Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. The normally basic, involuntary function became the most important and difficult thing in the world. Julia heard nothing but her now labored breathing. Every other sound muffled, every sight blurred, every movement in slow motion.
Julia felt her body moving back and forth. She blinked a couple of times, trying to get her senses cleared. Someone was yelling her name. "Julia! Julia! JULIA!"
Everything caught up to her. Julia was kneeling in the middle of the street, smoke rising in her field of vision. Sirens were going off close by, people in various emergency gear running around frantically. Turning her head, Julia identified the person shaking and shouting as Alicia, Julia's best friend.
Julia raised her head and turned it toward the scene in front of her. A car was on its side. Another was smashed in front. Two black sheets lay over long, thin objects on the ground. Blinking, trying to remember what happened, Julia looked around for her parents. Not seeing them, Julia's gaze fell to the dark sheets on the ground. She turned desperately to Alicia.
"What happened?" Julia asked weakly.
Alicia blinked quickly, her eyes bright. "There was an accident," she said, her voice hoarse. "They came out of nowhere, and oh god, Julia, the medics came, and they, your parents, they just…"
Julia's vision blurred. Dark spots appeared in her vision, and despite Alicia's arms keeping her upright, the dark spots grew larger and Julia felt her body lurch, darkness consuming her.
Two thin slits of light appeared in Julia's vision. Keeping her eyes mostly shut, Julia heard hushed voices near her.
"—any family at all?"
"No one has been found yet."
"She's only a minor, what will she do without parents?"
"Poor girl, losing both of them in such a horrible way."
"She'll probably need therapy for—"
Julia let out a small cough, loud enough for the three nurses outside to hear. They all started, two hurried off; one entered the room.
"Julia, how are you feeling?" the nurse asked in a voice unnaturally cheery.
"What happened?" Julia asked, ignoring the nurses question.
"We can get to that later," the nurse said, slightly apprehensive. "You'll need to eventually talk to the police, and they'll explain everything, but right now—"
"I'll talk to them now," Julia interrupted. The nurse opened her mouth to protest, but Julia bulldozed over her. "Look, I can get plenty of rest later," she said. "But before I do, I need to know. I need to," Julia repeated.
The nurse gave Julia a sad, thoughtful look. "Alright," she said. "I'll go tell them you're ready."
The nurse left, leaving Julia alone with her thoughts. Julia already knew the important parts of what happened, but she needed someone to tell her. Julia pushed herself up into a more sitting position, taking a deep breath. She felt the threat of tears, but Julia bit down on her cheek, refusing to let them come.
Two police officers entered the hospital room—a man and a woman. The woman sat down in the chair next to Julia's bed, and the man remained standing close to the door.
"Hi, Julia," the woman said gently. "My name is Officer Helena Ramirez, and this is my partner, John Nguyen. We just need to ask you a few questions, and we'll be happy to answer any you have. Is that okay?"
Julia just stared at her, keeping silent.
Officer Ramirez gave an almost imperceptible nod of her head and opened her notebook, clicking her pen. "What exactly do you remember?" Officer Ramirez asked. "We need to know your point of view."
Julia blinked a couple of times, trying to focus. "Not a lot," she admitted. "we were driving, and there was a jolt. Next thing I know I was kneeling in the street." Julia shook her head. "I'm sorry, I sort of remember shapes and noises, but nothing clearer."
Officer Ramirez nodded. "It's okay," she said. "It's not uncommon for a crash that size. Do you know what happened to your parents?"
Julia barely registered her gently tone. Tears threatened again, and Julia bit down on her cheek again. With great difficulty, Julia slowly nodded. "I-I think so," Julia said in a small voice. "I saw two bodies near my car, so I assumed—" Julia swallowed hard, unable to continue.
Officer Ramirez took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes, I'm so sorry, Julia; they both died in the crash. Officer Nguyen and I will answer whatever questions you have, but we need to know, is there anyone we can call? Any family you'll be able to stay with?"
"Yes," Julia said, still determined not to cry. "My mother's brother, Rory Reynolds. He lives in Texas. I can write down his number for you."
Officer Ramirez flipped to a new page in her notebook and handed it and the pen to Alex. After writing down the number, Officer Ramirez took the book back, ripped the page out, and handed it promptly to Officer Nguyen, who then exited the room.
"So, is it my turn now?" Julia asked.
Officer Ramirez nodded. "I'll answer what you want to know to the best of my ability," she said gently.
"What happened?" Julia asked simply, tears threatening to let loose once again.
Officer Ramirez let out a small sigh, like she had been expecting the question. "Well, your car was going through an intersection," she began. "Someone coming from the other way hit the side of your car head on. Your car ended up on its side. The most damaged occurred to the front of the car, which is why—" Officer Ramirez stopped short.
"Which is why I survived and my parents didn't," Julia finished in a hollow voice.
Officer Ramirez gave a nod of confirmation.
"What happened to the other car's passengers?"
"There was only the driver," Officer Ramirez said cautiously. "He was thrown from his car. He's alive, but in a coma."
Julia nodded by didn't say anything. It would take her a long time to figure out how she felt about it.
"Anything else I can do for you, Julia?" Officer Ramirez asked.
Julia shook her head.
Officer Ramirez stood up and handed a card to Julia. "If you need anything, just give me a call," she said.
"Thank you," Julia said. Officer Ramirez started to leave the room, but before she got out the door, Julia blurted out, "Was he drunk?"
Officer Ramirez looked back at her. "No," she said. She paused, then cautiously continued. "We think he was texting," she said quietly.
Julia nodded and Officer Ramirez left the room and Julia to her thoughts. As terrible as the information she just received was, her mind was mostly blank. All she wanted to do was sleep.