Read Unexpected Reality Online
Authors: Kaylee Ryan
What I find has me sprinting into action. A small SUV is turned on its side. Starting down the muddy embankment, I lose my footing. Slipping and sliding, I struggle to find my balance. I finally reach the front of the vehicle, but the headlights are blinding, making it impossible to see if anyone’s still inside. I’m mindful not to lean on the car, not willing to take the chance of causing it to tip and roll further down the hill. It’s too dark to assess the situation and the rain is still coming down in sheets. Better safe than sorry.
Very carefully, I make it to the driver’s-side door. I shine the light through the window and can see a woman lying on her side. Her eyes are closed. Shit! I know enough that I shouldn’t try to move her. Reaching into my pocket, I pull out my phone and dial for help. It takes me three tries, as my hands are trembling and wet from the rain.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“There’s been an accident,” I scream over the pounding rain. “I’m just off Anderson Drive, in Jackson’s curves.”
“Sir, are you hurt?”
“No, not me. I saw headlights, so I stopped. There’s a woman trapped.” I know I’m probably not making any sense, but my head is too jumbled. I need to help her.
“Stay with her, help is on the way. I have a team en route, less than five minutes out.”
“What can I do?” I plead with her.
I’m crushing the phone to my ear so I can hear her. The rain makes it an almost impossible feat. “Just hold tight, help is on the way. Do not try to move her unless you feel she’s in grave danger,” she yells over the line, cool as a fucking cucumber. I guess that’s why she’s in that position.
After what I’m sure is the longest five minutes of my entire life, I hear the sirens. “They’re here,” I tell the operator.
“Good, please remember to allow them to do their job.”
What the hell? Is this chick for real?
“Got it,” I say and end the call. Shoving my phone back into my pocket, I wave my arms in the air. “Over here!” I call out. The two paramedics carefully slide their way down the hill, carrying a board. Just as they reach me, a fire truck and a sheriff pull off to the side of the road. The cavalry has arrived.
Thank goodness. I hope this woman is okay.
“Sir, are you hurt?”
“No, I was driving by and saw the headlights. I’ve been here a little over five minutes. I didn’t touch the car, just shined my light through the window. The woman behind the wheel seems to be unconscious. From what I can tell, she’s the only passenger. I was afraid to move her or the car,” I ramble over the roar of the rain, still falling in buckets from the sky.
“You did good,” he yells back.
I step back out of the way and let them go to work. My phone vibrates in my pocket.
She’s just going to have to wait.
I stay rooted to the spot on the hillside just in case they need another hand. I watch as the firemen join us and survey the car, assessing the risk while they nod and use hand signals. They must say that all is safe, because they immediately get to work on trying to pry the door open. The paramedics are close by, waiting to get to their patient.
I don’t move a muscle; I stand in my spot, soaking wet and wait to see if she’s okay. I wish I could have done more. I make a vow to at least get my CPR certification. What could I have really done if she were awake, or if I had to try and drag her out of the car if there was more imminent danger?
My phone vibrates again, and I continue to ignore it.
My eyes are glued to the scene in front of me. I watch as the door—which will only open a fraction—is cut away from the car. The firemen are working carefully yet diligently. As soon as the door is removed, one of the men picks it up and throws it toward the rear of the car. I’m sure they’re operating on pure adrenaline; it’s their job to get to her as quickly as possible. You see this in the movies, hear about it on the news, but to be here and witness the determination and dedication these men and women have is awe-inspiring.
The paramedics swoop in and check on the driver. I see now that one of them is in the passenger seat. I guess that door opened just fine. Everyone works together assessing the situation. When they yell for the stretcher, my heartbeat accelerates.
Is she going to be okay? Can they get her out? Do they have to cut her out?
A million questions are running through my head, but I still keep my eyes glued to the car. To her. I need to see that she’s okay.
Minutes, hours—I’ve lost track of time. It’s not until I see them slowly and ever so gently lift her from the car and place her on the stretcher that I feel myself take a deep breath. From the ache in my chest, it’s as if it’s the first in a while.
The paramedics work on strapping her down. A fireman throws a big blanket over her body, followed by what looks like a tarp, an attempt to keep her dry in this torrential downpour. Mother Nature is relentless tonight. Tears from Heaven, as my mother always says.
Four of them flank each corner of the stretcher and begin the slow, slippery trek up hill to the ambulance. In the dark of night, I lose sight of them until they reach the headlight beams.
“Hey, man, are you good? You hurt?” One of the guys lays a hesitant hand on my shoulder.
I shake my head. “No, I just stopped to help,” I try to explain.
He nods, letting me know he heard me. This rain makes it damn difficult to have a normal conversation.
Turning, he heads toward the car. Reaching inside, he pulls out a bag.
What if she wakes up in the hospital all alone? How long will it take her family to get here? She’s going to be scared.
It’s that thought that has me climbing the hill. I’ll go to the hospital and just make sure she’s okay, that she’s not alone. I’ll wait until her family arrives. Maybe I can answer any questions she might have. I can at least fill her in from the point that I found her in her car.
At the top of the hill, they already have her loaded in the ambulance. I’m headed that way when the sheriff stops me.
“Excuse me, sir, do you know the victim?” he questions.
“No. I was driving by and saw the headlights over the embankment,” I explain.
He nods. “I’m going to have a few questions.” He looks up at the rain still falling from the sky. “Can you come down to the station?”
“No. I’m following them to the hospital.”
Tilting his head to the side, he studies me. “I thought you didn’t know her?”
“I don’t. However, I do know what happened here tonight—after I found her, at least. I don’t want her to wake up alone. I’ll stay until her family arrives.” I give him the details of what I just decided only minutes before.
Understanding crosses his face. “I’ll meet you there.”
I give him a quick wave and hustle across the road to my truck. Cranking the heater, I pull out my cell phone. Several missed calls and one text from Stephanie.
Stephanie: I can’t believe you stood me up.
Really? Does she not know me any better than that?
Me: Drove up on an accident. Stopped to help. Headed to hospital now.
I’ll make it up to you.
After I hit send, I drop the phone in the cup holder and reach for my seat belt, securely fastening it. I wait for the ambulance to pull out, because I’m going to follow them, not knowing for sure where they’re taking her. I don’t have to wait long before the siren sounds and they’re moving. The sheriff pulls out behind them, sticking his hand out the window for me to follow.
Thankful for the escort, I put the truck in drive and follow close behind. The entire way, I pray she’s okay. I’m not really a praying man; I’ve done it, but don’t make it a habit. But something inside me needs her to be okay.
The drive to the hospital is a blur. My grip on the wheel is so tight my fingers start to ache. Thankfully, the rain has started to ease a little; however, it does nothing to calm my nerves. I follow the sheriff into the emergency room parking lot, and he parks behind the ambulance. I find the first available spot, throwing my truck into park. I tear off the poncho and throw it in the backseat of the truck, then grab my phone and keys and head toward the entrance.
By the time I reach them, they’ve already wheeled her back to an exam room. The sheriff is waiting for me just inside the door.
“Simpson.” He holds his hand out for me.
I take it. “Ridge Beckett,” I introduce myself.
“They have a room we can use. I turned over her belongings, so they’re going to try and contact her family.”
“Do we know who she is?”
He gives me a sad look. “She had her ID in her wallet. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge that information.”
I run my hand through my hair, frustrated at the situation. I understand that she has rights, confidentiality and all that, but I just . . . She needs to be okay. “Yeah,” I finally say, following him to the room he just mentioned.
“Have a seat.” He points to the row of chairs in what appears to be a private waiting room. “Now, tell me what happened tonight.”
I spend the next several minutes going over the evening. Hell, I even started with stopping to change Dawn’s tire. He doesn’t say a word, just listens and takes notes.
“So, you don’t know either of them?” he asks.
I shake my head, just as my phone vibrates in my pocket. I’m sure it’s Stephanie. I need to explain to her what’s going on. Glancing at the screen, it’s a local number, but one I don’t recognize. I nod toward the phone, letting him know I’m going to answer before swiping the screen and holding it to my ear. “Hello.”
“Hi, is this Mr. Beckett? Mr. Ridge Beckett?” the lady asks.
“Yes, who is this?”
“Mr. Beckett, my name is Alice and I’m calling from Mercy General. Sir, we need for you to come in right away.”
My heart drops. Something’s wrong. “Who?” I grit out, my mind racing. Mom and Dad are home, or should have been. Reagan, she would have been on her way home from work. One of the guys? Fuck!
“Mr. Beckett, it would be best if you come on in. Come to the emergency department and ask for me, Alice. I’ll be at the reception desk.”
Swallowing the lump in my throat and taking a deep breath, I answer her. “I’m already here. I was . . . I’ll be right there.” I hit end and grip the phone tight in my hands.
“Mr. Beckett?” Sheriff Simpson is watching me closely.
“That was the ER,” I tell him. “They need me to come in right away.”
His face pales with what that simple request means. I’m sure he sees it all too much in his line of work. “I’ll go with you.”
Standing on trembling legs, I let him lead the way back to the reception desk. I’m numb with fear and completely over this day. I send up another silent prayer that whoever it is, they’ll be okay.
“This is Mr. Beckett.” Simpson points over his shoulder. “He was the Good Samaritan who stopped to help an accident tonight. Someone just called him, stating he needed to come in right away, but he was already here,” he goes on to explain.
Alice stands from her chair, a folder in her arms. “That was me who called. We can actually go back to that room you were just in to talk.” She doesn’t say anything more, simply starts walking. Sheriff Simpson gives my shoulder a tight squeeze before following her. It’s as if my body is on autopilot, my legs carrying me down the hall on their own accord.
Alice holds the door open for us. “Have a seat,” she says calmly.
“Who?” I grit out again. I’m over waiting for her to tell me.
“Mr. Beckett, I’m a little confused at this, so maybe you can help me understand.” She opens the folder in her hands. “The victim in the car you stopped to help tonight, she has you, Ridge Beckett of Anderson County, listed as her next of kin.”
My mouth drops open. “How is that possible? Who is she?” It was dark and the rain was pouring down. The car . . . I didn’t recognize the car. There has to be some kind of mistake.