Chapter 1 - Part 1
Laughter bursted from the car as the van pulled up onto the driveway. The door slid opened and four children jumped out, eager to burn off their pent up energy. After an hour long car ride through fields and farm towns, it was long overdue. Two of the younger ones headed toward the side of the housing to play in the backyard. Galavanting down the mulch path, they left Megan, their older sister, to carry all of her camp things into the house herself.
Megan walked around the back of the black minivan and opened the trunk to grab her suitcase - itching to go join her siblings on the trampoline in the back. Unfortunately, duty came first. It wasn’t too heavy to carry her suitcase. After all, she only had packed enough for one week at summer camp. The issue came when she tried to carry that with her blankets, pillow, sleeping bag, stuffed turtle, string for friendship bracelets, tennis shoes, journal, and her bible. It was a feat, but Megan was not accustomed to giving up. When she set her mind to something, the word impossible simply lost its meaning.
“Are you sure you’ve got all that?” Mom asked. Impressed humor hinted in her voice.
“Yeah, I’ve got it!” Megan yelled over her shoulder. Right as the words escaped her mouth, the friendship bracelet she had been working on slipped off the pillow and fell to the ground. She slowly bend down, careful to not drop anything else, and snatched the bracelet between her ring finger and pinky finger.
Once inside, she quickly dumped everything on the stairs and dashed toward the back sliding doors. As much as she loved summer camp, a week was plenty of time to have been away. She started down the deck stairs and instantly knew she was home. Waves crashing on the beach, geese honked from the marshy area near the woods, a cool summer breeze blew across their spacious back lawn, and the sun cast hues of pink and purple into the sky above her. If it weren’t for all the mosquitos, tonight would have been perfect.
Megan gave a running start and jumped straight toward the trapeze bar - her hands tightly grasping the hanging beam as her legs swung out in front of her. There was such freedom in being able to move! Summers would never get old.
To add to the fun, nine year old Mya rolled an exercise ball out onto the beach, while Oliver, the mischievous seven year old brother, pumped his legs so hard on the swing that the entire swing set started to rock back and forth, creaking with each heave and ho. The three of them continued playing around the swing set and singing camp songs at the top of their lungs until mom stepped out on the deck to call the kids in for dinner.
Mya jumped off the ball and Oliver leapt from his swing. Both took off in a race for the stairs. Megan, however, still hung from the trapeze bar, her feet dangling in the air right above the sand. With a few strong leg pumps, she was able to reach her toes to the exercise ball and roll it towards herself. Steadying her feet on the ball's surface, she used its added height to pull her entire body onto the bar so she was sitting on it like a swing.
Megan was often called “little monkey,” a name her grandpa had given her years ago. She'd earned it after countless occurrences of getting herself into crazy high places, practicing gymnastics tricks on any swing set or trampoline she could find, and continually finding ways to energetically and athletically engage situations. Whether it was swinging, playing soccer, figure skating, rock climbing, swimming, rollerblading, horseback riding, hula hooping, running, or climbing on top of the counter to reach a glass from the highest cabinet, she proved time and time again to be the most athletic and agile of her siblings. There was no denying that.
Savor this, her mind said as she dangled her feet from her trapeze swing. What if this is the last time?
What a silly thought! Brushing the strange words off into the breeze, she went ahead and enjoyed the extra moments on the swing set.
Dinner can wait. She thought. This moment is worth enjoying. She pumped her legs lightly — just enough to create a slight swinging motion as she took in the beauty of a perfect lake night.
Later that night, Megan lugged her suitcase upstairs and rolled it down the long hallway to her bedroom. Her family’s house was very large. Her parents had designed and built it over the course of eight years, and it clearly stood out as one of the most beautiful and unique homes on the private lake they lived on. Her room was located at the very far corner of the house. Along with its added privacy and a view of the cul de sac, this bedroom came with the longest commute to any other location in the house, aside from the four step walk her sister’s room.
Any time she wanted to retreat to a place she could call her own, she had to climb up a tall circular staircase, pass the spacious living room with towering vaulted ceilings, and trek down a hallway that ran almost the entire length of the home. It was quite a distance, and yelling was common in the house for this reason. It was not angry yelling, but rather, it was speech that involved one speaking loud enough to attempt to be heard in every corner of the home. This was impossible to achieve of course, and Megan knew that well after missing the dinner call more than once. Still, her bedroom was her own little fortress in the corner of the house — a place where she could always be safe.
After dumping her suitcase in the closet, she halfheartedly threw most of It’s contents into the laundry hamper. She then changed into bright pink pajama shorts and a clashing t-shirt before jumped into bed to work on a friendship bracelet she had was designing. When finished, it would wrap around the ankle and then loop around one of her toes, almost like a sandal. She was eager to finally wear her masterpiece, and she worked intently to finish it well. Finally satisfied, she tied it around her ankle, smiled to herself, and went to sleep.
That next morning, Megan woke to light streaming through the gaps in her blinds and the sound of the garage door opening a floor below her. It was probably late in the morning, but hopefully not too late. Today must be July third. Mom and Dad had mentioned something about going grocery shopping for the Fourth of July party they were hosting tomorrow. If they were leaving for that right now, the boys were probably downstairs playing video games until they got back so they wouldn’t cause trouble. That meant that she was about to be invited to join them. Sure enough, within moments, the sound of pounding footsteps approached her room.
“Megan, are you up?” Oliver asked as he peeped through the door. “Do you want to come downstair and play Mario Cart with us? Mom and Dad said we could!” The amount of enthusiasm in his voice was tempting, but Megan was completely and absolutely exhausted.
“I might come down later. I think I’m going to sleep for a little bit longer. Sorry O.” She rolled onto her other side and tried closing her eyes.
Seemingly satisfied with her answer, Oliver left the door wide open and returned down the long hallway.
Megan laid in bed for a few minutes longer and stared at the ceiling. There was no way she was going to fall back asleep, no matter how tired she was. What time is it? She reached over for her pink flip phone to check the time, but it wasn’t on her night stand. Maybe I put it in the drawer.
Just then she noticed a string of color at the foot of her bed. Her new bracelet must have come off in the middle of the night. She quickly picked it up to examine the damage and found it was easily fixable. She used the scissors on her nightstand to trim the frayed string and figured out she could simply reattach it with a new string. It was a good thing she had plenty of that left from camp!
Megan started walking to the far corner of her room. This area consisted of a three swirly mirrors that leaned up against the wall and bookshelf with several baskets. These were filled with yarn, string, needles and thread, books, journals, colored pencils, pictures, flowers, and any other tools she could possibly need to turn her imagination’s creations into reality. She loved spending time in this corner.
She sat up against the wall, or rather the mirror that was set up against the wall. She found colored string that matched her anklet and set to work right away. Before long, her anklet was mended, functional, and better than ever. All she needed to do was to trim three extra inches of string off the end. She quickly stood up to grab the scissors off her nightstand by the door, but her fingers did not even reach the bedpost before a deafening sound rang in her ears.
Milliseconds, deciseconds, and nanoseconds flew by while the world stood still. The moments that followed happened in the blink of an eye —- a blink that seemed to last for an eternity.
Megan’s mind rushed to make sense of what had just happened. The crash was deafening, yet is sounded as if it came from hundreds of miles away, as though it had come from an alternate universe or another world. An explosion maybe?
Her head felt light, and there was a strange sensation coming from part of her body. My leg. Something was wrong. It felt like how her hand would feel when she accidentally left a hair binder around her wrist for too long and lost circulation. How would I have fit a rubber band on my leg? That high up? That doesn’t make sense. She snapped her head around to face the crashing sound. Nothing noteworthy was behind her, at least nothing that she could see. Her eyes shifted down. Red.
With that one look, everything changed. One short glance and she knew it. Everything was not okay. She was not okay.
Her face turned blank with shock as she whipped her head around to face the door again. She wasn’t sure how, but somehow she hobbled her way all the way to the door. No. No. No. Help. I need help.
“Mommy!” She screamed louder than she ever had in her life. Help. Desperation powered her screams through the house.
Where is my phone?
Is anyone still home?
Her voice broke and cracked as she continued to yell, hardly a breath in between.
Wow! I didn’t know I could scream that loud!
Can anyone hear me?
Why does my leg feel so weird?
Pressure built up behind her eyes, and tears pushed their way through.
I can’t stand on my own.
I don’t think I can crawl to the stairs.
There’s so much red.
Adrenaline raced. Panic seized.
I need a hospital.
I don’t know how to drive.
Where is my phone?
Her voice continued to screech. “Mommy!”
Just then, Mya’s bedroom door cracked open, and Megan saw her sister look around to see what was wrong. Panic darted from Megan’s eyes in a signal of distress, but no words came. Apparently seeing nothing, of interest, her little sister closed the door. No. Could she not see the blood? Could she not see that she was fading? Could she not see that something was drastically wrong?
Caught off guard, Megan stopped screaming for a moment, just long enough to hear footsteps racing up the stairs. Little stars began twinkling around the room.
“Megan! Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Dad yelled out of breath as he rounded the corner with a broom in hand.
He looked at her. The blood drain from his face. Mom rounded the corner. She turned white. They both froze. Megan began to slump against the doorframe, rapidly losing strength.
In another moment that felt like an eternity, the two of them both stared at her, both unsure of what to make of the situation. No one knew what to think.
Dad was the first to break the standstill. He rushed toward his daughter and helped her to the ground. Mom followed at a distance.
“You know first aid, Megan, what do I do?” Mom asked. Pure panic filled her voice.
“Call 911,” Megan responded weakly. Laying on the ground with the very substance of life pulsing out of her with each heartbeat, that response was the only answer she could think of.
“Grab a towel!” dad yelled calmly but forcefully. Mom pulled out her phone and ran down the hallway to grab the requested towel. She returned quickly and threw it to dad. He quickly wrapped it around her leg and applied pressure, being sure to keep it elevated above her heart. Mom paced the hallway behind him on the phone with the dispatcher.
The next minutes were a blur. Stars still dotted her vision, and with every breath, the feeling of a numb bruise made its presence more and more evident in her lower calf. What is happening? “Please God help me. Please God help me.”
In the back of her mind, she could hear her mom answering the dispatcher's questions. “She’s twelve… yes, she’s conscious… still breathing, yes… bleeding… safe… I don’t know…”. Her voice slowly slipped from range. She must have walked down the hallway, but it was hard for Megan to tell from her vantage point.
“Please God help me. Please God help me. Please God help me.” Those were the only words that escaped between breaths. If there was ever a time Megan wished she would faint, this was it. Why wouldn’t her body let her escape this moment?
“Okay, an ambulance will be here in five minutes,” mom reported, walking closer to the scene.
The numb bruising sensation was starting to get into her head. Megan looked to the left near her door. The carpet didn't look right. Why is there so much red? “Please God help me. Please God help me.”
Minutes later sirens echoed in the hallway.