She continued driving down the street, her knuckles white on the hot steering wheel, the feel of the twisted steel digging into her ankles and her head pounding from the impact of the airbags.
She maintained her composure and kept her eyes on the road ahead, carefully and slowly easing the car around bends and over bridges while the yells and screams of the surrounding witnesses filled her head.
“We’re going to get you out of there!” One of them cried, and she felt an arm reaching across to unbuckle her seatbelt.
She turned left at the stoplight, caressing her forehead with her hand.
“God those airbags hurt” she muttered.
Almost home. Almost there. Just focus.
Then there were ambulance lights. She shrieked in pain as her feet were freed from the unforgiving grip of the car’s smashed front end.
“She’s losing a lot of blood!” The EMT cried.
Her hand flew to her mouth in an attempt to hold back the tears.
“It didn’t happen, Aria. Get a grip”, she whispered to herself.
A tourniquet was tied tightly around her thigh while they carefully extracted her from the vehicle. As she made the final turn towards her home, she could feel the sting of bumping her head on the roof as they pulled her out.
“God damnit,” she cursed.
One of her rescuers accidentally grabbed the gash in her shin as her legs exited the wreckage. She collapsed in pain in the middle of the driveway.
“Aaaauuuuuugh,” she mumbled, pulling her ankle to her and nestling it in her palm. She brushed her hand across the pale skin shining flawless in the sunlight.
Thank God that didn’t happen while I was driving.
Shaking, she arose and limped towards the door.
It’s almost over, Aria.
Strong arms lifted her into a gurney and strapped her in, connecting her to oxygen and an IV.
Her mom came running out at the sound of her shriek.
“Honey, are you okay? Is it happening again?” She pressed, her voice apprehensive.
Aria just nodded. One more minute.
Her mom helped her inside and sat her on the couch just as the reverie closed with the rumble of an engine and the crystal clear whine of sirens.
Aria gasped, trying to hold in her tears.
“I could’ve lost my legs, mom. I could’ve lost my legs…” She recited the words as if testing her ability to tolerate them.
“Honey,” her mom approached with a glass of water. “You’re covered in sweat. Here, drink this.”
Aria grabbed the glass greedily and gulped down one glass, two glasses, then three. She finally began to calm.
“This one was serious, Mom,” she said, concern still shading her face. “I was just sitting at a stoplight, waiting for the person in front of me to start driving. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a hug green van barreling towards me at full speed. I panicked. I’m so lucky he came to his senses when he did – one more second of hesitation and I would’ve been a pancake between him and the line of cars in front of me.”
Her mom swept a stray hair behind her ear. “Remember what Dr. Grey said, sweetheart. It’s just anxiety. Who knows what would’ve happened if he’d hit you. It’s not real.”
Aria tried to hide her scowl from her mom. She’d been told this over and over: it’s just anxiety, you have to stop obsessing over what could have been. But it was more than that. She was living it and she couldn’t stop it.
“I think I need to lie down for a while,” Aria stated weakly. Her mother nodded. She grabbed a couch pillow and headed upstairs. She stepped quietly into her room, careful not to wake the baby, and snuggled up on her small bed, arms wrapped emphatically around the couch pillow.
She wanted to sleep. She wanted swim far, far away to the lovely world where terrible things happen and not one of them is real. But mostly, she wanted to be someone else.