The same image flashed through my eyes again and again as I helplessly watched my best friend fall to the ground with the part of the ceiling that collapsed on top of her. At first, I thought Hailey was going to be okay. She looked a little confused at first, probably a broken leg, but I thought she was fine. I continued running towards her as she struggled to get up, but then became horrified and screamed as another part of the ceiling fell and hit her in the head which knocked her out cold. I continued shouting her name as I, along with many of the workers present, surrounded her and desperately pulled the tiles and beams off of her body.
Waiting five minutes for the ambulance to come felt like an eternity. I didn’t know what to think. She looked so lifeless. I constantly fought with my head about even thinking about the ‘D’ word. No, not my best friend. Even though she couldn’t hear me, I held her hand the entire time and pleaded her to wake up or to do something to let me know she was still here. To my surprise, she wasn’t bleeding anywhere. I could already see bruises showing on her arms, hoping that nothing major was broken. A worker checked her pulse multiple times. She was still breathing. I silently prayed to God asking Him to not take her away yet and for her to just be okay.
She has so much ahead of her. She’s only twenty-two. Every time Hailey was around, I was always laughing until I cried. She always had this weird sense of humor with sarcasm, but it made everyone fall over. Her beauty was incredible. She wasn’t where you look at a girl and automatically think ‘Bitch’. Her type of beauty shined compassion and kindness towards any person. It was only when you really got to know her that the crazy side of her came out. The most important thing to me about Hailey was that she always listened to you. She would never zone out or look somewhere else if you were talking to her. She always kept eye contact with you and did her best to offer advice and even threw a little comic relief in there.
And here she is, unaware that she is currently being strapped to a stretcher to take her to the hospital. The medics were doing their best to try to regain Hailey’s consciousness. And all I could do was stand and watch…helpless.
I cried harder and cursed my mother’s phone call about when she can come visit next, how my job is going, when Marc’s going to propose; blah, blah, blah. If my phone didn’t ring, I would have been standing right there with Hailey and could have pulled her out of the way in time. Or at least I could have switched places with her and not feel as guilty as I do right now.
As the medics finished strapping her to the stretcher, someone asked who needed to be contacted to know she was going in the Emergency Room.
My eyes widened. Sidney was at practice and had no idea what was going on.
“I’ll take care of it,” I yelled through my tears. “Can I ride with her?”
One of the medics nodded, “No problem at all. She needs a good friend right now.”
‘Some friend you are,’ my mind took over. ‘If you were even a decent friend, you’d be in that stretcher, not her.’
I tried to calm my fears and tears down. I had to call Sidney to let him know what was going on. But my fears only got bigger. How was I supposed to tell him that his wife was being taken to the hospital? How was I supposed to explain what happened to him? “Well, uh, you see, part of the ceiling just gave out and Hailey happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Yeah, that would work. I can definitely see a lawsuit coming out of this.
I took a deep breath as I dialed Sidney’s cell phone number. As I followed the medics to the ambulance, I looked at my watch, the boys should be done with practice and interviews by now. But as I called him the third time, I still got his voicemail.
“Damn it to hell, Sid! Answer your fucking phone!!”
The tears started to fall again as I climbed into the right side of the ambulance and reached for Hailey’s hand again. I looked down at her engagement ring and wedding band and decided that I should take them off just incase something would happen to them in the ER. I dug through my purse and found an empty box and placed the rings inside. I know she would be so devastated if something happened to them, and I couldn’t bear to see my friend in even more pain.
I tried Sid’s cell one more time before I finally gave up and called someone who should answer his phone. He knows better than to ignore me.
Disco Dan knew better than to have me practice my shots. He knew that I had that pretty much mastered and that I wouldn’t consider this a punishment for my tardiness. So instead, I’m still skating back and forth across the rink for what feels like the hundredth time non stop. My legs and feet were gonna hurt like hell later, and every time I passed Coach, he would smirk as I silently begged him to tell me to stop.
I knew I only had myself to blame…and Hailey. I grinned as I thought of how she was going to take care of me tonight in return for going through this drill. She’s so tempting, I couldn’t help myself. If she had just let us continue this morning, at least I would have been a little okay with this. But no, the woman’s gotta follow her schedule on time.
Yet, she does everything for me at the same time. When I was little, the rare times I was running late to practice, my mom would just hand me a couple of pop tarts and send me on my way. Now, I get a cooked breakfast ready to go. She helps look after the house, does my laundry…minus my gear. She said that that was a creature of my own that I needed to take care of. We would go to local café’s and restaurants at times just to get away, but most of the time, we teamed up and cooked together. Cooking as in she gathered all the ingredients and added stuff to it to make the meal better while I stirred something simple or just watched water boil.
The best thing that she knew how to do was to love me and accept me for who I am. Ever since I met her, my mind’s never settled down. It doesn’t help that she has a hell of a body, but her personality and spirit is what really pulled me to her. She always seems to have this sense of hope and joy in whatever she does. For me, she’s helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. During my high ankle sprain, losing the Cup Finals in 2008, and just calming me down whenever my nerves got to me about how I was playing. Even though we’ll only be married for a year in June, I have no doubt that she is the best thing that ever happened to me.
“All right, Sid, I think you’ve had enough of skating back and forth,” Dan finally called out. “Let’s work on your face-offs. They’re a lot stronger and quick, but you still get caught up sometimes.”
I breathed heavily as I slowly skated towards him. Even though I’d still be here for a while, I couldn’t help but be anxious about getting home to Hailey. The rest of the day would be done for me after this practice. All I wanted to do was hold her, watch a movie, and just relax. Granted other activities will fall into place, but it works for me.
“You focused? You ready?”
I nodded as I bent down and waited for the puck to be dropped onto the ice. I watched it like a hawk and once it hit the ground, I jumped.
“SID! YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE ICE RIGHT NOW!”
I turned around to see Flower coming towards me on the ice in his tennis shoes. He had this panicked look on his face. As he slid towards us, I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. What could possibly be going on that couldn’t wait until I was done? And then I thought of the prank that the guys pulled on TK the other day about how Sports Illustrated was waiting in the locker room to do an interview on him. The guy’s pride was so high that he believed them and walked into the locker room only to be thrown into the hot tub that was filled with jello and whipped cream.
I smirked. So he thought he was gonna fool me, huh? I’m not so easy to trick.
“What’s up, Flower? Is everything all right?” Disco Dan asked.
He grabbed my wrist and started pulling me, “We need to get you out here now! Hailey needs you!”
I pulled my wrist away from him, “Nice try, Flower. But Hailey’s at the arena working everything out for the bar with your woman. So whatever prank you have pulled up your sleeve…why don’t you use it on Max? He never gets pranked.”
“I’m not fucking around here, Sid!” Marc said as he looked distressed and defeated as he threw his arms up. “Dude…,” he struggled to get out and looked as if he was choking up a little.
I started to panic. “What the hell’s going on, Flower? You’re scaring the shit out of me..”
“…Hailey’s in the ER right now…unconscious.”
I didn’t wait for him to continue as I hurriedly skated off the ice and into the locker room. I was taking off my practice jersey and everything else that I could while I walked to my stall. I felt like I was gonna be sick. I didn’t even notice who was watching me as I threw my gear everywhere and putting back on regular clothes. Hailey’s unconscious? What the fuck happened in the last two hours? She was fine this morning. Nothing seemed to be bothering her. So why was she in the hospital?
As I put on my hat and grabbed my keys, I didn’t even realize how heavily I was breathing until I felt a firm hand grab my shoulder.
“Ain’t no way in hell you’re driving right now. I’ll take you,” Bill Guerin said as he held out his car keys and directed me to the parking lot. He kept his hand on my shoulder the entire time, and I felt another hand grab onto my other shoulder.
I turned my head, and Flower gave me a weak smile.
“What’s wrong with her?” I whispered.
He shook his head, “I honestly couldn’t tell you. Vero called me screaming and crying, and all that I heard was that Hailey was being sent to the ER and that she wasn’t responding.”
I winced in pain as I followed Billy to his car. I climbed in the passenger seat, and Flower got into his own car to follow us to the hospital. It would take us a half hour to get there. What if that wasn’t enough time? What if I got there and…
I lowered my hat and cried silently. Once I arrived at the hospital, I had to be strong for Hailey…for my wife. So I might as well let it all out now.
“It’s gonna be all right, kid,” Billy said as we left Southpointe and headed towards downtown. “No matter what happens, it’s gonna be okay.”
But I felt that gut feeling in my stomach that it wasn’t gonna be okay. That I wasn’t going to get let off the hook that easy. I had to hear the whole story about what happened in order to really understand what this could mean for Hailey…for us. I leaned my head against the window, and I couldn’t help but flashback to our wedding vows.
..Till death do us part. God, not yet.