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“A Single Moment of Sincerity”
Driving home from Indiana on that dark rainy night was not the best idea Sami had ever had. It was even worse because her emotions were running wild, tears blurred her vision, and the alcohol made everything hazy. She should have waited until she was sober and her thoughts were rational; she could have easily stayed the night. But nothing was going to stop her after what she saw. She needed to get away immediately. The whole thing was spontaneous and random and a huge mistake. Why hadn’t she called first? Regret was pulsing through her veins. If she’d only called first, everything would be better. But then she wouldn’t know the truth.
Memories raced in and out of her mind. The past four years would have been drastically different if she hadn’t known Connor. They had met at a concert when she was in seventh grade, and maintained their relationship through her junior, and his senior year. He was her best friend, even though they lived seven hours apart, with her hometown in Tennessee and his in Indy. Despite the distance, he was everything to her. They’d spent countless hours driving back and forth just to be together for short periods of time. He was worth every second of the trip. Now it seemed to all be ending. Sami thought about the time they stayed out all night by the lake, when she first fell in love with him. He put his arm around her and said, “Sami, you’re the only girl I’ve ever--”
BAM! Sam’s head crashed against the wheel as the cars made impact. The noise deafened her ears. She tasted blood in her mouth. All her senses came into focus and her zombie-like state instantly snapped into alert. Somehow she maintained consciousness as her car flipped over and over. It felt like she was suspended in time for hours, but it was over in seconds. And then the darkness came.
The first thing Sami observed was a loud beeping noise that seemed to keep time with her throbbing headache. The pain came in sharp waves as each throb returned to its dull state only for a second. She tried opening her eyes, but immediately clamped them shut as the bright light poured in with more pain. She then tried moving her hand to her face, but a force quickly pushed it down and a new rush of fluids entered through her arm. Seconds later she slipped back into her coma, but it wasn’t peaceful like before; this time images flashed through her brain and all of a sudden she was in a new reality.
It was summer and the heat of the sun embraced her body. She looked to her left and saw a boy with a familiar face, but she couldn’t place him. They laughed together, and she recognized the way he made her feel.
“It’s funny, the kinds of things you don’t know about someone who you don’t live near. I could tell you all of your deepest secrets and fears, but I had no idea your favorite flavor of ice cream was strawberry,” said the boy.
And then she looked down and there was an ice cream cone in her hand. She took a bite and the sweet cream filled her dry mouth. They started walking along, and the boy took her hand. The strength of her happiness was overwhelming. Her feelings changed when the wind got colder. Dark clouds came and it started raining. They were at the ocean and the tide was rapidly getting higher, lightning illuminating the dark sky. The wind was blowing so fast and loud that they had to shout to hear each other.
“Connor!” she screamed, remembering his name. “Connor, don’t leave me! I’m right here. I need you.”
“What!?” he yelled in reply. “I can’t hear you! It’s too loud. You’re too far away!” They were drifting farther and farther apart.
“I said don’t leave me! Connor, you‘re the only one I have! Come back!” she cried desperately.
“I don’t know you,” he shouted, confused. “You’re not really there.”
And then he was gone.
Sami opened her eyes, flailing around, crying. She was lying in a bed in a white gown and there were ghosts rushing towards her. They had on similar white clothes, and Sami realized she was a ghost too, and she was dead. Then the colors changed to bright neon magenta and yellow and blue, and everything was violently shaking. A ghost attacked her, and despite her efforts to resist, he stuck a needle in her arm. Once again her senses collapsed into a black abyss.
Rain pounded on the windshield and metalcore music blasted through the speakers. The driver thrashed his head violently to the screaming, letting the music take his anger away. But it couldn’t absolve his thoughts about Sami. She never did approve of his taste in hard metal, anyway, he thought, smiling to himself. Even the My Chemical Romance concert where they met was too soft for him. Though their tastes differed, their love of music and passion in playing guitar connected them deeply in ways they didn’t understand. He pictured her face, remembering how pretty she was, and how much comfort it brought him to see her. Then her face changed; her beautiful eyes became cold and sharp, piercing his soul. The color drained out of her skin. She stared at him for an eternity, taking in the scene so she would never forget. Then she turned and ran, and in an instant she was gone.
What the hell was wrong with her? Who just jumps in their car and drives for seven hours to see someone without warning them first? She could have at least given him a chance to explain before taking off. The anger rushed back into him. He shouldn’t have followed her. Involuntary he’d run right after her and gotten in his car, not about to let her go. He’d been driving for an hour and she still hadn’t answered any of his calls. So he kept driving, determined to make it up to her.
But after a while his mind wandered to Mallory, who he’d left half dressed in his bed to chase after another girl. He hadn’t even considered Mallory's feelings until that moment, and then his guilt became unbearable. He started thinking about turning around. Sami was important to him, but she wasn’t there. She wasn’t real. She was just a girl from far away who understood his views on life and was there to vent to when his problems became too much. Seeing her three or four times a year was amazing, but it wasn’t enough. Afterward it only felt like a dream. Mallory was physically there for him every day. It would be so much easier to love her, so why couldn’t he?
Connor started looking for exits. He passed several, but each time he imagined Sami’s face and couldn’t do it. He promised himself each time he would give her five more minutes to call back. When he finally decided he was ready, the traffic hit. At first it was just a minor annoyance until he realized the extent of the traffic jam. At the top of a hill, he could see the backup for miles down the highway. He swore under his breath several times, furious that he didn’t have the guts to bail out before. Now it was impossible. He turned up his music even louder and closed his eyes, trying to forget the evening. He couldn’t, however, drown out the depressing pounding of the rain.
The bumper to bumper traffic had lasted for almost an hour, but Connor still couldn't make himself get off at an exit and turn around. Now the only thing on his mind was getting to Sam, and then everything would make sense. Finally he started to see the flashing lights of a police car ahead; the accident was getting closer. After a torturous hour of only himself and the destructive thoughts in his mind, Connor reached the site of the crash where the traffic started clearing up. It was by far the worst car accident he’d ever seen. It looked like four of five cars had been involved, one of them upside down in a mangled heap of wreckage, half of it scorched to a deep black color. The grass all around the cars was black and had turned to ashes. There were police cars and ambulances everywhere, along with a fire truck. He stared numbly at the mess, subconsciously going through the crash in his head, flipping over in his car and ending in a warm dark place where at last he could find peace.
Instantly he snapped back into reality when something about the flipped car caught his attention. It was the license plate, half melted, reading L8TRS8TR. His heart skipped a beat as he blurted out, “Sami!” Dread filled his heart as he put all the pieces together. He’d noticed she had taken the Vodka from his counter on the way out, so she must have been really drunk while she was driving. The rain couldn’t have helped either. Tears fell from his eyes as he frantically tried to pull over and get to the wreck. He honked furiously and pushed his way through, but a policeman stopped him. Connor rolled down the window and started yelling nonsense.
Somehow he got the point across that he knew the girl in the crash, and needed to know if she was alive. The policeman told him that the girl had survived, and Connor bursted with tears of joy. However he refused to disclose any information since Connor wasn’t her immediate family. He couldn’t even know what hospital she’d been transported too, although he was told that she was rushed by helicopter. Connor filled with rage, demanding to know where Sami was, until he finally broke down sobbing.
“You don’t understand, I love her!” he cried.
The policeman sighed with pity and said, “The nearest hospital is Bethesda North. That’s where she is.”
Connor thanked him and even got a police escort to the hospital. He parked and rushed in, his heart pounding. He ran through the ICU, checking every room. Finally a security guard grabbed him and forced him to calm down.
“You can go to the front desk and ask for the person you’re looking for. Otherwise I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
So he did. The receptionist told him the room number, and he sprinted there. The room, however, was being guarded by a nurse who told him that Sami was unstable and couldn’t take any visitors at the moment.
“Is she going to be okay?” Connor pleaded.
The nurse had a tired, doubtful look in her eyes. “Right now we are doing everything we can to save her, but she is suffering from extensive head trauma and has lost a lot of blood.”
Connor paced around the hallway, praying to a God he didn’t believe in. He got down on his knees, in public, and asked for forgiveness, promising God to believe forever if Sami could just be saved. This was a breaking moment in his life. It went against everything he stood for. But he was desperate for any small chance to be with her again.
He waited for hours. Eventually Sami’s parents arrived, both of them a mess. The nurse took them aside and had them sign documents to allow for additional surgeries. They faintly acknowledged Connor and sat down, crying, in the waiting area. Connor eventually got kicked out of the waiting room when visiting hours were up, and spent the night sleeping in his car, dreaming of Sami's ghost.
Two days had passed when Sami finally woke up from her coma, with no memory of the accident. A doctor came in and spoke with her, telling her about the car crash. Flashbacks started coming, first blurry and uncertain, but becoming more clear as time went on. She learned that she had been driving under the influence and caused a crash that involved five cars and seven people, though she had been injured the most. She was told that she had major head trauma, including a concussion, broken ribs, and internal bleeding. She was told about the surgeries that she underwent and the medication she was on. She almost hadn't survived. Eventually she was allowed to see her family. The reunion was intense and emotional, making her realize just how much it had hurt those who loved her. Afterward she slept on and on through the night and most of the next day.
When Sami finally awoke, the first thing she saw was Connor's face. He was asleep in the chair next to her bed. Seeing him immediately relaxed her and cleared away all her stress. But then memories of that night started coming back to her, and hurt filled her heart. His arm was outstretched, his fingers interlaced with hers. She gave a gently squeeze to wake him. He squeezed back and opened his eyes.
“Sam, baby. You scared me so bad.” He suddenly got up and leaned over to embrace her. As they hugged she felt him shaking. When he pulled away, tears covered his face. “You can't do that to me. I thought I lost you. I'm so sorry. This is all my fault.”
Sami was crying too. “No it's not. I shouldn't have come in the first place. I was so stupid and wrong to think—to think that...” she broke down into more sobs.
Connor stroked her face and wiped her tears. “To think what?”
“...that you loved me.”
He looked into her eyes for a long time, wondering how she couldn't know. How he hadn't realized sooner. Maybe it was because he'd never been so close to losing her. But now it was very clear.
“There is no one I could possibly love more than you, Sam. I'm sorry it took me this long to figure it out. But you were right all along.”
He took her bandaged and bruised tear-stained face in his hands and kissed her. Then she knew it was true.
Sami reached a full recovery after six months of physical therapy and medications. Her license was revoked, and she had to go to group therapy sessions about alcohol abuse. Since she couldn't drive, she had to rely on visits from Connor in order to see him. Somehow this was not detrimental to their relationship; in fact they grew closer than ever before. He was no longer distracted by other girls, like Mallory, who had moved on by the time Connor came home from the hospital. His plan with Sami was to just stick it out long-distance style for the time being. They were worth it to each other. Plus, there was only two more years until Sami graduated and they could move to New York together. And so together, they lived on.