I have no idea where Brook is. I just know that she's hurt. Probably. Either that or our husky friend Checkers just killed a squirrel and wanted me to be the first to know.
"Where is she, boy?" I ask the dog. Idiot. It's not like he's going to answer back. "Where's Brook?"
Checkers barks at me and wags his tail. He wants to play.
"Go home, boy."
He barks again. I sigh, and my voice grows stern. "Checkers. Home."
The dog turns around and trots through the woods, and I take off after him. He's fast.
He darts through traffic unafraid. People honk. Someone almost clips him. It gives me a chance to catch up. My mouth is dry. I'm sweating, cramping, but I make myself keep running after this dog. If this is some sort of prank, I'm killing Brook myself.
Finally, I hear her voice. Screaming.
"Brook, I'm coming!"
She's lying on the side of the road, white as flour, blood puddled around her. She's trying to use Checker's leash as a tourniquet around her leg, but her hands are too weak to keep pulling it tight. "Thank God, you made it," she breathes as I'm close enough. "Hit-and-run. It was a gold car, I think--I couldn't tell--I'm going to throw up--"
I take the tourniquet from her and pull it tighter around her leg. I glance at her injury, but only briefly, before I get nauseous, too. I'm normally fine with blood. This isn't blood. This is carnage. "I think you've got a compound fracture," I say, reluctantly. "Northwest Hospital is three minutes from here by car. Two if you're speeding, five if there's traffic, we need to get you there now."
I wish Brook had gotten that phone so I could call an ambulance.
A pickup rounds the corner, and I jump up. The blood on my hands and arms must convince the driver to pull over. I open the passenger door. "My friend's hurt real bad, can you take her to the hospital?" I ask.
"Open the tailgate," the man orders. I do as he says, and soon we're off. Brook's eyes are starry, but she's still awake. She winces as the truck goes over some bumps.
"There's blood on my shirt," she mumbles.
"That's the least of our worries, Brook. Hang in there."
"It won't come out."
"We'll get you a new shirt. Don't worry about it." I pull the tourniquet tighter and glance at the wound again. I'm surprised her foot is still attached to the rest of her body. There's a bone sticking out of her. I know enough about first aid to not apply direct pressure to the wound. I'm surprised Brook knew as much.
"I'm tired, Yank."
"Stay with me. Stay with me. You stay awake, you keep fighting, you hear me?"
We get to Northwest Hospital. I leap out of the pickup and fly through the emergency room doors. "Trauma patient, we need a gurney!"
The nurses look at me. The people in the waiting room look at me. The fact that I am now covered in blood must make an impression on some of them. I'm swarmed by ladies in blue scrubs.
"You just lie down, sweetie--we'll get you taken care of--what hurts?"
They try to put me on a gurney. I swear at them.
"It's not my blood! We've got an eighteen-year-old female outside, hit-and-run victim, compound fracture to her right tibia and/or fibula. Major blood loss. Get a freaking gurney out there, she's my best friend. Please."
A covey of nurses run outside. Someone calls for the orthopedic surgeon, someone calls for the trauma surgeon, someone sponges some blood out of my shirt so they can figure out Brook's blood type. "We'll get her taken care of," someone else promises, and soon Brook's wheeled inside on a gurney, her face ashen, her eyes closed.
She looks like a corpse. Just like my dad, when he was hit by a drunk driver.
"I know I don't pray much, God," I breathe, "but You know I watched Dad flatline in this hospital. Please, please, don't make me watch Brook die."
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.