Julie arrives at the hospital and Nick blames himself for what happened.
“Julie?” He was afraid to touch her, having heard stories about people who would have lived if a person hadn’t moved them. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, calling the first person who came to mind.
“Hi Nick, what do you need?” Kevin’s voice floated over the phone, reaching Nick like a lifeline to a drowning man.
“Kevin, we hit a tree, and I’m okay, my arm’s a little sore, but Julie hasn’t moved yet, and I think she might be unconscious, what do I do?” Nick spoke fast and frantically, afraid every second brought Julie closer to death.
“Where are you?”
“I don’t know. We’re not far from the hotel, maybe a block or two, but we were run off the road by a drunk driver and hit a tree in the field next to the road. I don’t know what to do.”
“Just sit tight. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Nick nodded, forgetting Kevin couldn’t see him, and hung up the phone. He continued calling Julie’s name, trying to get a response. Her seat belt had been stretched tight across her small body, and it looked like it was choking her. Holding the seat belt so it didn’t snap against her and add another injury, he carefully unbuckled her. Still, she didn’t move. Unaware of how much time had passed since his phone call to Kevin, he jumped partly from fear and partly from surprise when the group appeared next to his window.
“Nick, you okay?” Brian asked. Nick nodded, his vocal chords suddenly paralyzed by emotion. “Hold on, we’ll try and open the door so you can get out. We’ve called an ambulance, and they should be here shortly.”
Nick waited while Brian and Kevin combined their strength to pry the door open, which thankfully hadn’t been too damaged in the accident. Then they each grabbed one of Nick’s arms and helped him out. He stumbled over his feet, slowly regaining his balance. Each person gave him a hug as he stepped away from the car.
Kevin looked inside the car to where Julie still sat, leaning against the broken window. He grimaced as he thought about the shards of glass that were sure to cut into her skin. Brian grabbed his arm and pulled him back, alerting him to the arrival of an ambulance. The medics checked Julie in the car, and then carefully extracted her, placing her on the stretcher waiting just outside the car. Kevin rode in the ambulance, while the others followed right behind.
The group was forced to stay in the waiting room while the doctors looked at Julie, diagnosing her condition. After what seemed like days, the doctors called the group forward and explained the situation.
“She hit her head pretty hard. We think she might have a concussion, but we won’t be sure until she wakes up.”
“She’s not awake yet?” Kevin asked, interrupting.
“No, she’s still unconscious. Her right arm was pinched between her body and the car door, cutting up the skin quite a bit and breaking the arm just below the elbow. The broken glass from the window caused several deep cuts and many smaller, inconsequential cuts, but the right side of her face received the worst of it. Our x-rays show no internal bleeding, which is very lucky considering the kind of accident she was in.”
“When can we see her?”
“The doctors are still working on her, but we’ll let you know when you can visit.”
The group returned to their seats, trying to think of anything besides Julie. Brian started a conversation with Kevin, trying to keep Kevin’s mind off of his girlfriend. Howie and AJ picked up magazines from the table in front of them, flipping through the pages without actually seeing anything there. Michelle found herself sitting next to Nick, who sat with his head in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees.
“You okay?” she asked. Nick looked up at her, with tears running down his face.
“It’s my fault,” he told her. “If I hadn’t insisted on getting snacks tonight this never would’ve happened.”
“Nick . . .”
“No, it’s true. She was already tired from the flight over and the long day, but she offered to drive me to get snacks. Then that stupid drunk driver ran us off the road. It should be me back there being fixed up and examined, not her.”
“Nick, you can’t blame yourself. None of this is your fault. From what you told us, Julie had to swerve to avoid the other car, and then lost control of your car. That could have happened to any one of us. You have to stop beating yourself up.”
Nick shook his head sadly, and then placed it in his hands again. Michelle could see his whole body shake with the sobs he kept silent. She gently started rubbing his back, hoping to ease his pain. While that continued, she leaned her head against the wall behind her and closed her eyes. Tears came, though she pushed them away. If she gave in now, they’d never stop. She didn’t want them to get in the way when she finally saw Julie.
The doctor eventually came back and led them to Julie’s room. She was still unconscious, but the doctors had done everything else for her external injuries. Kevin and Michelle went in first. Kevin lovingly stroked Julie’s hair and held her hand, calling her name and telling her to come back. Michelle took Julie’s other hand and said similar things. Brian and Howie went next, with AJ following after. Nick went last, but seemed unable to move. Michelle told him she’d go with him, and gently pulled him into the room. When he saw Julie on the bed, he started crying again. Between sobs he apologized for everything he could think of, telling her it was his fault, and saying he would do anything she wanted when she woke up. Once he finished, Michelle followed him out again. Kevin opted to stay at the hospital until she woke up, and Howie volunteered to stay too, to keep Kevin company.
Back at the hotel, everyone slowly filed into their rooms. With Kevin, Howie, and Julie missing, everyone had a room to themselves. Michelle spent a few minutes in her room before deciding she couldn’t stand the emptiness and quiet. She walked next door and knocked on Brian’s door.
“Hey,” he said upon opening the door. He stepped aside and let her in.
“Do you mind if I stay here for a little while? I can’t stand being alone in my room; it only reminds me of Julie.”
“Sure. I was just thinking the same thing, with Kevin staying at the hospital.”
The two said very little for the rest of the evening. They watched a movie on TV and ended up falling asleep together on the couch.
Early in the morning, Michelle woke up. The clock read four a.m., so she wondered why she’d woken up. Then she heard the phone ringing. She jumped off the couch and ran to the phone, ignoring Brian’s groans from being woken so rudely.
“Michelle, it’s Kevin. Julie’s awake and wants to see everyone.”
“We’ll leave right away.” She hung up and looked at Brian. “Julie’s awake. I’ll wake up Nick if you’ll get AJ.” Brian nodded and headed out the door.
Within minutes they were leaving the hotel and on their way to the hospital, yet again. They all remembered where to go, maneuvering the hallways with expertise no one wanted. Michelle walked through the door first. Kevin sat in a chair on Julie’s left, Howie next to him.
“Hey everyone,” Julie said when everyone was inside the small room.
“How are you feeling?” Michelle asked, breaking the silence.
“You must be if you can give me sarcasm.”
A conversation started, easy talk surrounding everyone in the room. They discussed possible sight seeing stops for the rest of the week, and upcoming concert locations. Everyone avoided asking the one question that loomed over all their heads: what was Julie’s condition? After an hour passed, people started trickling out for bathroom breaks or to get something to drink. Only Nick stayed. He’d been waiting for a chance to talk to Julie about what happened.
“Julie, I want to apologize about what happened.” Julie looked confused but let him continue. He took a seat next to her before he spoke again. “I feel horrible about it all. I know that if I hadn’t wanted snacks so bad you wouldn’t have agreed to take me and we wouldn’t have gotten into that car accident. I wish it were me in the hospital, not you.” He choked, and couldn’t go on.
Julie smiled, but was surprised by this open show of emotion on Nick’s part. He usually acted so goofy and silly, even immature. He sometimes pretended to be grown up, but always reverted back to the boy inside him. For him to take on this kind of responsibility was touching, however unnecessary.
“Nick, it isn’t your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the drunk driver who was on the wrong side of the road. You didn’t force me to take you for snacks, you didn’t drive the car that forced me off the road, and you certainly didn’t make me lose control of the car. Please, don’t make this your fault.” Nick looked up at her.
“No, it’s not your fault. I appreciate your apology, but you don’t have anything to apologize for. Now if we’d actually gotten the snacks and then lost them in the accident, that would be a real tragedy.” Nick smiled at her comment.
The others returned and told Julie they were going back to the hotel for some sleep, except for Kevin, but would return later that morning. Outside the room everyone waited to hear Kevin answer the question they all needed answered.
“She’s okay. She does have a concussion, but the doctors said she should be released hopefully this afternoon if everything looks normal. She’ll need a lot of rest for the first few days, and won’t be able to do a lot. As for her broken arm, they said it was a clean break and should heal nicely. They think it might be fully healed in a few months, but of course they can’t say anything more than that. You all saw the bandages covering the right half of her face. They said everything will heal in a few weeks, but there may be a little scaring.”
“But, overall, she’s fine, right?” Brian asked. Kevin nodded, and everyone else went back to the hotel to sleep.