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Authors: Megan Curd

BRIDGER

BOOK: BRIDGER
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BRIDGER
By Megan Curd

Copyright 2011 Megan Curd

For my mom, Julie, who always humored my random musings, and my husband, Matt, who allows me to live in my own world and patiently awaits my return. Finally, this is for Hope, who continues to be the cream of my Twinkie.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

SNEAK-PEEK OF THE SEQUEL, TRAITOR

WHERE TO FIND ME

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ONE

An ambulance siren screamed in the background. Red and blue lights bounced off the frigid water of the neighbor’s pond.  My once-wet clothes were now frozen stiffly in place.  Hypothermia was becoming a very real possibility, but it didn’t matter.  Dad was the only thing that mattered. I rocked back and forth on the solid ground, grief and panic overtaking me.  My hands were on either side of Dad’s face, but nothing was working to get him to respond.  What tears didn’t stick to my cheek splashed down onto his forehead.  Dad’s eyes were lifeless and empty as Chris continued to do compressions on his stiffening chest.

Pump.  Pump.  Pump.  No response.  Pump.  Pump.   Pump.

Keeping up a steady chant to the rhythm of his frantic pounds, Chris was crying as well.  His voice trembled.  “Dad, you can’t do this.  Dad, come on.”

Seconds felt like years.  With every passing moment that Dad didn’t respond, the tension rose.  Chris was growing frantic in his thrusts to bring Dad back.  The EMT training class was compulsory for freshman.  I’d gotten a higher grade than anyone else last year.  However, there hadn’t been a chapter on how not to freak out while your brother was performing CPR on your dad.  That had been missing.  Nothing in that class could have prepared me for this.

Every time it had been necessary, Dad saved the day.  What happened when there was no way to save the day for him?  I willed him to respond by shaking his head once more.  His red flannel shirt stuck to my frozen pant leg.  “Dad, you gotta stay with us.  Please, for Mom, for Memaw, for us.”

I knew he was gone; he took his last breath minutes ago in the lull between Chris’ CPR.  There was no way to tell Chris.  Saying it out loud would make it final, make it impossible to take back.  Besides, maybe God would still give him back to us.

A man in a white medical jumpsuit pushed Chris out of the way, causing him to slide down the slippery bank toward the deadly pond.  “Kids, let us do our job.”

Chris didn’t have anything left in him, so he lay motionless in the snow.  His eyes were shut tight, as though he was trying to escape this endless nightmare.  My heart broke for him. He was in so much pain.  The paramedic pounded rhythmically against Dad’s chest, the only sound being his thrusts against Dad’s still body.  There was no option but to look away.  It was too much to bear.

Mom came from behind, trying her best to pull me away to give the paramedics room to work.  Tugging once more, she caused both of us to tumble backward in the snow.  Finally free to work, the other paramedic moved in.  He put three of his fingers on Dad’s neck in search of a pulse.  Looking up at his partner, he minutely shook his head.

It was official.

Dad was dead.

I lost it.

I screamed in defiance.  Mom buckled under the news, collapsing into a heap in the snow once more.  And Chris?  Where was Chris?  He had become as still as Dad, his eyes devoid of all emotion as he stared at us from the bank.  Leaving Mom in the heap she’d become, I was back at Dad’s side, administering CPR once more.  “If you wouldn’t give up on him, he’d be fine.  He’ll come out of it.  He’ll wake up.  He has to wake up.  Mom, Dad’s gonna wake up.  He’s – ”

 
“Ma’am, please, let us take care of him.  You’ve got to let us do our job.”  The man sounded annoyed, as though I wasn’t allowing him to take our trash.  Infuriated by his callousness, a scene from the movie I’d watched the week before came to mind: a bounty hunter slamming a man against a wall, the man dangling off the ground.

I found myself pinning the man against the back of the emergency vehicle a moment later.  Usually my voice was lower, but now it cut through three octaves.  The paramedic had brought me to the breaking point.  “Do you not understand my dad just died?”

Hanging three inches off the ground, he struggled to free himself.  I slammed him against the back once more.  The metal protested, contorting to the shape of the man’s body.  He stopped fighting.  I’d never practiced slamming people up against cars but here I was, doing a better job of it than an actor.  It was as though I had memorized the move from simply watching it on the screen.

The sudden hostility distracted Mom from Dad.  Fear was evident in her voice.  “Ashlyn!  What are you doing?  You’re hurting him!”

“Ma’am, I understand,” the man blustered, searching for words to make me feel like letting go of the death lock on his shirt.  His eyes were unfocused.  Mom was trying to separate us. I pushed her away with my free hand, still completely focused on the man.

My voice cracked. “No, I don’t think you do.  He was everything to me.”

Memaw appeared out of nowhere as always.  She grabbed the collar of my shirt and yanked backward with surprising force.  “Ashlyn, what do you think you’re doing?” 

Losing my balance, the man and I landed in the snow at the same time.  He shuffled backward on all fours, slipping in his frantic attempt to get away.  Shaking my head did nothing to clear the countless thoughts and emotions fighting within.  Looking at him once more, I started to apologize but was cut off by his horrified look.

Memaw responded before I could string something coherent together.  “Don’t worry about her, doctor.  Why don’t you go take care of my son?”

Memaw was as hard and cold as the ice her son had fallen through.  She had no tears in her eyes at all, but instead a look of resignation.  When I reached out to her, she recoiled in her customary fashion. She shivered to cover it up and began barking commands.  “Sarah, go be with Peter before they take him to the hospital.  Ashlyn, get inside.  You don’t need to see this.  Take your brother with you.” 

I opened my mouth to protest.  “But – ”

“But nothing.  You’re lucky that man isn’t severely hurt.  You could have killed him.  We’ll talk later.”

She turned to retrieve Mom, who was still sobbing in the snow.  There was no arguing with Memaw.  Looking around, chaos and pain were in no short supply.  The surrounding neighbors had come to try and help, or maybe just to get a look at the scene.

Chris was sitting at the bank of the pond, his head in his hands. Running over to him, I pulled his hands away and looked into his eyes. The words he needed to hear almost broke me in half from the weight they carried. “Chris, you did everything you could.  There was nothing more you could have possibly done.”

“I couldn’t pull him out, Ash.  It was like he weighed a ton.”

“I know. It’s not your fault.”

Chris looked down, trying to hide the tears he was wiping away.  The salt froze on the cuff of his sweater.  “Pulling Ryan out of the fishing hole he fell through last year was hard, but it wasn’t like this.  It was like someone was underwater, yanking him deeper.”

BOOK: BRIDGER
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