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As she slowly came to the realization that she was on the ground, in the street, Jena faced her own sheer terror. She saw cars slowing to look at her, she saw her own truck steaming, charred, and almost smashed beyond recognition, and last, she saw and met the green eyes of a boy laying next to her, seemingly in the same situation that she was.
It was puzzling trying to remember how she had gotten there, on the ground; the last thing she could recall was whizzing through the summer streets, windows down and hair whipping in her face as she drove through the city. She decided not to think of it any longer; it was making her head hurt. Jena turned her face to the side, so her cheek touched the asphalt. A red ring encircled her head. She was resting in a puddle of her own blood.
She heard the boy next to her choke out, “Are you…okay?” His head slid over and his eyes closed, and Jena was yet again embraced by her own black darkness.
When she awoke at the hospital later that day, Jena was told she had had a head-on collision in her pick-up truck with another car. The nineteen year old driver was reaching down to grab a cigarette he’d dropped, and he sped into her lane.
“Is he okay…?” she asked tentatively, realizing it was his green eyes she had met while lying in the road.
“He is in very critical condition. We’ve been working on him for the past four hours; he has major injuries and third-degree burns on the entire backside of his body.” The doctor held a grim expression.
Jena was confused. She didn’t remember talk of a fire, but how else would he have gotten burned so badly?
The doctor read the puzzled look on her face, “When you hit each other, the front end of your truck caught fire. Chris saw that you were unconscious and that your car was burning, and though he was nearly unconscious himself with the pain, he ran over to your car and helped you out of the driver’s side. He was successful in moving you, but the car exploded just as he got you away, burning his entire back and knocking him to the ground. How he was able to move himself to help you is beyond me. He must be a strong boy.”
Jena thought about this for a little while. “Why don’t I have burns then? I was lying right next to him, wasn’t I?”
“You do have burns,” the doctor replied. “They’re just so minor and few, you don’t notice them. Fortunately, Chris blocked most of the fire with his own body.” Jena grimaced. “Your worst injuries are your broken bones and concussion. Other than that, I’d say you made it out pretty well.”
Jena felt guilt fill her body. It swept through her like her own blood. If he, Chris, hadn’t tried to help her out of her truck, he’d be just fine. But now, because of her, he may not live. She felt justice prevail over all else. She had to make things right with this boy.
“Where is he? Chris, I mean. Can I see him?” asked Jena eagerly. Half of her wanted to see him, and thank him at the very least, but the other half, her selfish half, didn’t want to witness the damage she had caused.
“I believe he recently was transferred into the Intensive Care Unit. Stay here, and I’ll find out if they’re done working on him. If they are, you might be able to go and see him.”
She agreed. Where could she go, anyway? She was in a wheelchair, one arm broken, and she definitely didn’t know her way around this place. It smelled like old soup and lemon floor cleaner.
Jena absently wondered what it would mean if they were, in fact “done working on him”. She figured and hoped that it meant he didn’t need their help anymore. That he was going to be okay. But there was also the other possibility… She forced it out of her mind. It made the guilty feeling come back.
A nurse came in with two paper cups. One held three large, brightly colored pills. The other contained water. Was she supposed to take these?
The nurse held the cups out to Jena.
“Oxycontin,”the nurse stated. She didn’t budge.
“Pain meds,” the nurse offered impatiently. She stretched her arms out toward Jena even farther, obviously a sign for her to take them. She sighed and gave in, and took the pills as the nurse shuffled out in a hurry.
Seemingly hours later, the doctor entered Jena’s room again, accompanied by a man wearing a hospital uniform.
“Chris is in extremely critical condition,” the doctor started, “but you can see him, as long as that’s all you do. You can’t speak to him, because it could get him worked up, and his heart is unstable right now.”
“Okay,” Jena whispered. The guilt was filling her again, and it was making Jena’s insides hurt. She held her torso tightly with her free arm, and squeezed her eyes shut.
The man who came in with the doctor wheeled her out of her room slowly.
“This is Tony, the doctor explained. “He’s going to help you around the hospital while you’re a guest here.” The doctor glanced down and was alarmed by Jena’s expression. “Would you like some more pain medication?” he carefully asked her.
Jena opened her eyes and nodded solemnly.
They stopped at the front desk for Jena to get her pills, and then they went to go see Chris.
Jena noticed that the pills not only stopped her physical pain, but also her emotions. They made her numb, the only things that could cut off the strong guilt and confusion she felt.
They were approaching the room, she knew. There were three doctors around the doorway, and nurses rushing around. She saw two people off to the side, crying and hugging. His parents. The piercing green shade of the woman’s eyes gave that away.
She reached the window, and the pills were no longer enough. Jena burst into tears. What had she done to this boy’s life?
“Oh boy,” the doctor said, “his heart rate must have dropped since I last checked in. Maybe we’ll visit again later, Jena. I wasn’t expecting this.”
“No,” Jena said through salty tears, “it’s okay. I’ve already seen it now, anyway. No use in leaving.”
“Well if you’re sure…” Tony started.
“I am,” she snapped back.
Chris’ face was bloodied beyond recognition. His body was bleeding in various places, soaking through his bandages. His shirt wasn’t on, and his jeans were ripped almost completely off, exposing the deep bruises darkening his skin.
The doctors were at work, using electrical currents to force his body back to life. The heart rate monitor was inactive; the entire time she had been there she had only heard it beep twice.
This was not what she had imagined. She knew it would be bad, but she hadn’t prepared herself to see this poor boy dying. The doctor she had spoken to had not let on that his condition was this out of hand. He made it sound as if everything was under control. Jena couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
They were sending electrical shocks into Chris, one after another. How many could one person take? One of the doctors walked out of the operating room, a bleak and hesitant look on his tired face. He stood for a moment next to the door, then beckoned Chris’ parents over with one hand.
As they approached , he cleared his throat nervously. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible; Jena had to strain to hear it at all.
“Chris doesn’t seem to be responding to our medicine or the electrical currents,” he started as his mother let out a moan. Jena could guess what was coming. “Unfortunately, our next try will be the last effort to revive him. If this doesn’t work, then there is nothing else we can do for him.”
He turned and walked away, unable to look at them any longer. The mother burst into hysterics.
“My Chris!” she sobbed into her husband’s shoulder. “Chris…!”
The doctors sent the last current through Chris’ body, and there was silence as everyone waited. Though his body had jolted, the monitor remained quiet.
The mother screamed, fire in her eyes, as the doctors tried pulling her away. She pushed and shoved as she struggled to reach her boy. His father looked distant as silent tears rolled down his face. He was far away.
“Ma’am,” Chris’ doctor said as he walked out of the sullen room. “Ma’am, we did everything we could have.” He said it as gently as possible, while still trying to hold the woman back. She hit and kicked at him, yelling and crying all the while.
“My son… You can’t give up on my son!” Security came through the halls and pushed Jena aside, as they seized the woman and pulled her away. She now posed a threat. She dropped to the floor, crying, repeating, “My son, my son.”
As she passed Jena, she looked up at her, and their eyes met, the same eyes from the street.
Jena had to look away.