Breathe in, breathe out. I whisper, trying to motivate my lifeless mind as I inch toward the red record button on my video camera. Normally when I press this button, I am excited because I get to film a new video for my beauty guru YouTube channel. Today, I am shaking with anxiety because I’m not ready to tell the world what I have to say. I pause before placing my finger on the button. You can do this Taya, you have to do this. You owe it to her. Hesitantly, I wheel my wheelchair up to my desk, reach forward, and press the button. Breathe in, breathe out. You can do this.
“Hi, I’m Taya, and uh, I would like to tell you about someone really special to me-” I look down at my legs and bury my face in my hands. I can hear her soft voice in my ears and feel her warmth within me. I bite my lip and look back up at the camera. “If you are watching this, I am assuming you knew Ella-”
I pause. I had been practicing this speech for a while now, mixing the words around in my head until I formed somewhat of a chain of choppy sentences to make a speech. Ella’s parents asked me to make a video for her because she loved watching my YouTube videos. I agreed, but I didn’t realize it would be this hard. I didn’t think it would take this much energy to spill out my heart and soul about a person who didn’t deserve to die.
I look back at the camera and push the record button again to stop the video. Just try again tomorrow. I sit in my wheelchair and stare out the window. My house is next to an elementary school so it’s fairly easy to see the playground. The kids across the street are running around the slides and climbing on the monkey bars. Man I miss it out there.
I guess you could say this summer was my refresh button, except I wasn’t really the one who pushed it. The semi truck that ran into my school bus was the one who pushed it.
Ella and I weren’t friends at first. I hated her more than I have ever hated someone in my entire life. She was beautiful and lovely and everything I wanted to be, so I made her high school experience wretched. Why? I think I was mainly jealous of her and everything she was. Everyone liked her and she was popular, but she didn’t know she was. I was “popular”...until the girls ditched me a week before the last day of school. I told Tessa that her outfit made her look fat, causing her to kick me out of the group. I wouldn’t have said anything except that she had asked.
Ella was the only person who hung out with me when everyone else wouldn’t. I realized the moment Ella comforted me when everyone else left, we would be best friends forever. But when my page refreshed, Ella wasn’t saved.
My sophomore class took a field trip to the city Gardens because we only had three days left of school and all of our finals were completed. Our teachers thought it would be a good way to let us take a break and leave campus to get our minds rejuvenated and alive for summer break. Ella and I sat on the bus together and chatted joyfully on the way there. Once we got there, we enjoyed ourselves immensely! We ran through the garden but talked mainly about our latest boy crushes. That’s when I realized Ella was just like any other teenage girl I had ever met. She wasn’t this piece of perfection that I had placed her as. Although, there was something different about her: the way she talked and the sparkle in her eyes. She was happy but it wasn’t fake.
The accident happened on the way back to the school, after our visit at the Gardens. Ella and I got on the bus and sat in the same seat as we always did: seat seven on the right side. She sat next to the window and I sat next to her. Like any ride back to school, we talked and giggled about everything we possibly could. There was one thing that I had to make sure I told Ella before we left for summer break, and I thought this would be the perfect time.
“One more thing, Ella, I have something to tell you. It’s been on my mind a lot recently...” I looked at her deep brown eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m really sorry for everything I did to you, you are the greatest friend I have ever had and I want you to know that.”
“Awe Taya! I am so glad...” Her voice kept going on about how thankful she was for me, but all I could focus on was the scene behind her. A semi truck was coming straight for us. I hugged Ella and closed my eyes. The last words I heard from her sweet voice were “It’s okay, Taya”.
I’m not really sure what happened after that. I woke up, I was at the hospital, but no one was there. A doctor walked in and saw that I was awake, greeted me, and then calmed my nerves about the situation.
“Taya, you are very lucky, as well as many of your other classmates. Only a few people didn’t survive the crash, but unfortunately you were injured. Very much so.”
“Doctor,” I had one question, and it took every ounce of energy I could muster up to ask it. “Is my friend Ella okay?”
“She is in the trauma section of the ICU right now, she’s in critical condition, but we are hoping she can make it out alright. There is a possibility she won’t survive, but our prayers and hopes are the opposite. For you, miss, you are under critical condition as well. We have run some tests and they show that you will not have the use of your legs anymore, you are paralyzed from the hip down-” His voice drowned off too, just like Ella’s on the bus.
The thought of never having the ability to use my legs again made me feel like I was going to barf. My legs. How was I supposed to dance again? How was I going to take pictures at my senior prom with Ella?
Then it hit me, what if Ella doesn’t make it? All of the plans we made in the last few days are garbage, all that talk, wasted. Everything she was to me, over. She may not make it alive, that’s what the doctor said.
After many tests and days resting in the uncomfortable hospital bed, I was finally in my wheelchair. I had to spend some more time at the hospital even though I was better, at least I thought I was, but I had therapy and all of that still to deal with.
The day Ella died was the brightest day at the hospital, which is quite strange because normally it’s supposed to be rainy and dark on those days, right? Ella’s death was different. I wheeled down to her room, just like I did every day after I got my wheelchair. I sat in her room and talked to her while I held her hand. I prayed with her, since that’s what she normally did. I always saw her pray before she ate at school. I thought it might fix her if I prayed.
It was a Tuesday, it had been almost three weeks since the accident. I wheeled into her room and she wasn’t there. Yes! Maybe she is healing and they brought her to a different section of the hospital! I asked the nearest nurse and a frown spread across her face.
“I’m sorry honey.” That’s all she said. And that’s when I knew. I knew it was over. All of those sleepovers we planned, and going to each other’s weddings...it was all garbage. None of it saved when the refresh button was pressed. None of it.
And that brings me to today. Half of my summer was taken up at the hospital, hoping and waiting to leave. Now that I am home, I am lonely. No one comes to visit, really. My dad is always working and he’s the only parent I have. Josh, a friend of Ella’s, visits about once or twice a week, but he is struggling too. Most of the time we just talk about Ella because we miss her so much. Every ounce of hope I had of having a best friend was gone.
Josh and I really wish Ella was still here you know? We would give anything to see her beautiful face one more time. But we know we can’t. I guess this summer can be our refresh button together. We won’t forget Ella; she will always be in our mind. But, I think it’s time for us to relax for a moment; that’s what Ella would have wanted. I’m a new person, with this wheelchair and everything. I guess I can reinvent myself, especially when I have the greatest role model. I think I can turn the camera on now.