My eyes flutter open and I feel pain. I can’t pin point an exact location that hurts the most; everywhere hurts. I feel as if I was run over a thousand times. The only body part I can move without a shot of pain radiating throughout my entire body, is my eyes. I look around the pale room and don’t find a single thing that looks familiar to me. From the TV resting on the wall in front of me to the sunflower picture hanging to my left, I can’t recognize anything.
As I continue to survey the room, my throat suddenly feels like it’s on fire. I swallow hard, which helps a little. Staring up at the light fixture above me, I try to piece together the last place I was. The only thing I can remember is bright lights and yelling; then darkness.
I start to feel light headed as I continue to stare at the light. That’s when I feel tape just beneath my nose. Which is also when I start to hear the machines that are next to this uncomfortable bed.
I lift my arm and wince at the sharp pain that shoots up into my shoulder. For a quick second, I drop my arm to regain the ability to try and lift it again. That’s when I see a figure to my right stir in the chair. I wasn’t alone in this unfamiliar place. Then, for the first time something familiar came about, “Sutton?”
“Aaron?” I carefully roll my head to look at my brother. His brown hair looks as if he hasn’t combed it in days, his eyes are red and he looks rundown. Seeing him has things falling into a place. The question in me was burning, but I already knew the answer; an answer I wouldn’t like. “Dad…” the look in his eyes stopped me from finishing. My heart shattered into a million pieces and I somehow manage to choke out, “He’s gone isn’t he?” I turn my head back to the ceiling, fighting back tears.
He stands up from the chair next to my bed to look me in the eyes. He places his hand on the top of my head, his thumb lightly rubbing circles on my forehead. His hesitation was evident before answering, “The guys who helped you, said they tried to help him first. His side was the worst and they wanted to get him to the hospital while he was still conscious, but dad refused. He wouldn’t let them help him until they got you out. By the time two of the guys got you out and heading to the hospital, it was too late for them to help dad.” I finally look at my brother again. His usual strong facade is gone. I’ve never seen him this emotional.
I couldn’t hold back the tears now, nor did I even try to hold them in; they start flowing down my checks rapidly. Aaron tries to comfort me, but memories of that night were starting to flood into my mind. It keeps replaying in my head over and over again. I close my eyes as the events start to stream together like a movie in my head.
It was June 4th. The sun was a brilliant orange, shining bright in the sky. Summer cheerleading camp had just ended. It was more of a practice than camp, but since it’s the summer we’re not allowed to call it practice. I was voted co-captain of the team with my best friend, Noah.
This last year, Riverton had won its first State Cheerleading Championship in a while. Noah and I were determined to make a repeat this next year.
Everything was going to be just the way I wanted. It was summer, time to relax and hang out by the beach, get a tan and get ready for senior year. Which was going to be the best year yet. For the first time in a while, everything in my life seemed to be right where I wanted it to be.
But even the most perfect days can take a turn for the worse.
My car was in the shop for an oil change so after practice, my dad came to pick me up, “How was practice?” He asks as I slide into the front seat.
“Great. I think we have a pretty good team this year.” I buckle my seatbelt. “And I got voted captain. Well, co-captain with Noah.”
“Couldn’t have picked a better pair.” He looks over and smiles at me. “Think you guys will win again?” he asks.
“Hopefully.” I answer, looking out the window. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved looking out the window and see everything pass by in a blur. It was pretty in a sense.
“That’s my girl.” He looks over at me briefly.
“What?” I ask turning from the window briefly, to look at him, not hiding my smile.
“You find a positive side to everything.” I roll my head towards him and smile, “I get that from my dad.” He laughs. “I don’t think so, I mean he is a great guy in all, but there are times
when he is more negative than others.” “Whatever. You had the best job ever, got to work with celebrities, what could
be negative about that?” “Their attitudes.” He says smiling.
“Just like high schoolers” We both laugh.
My dad had the best job ever; a music producer. Every day he would wake up and meet with some celebrity to start or continue on their album. But he gave it up when I was still really young and moved back out to Wyoming to be with his parents. My mom hates the ‘country life’ and has resented my dad for making us move here. But she’d never divorce him, he had money.
HIs job was one I’ve always dreamed about. Being around music. I’ve always believed that music can define your mood and even brighten it. I think there’s always a song that speaks to you at different times and tells the story of what your feeling. Whenever I’m feeling down, music helps.
When I was about 4 my dad took my brother, Aaron, and I back to California for a visit. One of the conditions my mom had when moving was every summer we had to go back and visit. One summer my dad took us to the studio he worked at and I fell in love instantly. Immediately, I ran in and tried playing every instrument I saw. After that, my dad put me in lessons so I could learn the proper way to play and get even better.
We were at a four way stop. My dad was on this country kick lately, so a song about a dirt road was ringing through the speakers. I would never tell my dad this, but I really didn’t mind country. I was tapping my foot along to the music and turned to look at my dad as the car starting going again. Something was different; he was outlined by lights that didn’t seem to slow down.
“Dad!” I say urgently as the lights drew closer and closer.
He looks at the lights of the on-coming car then back to me. He had the most terrified expression I’ve ever seen a person have. Before I could say anything more, there was a fatal blow on his side of the car, right on the driver’s door. I’m thrown to my left and hit my head on the window. Everything’s fuzzy, but look over at my dad, who’s slumped in his seat head rolled to his left side. I grab his hand and hold on, praying for him to wake up and be okay. Then darkness.
Like I said, a perfect day can only last so long.
Darkness. That’s all I really remember, at least that’s all I want to remember. I didn’t want to relive that night; didn’t want to reminisce about the worst night of my life. I had lost one of my best friends, one of the few who understood and supported me.
Aaron stands over me with a concerned and sad look on his face. He continues to smooth my hair, telling me it would all be okay. I look at him through tear filled eyes, trying to make out his shape through all the water, but I can’t.
Why is it whenever something terrible happens everyone says it will be okay? I didn’t know if Aaron was saying this to make me feel better or if it was more for him. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t the only one who last someone that night, Aaron lost his father too. We both lost our most secure support system besides each other.
“We still have you, that’s all that matters; and you have me.” He kisses my forehead. “I love you Sutton.” That was the last thing I hear before sleep finally creeps back in.
Later, I learn the person who hit us was a college student, under the influence of alcohol. He was on his way back to the party with more beer. It amazes me how many people think they can drink and drive. Maybe it was the anger talking, but I had a hard time feeling bad for him and his family. He made a choice, a stupid decision, and he’s paying for it, just like we are.
Two weeks have passed since the accident and I’m still in the hospital on the verge of recovery and heading home. Many times I considered asking the doctors if I could stay longer. I wasn’t ready to go home and be with my mom, or face the pity of everyone around me. Every time someone brought me flowers with a note saying ‘Sorry for your loss’, it took everything I had not to roll my eyes. How many of these people really cared? I knew most of them didn’t care, or cared about me at least. The notes were more for the loss of my dad and not for my well-being. When you’re rich and popular nothing is meant to be very nice and is just for the attention.
Aaron attends UCLA and took some time off to come make sure I was comfortable and holding up okay in the weeks following. He’s been with me since the doctors and nurses allowed people in to see me after surgery. Today, like any other day, we were watching a movie. Neither one of us asked where mom was or when she would come. We both knew the answer, out partying and who knows.
“Aaron?” turning, he looks at me, “When do you go back to LA?”
“As soon as you’re out of here, comfortable at home, and the funeral is over.”
I just nodded and went back to the movie. I didn’t want him to go. It was hard when he first left a few years ago. But I still had my dad then. Now, I’ll have no one when he leaves.
He shook my shoulder a little, “Hey, I’ll always be here for you Sutton. No matter how many miles separate us.”
I hug him, “I love you Aaron, to the stars and back.” “I love you, to the moon and back,” he replies and hugs me tighter. Being in the hospital for over four weeks had its ups and downs. It was nice to
have Aaron with me and nice to not have mom around acting like a teenager. It was strange to not have my best friend, Noah, there every day. I was so used to waking up, getting ready for school, and meeting her at the school with coffee in hand or waiting for me.
A lot of people came to see me in the hospital; the cheerleading team, Aaron, his girlfriend Mia, and a couple of the of football and basketball players. My mom also came to visit a few times, though never for more than twenty minutes. She would always have “meetings” or various items to hurry and get to. I became used to my mom not being there, she always had something more important than being with her family.
After six weeks in the hospital, I was finally released and sent home. Even though I knew better, I was secretly wishing my mom would be at the entrance waiting to take me home, but when we got there, it was Mia standing there waiting for us. Being in the car made me nervous. The whole way home, I was looking around me, making sure no one was coming. When we get home Mia’s waiting with my favorite coffee. My mom’s nowhere to be found, though. I didn’t let her absence bother me, instead I was happy to be at home, with the people I love and love me.
I’ve been home a totally of four hours now and Noah and I are downstairs watching Real Housewives. She came over right as she got home from school, backpack and all. Since school started, Noah’s filled me in on everything. It’s a big enough school that a lot has happened within the first few days already.
“Hey S,” It’s getting late but Noah hasn’t left. “I’m really glad your here.” I give her a small smile, “Me too.” “I almost forgot,” She jumps up and goes to her bag. I’m starting to feel too
tired, so I keep my eyes on the TV and let them sag a little. I hardly notice the couch moving as she sits back down, “Rory gave me this to give to you.”
Rory’s the football and basketball star at Riverton High. He’s your typical jock; tall, tan, lean, and muscular. We’ve never really talked to Rory much, because he’s, well like I said, a typical jock. Don’t get me wrong, Rory is probably one of the cutest guys at our school but still- typical cocky, rude, self-centered jock.
I don’t say anything but take the note and cookies. I don’t know why he would be giving Noah a note to give to me. Noah only shrugs and goes back to watching the TV.
I’m tired but my curiosity outweighs that. Setting the back of what looks like snickerdoodle cookies aside, I unfold the note.
Sutton, I’m sorry about your dad. But I know we’re all glad you’re okay. I wanted to do more than just sign a card with the football team. And I figured you have enough flowers to last a while.
So I thought comfort food would be a good idea. So I helped my mom bake these cookies. (And by help I mean, watched.)-Rory
I’m not sure exactly what I should think. It’s already weird getting flowers and notes form people I don’t know but it’s even weirder getting one from someone I do know. Well, kind of know. Someone I don’t talk to at all. I mean, I know Riverton’s pretty big, but it’s not that big. And Rory and I have never spoken in the 12 odd years we’ve been at the same school.
Instead of trying to make sense of it all, I just pull out a cookie and continue to watch TV until I fall asleep.