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In life we face the constant struggle of deciding our future. Every “yes”, every “no”, and every “maybe”, changes the life we live. Sometimes we make a decision not knowing what will happen next. We don’t know if it was the wrong one until it’s too late. If you’re lucky, it won’t be too late and you can fix the future but that’s not usually the case...
Emma flew down the highway. One hand on the wheel of her parents’ car. The other clutching her new license. She was driving, alone down an empty road. She didn’t spare a second of thought to the five tests she had the next day or her friends fighting. Her brain was filled, simply, with pure joy. Rolling down the windows she gave out a happy scream. The wind rushed into the car carrying the warm smell of summer. Her hair blew aggressively in the wind whipping her in the face. But it didn’t matter to her because she was growing up. The same time the following year she would have been driving down the same highway to college, driving to her future, had it not been for the decision she made next.
She reached into her school bag lying in the passenger seat beside her. She rummaged around searching for the familiar hard case of her phone. Pulling it out, she held it directly in front her glancing up at the road in front of her in between each number of her passcode. Opening snapchat she angled her phone to take the perfect picture to document the moment and the emotions that accompanied it. She snapped the first picture. Disappointed with the angle of the sunlight, she x-ed it out and switched the phone into her other hand. Taking another picture, she was not pleased with her hair in the picture and deleted it. She placed the phone in her lap and attempted to coordinate her hair in the wind. She picked up the phone again and this time got the picture she was hoping for.
Once again holding the phone above the wheel, she balanced her wrists on the top of the wheel and used her fingers to swipe to find the right filter. She debated whether or not to put her speed but decided against it because it would cover her smile. She glanced up again, but this time she didn’t see an open road. She didn’t see the two yellow lines to the left of her car. She didn’t see the horizon of trees in sky ahead. Instead, she saw the front of a red minivan; she heard the horn blaring and a look of horror frozen on the driver’s face. There was no time to swerve, slow down, or stop. It happened in a split second. The cars collided.
Emma lifted her head off the steering wheel. Her head was throbbing and warm blood trickled down the side of her face. Looking in the shattered mirror she could see that the side of her forehead was cut from the glass of her windshield. She kicked around the glass at her feet digging out her phone. With the screen shattered from the collision, she prayed that her phone would still work. She dialed 911 and stepped out of the car. She stepped around the shattered glass of both her car and the red minivan she had hit. The lady in the driver’s seat of the van appeared to be unconscious. That’s when Emma heard the crying. She walked over to the van looking for the source of the sound. In the middle seat of the van sat a young girl of six or seven clutching the sides of her booster seat. Her small delicate face was consumed by fear.
“Kate! Kate! Are you ok?” The lady driving had clearly woken up.
“I’m okay Mom,” the young girl replied. At this, the lady got out, walked around the car, and carried her to the side of the road.
“I...I” Emma’s voice shook unable to make out words. “I called the police. They’re on their way”
“Good.” The lady replied without glancing away from Kate. She stood on the side of the road clutching her daughter turning her around to make sure she wasn’t hurt while she was bleeding herself from the gashes on her arm.
Emma sat on the side of the road beside the mother and her daughter. Cars drove by slowing down to observe the wreckage and occasionally offering useless assistance. A short while later, the first patrol car arrived with its sirens ringing in the silence. The officer took an initial accident report attempting to understand what had happened. The mom, who Emma learned was named Jennifer, described her view, calmly explaining how Emma had drifted out of her lane and crashed into her before she could swerve out of the way. Emma, still in shock, tried to explain what had happened but was unable to because she didn’t know herself. An ambulance arrived and an EMT told Emma she would need to go the hospital to get stitches for the gash on her head. Emma listened intently to what he said to Jennifer and her daughter. From what she heard they would also be taken to the hospital for Jennifer to get stitches and Kate a quick check up to make sure there were no other injuries.
Emma climbed into the back of an ambulance and Kate followed her mom into the other. On the way to the hospital, Emma was informed that her car was sent to an autoshop and her parents were called and were on their way to the hospital, since she was a minor. Emma was helped down from the ambulance and was set up on a bed in the emergency room. Her parents rushed towards her frantically asking what had happened. Emma just stared straight ahead with glazed eyes.
“It’s my fault.” Emma murmured. Her parents stopped their frantic questioning. “It’s my fault,” she repeated.
“What do you mean it’s your fault?” questioned her mother.
“I did this.” Emma burst into tears. Her dad pulled her close to his chest.
“Honey, don’t worry. No one was seriously hurt. You’re okay and so is the other family. Everything is okay,” reassured her dad.
“No. No!” Emma yelled pushing her dad away. “You don’t understand! I was on my phone. I..I..” Emma continued to sob causing her to stutter her confession in between breaths. “I was taking a picture on my phone. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to!”
“Shhh. Emma quiet down. Nobody knows you were on your phone and they don’t have to. It was an accident.” Emma’s mom frantically said silencing Emma. “Let’s just wait for the doctor then we’ll go home and..”
She was interrupted by a mass of doctors and nurses pushing a gurney through the emergency room. They sprinted down the hallway and pushed away those standing in their way.
“Clear the way!”
“Prep an OR!”
“Get 2 liters of O Negative. Stat!” As the nurses shifted to do as the doctor commanded, the small body of a young girl was revealed. Her small delicate face blank and unconscious. Kate’s mother stood a step back reaching for her daughter. A nurse held her back from holding her daughter. Emma froze in horror. Kate was supposed to be fine. She was walking around and hugging her mother just a moment before. But as the doctor explained to Jennifer, Kate had internal bleeding from a traumatic blow during the accident and had not felt the pain from the shock. She would need major surgery to stop the bleeding. At this, Kate’s body was pushed into the elevator. The doors slid closed and a carried her up to the surgical floor.
Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø
“It’s time for the meeting with your lawyer.” Emma sat up on the edge of her bunk. The warden yelled for her cell to be opened. It had been a year since the accident. And a year since her last trial when she was convicted as an adult for the manslaughter of Kate Johnson, a six year old from a simple home. Emma had spent the year in prison serving her sentence and keeping her head down but every night she thought back to that life changing day. The day she thought that taking the perfect selfie was more important than keeping her eyes on the road. The day that a young mother lost her innocent daughter. And the day Emma would regret for the rest of her life.
It’s too late for Emma to make the right decision but is it too late for you?