Natalie and I shouted the now infamous word in perfect unison.

We acted in accordance with standard shotgun rules: at least one foot was outside the house. But a mere proclamation of our desired seating arrangements for the car ride home would not suffice. A foot race would serve as a tiebreaker.

As my fingertips grazed the door handle first, I was soon able to clutch my prize. The race was over. Our fates were sealed. I had taken my final steps.

By the time Marcy slipped into the driver seat, Natalie and I were already belted in and the three of us were vibrant. We had indulged in cake and Mountain Dew to celebrate Coach Kiick’s birthday and the end of another successful volleyball season.

The temperature was mild for mid November. I had not bothered wearing a jacket; my favorite top and a satin camisole provided me with enough warmth. Later I would be begging the EMT not to cut them off of me with the rest of my clothes.

The crash itself was over in an instant and the world around us became silent. No signs. No streetlights. Only cornfields and stars for as far as the eye could see. Marcy was the first to speak, but few words were exchanged. Quiet concern and looks of helplessness translated every thought among the three of us.

Now, it was Marcy’s turn to run. And so, she began her race against time and soon disappeared into the blackness of that desolate country road…

The paralysis left me in no pain, but I was unable to support my head. Natalie moved to the front to assist me and leaned into the seat for which we had previously battled. I  watched her maintain her composure as streams of blood flowed down the right side of her face. Spots of deep red began to stain my perfect shirt before making their way onto the seat that we now occupied together.

The rear passenger side of the car was flattened into a virtual pancake and we were later told that a fourth person would likely have not survived. Who would have been sitting there if Carissa did not decide to stay home at the last minute? Why did Natalie decide to walk to the other side of the car rather than sitting behind me? Why didn’t I just let her ride shotgun since I had that spot on the ride out? It has been 16 years since the accident, but questions about the car have yet to cease.

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