"But Mom!" Russ whined. Once again he's been relegated to the back seat even though he was ten years old and there was no one sitting in the front passenger seat. "This is ridiculous!"
"It's for your own safety dear." His mother's face was composed despite the fact that he started this argument every afternoon when she picked him up from soccer practice. The other boys on the team would point and laugh as he was forced to move from the front to the back like a preschooler. "I won't yield simply because other mothers are so flippant with their child's safety." She glanced at him through the rear view mirror and smiled, intending to comfort him.
Russ, only a child, turned his head and crossed his arms over his chest. She tried, several times, to engage him in conversation but he only grunted once or twice in response and otherwise ignored all her attempts. When they were nearly home, she'd been prattling on about the new movie she knew he wanted to see but instead of jumping into the conversation, he balled his fists and shouted, "SHUT UP! I HATE YOU!"
Taken aback, she stopped talking instantly and took her eyes from the road to look back at him. He saw the tears swelling in her eyes and wanted to take back his words immediately. Before he could, she closed her eyes and grabbed at her chest, clutching her broken heart.
But Russ's attention was drawn from her to the oncoming headlights! "Mom!" he shouted, reaching out for her to get her attention. She was slumped over in her seat and made no move of acknowledgment. Russ yanked at the seat belt, trying to get free of the confines but his awkward, panicked attempts to release the belt were fruitless. Still trying to revive his mother, he heard the squeal of brakes and then the grinding of metal as the oncoming car collided with theirs. As one mass, the two cars crunched into the metal guard rail and then, as the rail buckled under the pressure, into the steep ditch until finally coming to rest.
Russ, though sore and jostled by the initial collision, didn't see any obvious injuries on himself. "Mom?" he called out toward her, still wrestling with the seat belt now that all movement had stopped. He could hear shouting outside, possibly from the driver of the other car or witnesses but he focused on his mother. She had a deep gash on her forehead and the whole front of the car was pushed so far in that he could no longer see her legs.
Finally the belt snapped out of place and he slid from the seat toward her. "Mom?" he asked again. To his relief, she let out a small moan and her head shifted enough that he could see her face. "I'm sorry Mom, I'm so sorry!" He dug around on the floor board, looking for his bag from soccer practice. It had been pinned between the now compacted front seat the back bench but he was able to pull a towel free and pressed it to the gash on her forehead in hopes of stopping the blood flow. "Mommy...." he whispered, longing to hear her voice or even a groan. "Mom!"