“I’ll see you guys when you get home,” I hung up the phone, wiped down the tables, tidied the magazine racks, and refilled the sugar trays.
“You done for the day?” James asked, sweeping dirt into a dustpan.
“Yeah. How long are you here tonight?”
“I have one more client, and Viv wants me to stock the shelves.”
“There’s a storm coming in, and it’s supposed to be pretty bad,” I looked out at the darkening sky.
“It’s overtime,” James shrugged. “Have a good weekend.”
By the time I got to my car, rain was falling from the sky in big heavy drops. I headed towards the freeway but decided against that route when I saw the long line of brake lights. The wind was picking up, its howl seeping through my windows. Heavy raindrops turned into hail. Traffic slowed as the frozen pellets struck the tops of our cars.
“Just let me get home,” I said under my breath.
I turned on the radio just as a storm warning came on, interrupting a mattress commercial. We were told to expect high winds and flooding in some places. Our cars continued to inch along, waiting for lights to turn green only to be stopped by blocked intersections, stalled cars, and then a head on collision between an SUV and a mini van. At impact both vehicles spun in the opposite direction crashing into three other cars in their paths.
For a moment all was quiet as we waited for the drivers to stir and prove that miracles do happen. The battered metal, however, suggested otherwise. Rain continued to pour and the sky rumbled, brightened with sparks of electricity.
A man in the car next to me got out, pulling his hood over his head as he ran towards the SUV. I did the same but ran towards the mini van. I could hear children crying in the back. The driver was slumped over. Three children were still strapped in their car seats. I pulled on the door, but it didn’t budge so I went around to the passenger door to see if I enter from that side. It was locked. The three children stared at me still crying. I looked around for something to break a window with. Nothing. Until a woman was behind me holding a crowbar, telling me to watch out. She broke the back window away from the children and then instructed me to climb in.
“You’re smaller,” she argued.
Sirens were in the distance but were still too far away. I made my way to the driver and unlocked her door; the woman who had broken the window was there ready to take charge.
“She has a pulse, that’s good.”
“Ma’am, can you hear me?” the woman rubbed the driver’s arm then tapped her hand. “Do you know where you are?”
I tried to calm the children, who I now noticed were triplets, two boys and a girl. Their faces were wet and puffy.
“See if she has a cell phone,” I told the woman, hoping there was someone we could call.
I heard the woman rummaging through the driver’s belongings in search of a phone.
“I don’t see one.”
The sky rumbled again and lightening followed. Firetrucks pulled onto the scene followed by several EMTs, and police officers. The woman waved the firefighters over to the van.
“She’s not conscious, but she has a pulse,” she said and stepped out of the way.
I did the same and headed back to my car. Once inside I started the car and blasted the heater, shivering now from cold and shock. I watched as drivers and passengers were questioned and tended to. The entire intersection was blocked, so we waited for police officers to redirect us. The hot air blew against my face, erasing the chill. I decided to call Mark and let him know I’d be home late.
The phone rang and rang before going to voicemail. I waited a few minutes and called again. A man answered.
“Is this Mark’s phone?” I looked at the number.
“Uh, I believe so…we’re at McCarthy and Ford…there’s been an accident.”
“Is he okay…is a little girl with him?” I panicked.
Each second that passed felt long, lonely.
“Hello?” Mark answered.
“Honey?” I felt my body relax a little.
“There was an accident… it involves lightning. But we’re okay. I tell you all about it later.”