Live or Die

It was one of those days that you know everyone will remember.

Sarah was the town’s sweetheart. She knew everyone by name and was always volunteering at some charity event or being a guest-speaker at a conference in the city. In fact, that’s where she was this afternoon: she was the keynote speaker at a province wide conference for young girls who knew they were capable of more than the patriarchal society allowed them. It was only the first year for this conference and it was a huge hit! Sarah was obviously very proud.

But Sarah was humble. She truly didn’t know how amazing everyone thought she was. She knew she always tried to help those in need or just those who needed a smile and kind word now and then, but she did not know the impact she would have on all those who met her. She did not know how this day would change everyone’s lives, including hers.

It was mid-November. The temperature was dropping and the sky couldn’t decide if was going to rain or be sunny. The day started out bright and full of sunshine, but as the day rolled on and Sarah finished her speech, clouds begin to storm in. Sarah headed to the city- sunny. Sarah finished her speech- overcast. Sarah got into her car- the sun was out again but dark clouds were up ahead.

As she drove back home, more and more puddles from the afternoon’s rain were covering the streets. Sarah was extra careful. She maintained the proper speed limit and checked her mirrors every 3.5 seconds.

Maybe she looked in her rear view mirror a second too long; maybe she got sidetracked by the cows in the field to her right; maybe it wasn’t her fault at all, but the next thing Sarah knew a truck was crossing over the yellow line and heading straight for her.

“Ow! Mommy, my tooth hurts.”

“Let me see that Sarah. Oh my! Your tooth is very loose! Do you want mommy to pull it out for you?”

“No! Then it will hurt more!”

“No, sweetie. You’ll just feel a little tug then it will be out so quick you won’t even remember it hurting.”

“I don’t know…where will my tooth go afterwards? I don’t want my mouth to look funny.”

“It won’t, Sarah-honey. A new, big, grown-up tooth will grow in its spot! And we’ll put your baby tooth under your pillow, so tonight when you’re sleeping the tooth fairy will come and leave you a treat!’

“Really?”

“Really. Now come here…”

“Ow!”

“See? That wasn’t too bad! Now it’s all done!”

She tried to pull away from it. She almost made it too, but at the very last second the truck’s wheel got stuck in a puddle and spun out towards Sarah.

“Oh my gosh! There she is! Look Jim, it’s our little high school graduate. Oh my, I’m going to cry!”

“Mom, relax, it’s just high school. It was kinda mandatory to finish it.”

“Oh I know, but you just…grow up so fast.”

“Mom, don’t cry!”

“We’re proud of you Sarah. It really is an amazing accomplishment. I mean, out of your whole class, you got picked to be Valedictorian! So proud.”

“Thanks daddy.”

“And now my little baby is off to college in September. Oh my, what are we going to do Jim? We’re getting old.”

“Aw, mom, you’re not that old. And besides, I decided to stay at home and just go to school in the city. It’s not a very long drive and it’ll be nice to save some money.”

“Look at you Sarah, already a woman wise beyond your years.”

The truck’s front end slammed into the side of Sarah’s small jeep. She locked eyes with the driver; his eyes were drowning with fear and sorrow.

“Daddy! Daddy! Come quick! There’s a monster under my bed!”

“Sarah, honey, are you all right?”

“No! Daddy, there’s a monster under my bed. I heard it growl.”

“Growl, eh?”

“Yeah. Real loud and scary like. Scare it away.”

“Okay Sarah. Hand me that flashlight please.”

“Hereyougo.”

“Thank you…Now let’s take a little looksy….oh wow. Sarah are you sure you want me to scare it away?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“Really?”

“Yes, it’s a scary mean monster.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“I saw it. It was furry and had big teeth and…”

“And a little bell on her collar? It’s just Trixie, Sarah. She must have run under there when she heard you coming.”

“Silly puppy! Daddy, can Trixie sleep in here tonight? You know, to scare off the monsters?”

“Sure Sarah. Goodnight.”

Sarah screamed until the scream got stuck in her throat and she couldn’t hear anything except her windows shattering and head slamming against the dashboard.

“I just can’t believe this is happening. Jason, are you sure?”

“Sarah, I love you more than anything but right now I don’t think we can do this any longer. We’re both so young,”

“We’re not that young.”

“And it’s moving too fast,”

“We have been dating for two and a half years…”

“Sarah,”

“…You’re moving away. Aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry Sarah, but I was offered a full scholarship. I need to take it.”

“But did it have to be overseas?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I guess long-distance is out of the question, huh?”

“Sarah, think about it. We’re both 18. We have our whole lives ahead of us, who knows what’s around the corner. You can’t honestly tell me you want to be tied down to a boyfriend you only ever see on summer break for a couple of weeks a year.”

“No, I guess not.”

“I think it’s better this way. Long distance destroys so many relationships and friendships. At least this way there aren’t any hard feelings…?”

“No, no hard feelings.”

“I love you Sarah.”

“Don’t make me say it back, Jason. I- I have to go.”

There were fragments lodged in her memory. She was in a tight space. She opened her eyes briefly; she couldn’t move and panic over swept her and pulled her back under.

She lost consciousness, but the frenzy around her continued.

“Mom? Dad? Are you both there?”

“Yes, sweetie. I have it on the speaker phone.”

“I got the job.”

“What?”

“I got the job! I’m going to be the mayor’s new secretary! I have a government job!”

“Sarah, oh honey we’re so proud. Jim, tell Sarah how proud you are!”

“So, very proud.”

“Dad, are you crying?”

“Oh my god. It’s Sarah.”

“We need help.”

“Hello, I need an ambulance right away.”

“Sarah’s first day of school- the video. Sarah say hi!”

“Mom, hurry up! I wanna meet my teacher!”

“Okay honey, just let me turn the video camera off.”

She heard her mother scream. She heard someone crying- maybe it was her.

“I’m so sorry, miss.”

“Hi Jason.”

“Sarah, you look…amazing.”

“Thanks, you look pretty amazing yourself.”

“Oh Jim, just look at these two, blushing as if this were their first date. Come on now, stand together.”

“I promised my mom we’d take at least one prom photo before we go. I hope that’s okay?””

“Of course!”

“Say cheese.”

“You’re dress is absolutely stunning, by the way.”

“Ma’me, can you hear me? I need you to keep breathing, we put out the fire and we’re going to pull you out now.”

She only now remembers it being hot. Maybe that’s why she passed out again. Was she still in her car?

“Thanks again Sarah for helping out.”

“Oh it’s no problem. I’ve always loved the Miracles Charity. I think it’s a great feeling to be able to provide a family with something outside of the basic necessities.”

“You know, I’m not supposed to ask people right on the spot, but how would you like to be our newest ambassador? I know you’re probably busy with finishing up your PhD, but if you have time, we’d really like to have you. You’re such an essential part to this town. I don’t know what we do without you.”

“I’m honoured! Of course I’ll be able to find the time! I actually have a few ideas about the next fundraiser if I could run them past you.”

“Honey, be my guest, this is your job now.”

There were sirens. Lots of them. Cameras circled around her as she was wheeled into the hospital. People shouted. “This is an outrage! Who would be out to get our precious Sarah?” She was barely holding on. She was strong, she was special, but right now living was harder than anything she had ever done before.

“Sarah, I know it’s been years since we dated steadily and I know you’ve probably moved on, but I think breaking up with you was the worst decision of my life.”

“No, it wasn’t. I think we needed to break up; to be apart and realize how much we need each other.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, and besides, if we didn’t break up then I don’t think I would have said yes as easily when you got down on one knee.”

“Wait, you’re saying yes? I haven’t even asked you yet.”

“I needed to see what else was out there, but now I know. And I didn’t like it very much. It was lonely. So now I can say yes.”

“So, you will marry me?”

“Don’t make me say yes again, Jason.”

The bed they put her on was hard and lumpy. She laid still, yet it still felt like it was digging into her back and sides. She momentarily woke up and saw the balloons and cards surrounding her bed.

Jason. Mom. Dad.

My students.

The children I had met and helped over the years.

The little girls I met today, all full of hope and ambition. So much like myself.

Be strong.

I love you all.

She laid her head back down. The light was bright.

Suddenly the bed wasn’t so bad.

Fin.

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3 thoughts on “Live or Die

  1. Yet another wonderful story! I love that you used the flashbacks to tell Sarah’s story, but I especially love that you jumbled them up, jumping through time to give us non-chronological glimpses. It just… it made it seem fuller, somehow. Like there was more depth. And it kind of added to the chaotic feeling of the accident itself. Ooh, and that scene where you describe the truck driver’s eyes as drowning with fear and sorrow–I found myself thinking about that scene after I read it. It really stuck with me. I feel like I know Sarah, know her life, and I connect empathetically with her. Fantastic 🙂

    • Once again, thank you for your lovely comments 🙂
      I really like this style of writing that transitions through time and hopefully it stayed unified as one piece and not lost in the reading!
      Glad you liked it; I played around with that line quite a bit before I decided on it 🙂

  2. Pingback: A Splattering of Thoughts | EmeraldCity

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