Life was fragile.
Amelia had known this before she saw the accident, before she saw life burn out before her eyes. There had been many sounds, the screech of rubber against the tarmac, the ringing of breaking glass, and then the unmistakable thump as the young boy’s body hit the hood before slipping onto the ground as easy as water. Somebody screamed closer to the scene, further down the high street than Amelia just as she had shut the pharmacy door and had turned away in the direction of home.
Everybody crowded around like it was something to gawk and take photos of. To Amelia’s surprise, there was very little blood, nothing like the films, just a dark smudge across a side of his face, and gashes from gems of glass. It was misleading; he looked fine, but as she moved into the inner layer of the crowd, pushed as if by the tide, there was a sense of stillness to him, as if he had never breathed in the first place. To her right, somebody was on their mobile rattling details and hysterical comments ‘so fast…devastating…just a boy.’ Meanwhile, ambulance sirens grew encroachingly louder.
Amelia just stood. She wanted to move forward, but in the end didn’t. Nobody else was. She just stared at the boy’s face, his eyelashes creating a dark, deathly shade against his skin that was already frighteningly pale. Thoughts sped through her head as she fiddled with the strap of her handbag, clenching her fist the same way it felt as if somebody had done so around her stomach, squeezing and twisting. She wondered if this boy had a loving family, if they had been able to sense this moment, if they felt the same way she suddenly did, somewhere far away, and couldn’t explain it. She wondered if he had friends that would cry, or a girlfriend – or a boyfriend. Those people mattered, not the crowd that Amelia stood amongst. What would the boy care if strangers were crying? – probably more for themselves and the horrible memory they were left with, not for him.
Amelia’s eyes reached his face again, and suddenly, there was a kind of redness to his cheeks, like something had burst – and then he opened his eyes. His back arched up, his arms jerked and he rocketed from the ground, sitting up, panting, spluttering; shaking.
People in the crowd jumped and screamed more than ever, pointing and cursing. He was dead. He was definitely dead. But…he’s not.
The boy suddenly became aware of everybody watching him, and of the bead of blood that oozed out of his nose and spread across his wet upper lip. His eyes were wide and dilated, like he was recovering from the flare of an intense light, and his head jerked around to everybody before he stood, on legs that had surely been broken. How? How is he alive? Is that possible? No, it can’t be. That’s not how death works…
Suddenly, the boy took off, scrambling for his broken phone on the floor and hurrying up the street with just a limp on one foot and an arm swinging numbly at his side.
“Lord Almighty, what did I just see?” gasped an elderly lady over Amelia’s shoulder,
“It’s a miracle,” said another voice,
“Somebody run after him, see he’s alright!” yelled another over the building din of terrified, confused voices. Amelia just stood for a moment, readjusting herself in her heels, making sure her bag was secure, and continued her journey home. What else was she supposed to do? She could have run after the boy, but somebody else would surely do that, and the ambulance crew were now hurrying into the road, looking bemused for a body to treat. Everybody else will do it, I don’t need to worry. Worry about yourself for once, Amelia. You deserve it.
A shiver swept over her, like a cobweb on her shoulder, but she ignored it, too intensely determined to get home and do what she had planned before the strange accident. Her home was just a couple blocks from the high street – always a bonus – and Amelia was glad to open the door after her shaky use of her key, locking herself inside and sinking down against the door. It was only then that she realised she was crying, just a single tear unnoticed at the corner of her eye. Maybe it was from shock, or even frustration that she hadn’t gotten home quicker.
She checked her phone, just once very quickly, seeing the text in large, unconcealed writing: He’ll be fine. We all will. Just relax.
Sophie’s right. Of course she is, she always is.
Knocking off her heels and padding up the stairs to her room, Amelia checked for the first, second, fifth time for the package, hearing it rattle-rattle in her handbag, a noise that soothed the cacophony pulsing in her head.
Life is fragile. And it’ll all be over soon. Just relax.