Copyright © 2005-2017 Rob. All Rights Reserved.
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, as cliché as that sounds, that's how it was that day. I had been working my oh so lovely 6:30pm to 3:00am shift at work and had long since been ready to bail out of work at 7pm. Now, 8 hours later, I had absolutely had it with whiny people who didn't have a clue what on earth they wanted. As a matter of fact, I continually speculate that by that time of the morning, most of the ones calling are just lonely people who need someone to talk with. Yes, I'm afraid there really are that many people out there with nothing else better to do than waste my time. I'm sure by now you're wondering what in the heck I'm talking about, or for a better question, who I am. Well, permit me to introduce myself.
My name is Will. William Joshua Robertson, to be specific, although no one has called me by my full name in quite a long time. As a matter of fact, I always think it sounds rather strange when people call me William the first time they ever meet me. Of course, I immediately set them straight and have them call me Will. William just sounds so....old and proper. Anyway, I am now at the ripe old age of 22 and can already see the end of the dead end street my life is on. I work for a major airline as a reservation sales agent, which I admit has had some of its finer moments. I love getting calls from people who are going to visit a family member for the first time in years, or the ones from the families who are going on vacation. Oddly enough, I even like the calls where someone is traveling to visit a sick family member or going to someone's funeral. I love hearing them thank me for being able to help them get where they need to go without charging them a small fortune so they can be with the ones they love in times of crisis.
Then, there is everything else.
Don't get me wrong. I kind of like what I do, but it gets kind of old after a while, listening to the umpteenth person that day ask about hypothetical travel plans that are never going to happen and scoffing at incredibly reasonable fares of $200 round trip from one side of the country to the other. Just when I thought I was beginning to understand people, I get thrown for a loop. Such is life, I suppose. Anyway, I had begun my arduous 40-minute drive home and had cranked up the CD player in my Saturn. (Thank heavens for CD burners!) At 3am, louder is better because louder means I'm awake and paying attention. I had popped the CD in as I left the office, which is on the south side of Baltimore, Maryland and immediately switched to track 7 - Miracles Happen by Myra. I was just in the mood for a really upbeat song. Were it not 3am and raining on and off, I would have opened all the car windows and opened the sunroof on my car. As much of a fan I am of shortcuts, I didn't feel like taking a bath while I was driving home. I chuckled at the mental image as I belted the song out along with the CD. Thank God I'm alone, I thought as I merged onto the northbound lanes of the Baltimore-Washington (BW) Parkway. I wish my voice sounded better than it does. At least I can still hit the high notes, for whatever that's worth. Only paying half attention, I completely missed the flashing sign that read:
|ACCIDENT ON RAMP MD-295N TO I-695N.|
|USE ALTERNATE ROUTE.|
|CAUTION!!!! ROADS MAY BE SLIPPERY!|
Needless to say, I was a bit irritated when I reached my exit to find 10 cop cars, a couple of fire trucks, and an ambulance or two crowded around an overturned tractor trailer blocking the entrance ramp to the Baltimore Beltway. People in Maryland just don't know how to drive, I swear! I thought as I shifted lanes and continued heading north, knowing that I was going to be adding at least another 20 minutes cutting through Baltimore City. All I wanted to do was go home and fall face first into bed and pass out. Apparently, I wasn't the only one with the same idea.
"Okay, this is the last time I ever let you try to read a map," Lance fumed as he navigated the SUV down yet another dark, winding back road somewhere in the middle of northern Maryland. "We should have just stuck to the highway."
"All right! All right! Damn, can't I make a mistake without you jumping all over me about it?" Justin said irritably, throwing the map behind him and accidentally hitting Chris right in the face.
"Ow! Hey! Okay you two, knock it off before someone really gets hurt!" Chris said rubbing his cheek. It didn't really hurt so much as it surprised the hell out of him. He turned and looked at Joey passed out in the seat behind him. Only Joey could sleep through an argument happening right over his head.
"Ummmm...does anyone have any clue just where the heck we are?" JC asked lightly, hoping to not spark yet another fight between his bandmates.
Justin turned around and looked at JC hard. "I know exactly where we are," he stated rather haughtily. Then he lowered his head and said, "We're lost. Uh, JC, don't you have any idea where we are? After all, you did grow up in this area."
JC stammered for a second. "We lived near DC. I don't really know anything about this area at all." JC paused for a second. "Lance, shouldn't you slow down just a little bit. The roads could be slippery with all this rain we've gotten."
"What, do you want to drive JC? Be my guest. No one else seems to care about the fact that we are in the middle of nowhere and have to be ready to leave the hotel in FIVE HOURS for that damn radio show at 9am!" Lance shot back at JC. "Besides, I know how to drive, thank you very much Mr. Chasez."
"Well, I...uh...oh never mind." JC slumped back into his seat and stared out the window, watching what little scenery he could see outside. After all, they were in the middle of the woods on a very curvy two-lane road that just seemed to go wherever it wanted. He turned back to face Justin who was in the front passenger seat sulking. Chris, on his right, had closed his eyes and was silently humming a tune to himself. Looking at his feet, he saw the map lying on the floorboard of the SUV. He picked it up and studied it for a moment. "Uh, Lance, if I'm reading this correctly, if you turn at the next street it should take us back to the highway."
"I know where I'm going," Lance replied, gritting his teeth. He was usually very calm and collected, but the fact that they were already missing some much-needed beauty sleep had made him quite grumpy. The rest of the guys just had to go to Hershey Park on their one free day, and while Lance enjoyed having a good time, the fact it was going to take three hours alone just to get there and back nagged at him. He just wanted a day to rest and relax. Yes, he'd had a nice time at the amusement park, but right now all he wanted to do was sleep.
"But Lance..." JC started, but Lance cut him off.
"Fine then, you drive!" Lance yelled as he stomped on the brake. The SUV immediately started to slide because of the wet roads. Further complicating matters was the sharp curve up ahead, unbeknownst to the guys due to the sign being knocked over earlier this year when the last person ran off the road and plowed through it. When Lance realized the curve was ahead it was beyond too late. Lance jerked the wheel to the left, kept his foot planted firmly on the brake and prayed.
I had been driving these roads for quite a long time now. I wouldn't say I was an expert at them, but I knew them well enough to take some of those curves at higher speeds than most. However, with the roads being wet, I debated even doing 45mph, which was the speed limit. Up ahead, I saw headlights heading in my direction from further up the hill on the other side of the curve. I kept wishing that some day the State would have enough sense to straighten this road out or something. Not a year goes by that someone hasn't been nearly killed here. I dropped my high beams as I watched the oncoming car coming closer. After all, I didn't want to blind them. As I did, a chill ran up my spine. Something wasn't right here. Was it my imagination or was that car coming toward the curve really, really fast? Too fast? I stopped my car and pulled over to the side a little. There really wasn't a shoulder there. In fact, I was still blocking part of the lane. However, at 3:30 in the morning, I wasn't exactly worried about traffic coming behind me. I turned the CD player down and watched the events literally unfold right before my eyes. I heard the squeal of the tires. I watched the SUV start sliding, and then...
...it was as if time slowed down almost to a standstill. It reminded me of watching a video frame by frame in super slow motion. The SUV was sliding. The driver had obviously yanked the wheel to try and follow the curve, but had turned it way too far. The SUV started to turn, went into a partial spin and then flipped onto its' side, coming to a stop just inches away from a large oak tree. The sound of scraping metal grated painfully on my ears. Then, except for the sound of my still running motor, it was completely silent.
OH MY GOD! I thought. Please don't let whoever is in there be dead. Please let them be all right. Now, anyone with a lick of common sense would have just called 911 and stayed where they were. After all, in this day and age, to approach an unknown car at 3:30 in the morning in the middle of nowhere goes against just about everything we were ever taught as children. I couldn't just sit there though knowing that whoever was in that car needed help, whatever type of help I could give. I've been chided by my friends for having too big of a heart, but I really didn't care. If anything bad were to happen to me, I was at least having the personal satisfaction of knowing that I did the right thing.
I grabbed my cell phone and turned the keyguard off. Damn!! I thought to myself. No signal! It must be the weather. I'll have to walk uphill a little bit and try there. Obviously, the guy who does the Verizon Wireless commercials forgot to check this spot. 'Can you hear me now? Hello? Hello?' Whatever. I moved my car closer to the accident scene and flipped on the high beams. At least we could shed a little light on the subject. I turned off the car and ran over to the SUV and looked through the windshield. The driver was a young blonde man, this much I could tell. He was moving, thank goodness, so at least he wasn't dead. The person in the passenger seat wasn't moving, but I could see his chest rise and fall. I tried to peer further into the back of the SUV, but couldn't see very well. I started to circle to the side of the vehicle when I was startled by an agonizing scream of pain.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Oh my fucking God this hurts!" someone from inside the vehicle had screamed at the top of their lungs. I had been debating about what I should do, whether I should open the side door and check on anyone else who might be inside, or if I should walk up the road and try to get a signal. After a scream like that, I opted for the former idea. I ran to the side of the car and hefted the car door open. I peered inside, only to see a pair of eyes staring back at me. I froze, not sure what to say or do. My mind was reeling at 1,000 miles per minute, attempting to absorb the scene into my already overtaxed little brain. "Ummmm...hello? Hello?? AHHHHHHHH!" I jumped, shaken back into reality by another ear-piercing scream.
I jumped up on to the side of the car and looked back in at the person screaming. "Hey, don't worry. I'll get help. I'll....I'll...I'll be right back!" I started to move away when I heard a small plaintive voice cry out.
"Wait. Please don't leave. Please don't go." Oy vey, I thought. These guys are hurt, I have no signal to call for help, and they don't want me to leave so I can call someone to help. I sighed. Now what the hell do I do? Figuring that my leaving would only make whoever was talking to me more anxious, I went back to the open door and peered in. Still unable to see very well, I reached up to the ceiling of the vehicle and flipped the overhead light from off to on. The light came on, giving me a clear view of the interior of the vehicle. "At least that works," I said, thinking out loud. I looked back down at the face of the voice that had been speaking to me. It was a young man, I'm guessing early to mid-twenties with medium length brown hair, a slender toned body, and the most gorgeous pair of eyes I had seen since, well, this morning when I looked at my own pair of baby blues in the mirror. I admit that I mostly hate the way I look, but I love the deep blue color of my eyes. I get so many compliments on them...
Okay, right now that is SO not important. I sat there for a moment, just etching this guy's physique into my brain. Yeah, I'm gay. So what? There are worse things in life after all. I could be pulling a double shift at work. Or worse, doing a Jerry Lewis telethon. Now, no one, and I mean NO ONE knows that I'm gay. I've kept that part of my life fairly well buried. What's really funny is that I trip enough people's gaydar to wonder. If they ask, I just politely respond that I grew up in an all female household and that my mother is a lesbian. That is usually sufficient for most people to make whatever conclusions they want and then leave me alone so I can continually lie to myself. I make myself sick sometimes. I am such a hypocrite, I thought to myself. I had finally accepted about a year or so ago that I was gay, but haven't had the nerve to say anything, let alone act upon it. Now, here I was at the scene of a car accident and I'm checking out the injured. Grow up and get a life Will. Sheesh. He had an incredibly cute face, which led down to his neck and toned body. Nice arms, I thought. Glazing quickly over his abdominal area, I scanned down his legs, stopping at his right ankle, which was now the size of a medium-sized grapefruit. "Oh my God," I finally said when the realization that he was injured, possibly quite badly dawned on me. "How badly are you hurt? Can you move your leg? Does it hurt really bad? Can you feel your toes?" In my usual style, I started shooting questions at him at my standard warp speed pace.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. Breathe. I can hardly keep up with you. Yeah, I'm okay except for my ankle. By the way, who are you, and what the heck are you doing out here this time of night? Not that I'm going to complain mind you," the young man said with a smile, flashing his brilliant white teeth at me.
I laughed. At least his sense of humor wasn't damaged. Then I flushed a little, a bit embarrassed that I hadn't even introduced myself. "The name's Will. Will Robertson. I was on my way home from work when I, well...ummmm...yeah." Why did he have to keep smiling at me? He was starting to make me nervous. Furthermore, as I kept staring at him, I kept feeling like I had seen him before, but where would I know him from?
"Nice to meet you Will. I'm Josh, and these guys..." Josh slowly trailed off when he looked around and realized he was the only one that was alert. "Oh my God!" he cried suddenly. "The guys, are they... are they..." He looked around desperately trying to decide if his friends were alive, injured, or... No. He couldn't think that. It just wasn't possible.
I knew Josh wasn't going to be able to move very well, if at all, with his ankle the way it was, so I slowly slid into the car, taking great pains not to hit him. Well, him I missed. It was the other guy that got in the way. "Huh? Wha... What happened?" I turned around facing the owner of the voice that just spoke.
"Oh Chris, thank God you're all right!" Josh exclaimed, speaking to the man I was practically sprawled over. "Will, are you okay?"
"I'm okay. If we're lucky, your friend Chris here won't be completely squashed like a pancake before I figure out how to untangle myself off of him." Thank God they can't see me blushing right now, I thought, feeling as if my cheeks would have provided more light at that moment than Rudolph's nose if they had turned any brighter red. I slowly pulled myself off Chris and was now sitting on the end of the first row of seats. Josh, who had wound up on the floor of the SUV after the accident, had propped himself up against the side of the vehicle with his legs sticking straight out, wincing every time Chris or I brushed against his leg as we tried to untangle ourselves from each other. After successfully figuring that out, Chris also propped himself up against the side of the SUV, except he was sitting on the seat.
Chris surveyed the scene around him. He looked into the next row and saw Joey's eyes staring back at him with an incredibly frightened look. "Joey, you okay?" he asked gently, trying not to startle the man, who seemed to be a bit unsure as to what was going on around him.
"Chris? Are we...dead?" Joey asked hesitantly, responding to the sound of Chris' voice. As I looked over at Joey, I realized he was no longer looking at him but looking at me. "I think I'm seeing an angel." Whoa. Huh?
Chris looked over at me as I was leaning over the seat with the SUV's overhead light right over my head. Chris laughed and said, "No, it's not an angel but the next best thing." Chris looked at me, and then back at Joey. "It's a friend here to rescue us."
I looked a little harder at Joey and felt my stomach doing flip-flops. If I had thought Josh was cute, I was nowhere near prepared for this big hunk of guy named Joey. I was desperately trying in vain not to blush profusely, but I felt that I was probably losing that battle. Is it me or is it hot in here? I was brought back to reality with Joey's next question. "Are JC, Justin and Lance okay?"
Hmmm. JC? Justin? Lance? Okay, so obviously two of those names belonged to the two guys I had yet to check on in the front two seats, but I was certain that there were only five guys in the SUV. If one was Chris, one was Josh, and one was Joey, and there were two in the front... My mind reeled. We were missing someone!
"I'm okay, but we haven't checked on Lance and Justin yet," Josh said, worry evident in his voice. He turned and looked at me with my panicked look on my face. "What's wrong Will? Are they...?" His voice trailed off as the possibilities of his friends being anything less than alive hit him.
"I don't know Josh. I haven't checked on them yet. Right now I'm more worried about JC."
"JC?" Josh said, looking puzzled.
"Yeah," I responded, becoming even more worried as time passed. "He must have been thrown from the car or something. I didn't see anyone outside when I approached the car. I hope he's all right. I just can't figure out how he could be missing when the windows aren't busted."
"Ummmm Will, what are you talking about?" Chris asked, looking slightly amused.
I shot him an exasperated look. "I don't know what you find so funny about this. Okay, Joey is back here on the seat. You're sitting here in front of me. Josh is on the floor. Justin and Lance, whichever one is which, are in the front seats. Joey mentioned something about JC. Well, unless my math skills are bad," I said as I started to tick off on my fingers, "Joey plus Chris plus Josh plus Justin plus Lance plus JC equals six people, and when I opened the door, there were only five."
I started to move toward the front of the vehicle to check on Lance and Justin, whichever one was which, when I was a bit taken aback by some loud laughter coming from behind me. Assuming that the trauma of the incident has caused them to momentarily lose their minds, I checked the driver's pulse and the passenger's pulse. They both had one, which was a good sign, and as I looked at the passenger's face for signs of trauma, his eyes popped open and I found myself staring into an equally beautiful set of baby blues. I just stared at him for a second until I could force my brain to string a group of words into a coherent sentence. "You all right?" I asked quietly, so quietly in fact I wondered if I had actually said them out loud. I guess I had, since he answered me.
"Yeah I think so, but I am going to have a serious headache later." He groaned and shifted a little, attempting to get into a slightly more comfortable position. I heard a groan behind me and turned to see the driver moving.
"Justin," the driver started to say. Okay, well I knew who the passenger was now. That meant that the driver must be Lance. "I swear you are never going to be the navigator again," Lance finished saying. He started trying to clear his head as he turned around to check on the other guys who were still in a fit of giggles. I was glad these five guys were all right, but I was still really concerned about JC. I couldn't understand why no one else was, but it was starting to drive me crazy.
Finally I could take no more. "What is it with you three?!" I exploded, a little more harshly than I intended. "Aren't you concerned about your friend? We don't even know where on earth he is, and the three of you are back here howling like hyenas." I shook my head and started thinking that I shouldn't have stopped. I continued, "For all we know, poor JC could be lying on the side of the road all by himself." I sort of crouched down as best I could leaning against Lance's seat, which was a feat in and of itself, considering the fact that the SUV was still on its side. I felt bad that I had bawled them out like that, but I couldn't believe that after all of this, they weren't even showing any concern about their missing friend. I sighed and buried my head in my hands.
"Uh...Will?" I was snapped out of my moment of frustration by the sound of Josh's voice.
"Yeah?" I said in a half sigh, half whisper.
"Do you really not know who we are?" he asked incredulously.
I rolled my eyes. I couldn't help it. Did he really think that this was the time for Twenty Questions? I was about to answer him when it hit me. Lance. Justin. Chris. Joey. JC. JC, as in Joshua Chasez. JC = Josh. Oh. My. God. I buried my face in my hands and just started shaking from laughter, with no sound. I couldn't believe I had just been having a conversation with *Nsync and didn't even realize it. It was understandable, to some degree, since I didn't really listen to their music. Actually, I couldn't tell them apart on the radio from the Backstreet Boys.
Lance, who was right behind me, must have thought I was crying because he yelled at JC for being quite so abrupt. I put my hand on his arm, which stopped his tirade and looked at all of them. I took a deep breath and said, "My only excuse is that it is after 4:00 in the morning and I forgot to switch my brain on after I left work at 3." I smiled at them for a moment and then shot a nasty look at JC, Chris and Joey. "However, you could have stopped me at any time from making a complete fool out of myself." I turned my lips into a slight pout, all the while praying that these five guys didn't think I was a complete idiot. Semi-idiot, granted. Oy. I was never going to live this one down. The SUV was completely quiet for a moment when an idea occurred to me. "Be right back guys," I said as I jumped out of the vehicle. I ran back down the road to my car and popped the trunk. Fortunately I had just come back from visiting some friends of mine who had a barbecue not that long ago, and being the horribly lazy person I am, I had not yet taken the folding chairs out of the trunk. I took the chairs out and set them against the side of the car. I took my cell phone back out of my pocket and looked at the screen. 4 bars. Weird. 20 minutes ago I had no signal. Now I have a full signal. Go figure that one out. I figured I'd wait a couple minutes before I called the police. I wanted the guys out of that SUV as soon as possible. I set the chairs up behind my car and went back over to the SUV. I stuck my head in and asked in my sweetest voice, "Did you guys miss me?"
JC looked at me and grinned. "Who are you again?" he asked with a sly grin on his face. I rolled my eyes. They've just been in a car accident, and who knows what injuries they have besides JC's leg, and here he is making fun of me. Sometimes I just don't get people.
I shrugged off his little joke and said, "Okay guys. I think it would be a really good idea if we get you out of here. I don't know how safe it is for you all to be in here."
JC looked at me and said, "Yeah. At least we didn't land on the side with the gas tank." At that moment, Lance and Justin jumped out of their seats and bolted past me out the door.
Chris looked at me for a second and said calmly, "I believe that is our cue to exit, stage left even." Okay, he is definitely dating himself by making Snagglepuss references. He slid himself along the seat so as not to bump JC's leg and scooted out of the car. Joey followed right after, but instead of exiting gracefully like the rest, he kind of fell to the ground in a heap.
I looked over the side of the car at the heap named Joey lying on the ground. "I think it's easier if you land on your feet Joey," I said with a slight chuckle. He shot me the evil eye briefly and then began to laugh. I just shook my head, wondering about this cast of characters I had found myself with. As Joey stood up, I looked back at JC trying to figure out the best way to get him out without hurting him too badly. "Hey Joey? Chris? Want to give me a hand?"
The two guys came over and, with painstaking effort, managed to move JC out of the car without causing him too much pain. I looked over at my car and noticed that Justin and Lance had already set up two of the folding chairs and were sitting down. I motioned to Chris to go over and sit with them while Joey and I helped JC maneuver with one less than functional leg. I looked up at the sky as we crossed the road over to my car and wondered how it could have gone from being cloudy and stormy to perfectly clear in such a short amount of time. Joey, JC and I made our way to my car and slowly eased JC into one of the chairs. I looked at Joey, having just realized I only had four chairs. "Sorry Joey, I only have four chairs, but you can have a seat in the car. Here." I walked over to my little Saturn and opened the back door for him. He smiled at me and sat down. Oh Lord, I could have melted right there on the spot, but my need to play mother hen to these five was more important at the moment.
"So now what do we do?" My momentary reverie was broken by Justin's question.
"Well, we really ought to call the police and get an ambulance up here for JC, and then I guess I ought to call AAA and have them come figure out what to do with the SUV. Also, I'm guessing that you guys probably have someone you need to call so that the search parties aren't sent out."
The guys remained silent for a moment. I looked at JC, who looked quite pale. "Ummmm Will...first of all, please, all my friends call me Josh, and I would ask that you do the same." He smiled that dazzling smile of his at me, and then continued. "Secondly, I don't need an ambulance. I'll be okay. Really." He looked at me imploringly, and I sensed that there was something more to this.
"JC...errrr...Josh, you're hurt. You need to have that leg looked at!"
"I'll be okay. Don't worry about it." He shifted in his chair and his face suddenly contorted with a look of obvious pain. "Ow."
"You're okay huh? I don't even think so. Sorry mister, you're going and that's final," I said in my most authoritative tone. JC hung his head and muttered something under his breath. The other guys just looked at me, mouths hanging open. Truth be told, I was kind of surprised myself.