My world is spinning.
It feels like I’ve gone on one hell of a binder to end all life forms. As I clamp my eyes tighter, my hands are cupping my head, trying to apply pressure to my temples, but all that manages to do is send a shock wave of pain across the front of my head and down my neck.
What the fuck happened? I was talking with Ryann...well, we were fighting. I can’t even remember the last thing she said to me before everything went black.
As I bring my hands away from my head, I can feel a dampness coating the tips, and I have to force my eyes to open. My surroundings are blurred, and the lights of the night remind me of neon party lights being fragmented across my vision.
Forcing myself to focus, the commotion around me is a confusing sound, almost like a deafening shrill of a cymbal. But my brain immediately registers the sound because I know that sound all too well. My worst nightmare has come full circle, and the cruel fate of life is, once again, threatening to alter my life for the worst.
Against the pain, I swing my neck to find Ryann slumped into the car door. From the hazy lights of the night, I can see the front of the car is slightly pushed into the back seat, with the vehicle almost forming around her body. Almost as if she were protected from the impact and spared.
“Ryann? Ryann, hey, you need to wake up.” I’m trying to keep my voice calm and reasonable when I want to scream for her. I need her to respond to me. But she’s not even moving.
Practically ripping my seatbelt off, I force my body to move towards her, and my hand immediately goes to her neck for a pulse. I’m waiting for what feels like a fucking lifetime before I feel the study strum of her pulse.
“Don’t move her, Thomas.”
Looking over my shoulder in excoriating pain, Travis is at the passenger side of the car, and it’s then that I realize the door is wide opened. It takes me a second to see that he has a gash on his forehead, and it’s gushing blood down the side of his face, but otherwise, he looks unharmed. The driver of the car, I don’t need to look into the driver’s seat to know what’s happened. He took the brunt of the impact, and I’m not sure I can witness another deceased body in my lifetime.
“We need an ambulance,” I call to him. “She’s alive.”
“They’ve just arrived. Don’t move and don’t move, Ryann.”
A little too late for that.
“Babydoll,” I whisper, hoping to hear her voice before we’re loaded up into ambulances. “Please, Ryann, if you can hear me, I need you to answer.” With each passing moment that grows in silence, my heart sinks in fear that the last words I spoke were harsh because we were having a stupid fucking argument.
God, I don’t know why I decided to fight with her on this. She wants to go public with our relationship. I know it was because she got jealous of Martha and her flirting and that fucking kiss. Fuck, I don’t want the last words to be of us fighting. I need Ryann to know that I love her. That we can go public, that I’m not and will never EVER be ashamed of her.
Hearing a cough, I find Ryann retching forward, and I scramble to reach out and keep her from smacking her head against any debris. Like Travis, she has a large gash where her head smashed into the window. There are lacerations down her arm, and I’m not sure how, but there is a piece of metal from the car resting just above her knees and dividing the car almost in half. I can’t get to her with this thing between us, but I can still reach for her. I can still touch her.
“I...I – I can’t move. Thomas, I can’t move. My arm. Thomas, what happened?” She’s panicking in a fight to move, and out of the metal cage she’s trapped in.
“Shh, babydoll, I need you to hold still. You’re okay. Okay?” What else am I supposed to tell her? That I’m terrified, and I can’t do anything to help her right now. “We were in a car crash. Help is coming.”
“I don’t feel good.” She wheezes out with an uneasy breath.
Looking back towards the passenger side door, I watch Travis take off, running towards someone who I’m praying are the paramedics.
“I know. Help is coming. Ryann, I need you to stay awake for me. Can you do that?” I feel her body go slumped against my hands. No, no, no. I’m panicking because I’m forced to relieve my worst fears. “Ryann....babydoll, please. I need you to stay with me. I love you. I need you to know that I love you so fucking much.”
The sound of people shouting and giving demands is blurred out by my need to have Ryann wake up. This can’t be happening. Not again. I need to hear her say I love you. I need to know she heard me.
“Sir,” I have to force myself to look away from Ryann and find a paramedic and a large group of first responders ready to take over and force me out of this car.
“If I let her go, she’ll fall into the debris in front of her,” I say, attempting to chock back my words. “I can’t leave her.”
I watch the paramedic look around me to Ryann, who is still not responding, but I can feel her steady pulse under my touch. “Okay. What we’re going to do is my partner, Rosie here, will climb into the front seat and take over for you. There is another team out here that will check you out.”
“I can’t leave her,” I say, repeating myself.
“Sir, you need to let us do our job so we can get her out of the car and to a hospital. But if you want to look after her, you need to get checked out. We can’t have something happening to you.”
I nod my head slowly as I watch Rosie lean over the metal trap between us and support Ryann with her hands. Reluctantly, I take my hands from Ryann, and I’m guided out of the car by my elbow. As soon as my feet hit the pavement, I nearly collapse to the ground. I’m not sure if it’s because of the world spinning in front of me or the fact that this scene in front of me is hitting way too close to home as I’m forced to hand over Ryann’s care into strangers’ hands.
I’m left trusting complete strangers, again.
“Mr. Copeland, let’s sit over here, and we’ll get you checked out.”
I’m guided into the back of an awaiting ambulance. My view concealed by the dull bleak walls of the vehicle, and I’m left staring emptily at the random storage across from me. A woman sits down in front of me. She’s older. Maybe the same age as my mom if she were still alive. Her hair is dark as the night and pulled into a high ponytail. Looking over to my side, I see a male who looks like he just graduated High School but seems in control of his adrenaline as he places a cuff around my bicep.
“What do you remember?” I’m trying to look out the back of the ambulance to see if I can catch any new movement, but my view is blocked. I’m about to get up when I feel a hand firmly against my shoulder, pushing me back down. “The woman in the car is being taken care of.
Looking at the woman in front of me. “She’s my girlfriend.” I need that statement to be heard perfectly clear because Ryann is not some woman.
Giving me a small smile, “Mr. Copeland, your girlfriend is being well looked after. Now, can you tell me what you remembered?”
Sighing and flinching as a light is suddenly shined into my eyes, “We were heading to our hotel, and fighting and the next thing I heard was a loud bang and when I woke up.....the driver is he....”
The woman looks over to her partner before reaching for some gauze and begins to wrap it around my head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Copeland, but I don’t have an answer for you. Another team will be looking after him.” The woman pauses for a bit as she finishes wrapping the gauze around my head. I watch her give a slight node to her partner, and I can see one of those damn neck braces out of the corner of my eye. “We need to place this on just as precaution.” The woman states like she can read the determined look on my face. One that says this is not fucking happening.
Because I’m also not going anywhere without seeing Ryann. “No, I’m not going anywhere without Ryann. I can’t leave her.”
“And you’re not going to. She’ll be transported to the same hospital, but we need to make sure that you’re okay first. Then you can go to her.”
Getting to my feet, I push the dumbass neck brace from my neck and start to make my way back towards the car. My balance is stronger with each step I take, and I have to fight the urge to run. My body is starting to become achy, and I know the number of tests they’ll run before getting any updates on Ryann will be astronomical.
“Sir, Mr. Copeland, please, this isn’t....”
If she says protocol, screw fucking protocol. I’m not one for following the rules. She should already know that.
As I approach the car, there is a white sheet over the drive side, and my heart immediately sinks to an unknown abyss. Deeper than the one with my mother. I can feel my throat closing up, and the wave of nausea hits me all at once, threatening to send me spiraling out of control.
“Thomas, she’s fine.” Travis appears in my line of sight. A small band-aid at the top of his head and a bandage wrapped around his hand. “See,” I follow his line of sight to a stretcher waiting for Ryann. The car’s roof has essentially been ripped off to the front seats, and emergency personal are standing all around. Some on the vehicle’s trunk as they lean forward into the car and assist in getting Ryann un-trapped. “They are about to move her onto the backboard. She’s awake now. Coming and going. She keeps asking for you.”
“Why didn’t you come and get me?”
“Because you needed to be tended to. I told her that you were fine and being checked out.”
I’m not sure what else to say because I still should have been informed that Ryann is awake and asking for me. Forget about my health. I need to make sure that she is calm and that she knows I love her. That I’m still here.
Watching the first responders count out, I watch them slowly left her to the backboard before another round of counting erupts. Suddenly, as if my feet have a mind of their own, I start to make my way back towards the car. The cops standing around are watching me closely but don’t seem to show any interest in stopping me.
As they place the backboard onto the stretcher, I hear Ryann’s shaky, soft voice. She’s talking, she’s crying, and she’s asking for me. Running up to the gurney, I manage to dodge all attempted stops until I wedge myself between two firefighters.
Leaning over Ryann, I press my forehead to hers, “I’m here. I’m here.” She is coated in blood, and I’m not sure how much of it is hers or if somehow, the driver’s ended up on her.
I feel her body shake as weak sobs fall from her lips, “I’m....I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. You have nothin’ to apologize for, babydoll.” I do. I shouldn’t have argued. I should have just agreed, and she would have been in my arms, and none of this would be happening. She would have been safe. I didn’t keep my promise. I broke it. I couldn’t keep her safe.
“Thom....Thomas, I’m scared.”
“Sir, we need to move her.”
Biting my lip, I place a kiss to Ryann’s lips. “You’ll be fine. I promise. Okay? I’ll be next to you the whole time.” I watch Ryann close her eyes, followed by the sudden beeping of the machines they have her hooked to.
“Sir, we need to go.”
The gurney starts to move, and I quickly follow along with my hand in hers. “I love you,” I say in hopes she can hear me.
I catch fluttering movements from her eyes as she’s barely able to keep them open. “I love....love you.” Her words are beginning to become slower as she stutters slightly. I feel her hand move within mine, and I can feel her forcing something round and delicate into my palm. Pulling my hand from hers, I find two sets of rings in my hand, and my throat immediately contracts.
“You’ll be getting these back,” I say softly as I place another kiss to her lips. Then, looking to the two paramedics, “She’s a recovering addict and has been sober for over four years. Do not mess that up for her.”
Placing another kiss to her forehead before lingering on her lips because I’m petrified that this will be the last time that I’ll be able to kiss her again. I’m pulled away by Travis as they load Ryann up, and I’m left watching the back of the ambulance, blaring its sirens rush from the scene carrying my heart and soul away with it. Looking down at my hands, I look at the rings left. The only thing that I have of Ryann at this moment, and I suddenly feel so empty.
If I lose Ryann, that will be it. I will not make it in this world without her.