Road Trip, Interrupted This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Holiday Inn, Room 205, 6:45 a..m. College Park, Maryland.Alarm. Shatters our sleep with musical noise. Kacey hits it viciously, and we ease our tired feet onto the floor. Soon, we gather our bursting luggage. I fold the complimentary copy of The Washington Post and bring it with me.

Elevator is out of order. Still. We take the stairs. At breakfast, we are quiet. Cranberry juice coats our throats. Untouched muffins crowd the platter.

On the bus we read the Post. Horoscopes unimpressive today. No "secret revealed" or "new love in bloom."

We ride over hills and through valleys, past creeks and past lakes.

West Virginia. Voices murmur over the sound of the movie. Seated in the last row, attempting to hand jive, Brenna giggles. Trees blur into each other outside the window. "Summer lovin' happened so fast ..."

Ms. Kearns's foghorn voice jolts those who had been lulled to sleep by the sugary Sandy voice. Morgantown - I catch a glimpse of the sign. Exit ramp. Ms. Kearns still blaring to wake up ... wake up ... we're stopping for lunch. Kacey stands, reaching for her backpack. Five, four, three, two, one ...

Crash.

Our caravan of buses collides. The back of our heads hit the seats once, twice and once more.

Kacey is thrown into the aisle, knees first, back sharply hitting the arm rest. She weeps soundlessly. I grasp Cameron's hand. A tear from her cheek drips onto mine and rolls quickly into the tangle of my hair.

The ambulances come soon after. Screeching, loud, flashing, followed by a fire truck, glinting crimson under the cloudless May sky.

I help the EMT by writing information on scraps of paper. I tuck one under Kacey's collar as an EMT sets her onto a backboard. She is lifted out the window. Down, down, down to another man's hands. I shout to Kacey that I love her, and she smiles weakly from below.

I catch my breath and climb from seat to seat until I reach the front of the bus.

On Bus 2, we sit three to a seat. We hug and hold hands. We pat backs and kiss cheeks. We wipe tears and hold ice over bruises. We wipe blood from knees and foreheads.

McDonald's. The odor of French fries clings to our sweaty, tired bodies. Ms. Kearns calls roll.

"Here."

"Here."

"Hospital."

"Hospital."

Ten of us are crammed in a booth meant for four. I look down. My hands are filled with hair that I pulled from my own scalp. I hadn't noticed.

A creaking red van transports the uninjured to the hospital. The five of us - the only ones left of our bus members - listen to the radio announce our wreck.

On the hospital lawn, tables have been set up to form a check-in center. A nurse asks if I need to be examined. I shake my head that I don't. I am sent to a small room anyway. A red-haired doctor who bears a striking resemblance to Danny Partridge shakes my hand. He asks if I am sure that am fine. I consider lying, as I did to the nurse, but instead, I describe my headache as he checks my spine.

A nurse gives me a pill, roughly as long as my thumb. I cringe, and she smiles, breaking it in half. I gag and choke it down with hospital iced tea.

Day folds into night, as the

neck-braced and weary rejoin us. We board our newly sent Greyhound.

It is 4 a.m. Allie sleeps in the aisle. Zach sleeps on my pillow, jammed against the window. I glance over, sorry I let him borrow it. I rest my head against the uncovered glass. My teeth chatter from the incessant vibration of the engine.

6 a.m.. School again.

It is raining. Ms. Kearns tells us to avoid the reporters. She loves us all, she says.

Cameras.

Flash.

Lightning.

Flash.

6:45 a.m. My bed. I am dirty, exhausted. I sleep.

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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