TITLE: Learning to Live (Chapter 1)(working title)
By Kristena Tunstall
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Catalina suddenly awakes to a sharp shooting pain that runs all the way from the top of her neck down to the tips of her toes. She feels a tightness in her chest making it hard for her to breath. Disoriented, she reaches for her chest and feels the seatbelt cutting into her flesh. From somewhere outside, light is reflecting off shattered glass scattered across the roof of the car. It is then she realizes that the seatbelt is pinning her to her seat as she hangs upside down. She feels a wetness starting to seep down her forehead. Reaching for it and pulling her hand away, it is reddened by her own blood.
A moan off to her left catches her ear. A wave of dizziness over takes her as she strains her neck to see a forty-something man pinned between the seat and the car’s steering wheel. As the fog in her mind starts to recede, she realizes it is her husband Kurt. His eyes are droopy yet slightly open. There is bright red blood slowly oozing from some place on his head but the origin is uncertain from her view. The blood gradually drips from his forehead down to the ceiling that is below them. There also appears to be this clear fluid coming from his ears.
Pain radiates through her left shoulder as she tries to reach out and touch him. She grits her teeth through the pain to see if she is able to reach him but her efforts are in vain so she asks, “Kurt, are you ok?”
It seems like time stands still as he is slow to answer, “I’m not sure.”
“Can you move?”
“No. Not doing well. Trying to stay awake. Just want to sleep.”
Frantically Catalina says, “Sweetheart, you have to hold on for me. Please hold on for me.”
Kurt’s voice is almost to a whisper now as his words begin to slur, “Cat, I love you baby. I don’t think I am going to make it. Please take care of the g…” As his voice just trails off into the silence.
Catalina is beside herself and yells, “Kurt. Stay with me.” There is no response. She tries again, “Kurt?” A little louder, “Kurt?” Screaming, “KURT!” Nothing. Just silence.
She has no idea if he is alive or dead. She starts to lose conscientiousness. Her mind wanders to the first time she met her husband. They were both attending NIU, Northern Illinois University. She was a freshman studying accounting. One day on her way to class there had been a flyer posted on a bulletin board advertising for a club called “Faith for Christ.” It was for fellow believers to be able to come together for worship and fellowship. Since she could not afford a private Christian university and was stuck going to a public institution, this would be the next best thing to be able to hang out with Christians like herself. The first meeting of the year was to be that evening. She decided to wear the same blue jeans she had already been wearing for the day but changed into a light pink t-shirt that had Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the front. She put her golden locks into a pony tail, touched up her makeup and headed out the door.
The adrenaline started to pump through her veins as she got closer. When she walked into the building and then into the room where the meeting would be held, the first person she saw was this rather big guy at nearly six and a half feet tall. His hair was in a crew cut and the color of mocha. His olive skin emphasized his chiseled features. He was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen before.
He immediately saw her across the room and a twinkle could now be seen in his eyes as he was taken away by her exquisite beauty. He had been talking to one of the guys already there but said, “Please excuse me,” and made a b-line for her.
His determined approach exuded confidence that took her breath away. He immediately said, “Hello. My name is Kurt. Welcome to Faith for Christ.” Even though he already knew the answer to the following question as he was one of the leaders for the group he asked, “Is this your first time here?”
She feels the heat rise through her face and replies shyly, “Yes. I’m so excited to be here.” The chemistry between the two of them was electrifying.
“I’m glad you’re here too. I know this may sound a little forward but I would like to ask you out this Friday night. Do you have any plans?”
Her mind was spinning because the attraction to this man was magnetic and making it hard for her to think straight. It baffled yet excited her at the same time. Breathlessly she said, “Yes, I would love to.”
From that moment on, they had become inseparable. Now, she sat there upside down uncertain if she had just lost the love of her life.
Catalina starts to come out of conscientiousness and realizes her two daughters, Hannah and Emily, had been with them. She tries to turn her head further to the left so she can see Hannah who is sitting in the seat directly behind her father. She cannot get a clear view due to the confinement of the seatbelt and the fact she is unable to move her body very well. Out of the corner of her left eye she could see that Hannah is still there but unable to tell if she is awake or hurt. She doesn’t seem to be moving and is completely lifeless. “Hannah, can you hear me?” There is no response. She tries again in a more panic stricken voice, “HANNAH, CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Still nothing.
She whispers to herself, “This can’t be happening.” She starts to fade out again and thinks about Hannah’s birthday from just a week ago. She had just turned 18 on August 4. Excitement was in the air around their house as she was preparing to go away for her first year of college at Harvard. She had earned a full ride scholarship by working very hard all through high school to become the valedictorian of her graduating class. Each year she made the cheerleading squad and then was voted to be the captain each time. She had been with her boyfriend Nathan since she had started her freshman year. They were high school sweethearts heading to Harvard together. They had both been voted the king and queen for homecoming and prom their senior year. Although Hannah was well like by all in the school, she never let the popularity get to her head. Two Saturdays a month, she would spend the day volunteering at the local Humane Society helping out with the animals as she wanted to be a veterinarian once she graduated from college.
As her mind starts to become clear again, she thinks of her other daughter Emily who was sitting directly behind her. Unable to view her from where she was at, she tries to stretch out her right arm to reach for the visor to use the mirror in order to see her. Pain starts to seep in from her chest radiating through her body to her fingertips as she is slowly inching her way to it. The closer she gets, the more the pain intensifies to the point where she can no longer take it and eventually stops.
The desperation and hopelessness is dripping from her voice when she calls out, “Emily, sweetie, can you hear me?”
In a faint murmur, “Yes Mom, I’m here.”
The relief that washes over her is like a dam that breaks as water comes crashing through. “Are you ok? Can you move?”
Bewildered, “I think I’m ok but I don’t know.”
“Can you see your sister?”
Emily turns her head to the left and sees that Hannah is not moving yet her eyes are wide open. She knows immediately that her sister is gone and starts to hysterically scream, “MOM! HANNAH IS DEAD! SHE IS DEAD! MOM! OH MY GYSH! SHE IS DEAD!,” over and over again.
Catalina takes a deep breath and tries to get louder than her, “EMILY!,” repeating her name three times before she can get her to calm down long enough to quit screaming. In as motherly of a voice as she could muster, “Sweetheart, I need you to stay calm. We need to stay calm for each other. We don’t know for sure your sister is gone. We don’t know how bad any of us are hurt. Please pray with me right now for strength and God’s presence and grace. Sweetie, can you please do this with me?”
Frightened and unsure, “Yes Mom, I will try.”
“Lord, I know you know the situation we’re in.” She starts to hear what sounds like soft sobs. “Please help my family. Help us to be safe. Please let Hannah be ok. Don’t let her die. Please Lord, don’t let her die.” Emily’s sobs become louder. “Please let Kurt be alive and ok.”
Emily suddenly interrupts, “IS DAD OK?”
“I don’t know honey. I know he is badly hurt but we will have to wait until the paramedics get here. Sweetie, let’s just keep lifting our family up to the Lord. I know it’s hard to do but we need to lean on Him right now to give us the strength we need. Okay?”
Sniffling, “Okay Mom.”
“Please take care of Emily and make sure she is ok. Make sure I am ok.” Catalina is starting to feel light headed again so tries to finish, “Please take care of our family. We know your will be done but please have your will for my family to live. For all of us to be ok. In your precious name, amen.
“Emily, how are y….,” and Catalina fades out of consciences again thinking of her youngest. Only one year younger than Hannah, they were constantly mistaken for twins by strangers. Emily was so excited for sister to be going to Harvard yet sad at the same time as these two had been almost inseparable since she had been born.
As for temperament, Emily could not have been more opposite than Hannah in that she was more of an introvert. She started a book club at her high school her freshman year as she loved to read just about anything. Her true passion, however, laid in writing. She wanted to become an editor at Random House some day with the goal to become the Editor-in-Chief. She was also well liked by the student body but mostly hung out with her close knit group of friends she had known since elementary school. Although they were opposite of each other in personality in every way, they complimented each other quite nicely.
Just like Hannah, Emily was headed down the same path as her sister to become valedictorian the following year. Her plan was to follow in her sister’s footsteps and attend Harvard. Catalina could not have been prouder of her two daughters.
Catalina’s fog begins to lift again as she starts to hear Emily frantically calling her name, “MOM! ARE YOU THERE?”
“Yes honey, I am here.”
“I’m so scared Mom. I’ve been calling your name for about five minutes. I couldn’t get you to answer.” The sound of tears is almost suffocating in the air.
“Honey, I know. I am scared to. If it happens again, just keep praying to God that he will take care of us.”
Off in the distance she starts to hear the faint sound of sirens wailing in the distance.
“See honey. Do you hear that?”
“Help is on its way. We will all be ok very soon.”
As the sirens start to approach, she can no longer focus as her mind starts to slip away into the blackness with her daughter saying, “Okay Mom, I love you.”
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