In that time frame, I’ve built a beautiful life for my daughter and me. Our house is being paid off, I pay bills on time. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck, even on a single income, and I have plenty stashed away in an emergency fund. I can afford to buy us the extras our hearts’ desire. We aren’t rich by any means, but with only the two of us, life is comfortable. The focus I put into getting us here has recently converted into enjoying the things I earn.
The biggest of all being my happiness.
So, yeah. Law showing up in my life changes my perspective. I worked hard to get where I am and to dig myself out of the hole I landed myself in. That work is ending. In five years, Evelyn will go to college or start a job, possibly moving out. Five years. That isn’t much time at all. In the grand scheme of life, it’s practically nothing.
I have to let Nathan go, completely free and clear. It’s not fair to him, or myself, to string him along. I have to be strong and continue without a backup plan. If nothing comes from Law and me, and I want to continue exploring what’s out there, I can do it without a reserve. I believe life will work itself out the way it’s supposed to in the end.
The flashing lights from the police cars already on scene illuminate the road. The crash is a two-vehicle accident on highway 31 leading out of Arrow Creek. Traffic backs up as the officers close the stretch of highway and redirect cars coming through. Nathan has to drive us around and up an exit ramp to park us close, adding to the organized fleet of emergency vehicles.
From what I can see, an eighteen-wheeler parks a quarter mile up the road with hazard lights on. A single, white Ford Escort faces south in the northbound lane, having spun in the crash. Pieces of the car’s front end scatter across the road, and the parts left attached are crumpled, twisted metal. Fragments litter the concrete.
En route, they informed us of three victims—the truck driver and the driver and passenger of the car.
The truck driver stands outside of his cab, lifting his cap and running a hand over his hair repeatedly. He places the hat back on only to lift it up again seconds later.
A young male sits on the shoulder of the highway with a police officer, and the driver of the Ford, an older woman, remains in the vehicle.
“I’m going to the car. You go check out the kid.”
Nathan nods and takes off in that direction, and I approach the totaled vehicle.
“Ma’am, my name is Cami and I’m a paramedic. Can you tell me your name?”
Her eyes are open, though wide with fright. Her chest rises with quick, shallow breaths. When I speak to her, she moves her eyes in my direction. That’s a good sign. She’s responsive.
“Cecilia.” Her soft voice trembles. “We were going to dinner, m-my son and m-m-me. Where is he? I can’t turn my head. This man is hurting me.” Her eyes dart frantically.
“Cecilia. Look at me.”
Her gaze shoots to mine. I hold her eyes and keep my voice steady. “Your son is being looked at by my partner, Nathan. He’s really good at his job. You can see him soon. There’s a police officer holding your head steady. I need you to hold still and not move. You could have a neck injury. I’m going to put this around your neck.” I hold up the c-collar for her to see. Most people have seen these before, but that doesn’t make wearing one any less frightening. “It’ll help hold your neck still, okay?”
“Good. Hold still and don’t try to help us. We’ll get it on you.”
She does as I ask and doesn’t move.
“You’re doing great, Cecelia. I’m going to listen to your lungs and check your pulse, okay?”
“Okay,” she whispers as some fear drains away.
The firefighters arrive on scene, ready to help lift her out of here. I unwind my stethoscope and listen to her breathing. It’s fast, but her lungs sound clear. I reach my arm through the driver’s side window and place my fingers on her wrist. Pulse is strong.
As I pull my hand back, she latches onto my forearm with a firm grip.
“Please don’t leave me.”
I twist my arm so I can squeeze her hand. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re going to get you out and take you to the hospital. I need to back up so the firefighters can get you out, but I’m not leaving. I’ll be close by the entire time.”
“What are they going to do with me?” Her lips quiver as she speaks.
“We want to be careful with your spine, so they’re going to place you on a long, hard board to keep it steady. I don’t want you to help at all, unless you’re told to, okay? You let them move you. I promise they’re all big and strong. You hang tight, and you’ll be out of there in no time.”
The officer in the car with her talks to her, so I run back to our truck for the long board. The tow truck arrives as I’m on my way back, and I wait to let it pass. A crowd gathers on the side of the road as passersby step out of their cars to watch the scene unfold. I roll my eyes at the amount of cell phones snapping photos and most likely recording videos. Nothing is private in this world of technology.
A familiar truck parked in the chaotic line of cars catches my eye. My stomach squeezes and my heart leaps into my throat. Directly across from my ambulance is Law.
And the bastard isn’t alone.