The first thing Lillian noticed as she awoke was the difficulty breathing. Drawing air became a struggle. She opened her eyes and couldn't recognize her surroundings. Everything was blurry and made no sense. What did she need from the grocery store? Milk, eggs, cereal- Oh, God! She was in the seat of her minivan facing the sky. The windshield was nowhere and the dashboard was smashed. The steering wheel was flat out gone. Her breathing hurt, but it accelerated nonetheless. When she attained the necessary strength, she shouted. Was she saying words? She wouldn't know.
The air smelled of destruction, moisture, and burnt tires. When Lillian looked behind her, she saw the grass and debris. The car must have been sheared in half. But what happened? As she tried to remember, her head felt as if a spike had been run through it. The more she forced it, the more it hurt. But it came to her. It was a foggy day and it had been raining. The freeway was mostly empty, save for a few passing cars here and there. Then there was a bang and everything spun. Was she screaming? She Remembered floating and the noise of drowning out anything. Impact! The airbag blew and then there was nothing.
Lillian put her hand on her face and removed it quickly. She had touched the glass shards embedded in her face. Blood was everywhere and it mixed in well with her frightened tears. Pain and fear were all she knew. She tried to move, but a steel bar, maybe an axle, stuck through her thigh, pinning her to the seat. It must have missed the artery because it wasn't bleeding profusely. But it bled, oh, did it bleed. The blood was on her trembling hands, too. And her arms, and her chest, and almost anywhere she could immediately recall. Her first thought: I am going to die.
Then it hit her: Jen! Oh, God, Jenny! Her five-year-old daughter, Jenny was sitting in the back of the van. She had been playing with her favorite doll before it all happened. Lillian remembered she was being loud about it too and it annoyed her. Of course, she had told her daughter to shutup. She regretted scolding a child for being happy. But where was she? Was she alive?
“Hi mommy!” Jenny exclaimed. Lillian jumped, but felt relief as she turned to see her daughter standing next to the car. At first, Lillian couldn't figure out why she was sideways, but realized that it was in fact herself who was lopsided. Jenny's pink shirt was bloody, but the girl seemed mostly unharmed.
All the mother could say, “Jenny! Are you okay, sweetie? What happened? Are you alright?”
“Yes, mommy, I'm okay,” Jenny replied with a frolicking smile. “I can't find my dolly, mommy, can you help me find her?”
“Not right now, sweetie, we need to call an ambulance.”
“Because mommy's hurt,” Lillian struggled for air. “I need you to go the other side and look for my cell phone. It's in my purse.”
“Why can't you get it?”
“Mommy can't get up right now, baby, just do as I say.”
“Okay,” Jenny hop-scotched her way over to the other side of the van. Lillian shut her eyes for a second to try to clear her head. It wasn't happening and it was suddenly tempting to fall asleep. Tired. So tired. Lillian was a young mother. Since her husband was well-off, the decided to wait on college for a while. This was a mistake as very soon, they had little Jenny. “Mommy! I found it!”
Jenny was back and she held the phone in her hands. “Thank you, sweetie.” Her daughter grinned and then sat down. Lillian dialed 911.
“This is Lillian Schuster, I need your help, we've been in a car wreck-”
“How bad is it, ma'am?”
“My car's in half, I'm bleeding all over, and-”
“Where are you?”
Lillian told the operator.
“Okay, I'm sending a rescue team and ambulance right now. What did you say your name was?”
“Schuster, Lillian Schuster.”
“Alright, Lillian listen to me, I need you to...”
Lillian had trouble focusing. She glanced around because she needed to keep herself awake. That's when she noticed. Jenny's right foot was simply gone! All at once, panic flooded her mind. She asked, “Sweetie, oh, God, where's your foot?!”
“I'm tired, mommy.”
“Ma'am? Are you there?”
“Just a minute, please,” Lillian turned back to Jenny, “Sweetheart, listen to mommy, where is your foot?”
Jenny looked down at her absent foot and then answered, “I left it in my shoe, mommy.”
Lillian couldn't help but make a little smile at her daughter's innocence. She had no words in response, so she returned to the operator, “I'm sorry, I missed that, I'm just so tired. What were you saying?”
“The ambulance is on its way. Hold it together just a little bit longer.”
“I think- I think I'll just take a nap until you get here.”
“No, ma'am, you can't do that! No matter what you do-”
“I can't, I can't stay awake, I have to go.”
“Lillian! Dammit, Lillian, you can't do that! You have got to stay with me! Sing me a song or recite your favorite poem or something, just keep yourself awake.”
A song? But what song? Then she heard her daughter quietly singing and then she joined in,
“Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but he is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so”
When the song was over, Lillian forgot all about the 911 operator. She dropped the phone. Was she talking to someone? She didn't know. The headache was gone and everything was hazy. And she was so tired. Her eyes practically closed themselves. She told her daughter, “Sweetie, mommy's gonna take a little nap now, okay?”
“Okay, mommy,” Jenny replied.
The little girl watched as her mother closed her eyes. She didn't know what had just happened. She would never know that her mother had just passed on into another world. Her childish mind had refused to let her understand the catastrophe that had just engulfed their lives. Jenny wanted to sleep like her mommy, but couldn't do it. Not without her dolly. She stood up and started to search the wreckage. It had to be here somewhere!
It wasn't long before she gave up and fell to the ground screaming and crying. She cried out for her dolly. Little did she know, she cried for all she had just lost. Her little body couldn't handle shouting anymore, especially since no one was there to listen. She curled up in the moist grass and put her thumb in her mouth. It was all she knew to do. Her feeble mind couldn't even know to ask what was really happening. She didn't know and deep down, she didn't want to.
Little Jenny closed her eyes and the cruelest world left her behind.
Note: This story has a sequel, located here.