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I walk through the deserted halls, devastated. The sound of my shoes echoing on the cold floor is the only thing I hear. Although the halls are empty, I feel enclosed. It feels like I am cramped in a tiny dark room and it is getting harder and harder…to…breathe…
“Simi, are you coming? We’re going to be late for the picnic!”
“Leave without me.” As if I really want to attend one of my dad’s boring ‘work picnics’ where people are dressed up in stiff suit coats and tuxedos!
“No, Dad wants the whole family to be there.”
I slowly meander down the stairs, taking the longest time possible.
“Mom, I don’t feel that good,” I say, forcing myself to look as sick as I can.
“Oh, come on. I know you really don’t want to go to this picnic, but…”
“No, I really do feel sick.”
“Your dad will be disappointed. He really wanted everyone to be there.”
“Well, tell him I’m sorry.” I lie down on the couch and close my eyes for effect.
My mom calls to my younger sister and brother. On her way out the door, she waves at me.
“I love you! Hope you feel better soon!”
I have no idea why, but this makes me teary-eyed.
I hear the chug-chug-chug of our old sedan starting up as I peer out the window at the sky. Wow, it’s getting dark out there for this time of day. It looks like there’s a storm brewing. Since I hate thunderstorms, this thought causes me to rush to the door and yell for my family to let me come along. To my disappointment, I find out they’ve already left. Oh well. I’ll just go on the computer and hope there’s no storm.
I amble over to our new computer and sit down in the hard wooden chair. I check my email and, apart from the regular ads and spam, I am surprised to see an email from my old best friend, Lela. I open it and begin reading.
Ba BOOM BOOM BOOM!
I let out a loud shriek as the computer screen goes blank and a flash of light fills the room. I hurry over to the window and look out. I am surprised to find that it’s raining so hard that I can’t see a thing! More ear-splitting thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning cause me to run to the room I share with my sister Lisa and snuggle under my blankets. I plug my ears and bury my pounding head in my soft pillow.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
“W-What? Huh?” It takes quite a while for my brain to register the fact that a phone is ringing and that I should go and answer it.
“Yeah, this is she.”
“Go and sit down.”
I can’t help but think it’s somewhat weird that my aunt is telling me to sit down, but thinking it’s some kind of game, I play along.
“Okay, I’m sitting.”
“Brace yourself—your family has been involved in a car accident.”
Still thinking this is all a joke, I laugh. However, this doesn’t sound like my laugh. It sounds strange and hollow to my ears.
“You shouldn’t joke about such things, Auntie Jean. It’s not really funny.”
“I’m not joking, sweetie.” Now she starts crying and I feel faint as this registers in my brain.
“B-but you’re s-saying…?”
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. I’ll drive right over.”
Just like that, she hangs up, and suddenly, everything is quiet again. I think about what my aunt has just told me, and it is too much for me to handle. I break down in tears again.
I hear someone open our front door and walk over to me. I feel Auntie Jean’s strong arms around me and hear her talking. Only one sentence stays in my brain.
“Your whole family…died in that awful accident, Simi.”
After that sentence, the whole world seems to stop.
I don’t know how I got here, but now I’m at the Lancaten Memorial Hospital, standing at the front desk. My aunt is asking about ‘the Mason family.’ The nurse leads us to a dimly lit room and confirms what my aunt has just told me a few minutes ago.
“Everyone involved in that accident died.”
A lump the size of a baseball lodges in my throat. Like me, it doesn’t know where to go, so it just sits there. Then comes the flood. I cry for what seems like hours while the nurse and my aunt speak soothing words and hand me tissue after tissue. Don’t they know that tissues can’t wipe away the hurt?
A figure dressed in white comes into my view. She looks like an angel.
“A-are you an angel?”
“I wish! No, I’m just a lowly school nurse. You suffered a nasty concussion. You’ve been unconscious for hours!”
It all rushes back to me like a flash flood—my walk in the hall, the feeling of being trapped in that horrible room, and finally, the pain.
The nurse opens a curtain and I look outside. At first, I see nothing but darkness. Then, unexpectedly, a colorful rainbow emerges from the dark clouds. Hope that I have not felt since before the horrible tragedy fills my soul. I feel safe, enveloped in a shield of protection. I know it will be hard, especially at the cemetery tomorrow, but now I realize that I won’t have to go through it alone.