BONUS EXCERPT FROM: MOMENTS
The last thing I remember is looking to see what time it was - 3:15. Great, I am going to be late! I don’t like to be late and I don’t like to be lost. I was lost. I had no idea where I was going. I had a feeling I shouldn’t be driving. I practically begged him to drive me. I wanted to make sure I would get there on time and in one piece. I have driven his car before, so it wasn’t a lack of knowledge. It was too much horsepower for that kind of weather. The conditions were horrible; dark clouds and pouring rain during rush hour traffic, anxiety about driving his car, and unsure of how to get there. I wrote the directions down on a piece of paper before I left. Exit on 52. But I had exited too early. I told him I wanted him to drive me. I just had a feeling that something was going to go wrong. I just didn’t know how wrong it could go.
Jax had a migraine and had drifted off to sleep. Mikayla was on her way to her interview so he had plenty of time to relieve his pain with a nap. He was startled awake by the telephone ringing. It was the tone of the ring that startled him; loud and urgent. He had a feeling the person on the other end of the phone was in trouble. Something was wrong. He had heard this ring before.
He sprang to his feet and ran into the kitchen to answer the phone. He nearly tripped as he couldn’t seem to answer the phone quick enough.
“Hello?” he asked, with urgency and fear.
“Mikayla was in an accident. It’s bad. I am going to pick you up and bring you to the hospital.”
“O…k…a…y” is all he could say. The line went dead. He slowly hung up the phone and sat on the floor in shock. What happened? She was just going for an interview. This can’t be real. Images of what could have happened, what might have happened, run through his head. Jax wondered why Mikayla’s aunt, Sandra, made the call. Why hadn’t he heard from Mikayla’s parents? He knew Mikayla’s parents never wanted him in her life. Jax couldn’t worry himself about that; he had to find out what was going on.
Jax was already standing outside when Sandra arrived. He quickly jumped in the car and she sped off toward the hospital. They sat in silence as they both wondered what could have happened. Mikayla was a good driver, even though she was 18. She had already been driving for three years with only one prior traffic incident but that was minor compared to this. He didn’t even know if she was dead or alive. He began to feel a panic he has never felt before. Pain riveted throughout his entire body. He had never been so worried in his entire life. He knew this was the day; the day that his whole life could come to a bitter end.
I open my eyes and see Jax sitting in a chair nearby; his mother standing over me picking glass from my hair. I begin to sob.
“What happened? What is going on? Why am I in the hospital?”
“You were in an accident” he says.
I could see the worry, doubt, and fear in his eyes as he sat there staring at me. A rush of anxiety and fear filled my entire body. I was in an accident? What happened? The last thing I remember is looking to see what time is was. Oh my God, the car…his car. He loved that car. What have I done? I am probably disfigured somehow, never to be normal again. Why was he even here? He is going to leave me, I just know it. No one will ever want to be with me again. These thoughts ran though my head one after the other until I finally am able to speak.
“Why are you here?” I ask.
“Because I love you” he responds.
“But your car….you loved that car.”
“A car can be replaced. You can’t.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I destroyed the one thing he loved most, his car. He was willing to forgive me, love me, and stay with me. The weight had been lifted, the anxiety gone. I was so relieved but still confused about what happened. I hurt all over even though I was on morphine to relieve the pain. I never took a drug in my life. And here I was hooked up to a morphine drip. Was this really happening or am I imagining all this?
Unable to comprehend what happened, Mikayla had slipped in and out of sleep. At one point, her mother rushed in with a tape recorder to show her the accident scene and the wreckage of the car. The video showed the scene of the accident with skid marks, parts of vehicles lying around, and a concrete wall. Mikayla had accelerated onto the freeway at a high rate of speed, lost control of the vehicle, and smashed head-on into the concrete barrier. This is what knocked her unconscious, unable to recall any of the following events. The car bounced off the barrier and back into traffic. A large 4x4 pick-up truck was unable to stop and slammed head-on into the driver side door. The jaws of life were used to prey her lifeless body from the mangled wreckage of a car.
They were only trying to help but this was too much. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I begin to sob uncontrollably as a large burly-looking nurse quickly rushes into the room. She points to Jax then the door, saying, “You boyfriend, out now.” It wasn’t Jax’s fault. It was just so much information at one time. I could have died! I want to spend as much time as possible with those I love, even if it is filled with tears.
“No! He can’t leave!” I manage to cry out between sobs as he walks out of the room.
I don’t want him to ever leave me! He loves me! He truly loves me! Don’t make him leave. He might change his mind about me, about the accident, about his car. He can’t leave!
Mikayla had a long list of injuries, most on the left side of her body. She had a concussion caused by head injury, broken front teeth from hitting the steering wheel, broken left collarbone caused by the seat belt across the chest, broken left-side pelvis from the side impact, three broken ribs on the left side, and a punctured left lung. “You might never walk again and may never be able to have children of your own” was the result according to the doctors.
Mikayla is fighting for her life. Her entire body is in pain, inside and out. The emotional pain coupled with the physical pain is unbearable. I feel like I can’t breathe. This is just too much. I feel like I have lost him forever. Everything is a blur since she was told of her injuries and the pending doom of never walking again or having children. She is supposed to be resting but she can’t stop thinking about that accident and why she can’t remember what happened. Mikayla tries to recall the events leading up to the accident, but all she can see is her whole life flashing before her eyes beginning with the moment she first saw him.
Mikayla was staring out the dining room window at her dad, his friend, Derik, and another guy she has never seen before. It was not uncommon to see new people coming and going, after all, her parents were drug dealers. She was only thirteen at the time but she knew what they were up to, even though they tried to hide it. Most people don’t get a second look; she knows why they are there, to buy drugs, and she doesn’t want anything to do with people like that.
But this time was different. She felt it the moment she saw him standing there, outside her parent’s house. Something was tugging at her to look closer, deeper. He was wearing worn blue-jeans, white-tennis shoes, a white t-shirt, and a faded blue jean jacket. She couldn’t see his face as he turned his back toward the house. The tugging continued. Mikayla had to find out who this guy was.
“Mom! Who is that guy?” I yelled into the living room.
That’s the guy you’re going to marry. I hear inside my head and I feel it deep in my soul.
“What guy?” She asks me, as she walks into the dining room.
“That guy standing there talking to dad and Derik. Who is that?”
That’s the guy you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. I hear it again.
“I don’t know. Why?” She asks me.
“Just curious” I responded.
If I had told her what I felt or what I was thinking, she would think I am crazy. But that is crazy! I thought. I have no idea who this guy is, he doesn’t even know I exist, I don’t know how old he is, and I am going to marry him?! I ran to the bathroom to try to look my best just in case he comes into the house. At thirteen I had no idea what to do to look grown-up. My mom wasn’t the type to teach me anything about how to care for myself.
I grabbed my mother’s make-up bag and started rifling through it, searching for something I can manage to apply to my face. I grab an eyeliner pencil and grab my eye. Shaking, I put the tip to my eye lid and think this is crazy. My heart is racing as I search for the eye shadow. I find my favorite color, purple, and generously apply it to my eyes, wanting to make sure it is visible through my glasses. I find a lightest color lipstick I could and do my best to steady my already shaking hand to line my lips. A little rosy blush on my cheeks and I look at myself in the mirror. This is it, I think as I walk out the bathroom door, my heart racing. He was gone. He never came into the house.
Mikayla thought she would never see him again. It was probably for the best. She later found out that he was a friend of Derik’s and was 19. He was older, mature, and could keep me safe. There was something desirable about being with an older man. He was leaving for the military. Her heart sank. If it is meant to be, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours.
Jax was doing only what he thought was right, what he thought was right in the eyes of his parents and his new wife. The truth is, he was scared and he didn’t know what was right anymore. At 19, he felt lost and alone. He had always tried to do what was right but never seemed to measure up to what his parents or younger brother had expected of him. Jax always seemed to get into trouble one way or the other. He tried protecting his sister but he still felt like a failure when he could no longer protect her. He wanted to do the thing that seemed to matter most to his parents, and that was to follow in his father’s footsteps. He was going to make this right, no matter the cost. He enlisted in the Army, just as his father always wanted him to do. Next was to marry his high school sweetheart, Lola. Jax told Derik his plan to better his life.
“Dude, I just enlisted in the Army.” Jax said as matter-of-factly.
“You what!?” Derik asked, hoping he didn’t hear him correctly.
“I enlisted in the Army. I leave in a week.” Jax responded.
“Seriously. I think I should marry Lola.”
“Dude. Are you sure?” Derik asked, wanting to make sure Jax knew the ramifications of not only joining the Army but becoming a husband.
“I’m sure. I can’t just leave her here without marrying her. If I ever got shipped out, I would want to make sure she is taken care of. And I love her.” Jax explained to Derik; as his father would make sure he was married before leaving for the Army.
Jax and Derik became friends through Lola and Kim; they were best friends throughout high school. So, naturally they became friends. With only one week until Jax had to leave for basic training, they didn’t have much time to plan a wedding. Minnesota law states that you have to apply for a marriage license at least a month prior to getting married. In South Dakota, a couple can get married the same day as applying for a marriage license, without waiting.
Jax and Derik decided the four of them would drive to South Dakota the next day. Before leaving, they would make a stop at Derik’s dealer’s house for the before and after party. While at the dealers, Jax was having second thoughts about going through with the marriage but figured he couldn’t stop it now. He was on his way to living his life as a military husband, even if it was the last thing he wanted.
Mikayla awoke to find him, once again, sitting near her bedside. She thought she was dreaming. Could this be real? Is he really back? She blinked her eyes a few times to make sure she was really awake. She looks into his deep blue eyes and can feel the love emanate from his soul. She was in love. The passion she felt as she gazed into his eyes was nothing she ever felt before. He leans forward and grabs her hand.
“Will you marry me?” He asks.
“Yes!” She joyfully responds as tears fall from her eyes.
As her heart begins to race, the heart monitor follows her beats, rapidly increasing. She starts to sweat. She doesn’t feel right. It feels as though the room is spinning out of control. Something is wrong. She starts wrestling with the blanket, tossing and turning in bed. Mikayla bolts awake only to notice an empty chair. It was in the middle of the night. She was covered in sweat and could still feel her heart racing as the beeps begin to slow. She was dreaming. It was all a dream. But the passion she felt was real. The love she felt for him was real. That much she knew. She drifted back to sleep.
So much had changed the next time Mikayla saw Jax. Two years had gone by, Jax was no longer married; he was a free man. Mikayla was no longer a child but an experienced young woman. She was sleeping with every guy she dated to feel better about herself, to find the one she would spend the rest of her life with, to find her way out. Anything was better than being here she would think when the next boy in school would catch her eye. She was good at playing innocent, at hiding the bad girl trapped inside. Most everyone around her believed she was a ‘goody-goody’ who could do no wrong. She hated that; she hated being so perfect. But it was an image she needed to hide behind, so no one could see the real Mikayla. Even those she slept with didn’t know the real Mikayla. They only knew what she chose to share with them. She was afraid to let anyone get too close; afraid to let anyone see the real Mikayla.
Deep down, she had been praying for someone to love, someone to care for, but most of all, she would pray for a love that would take her out of this place. She wanted someone who could love her for who she really was; the good and the bad. She searched endlessly for someone, anyone, to rescue her; to take her from this place and show her what life was all about. Even though Mikayla continued to “date” boys in high school, Jax was always on her mind. Whenever Jax came over with Derik, Mikayla made sure to catch Jax’s attention. A little flirting never hurt anyone, she would tell herself. Although she caught his attention every once in awhile, Mikayla knew Jax was too old for her and would never really love her back the way she wanted him. Mikayla was quite fond of Jax but kept a tight rein on her heart. She was afraid to love, afraid she would feel like she was seven years old again.
The pain she felt that day was too much for her to handle. She loved her dad with all her heart. She looked up to him. He called her ‘the apple of his eye.’ And in one day, that was all gone. Not because he died; that may have been easier to deal with and understand.
“Mikayla, come in here. There is something we need to talk about.” Her mother yelled from the living room. Mikayla was in the kitchen when she heard her mother call for her with importance. Mikayla wondered what it could be that was so important. “What?!” Mikayla hollered back to her mother. That’s when she heard her dad call for her, “Mikey, please come in here. We have something important to tell you.” She did everything her dad told her, without question. She trusted him more than she trusted anyone else. More than she trusted her mother. She yelled back, “Coming daddy!” and practically ran into the living room where she saw her dad sitting on the sofa and her mother standing nearby.
As I walked into the room, my dad motioned for her to sit on his lap. “Come here.” He said as he patted his lap. I noticed the seriousness of their voice, and the expression on their faces. They had something to tell me alright and I knew it couldn’t be good. I sat on my dad’s lap and wondered what they could possibly have to tell me. After a long pause and a few exchanged looks, and nods, my mother tells me something that I never wished she would have told me.
“Mikayla, Kyle is not your real father.”
I try to swallow but it feels like there is a lump in my throat. My mouth is dry. I feel dizzy. I knew I couldn’t be hearing her right. What? I tried to say but the words wouldn’t come out. I wanted to make sure I heard what I thought I heard.
“You have another dad, your real father. His name is Thomas.” My mother continued.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This couldn’t be true. My heart raced; I could feel it pounding so hard and fast like it wanted out of my body. I began to shake. This can’t be real. I jumped off my dad’s lap as fast as I could so I could look them in the eyes. Then they will tell me this is just a sick joke.
“What?! Why would you tell me something like that?! That’s a horrible thing to say! You’re lying! Why would you lie to me about something like that? I hate you!” I yell at them both and start crying. My heart hurts and my entire body was shaking. “That’s so mean!” I yell as I run out of the room. I try to comprehend what they just told me but I still think it is a lie. Why would they make me believe that this man is my father and then tell me something different at seven? It just didn’t make any sense. I was heartbroken. The man I loved with all my heart was not my father. I tried so hard to recall any other man in my life but I couldn’t. All I could recall was him, there, always, since I was little; living at grandmas. They had to be lying. But why?
This was the moment in Mikayla’s life that changed everything. She knew if she couldn’t trust her parents, there was no one she could trust. From that day forward, she made a vow to herself that she wouldn’t let anyone hurt her like that again. She began to build a wall around her heart, bound by lock and key so no one would be able to get too close.
I awake to the murmur of voices. I can hear doctors and nurses talking as they pass by my room in the hallway. The room is filled with streams of sunshine, beaming in from the window. I sit up in bed and try to gain a sense of how long I have been in this place. My body hurts as I try to sit up in bed. I feel like I have been sleeping for weeks. I can’t remember the last time I had my feet on the floor. I reach for the nurse’s button. It takes only minutes for a nurse to appear at my bedside. I ask when I can get out of bed and she has to speak to another nurse before returning to tell me that they would have to remove the tube in my lung and the catheter before I can get out of bed. I drop my head back onto the pillow and close my eyes. Great, she thought, like I haven’t had enough pain. Pain was something Mikayla was use to; she learned to hide her pain early in life. She drifted off to sleep as she wondered how she was going to through this.
Mikayla grew quite skilled at keeping others at a distance. She had been able to remain distant from most everyone. She didn’t make many close friends. The few friends she did make seemed to move away from one reason or another. Everyone she tried to get close to seemed to abandon her in times of need. The only real friends that seemed to last, were the ones she made in high school. But even her best friends seemed distant. She couldn’t tell them what she wanted to tell them because she was afraid to let them in; afraid to get hurt again. So, Mikayla kept them at arm’s length while wanting a deeper connection. She was just so afraid. Afraid they wouldn’t believe her, afraid they wouldn’t like the real Mikayla, afraid they would abandon her like everyone else seemed to do.
She learned how to hide her real emotions from others. They wouldn’t understand. She would tell herself. She buried her emotions, her thought, and what she really wanted from others by faking it. She learned to wear a variety of masks for those around her to keep her safe from the pain. Mikayla wanted so desperately to find someone she could confide in, someone she could trust with her heart. Mikayla learned how to protect herself through experience, wearing masks only helped to strengthen this skill. She was good at wearing and switching those masks, to appear fine to everyone, as though she had her life under control. The truth is Mikayla had no control over her life. She lived in a whirlwind of emotion and activity; not knowing what was going to happen when she walked through the door. Every day it was something different, yet the same. She felt like she had no control of the direction her life was headed. Little did Mikayla realize that she had more control in her life than she realized. For Mikayla to realize how to control her life, she had to learn how to let go of the control and learn to trust her instincts. This was not easy for her because she didn’t trust in anyone, not even herself.
Mikayla woke to find Jax sitting near her bedside, holding her hand. Although Mikayla was in a horrible accident, she could feel no pain as she lay in the hospital bed. She was feeling quite relaxed with Jax by her side and couldn’t’ wait for the day they would discharge her. She had been in the hospital less than a week, with a tube in her left lung that helped her breathe. Today was the day it would be removed and she couldn’t be more excited. Once the tube was removed, she could start moving around more freely and get out of bed. A nurse entered the room to check on Mikayla and prepare her for what was about to happen.
“How are you doing today, Mikayla?” the nurse asked.
“Good. When can I get this tube out?” Mikayla asked excitedly.
“In just a few minutes. We are waiting for the doctor to finish up with another patient and he will be on his way.” The nurse paused.
“This is going to hurt. A lot.” The nurse reluctantly told Mikayla. She sounded concerned.
“Well, I can’t feel much of anything right now. This morphine is helping a lot.” Mikayla said.
The nurse began prepping to remove the tube. Mikayla was a little surprised that they were going to remove it right there in the room. She thought they would take her to surgery or at least give her something to knock her out to decrease the pain. She was confused.
Jax noticed the concerned look on Mikayla’s face. He knew just how painful this would be for her because a few short years ago, Jax had a collapsed lung and needed a tube to help him breathe. He didn’t have anyone to comfort him when he was in the hospital. His parents were no comfort at all. They were never there when he needed them the most. He always felt alone in the world and never wanted Mikayla to experience the things he did. But this was something out of his control. He could do nothing more than simply be there for her, to hold her hand, to get her the things she needed and wanted.
“You might want someone here with you when we take it out.” The nurse said, as she glanced at Jax and quickly left the room to give us time to talk before the doctor would arrive.
“I can stay.” He said to Mikayla, as he held her hand. He wished he could take the pain from her but he knew he couldn’t. This broke his heart to see Mikayla lying in a hospital bed, confused, broken, and in pain. Many nights Jax lay awake in the empty bed, wishing it was him lying in that hospital bed instead of her. If only he would have listened to her. If only he would have drove her to her interview. If only she hadn’t gone. He continued to play the ‘if only’ game in his head until he ran out of things he could have done to prevent this from happening. He wanted to do anything he could to show her that he would be there for her, like he was the first time she called for his help.
Mikayla found herself in a situation she never imagined. Sitting in the small room across the desk of the security officer, she didn’t know what she was going to do. She had never felt this worried or frightened. She was all alone and didn’t know how her parents would react. Her heart was pounding as she thought about where it all went wrong. She was always so careful not to get caught. They had done it many times before and with many more things but this time was different. She felt it. She just chose to ignore it and do like they always do when they ditch school.
The lunch bell rang during the middle of 4th hour as it always does. That was our cue to move fast before anyone would notice. Quickly, we walked out the side doors before anyone noticed. We hurried off school grounds to catch the city bus. We took the bus to downtown St. Paul like always. When the bus stopped across the street from the department store, we realized we were not alone. Alex's little sister and her friend had followed us to see what we were up to. Nothing we could do or say would stop them from following us. As we walked into Dayton’s, Sarah began asking so many questions. That should have been the warning signal to stop but something inside was telling me that I had to prove myself. So, like always, I grab a free bag as I enter the store. I take off my jacket and begin to shop. Sarah was relentless with the questions no matter how many times I told her to shut up and stop following me. Finally, I had found a black pair of leggings that I just had to have. I grabbed them and walked toward the dressing room. I removed my jeans, pulled the leggings on and quickly put my jeans back on over the leggings. My heart was pounding like it never did before as I walked out of the dressing room like nothing ever happened.
As we were walking toward the door, Sarah kept asking if I had them on, if I had stolen them. I acted as though I had no idea what she was talking about and quickly tried to evade her. Just as I was leaving the store, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a woman speak. “Please come with me.” My heart sank as I turned around to notice a woman with a walkie-talkie. “I’ve got her.” The woman said into the walkie-talkie. As she grabbed my arm to walk me back into the store, I looked behind me to watch my friends quickly walk away like they didn’t even know me.
This time, I knew I was not going to make it back to school.
Alex was like Mikayla; good girls who appeared to do nothing wrong. They became best friends almost immediately. Alex was quiet, shy, and very introverted. Somehow, Mikayla broke down the wall and uncovered something that seemed to be buried deep inside Alex. On the outside, they were excellent students; earning good grades and staying out of trouble. They learned that they could be most like themselves around each other. They began ditching school to explore the world together; just the two of them. She should have listened to her instincts but she chose to ignore it and set out to prove that she wasn’t afraid.
As I sat there, filled with fear, I refused to say any more. They had already contacted my parents and they were on their way to pick me up. I refused to talk to anyone. I blocked them out as they went back and forth trying to scare me into telling them what was going on. I just sat in silence, thinking of how I was going to protect myself when we arrived home. The only person I thought of was Jax and I wasn’t sure why. I just felt safe around him. So, when the questions wouldn’t stop, I finally spoke. “I want to talk to Jax.” My parents couldn’t figure out why and I refused to say anything else for fear of screwing it all up again. “I want to talk to Jax.” I repeated more sternly than ever as if to make my point. I was not going to tell them anything.
Mikayla was good at hiding the ‘bad girl’ inside from her parents. She was even better at lying to them. But this time, she wasn’t going to take that chance. This time, it was too big for a lie, even though she felt like they didn’t deserve the truth. After all, they lied to me for years and continue to lie to me about what they do. She was good at hiding her feelings from most anyone except Jax. Her parents had no idea how to contact Jax except through Derik. When Jax finally arrived, Mikayla had locked herself in the bathroom.
As she opened the door, she held her head down, not wanting to look Jain the face. She was ashamed at what she had done but also, she felt a little pride in her rather large accomplishment.
“What’s going on?” Jax asked.
She sat on the edge of the bathtub, holding her hands in her head. She shook her head back and forth. Her heart was racing as she tries to figure out what to say. All she could think about was what Jax is going to think of her now.
“Come on, Mikayla, you can tell me.” Jax says, as he lays his hand on her knee.
She looks up and notices the concerned look on his face. She can tell in this look, that Jax really cares for her. He came as soon as he could and he was here, in this place, because I called for help. Mikayla knew she could trust him to be there whenever she needed. She gave little thought to what was happening in Jax’s world. She didn’t realize the consequences of her actions until it was too late.
The nurse wasn’t kidding when she said removing the tube from my lung would be painful. It was the most pain she had ever felt in her entire life, and that was saying a lot coming from where she has been. It felt like someone was ripping her heart out. Through the pain, tears, and screams, Jax continued to stay by Mikayla’s side watching her experience the same pain he once felt. It tore at his heart watching her scream like that. Once the doctors had left, Jax tried his best to make her feel better. He lifted his shirt with his right hand and exposed the left side of his torso. With his right hand, he took Mikayla’s hand and brought it to his scar. “We have matching scars.” Jax said as he placed her fingers over his scar. Mikayla knew they were meant to be together. This just seemed to cement it for Jax.
He didn’t realize just how much pain Mikayla had gone through waiting for Jax to realize she was the one for him.
Mikayla was devastated as she stood there, in the doorway, listening to their conversations, as she always does. Her parents always had people at the house; some became regulars and even felt a bit like family friends. Others seemed to appear and disappear without much notice. This one though, this one got her attention today. This woman was always had a different guy because her ex-husband would often hunt the guys down and either scare the shit out them or beat the shit out of them. I have seen her ex around here many times. I never knew he was the one everyone would talk about. So, when she heard that this woman, Lola, a frequent flyer, was engaged to Jax, Mikayla was devastated. Her heart sank. She couldn’t believe Jax was into the drug scene this bad; if he was really with Lola, Mikayla knew it was bad.
The next time Mikayla saw Jax, she was more upset than ever as he didn’t seem to even look in her direction. She stood there in the doorway, as she frequently does, listening to the conversations at the dining room table. The look on her face was one of disgust. She couldn’t believe it pained her so much to see Jax throw his life away with Lola. Mikayla looked up to see Jax staring at her, with sadness in his eyes. Quickly, Mikayla turned and left the room. There was nothing she could do or say and she knew it. Mikayla was only 16, what did she know about love and marriage anyway? Everyone kept telling her it was ‘puppy love;’ that she was too young for him and he was too old for her. She heard it, but she didn’t believe a word anyone said, even though Jax was going to marry Lola.