Tiffany sucked her thumb as she watched Vanessa freefall down the center of the stairwell. When she was certain Vanessa wasn’t moving, she wiped her mouth, further smearing her red lipstick around, and went back out into the hall to grab one of the luggage bags. She returned to the stairs and descended, dragging the bag to the section where Vanessa slipped, and continued her descent.
She stood over her a few moments before she heard footsteps near the door. She bent over and took a deep breath, threw her head back and screamed at the top of her lungs. “Help! My sister! I think she’s dead!” She ran out the door screaming “Help!” and ran headfirst into Brad. She threw her arms around his manly neck and cried. “Vanessa fell! She was trying to drag that bag back downstairs and she slipped! I kept telling her it was too heavy and to let me help her!” She sobbed on his chest. “She wouldn’t let me help her! Please—come here and look at her—please make sure she’s okay!”
Brad removed her arms and opened the door. He ran over to Vanessa and felt around her wrist for a pulse. “How do you check a pulse again?”
“Maybe she doesn’t have one!” Tiffany wiped under her eyes.
Brad put his face up to Vanessa’s mouth. “I feel air—I think she’s breathing—” He pressed his palm on her chest. “I think I feel a heartbeat! We gotta call 911—”
Tiffany let the door shut behind her. “Are you sure you feel it? Don’t bodies, like—pulsate or something when the person dies?”
Brad sat back on his heels. “I dunno—but we need to call 911!”
He jumped up and moved Tiffany out of his way. She followed him out to the lobby where he went to the guard’s desk and begged to use the phone.
The blobfish-resembling guard looked up from her word search puzzle. “Use my phone?” she asked with very narrowed eyes.
“My girlfriend just fell down those stairs! We need an ambulance!”
One eye fixed on Brad, the other searched Tiffany up and down. “Which girlfriend?”
“Vanessa! Let me use the phone!”
“They’re not gonna use sirens, are they?” Tiffany cut in. “Sirens make me real nervous!”
The guard dialed the phone and handed it to Brad.
Within ten minutes, the paramedics arrived and examined Vanessa. They strapped her to the gurney and wheeled her out of the building. Tiffany and Brad followed in their wake and waited on the curb while the paramedics loaded her into the back of the ambulance. They watched while the truck’s lights and sirens activated and it turned out of the lot.
“Let’s go in my car!” Tiffany said, pulling him towards where she crookedly parked it.. “My baby goes from zero to sixty in a second! Everybody gets out of its way!”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive?”
“Don’t be scared—I’ve never hit anybody!” Tiffany patted his arm. She got in first and reached over to open the door for him.
The hospital was located downtown in the city, yet they seemed to be going outward into the suburbs. “Do you even know where you’re going?” Brad asked after several turns he was pretty sure were wrong.
Tiffany turned onto a dark road which led into a wooded neighborhood. The houses became spaced out farther and farther.
Brad sat up straight and looked around. The street was dark except for the brown path lit by the headlights. The path was surrounded by pools of pitch black, punctuated only here and there by single distant lights. He twisted in his seat to face her directly. “This isn’t the way to the hospital! I should be driving—let me drive!”
Tiffany slowed to a stop. “You’re right, Brad—I’m just so nervous I can’t even focus! What am I going to do!”
“You’re going to let me drive!”
“No, no, I can’t, I don’t want anyone driving my car!” she put her head down on the wheel and the horn blared.
“Oh, come on!” Brad shouted. “That’s it! I’m driving. Get out of the car!”
“No, no, no!” she pounded the dashboard with her fist. “I just can’t think right now!”
“Fuck this!” Brad climbed out of the car and without even bothering to shut the door, walked around the front of the car towards the driver’s side.
Tiffany smiled and stepped on the gas.