Blessed darkness. I was somewhere lost between the dream world and reality when suddenly, a blinding light flashed bright, penetrating through my thin, pink eyelids. It felt like the sun was only 6 feet above my fluttering eyelashes, but the light was really my bedside lamp armed with a 100-watt light bulb.

“Wake up honey! It’s ten o’clock. Ryan will be here to pick you up in an hour.”

I was excited, “Okay mom. What time do you want me home?”

“Be home by ten. I’m going to the store. Have fun! I love you!”

One thing about my mom, she could never leave without saying “I love you” and neither could I. I leaped out of bed and danced to my closet. I located my favorite summer dress covered in pink and purple flowers; my two favorite colors. It was sleeveless and the thin fabric caressed my sun-tanned skin. The dress reached three inches above my knee and the hem swirled like a bell when I spun around feeling like a princess. Singing Air Supply’s Here I Am, I romantically floated to the bathroom. After taking care of the morning essentials, it was time to get my “pretty” on. I carefully applied black mascara and eye liner to my large sky-blue eyes enhancing them. Of course, I covered my noticeable blemishes with foundation and powder. Because this was a special occasion, I methodically curled my shoulder-length blonde hair in to spiraled, bouncy curls. I wanted to look perfect. Today was our one-year anniversary, and Ryan and I were spending the day together. We were going to see the new romantic comedy, Endless Love followed by my favorite meal of chicken nuggets from McDonalds. Ryan really knew how to keep a girl happy.

Suddenly, I heard the familiar horn blast as Ryan pulled to the curb in front of my house. Slightly annoyed that Ryan didn’t come to my door like a gentleman, I brushed it off and deliberately walked slowly so I could see the pleasure light up his soft brown eyes when he saw my appearance. Grinning like a little boy, Ryan smiled at me as I hopped in to his beautiful fire engine red Ford F150 pick-up truck. I looked like a princess, but Ryan resembled a handsome prince charming! He had worn my favorite dark-washed Hollister jeans and a soft turquoise American Eagle shirt I had given to him on his last birthday. Leaning slightly in his direction, but stopping short so he had to close the distance, we shared a short, feather light kiss. I immediately smelled the pungent scent of alcohol his peppermint gum wasn’t strong enough to mask. I was angry and hurt when I asked, “Were you drinking?”

Naturally, Ryan took offense, “Well yeah babe. But I only had a shot of Southern Comfort at Fred’s. I’m fine. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you baby.”

Rolling my eyes and trying to hide my disappointment, I reached for the seat belt pulling it tight across my chest until I heard the familiar click of the buckle locking in to place. The big Ford engine purred smoothly as he sped up to merge onto the busy two-lane interstate. Until then, the drive had been awkwardly quiet. The small cab seemed oppressive from the tension that filled the air between us. Since it was our special day, I decided not to press the issue. He was acting and driving normally. That was until he got out his cell phone.

“Ryan put your phone away please.”

“Babe calm down. It’s James,” he muttered.

“I don’t care. You need to pay attention. There’s lots of traffic,” I warned worriedly.

Ryan angrily tossed his phone onto my lap. He knew I suspected him of texting and flirting with other girls, and he wanted to prove his innocence. It was difficult trusting Ryan after his betrayal a few months ago when he eagerly pursued another girl.

I glanced over at Ryan who seemed to be lost in his own little world. He was obviously distracted as he started to merge in to the left lane to pass a slow-moving mini-van complete with a stick people family pasted across the back window. The bright red eighteen-wheeler advertising Sheetz gasoline had been quickly approaching from behind when it suddenly clipped Ryan’s left bumper as he merged in to the passing lane. Immediately, our big F-150 seemed tiny in comparison to the horse power of the much larger truck. We began to spin horizontally in front of the large smiling grill of the beast. The driver slammed on his brakes and the truck gurgled in protest as smoke filled the air from the burning of the tires grinding in to the asphalt trying desperately to stop.

The eighteen wheeler smashed Ryan’s truck head on crushing the front end like an empty aluminum can. The force of the truck’s impact pitched our broken vehicle in to a roll across the field that separated the east and west bound lanes of the busy highway. As my body lurched violently testing the strength of the seat belt, I could hear screeching tires, glass shattering, metal crunching against metal, and blood-curdling screams.

Was that me screaming? Were those my words begging for help?

When our rolling ball of metal finally came to a stop in the grassy field, I was shocked and grateful to be alive. I winced at the sight of my once smooth, tanned arms that were now covered in blood. There were several large shards of metal and glass pierced through my thin, raw skin. My hands searched my face looking for more injuries and found it was covered in lacerations and blood. I couldn’t move my left arm; my elbow seemed to be bent in the wrong direction like a lightning bolt. My shin bone had been shattered and the splintered bone penetrated through my skin. An eight inch piece of metal from the frame work of the truck went all the way through my right thigh. In shock, I vomited the thick, lumpy oatmeal I had for breakfast that morning and part of the fried tilapia I had for dinner the night before. It looked and smelled like a mixture of spoiled milk and pale yellow mustard that had hardened in the summer sun for several days.

Straining my bruised and broken body, I moved towards Ryan’s side of the cab where I noticed the unused seat belt. Looking through the shattered windshield where Ryan’s body had impacted, I began to scream. The rolling orb of truck contents came to a stop on Ryan’s beautiful face, crushing it. He was unrecognizable. All that was left on Ryan’s face was his thin brown eyebrows and his soft brown eyes that were almost completely filled with blood. His skull had been shattered. Parts of his brain were peeking through his hair. It looked like left over dry lasagna.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Using my weak, injured arms, I dragged myself from the rubbish. Once free, I stopped crawling when I felt tiny pebbles of gravel on my bloody fingertips. Why hasn’t anyone come to help me?

Lying on my side, I saw several speeding bright lights moving towards my limp, broken body. Jolting me from becoming unconscious, I heard a whaling siren approaching from behind me. It was unbearable. I wanted it to stop. Not knowing if I would be hit by the approaching vehicles, I turned over to the blare of sirens hoping to see emergency vehicles.

Instead, I turned off my whaling alarm clock. Blinking my eyes open, I recalled the horrible nightmare. It seemed so vivid and real. Shaking it off, I hopped out of bed. It was time to get ready to spend the day with Ryan for our anniversary. I decided to curl my brassy blonde hair and wear my favorite summer dress with pink and purple flowers like I had done in my dream. Suddenly, I heard the knell from Ryan’s shining red truck outside, indicating his arrival. I hopped in his truck with ease. Our quick kiss caused me to feel abrupt deja vu. My heart fell to my stomach when I smelled the strong liquor in Ryan’s breath. Accidentally, I kicked something with my shaky foot. I looked down and saw a large, half full bottle of Southern Comfort.