The sound was unmistakable. Even though Tali never heard a car hit a person before, she knew what it was. She turned as one small gym shoe, white as a sunflower seed, arced into the air. The tiny, boneless body windmilled after the shoe. The child had been behind her in the crosswalk.
It could have been Tali, a few seconds earlier, walking home from high school with her heavy book bag. Just stupid luck it was the next kid. Another proof that her life was worth something. The good Lord intended her to make a difference. Maybe be a physician like that woman in the movie in class today.
The little sista was almost sure dead. She should go check, though. Before she would make her legs move, the squealing of metal tore the air as the car hit an SUV.
A man’s body rammed through the windshield like a spear and landed on the sidewalk right in front of her, almost on her shoe. A long ragged gash in his chest filled with blood and Talia’s vision narrowed to a point while her stomach flipped. She gritted her teeth and shook herself. Maybe this was the Lord’s test to see if she could be a doctor.
The man’s chest had a deep fissure from the collarbone to the belly button. His guts glistened and pieces of white bone were scattered through the hole like dice. The seam filled endlessly with blood. He was probably gonna die but she would maybe keep him alive until the ambulance came.
She knelt in the broken glass and pressed her hands together as if in prayer, on either side of the rift to close the opening. The blood bubbled up like warm bread dough pushing through her brown fingers. The shattered glass from the windshield bit into her knees, but she kept pressure on to hold the two ragged edges of the wound together.
People gathered and established their own periphery on the grass on the other side of the smoking car. Probably didn’t want to get involved in anyone else’s business. People were like that and that was okay. Being a hero wasn’t for everyone. Blood covered her hands, but she kept on the pressure.
Everyone stood there, stupid, but not her. If she was meant to be a physician, this would be the moment that decided her future for her. Her arms ached with the strain of keeping the pressure on. Whatever she became, gonna get there by hard work and scholarships. Not gonna get a baby in her like some of the girls. She wasn’t having any of what those boys were selling. She’d had enough to last a lifetime. Yeah, her brown eyes were nice and her hair was soft. It was gonna take more than sugar to derail her life. She’d had a rough enough start without adding to it.
At seven Tali was in charge of herself while her mama slept from second shift at the grocery and third cleaning hotel rooms part time.
A dark man with a whispery voice like crinkling paper, lived down the street and had a nose for children who weren’t under anyone’s watch. He’d found her fast enough and told her he’d kill her if she told. Those three years were a nightmare she relived every night of her life.
He’d disappeared one day when she was ten. It was her best birthday present ever even if it weren’t on her birthday. Was it only five years ago? Tali never told anyone, not even her mama. What could anyone do to fix it? Now, she was old enough she could help herself.
The blood from the man’s chest seemed to be slowing. Tali wondered what was wrong inside his body. Was it his heart? The sweat ran into her eyes as she struggled to keep him alive.
She’d vowed to make a difference in someone’s life, the way she always prayed someone would appear back then to rescue her. Saving this guy would be the start of making her mark in the world.
She pushed all her weight into keeping his wound closed, heard him grunt in pain.
“Hold on, help is coming,” Tali muttered. Sirens wailed in the distance.
“Thank you,” the man whispered.
That voice. Tali’s hand slipped off him in the blood. Her breath caught deep in her gut and she couldn’t hear anything as if her ears were muffled in a pillow. The searing pain in her chest brought her right back to being seven years old. His voice, that whispering rasp, was in her nightmares every night. The shaking began and she couldn’t keep her hands still. Blood flowed out of his wound like a river overflowing its banks.
Tali took a deep breath. She wasn’t that girl anymore, vowed to never be afraid like that again. She wiped her bloody hands on the clean sleeve of his shirt and stood up. Maybe her gift was to make it so no little girl had to be afraid like that. She brushed the glass off of the knees of her jeans.
Maybe he deserved to live for some reason in God’s big plan. Wasn’t her call. God would save him, if she wanted to. She was just a kid walking home from school. He’d cut that little sista’s life short and put a sliver of terror right through her heart that she’d never get out.
Making a difference in the world was important, Tali picked up her heavy backpack. Not everyone could be a hero. Only those who were strong. She was strong, she realized. Strong enough to make the hard choice and do the right thing. 951 words.