Excerpt from The Totally Real and Not Fake at All and Super Duper Award-Winning Novel, Walking Down our Lane
She stared at the red light straight ahead and felt the bus driver softly ease into a halt at the intersection, just for somewhere to rest her eyes. She shivered and pulled her dark hair out of it’s ponytail in hope it would float down into a blanket around her neck and provide her some warmth from the April morning. She wanted to ask Headphones Girl sitting in the row ahead of her if she wouldn’t mind shutting the window, but thought better of it. She couldn’t see what her face looked like, but by the looks of the back of her head, she was really tangled in her thoughts. Just like I am, thought Lane. Which reminded her.
Lane picked up her phone just as it buzzed. She knew the timing could have been a coincidence—in fact, it was probably because Lane was always checking her phone these days—but she couldn’t help the smile that spread on her face. She rushed to wipe it off before anyone else on the bus could notice. She refused to be one of those girls.
Even though she was. She totally was. She was the queen of “Those Girls,” the leader of “Those Girls.” She could wrangle wifi passwords from mute postmen and could find an outlet in a playground. Contacting him made her happy, and so keeping contact became her new special skill. In many ways her own day’s energy was inextricable from her phone’s battery life.
She broke out in a shiver again as the bus picked up speed and the wind blew through the windows and bit her elbow. The smile she had mostly gotten rid of, but it itched at the corners, which kind of annoyed her. The repressing of it distracted her, and getting her attention divided between the message that just arrived and her physical appearance scratched at the space between her insides and her outsides. She tried to force her focus to swim back down to where she wanted it to be. It writhed and wriggled, her gaze like a small child who didn’t want to be put into it’s car seat.
Reading his words, though, quickly did the trick. He calmed the flare of stupid anxiety within seconds. Her awareness of the bus—of Headphones Girl, of the cold, of the bug bite she’d been scratching on her thigh through her jeans all morning, of her looming psych paper disappeared and she was submerged once again, as always, straight into his sentences. He was like a book, she thought. But written only for her. Silly things, serious things, he was a master at it all… moving from his head, to his phone, to a satellite in space, to Lane’s phone, to Lane’s hand, to Lane’s repressed smile. Or something like that.
She tapped back, her nails clicking noisily at the glass “Yes, totally—“
And then the world shattered, exploded, turned—she didn’t know which because all three happened at once, like a gunshot of chaos through the universe. The world fell and thudded black.
And then a man was screaming. She knew it was a man, even though she’d never heard one make a noise like that. The noise roused her—she had to stop the black. She remembered eyes, and she opened them. An accident. They began to burn immediately from the smoke, and immediately water broke out from her eyes to stream into her ear. So she was sideways, on the floor. The bus was in an accident. She flexed her body—move, get up, accident, up— and it felt like her right side, the one lying on the ground, erupted in a firework of lightning. Her hand registered it as glass first—glass, glass was everywhere. She pressed her palm down and pushed, and she felt her mind blow into irretrievable pieces with the attempt, she wished she could take it back. As the yells, the cracking, and her panic meeting inside her head, body, soul—she had pushed, but had no idea if she moving at all. Everything started to spin, her head felt like it was set on fire, and her brain spun in a tornado of the same words that she couldn’t escape from accident accident accident accident accident accident accident accident accident
And it continued to spin as two pressures came up under her armpits. She felt herself being lifted—up accident accident accident accident accident accident—and suddenly she could only feel her eyelids. Her body became her eyelids. They only wanted shut. Don’t go down.
She fell heavy and she only hung. The man carrying her from the flaming bus knew she’d lost consciousness, and strained every muscle to push his scream over the sirens.