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Just Get Me Back Alive
Last day of Christmas break, and my entire family is jammed in our pickup, on the way to the store for something silly, irrelevant, something I can't even remember.
It's nighttime, and the road is slick. I'm not worried; my father is an excellent driver.
I'm lost in thought about what I'm going to say and do tomorrow at school. I haven't seen anyone in fifteen days...not that I care about anyone that much except for the one person...
I wonder if he'll notice me. Hopefully our magnetism hasn't disappeared over the longest two weeks of my life.
The back end of the pickup slips. I'm still not worried. I know it will stop. It dosen't. My dad jerks the wheel, trying to compensate for the fishtailing rear end. I feel a jolt. We've hit something, but I don't know what. I'm terrified. All I can think is, 'I'm going to die. I'm going to die. Oh, God. Help. I wonder if it will hurt. I'll never see him again. He'll never know I like him.'
We're still careening down the hill. We almost go into a ditch. The car threatens to roll, and we're saved by another loud crash; must have hit something else. I can't see. I have tunnel vision. I can't hear. My blood is roaring in my ears. Hot daggers are stabbing into my icy body...or is it the other way around? I can't breathe. I think of him, desperately hoping to live as the car slides and falls at the same time. I remember the last time I saw him....
Leaving school in the front seat of my parents' other car, I see a figure in a white hoodie and blue jeans. I recognize him by his blond hair and the bandanna he keeps tied onto his backpack. As we pass him, his face lights up, and he smiles at me, his brown eyes locking on mine. Blushing, I smile back...
The car slams into a post, and we spin to face up the hill, now sliding backwards, spinning again, now sideways, finally forwards again. Poor oncoming drivers. They're probably more scared than I am.
My siblings are screaming. I want to yell at them to shut up. My mom's eyes are shut, and her hand is clamped on the door handle. My dad is frowning in extreme concentration, trying not to hit the oncoming drivers while keeping the car on the road.
I find that I'm mouthing the word 'please'. Over and over and over, my hands clamped together in my lap, praying that the sliding will stop.
I have to live. I WILL live. For him. I can't die. I WON'T die. Because of him.
Shaggy blond hair, brown eyes, deep voice, sweet smile. That's why I have to stay alive.
The car comes to a halt.
My dad puts it into four-wheel-drive and we continue driving with perfect traction, like nothing ever happened.
But it did. I'm crying noiselessly, overwhelmed with fear and adrenaline and relief and love.
I'm going to live. I'm going to see him. It'll be okay.
The tears keep falling. I realize my mascara is ruined, but I can't stop.
Trying to breathe, I wipe under my eyes. We're at the store to buy Christmas lights, of all things.
I pass a mirror. My eyes aren't as messy as I had feared they were. Trailing behind my family, headphones blaring, I'm looking around, feeling like I could hug every person in this store, and then someone walks around the corner.
Blond hair. Brown eyes. Sweet smile.
I'd know that slightly swaggering walk anywhere.
He smiles, and I feel a smile crack my tear-stained face in return. We don't speak as we pass by one another. Shyness, I suppose.
In the car on the way home, I keep replaying that moment in my head, and all I'm thinking as we make our way up the death trap known as a hill is, 'Just get me back alive. For him. For us. Get me home alive.'