Will, you know your parents wouldn’t want you to go riding around with the guys,” I told my special friend.
“Oh, come on, Ryssa! It’s only a few miles from town to our farm, and they’ll never know. Why don’t you come with us? You can sit on my lap!” Will grinned at me with that big, dumb grin he always uses when he wants me to laugh. Still, something didn’t feel right about this whole thing.
Will and I had become very close over the summer. We’d gone to lots of farm shows and county fairs together. Our parents had been great about driving us to see each other on weekends.
Will lives on a dairy farm in Dawson, Pennsylvania, and I live about eight miles away in Reagan Town.
Well, it isn’t really a town. Technically it’s a village, with 20 or so houses and farms. It’s called Reagan Town because of the old settler who founded the village more than 100 years ago.
Everyone knows everyone in our area. If someone saw Will riding around town, his parents would hear about it. It seems as though everyone is friends with our grandparents, and they all take it upon themselves to “look out” for the young people of our community.
“Sorry, but I don’t want to get grounded,” I finally told Will. “If I get caught riding in a truck with you guys, my parents will go ballistic.
Come on, Will, don’t go with them,” I begged.
“Well, I’m not afraid of getting caught. I’ll call you later. Don’t be mad, OK?” Will urged. With a smile and a wink Will turned and ran toward Eric’s big Ford F-150 pickup truck with the jacked-up frame and studded tires.
I waved goodbye, still feeling uneasy.
Katrina, my younger sister, was going to meet me at the ice-cream store after soccer practice. We both had after-school activities, and Mom had given me extra money to buy a snack.
We ordered our favorite treats and went back to the picnic table to eat. I had almost finished eating my ice cream when Dad pulled into the parking lot.
As we were getting our seat belts buckled, Dad turned around to look over his shoulder at us. “Girls, there’s a bad accident on the Scottdale Dawson Road. I couldn’t get through that area, so we’ll go home on one of the other routes.
“Dad, did you see the wreck?” I asked nervously.
“No, the emergency workers wouldn’t let any cars go past. They sent us on a detour. I figured someone didn’t make the turn near the old cemetery. The road has several tight curves there, and I’ve often seen tire marks from when people were going too fast to make the turn and then went off the road.”
I suddenly felt sick to my stomach, and I just knew something was wrong.
“Dad, can we please go past the old cemetery on the way home?” I pleaded.
“No, Ryssa, we can’t get in the way of the fire and rescue folk doing their job. We’ll hear about the accident soon enough. For now, it’s best we stay away.”
I didn’t say anything else, but I was so upset that I couldn’t hide the fear on my face.
“Ryssa, what’s wrong? You look like you’re going to pass out,” Katrina whispered to me.
“I’m afraid Will and his friend might’ve been in that accident. He went with Eric in his truck after school,” I whispered so that Dad wouldn’t hear me.
“Did you try his cell phone?” Katrina asked.
“No, his battery died this afternoon.
He said he’d call me tonight after dinner.”
I prayed silently the rest of the way home. I didn’t know if Will and Eric had been in the accident, but I still had that sick feeling inside.
No sooner were we in the door than the phone rang. Mom answered.
Her voice was low, and she was listening intently. When she hung up the phone, tears came into her eyes. She looked at me.
“Ryssa, sit down here with me for a minute,” she said.
“What’s happened? Is it Will?”
“Yes, honey, it’s about Will. He was in the accident and was taken by air ambulance to the children’s hospital in Pittsburgh. He was the only person in the truck who was hurt. Eric was going too fast and rolled the truck over on the corner near the old cemetery.
Will had his right arm outside of the window, and the truck rolled on top of his hand. He has cuts and abrasions, and he hit his head, but the emergency workers said his hand was badly damaged.” Mom started to cry.
“Did Will’s parents leave to drive into the city yet?” Dad asked.
“I don’t know,” Mom replied.
“The phone call was from my friend Melissa. Her husband is the fire chief, and he said that Will was asking for someone to please call Ryssa and let her know what’s going on.”
I couldn’t stop shaking. If only I’d stopped Will from going in that truck.
I began to sob.
“Ryssa, if Will was talking to the workers on the scene, I’m sure he’ll be all right.”
“You don’t understand, Daddy! It’s my fault! I shouldn’t have let him go with Eric. He asked me to go along, but I said that I wasn’t allowed to do that. I should’ve made him stay with me and Katrina,” I cried.
“Ryssa, Will’s a big boy. He’s responsible for his own actions. Unfortunately this is a very hard lesson for him to learn,” Mom said.
“Daddy, will you drive me to Pittsburgh tonight?” I asked.
“No, Rysssa. If Will needs surgery on his hand, you probably won’t be able to visit with him anyway. Only his family will be allowed into the hospital room. Let’s wait until we hear from Will’s parents; then I’ll take you to see him.
I knew Dad was right, but it wasn’t easy waiting. I couldn’t eat dinner, and I didn’t feel like doing my homework. I just wanted to know that Will was OK.
After dinner Katrina and I did the dishes for Mom. When we were done, I went to my room. I threw myself down on my bed facefirst and cried until I got the hiccups. I wasn’t even aware of anyone standing in my room until I heard Mom sniffle.
“Ryssa, I know you’re worried.
Let’s pray together for Will,” Mom said as she knelt beside my bed. I got down on the floor with Mom, and we held hands and prayed. I never had so many feelings at the same time: guilt, sadness, and fear.
We’d just finished praying, and Mom was holding me in her arms while I cried on her shoulder, when Dad came into my room, “Ryssa, there’s a phone call for you,” he said.
“I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now, Daddy,” I said.
“OK, I’ll tell Will to call back tomorrow!”
“It’s Will?” I squealed. “Is he OK?”
“Well, come talk to him and find out,” Dad said with a smile.
Will sounded weak and afraid, but at least he could talk to me. “I’m going to have surgery tomorrow morning. They’re going to set the bones in my right hand,” explained Will. “Thankfully, the X-rays showed the accident didn’t damage my skull at all.”
“How do you feel?” I asked.
“Sore, but I’m alive.” Will paused, then said, “Ryssa, I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you.” Will had to have several surgeries to save his fingers and put all of the bones and tendons back together. He also had physical therapy to try to regain his strength.
The doctors said he might not ever regain full strength in his hand.
We all learned something from this sad experience. Eric learned that it’s dangerous to drive fast on winding country roads. Will thinks twice about putting his arm out of a moving vehicle. I learned that when something doesn’t feel right, I should pay attention to that feeling. Maybe it’s a girl thing, but then again, maybe it’s a God thing.