once more. I can't remember." Jim just wanted to keepher talking. If he could listen to her, he wouldn't think about his broken armand the blood seeping through the towel she had tied around it, alarminglyquickly, making him lightheaded with nausea, making the inside of the car stinklike a dead animal.

Jen was quiet for a long time, trying to fight herfrozen panic. What happened to people being able to think clearly in anemergency? Somewhere she remembered it was important to keep the victim talking.It didn't matter what he talked about as long as he kept concentrating and didn'tslip into .... what? A coma maybe, something, some word Jen couldn't remember. Orwas it the other way around? Jen thought maybe it was. It made sense the otherway around. Anything made sense. Jen felt like she was the one with the brokenarm. She couldn't think clearly. Her thoughts kept running in circles. There wasthis incredible feeling of the whole scene being completely surreal. She keptsneaking looks at Jim out of the corner of her eye and then wishing she hadn't.His face was a dead white; his lips were blue. His eyes were dull and he keptwincing. It was the wincing she couldn't stand - that and the sight of the bloodytowel around his arm. Jen looked at him again. She felt like looking might keephim alive. She wondered, fleetingly, how close he was to death. Could you diefrom a broken arm? Maybe, if there was enough blood lost. Or maybe he had someinternal injury. Maybe he was bleeding internally or had a head injury shecouldn't see.

She glanced at him again. He seemed to have forgotten abouthis question. That was okay; Jen couldn't remember either. She was still scared,terrified, that he would die suddenly. She was reminded of the times, five or sixyears ago now, that she used to baby-sit for the neighborhood kids. She had hadthis insane fear that as soon as she sent them to bed, they would choke on ablanket or small toy and die. She was so sure of this that she would tiptoe upthe stairs seven or eight or nine times after she sent them to bed to check onthem. She would stand at the door, silent, her arms folded tight under her chin,her hands squeezed into fists. She would hold her own breath to listen fortheirs. If she heard nothing, she would move a step forward, listen, and stepforward again until she could see the tiny chest moving up and down under theblankets. Then she would tiptoe away, relieved, positive that on some level shehad literally kept the child from death. She did the same with Jim.

Shewanted to do like Pa would on "Little House on the Prarie" and splintJim's wound with a rope and a pine branch and stay with him until Lassie got backwith the doctor. No, now she was confusing two TV shows, maybe three. Her headwas starting to ache, but she didn't notice it. Jen tightened her grip on thesteering wheel and wished she could stop her palms from sweating.

"Iasked you a question, Jennifer," Jim said, his voice still full ofhostility. He wished he could stop acting so angry with her. If he could bepolite, he thought, maybe she could stop the blue and red lights from flashing infront of his eyes and give him something to ease the pain in his arm.

Ithad been a full five minutes since either of them had said anything. Jen didn'twant to answer his question. She didn't trust her voice not to break. It wasimportant, she thought, to keep the victim's spirit up. If he knew what a badaccident he had had, he might get nervous and make it worse. She had heard thatsomewhere. Maybe that meant he would start thrashing around and spew blood allover the nice interior of her Mazda. That would certainly make the car worse. Soshe was keeping silent to protect her car. That was humorous but did not causeJen to smile.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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