Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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I had to drive.
I never drove, but Jared was running behind schedule and wanted to use his electric razor in the car to save a little time. He despised being late. I stood in the entryway doing a happy dance to taunt my husband because I was ready long before him. Jared was always on top of his game, organized and ready. It was downright comical to see him flustered and in a rush for once.
“What are you grinning about?” he teased as he playfully slapped my behind to scoot me out the door.
“Oh, nothing really,” I replied. “It’s just funny to see you so out of sorts.”
“Har, har,” he laughed sarcastically before yelling up the stairs. “Matty! Get a move on, buddy. We’re out the door in two minutes.”
“Coming, Dad!” Matthew gracefully bounced down each step, grabbed his shoes and headed for the garage. “Whoa, wait up. Mom is driving?” he asked as he entered the garage and saw me standing in the doorframe on the driver’s side. He walked around the vehicle to sit directly behind his dad.
“Please explain what is so  wrong with my driving?” I demanded. “I am a perfectly good driver, thank you very much.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “Sure you are, Charlotte. We wouldn’t dare question your exceptional driving skills,” he teased. “Now let’s get going. We’re already running late.”
Shaking my head, I backed out of the garage, slowly rolling down the driveway and into the street.
It was the fifth of July. We were headed to a barbeque with our dear friends near Lake Michigan. The party, always held the day after the Fourth, was a tradition that I looked forward to every year. Long after the last firework exploded in the Chicago sky, the excitement of the holiday hung around a bit longer as we gathered for a day of fun. I was eager for an afternoon of soaking up the sunshine with my family and friends, surrounded by love and eating as much delicious food as possible.
Just as I pulled onto Michigan Avenue, I noticed a sleek, black SUV slide up behind our sporty Lexus. They were so close our bumpers almost touched. I moved to the other lane so they could get by and ride someone else’s tail.
“Jerk,” I whispered as he changed lanes, still driving entirely too close behind us.
“What’s the matter?” Jared asked, shutting down his razor.
“This guy behind me is right on my ass. Seriously, come on!”
I moved again into the right lane. The SUV pulled around to the left like he was going to pass me.
“Finally,” I muttered.
Just as he pulled even with our vehicle, he crowded into my lane like I wasn’t even there. I swerved into the shoulder on the right side to avoid being hit, but he continued to push.
“Honey, there’s an exit up ahead. Try to get in front of him and take it.”
I pulled onto the off ramp, trying to calm my nerves as much as possible. Jared didn’t appear to be affected by the strange occurrence one bit.
“What the hell was that?” I asked.
Jared looked at me sideways and shrugged his shoulders. “Some people are nuts, I guess. Haven’t you ever heard of road rage?” He pulled the visor back down to continue shaving but something seemed off. There was tension around his eyes and mouth. I peeked back at Matty who was engrossed in playing his Nintendo DS. He didn’t have a care in the world.
After sitting at the stoplight to get off Michigan Avenue for what felt like forever, I drove a few blocks before pulling up to a four way stop. I looked around, trying to familiarize myself with the area and decided the best way to get back on track was to fire up the GPS.
I pushed the button and waited as the satellite found our location. There was no one behind me, so it wouldn’t matter if we sat there for a minute while it calculated our shortest route.
“Proceed ahead,” the little robotic voice said from the dashboard.
As I pulled into the intersection, Jared yelled a terrifying, “NO!”

I turned to look at him just in time to see the black SUV barrel into the passenger side of our vehicle at full speed. Glass exploded into my face along with the multitude of airbags positioned inside the car.
The next few seconds were a complete blur. I heard the sounds of tires screeching against the asphalt, metal twisting, glass breaking, and the screams of my family as we spun around and around.
We finally came to a stop, the Lexus landing on its side so my door was up in the air. I blinked a few times and winced at the pain. A throbbing ache radiated from my left arm, the pain shooting into my elbow when I tried to move my fingers. I slid my eyes down and could see the bone protruding through the top of my skin.
Blood was splattered on the dash and all over my shirt. I could taste it in my mouth and feel it running down the side of my face.
Slowly, I pulled my head back away from the air bag. My neck seemed to be okay and I wanted to check on my boys. Other than the gentle hum of Jared’s electric razor, it was eerily quiet in the vehicle.
As I turned my head, I had a sinking feeling that this was a crucial moment. This point in my life would forever live in my memory, burned into my brain no matter how hard I tried to forget. This was where everything changed.

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