And Then the World Came Crashin' In

Chapter 4

Disclaimers, A/N, and stuff. Still don't own Lizzie McGuire or any of the characters. It starts getting serious guys...the reason I wrote this fanfic the way I did, with the first chap being AFTER the events that take place here.

 I PROMISE I won't keep you guys waiting on this one, and again thanks for all of the kind comments!

"BLEEEP, BLEEEP, BLEEEP..." Lizzie squinted cutely, whined a sleepy,  Wasanermph??', twisted her covers into a knot as she turned, then pulled them up over her head, wanting desperately to return to the very pleasant dream that this aggravatingly insistent bleeping had so rudely interrupted. She and Gordo had been walking through an immense field full of beautiful flowers. It had been summer...she had been able to feel the sun's heat on her shoulders, been able to smell the lovely aroma of jonquils. Gordo had stopped, turned, enfolded her with his arms as her heart melted and ran like butter on a griddle. She had gazed into his eyes lovingly, he into hers, he had started to say it...

"Lizzie...I..."

"BLEEEP, BLEEEP, BLEEEP..."

"Ummnnmmmmmhh...Huh?." Lizzie squeaked from beneath the covers. Obviously, it wasn't going away.

"Sweetie? You planning to get up sometime today by any chance? You better get a move on..." That pretty much confirmed it...the dream was toast. Lizzie didn't even hear the rest of her mother's comment (After all, she'd been hearing some form of it for ten or so years now). She instead, made a quick recon sortie, tentatively peeking from beneath the covers, turning her head to look through still sleep-bleared eyes at her alarm clock. Her face was puffy with sleep, her long hair twisted and fanned in about a dozen different directions. From somewhere with-in this sleep tangled nest of blond hair her eyes suddenly snapped open wide.

 "Oh my gosh!!!"

Luminous green numbers glowed 7: 23 at her. Homeroom was at 7:55, first period at 8:10.

Lizzie tossed the covers, rolling sideways in a light green camisole and PJ bottoms. Mr. Snuggles, her favorite stuffed animal since before pre-school, was catapulted unceremoniously from his usual place of honor beside her pillow to land beneath the tossed coverlet. She lashed out at the alarm clock, smacking the off button, at the same time yelling "MOM...I'm LATE!!!"

"No kiddin' sweetie..." Jo McGuire appeared in the doorway of Lizzie's room. She shook her head and chuckled despite her minor aggravation at her daughter...Lizzie had suddenly turned into a blond headed typhoon of manic motion, performing the supposedly impossible feat of going in several directions at once.

"Mommmm..!"  Lizzie slung her closet door open, arms and hands flying and hangers clattering as she sorted through various tops and blouses. "Why didn't..." A violet and dark blue rugby striped t-shirt sailed, hanger and all, towards the bed. "...You wake..." She spun towards her dresser, yanked a drawer open, and grabbed a folded pair of jeans, which joined the t-shirt. "...me up!!" Another drawer was yanked open, Lizzie pawed through it frantically..

"Lizzie, sweetie, you told me you were awake twenty minutes ago..." Jo McGuire told her daughter, her voice somewhere between mild irritation and amusement.

"I did!?" Lizzie blurted, holding a pair of violet socks aloft as she did so, her mouth pulled sideways in a crookedly puzzled little grimace. Amusement won, hands down, Jo chuckled at her daughter as she said. "Yes, sweetie, you sat up and told me you were awake..."

""Proof that she functions without a brain..." Matt commented from the hallway as he peeked around his mom. "Hi Sis..."  He then said brightly. "You know, you're really...something...in the morning...'

"What a sight to have to see as soon as you wake up!!..." Lizzie jibed at Matt., then glared at him. "Now you guys get outa my room, huh, I gotta hustle...Matt don't even think..." she tossed socks and other various and sundry necessities towards the bed. "...about getting in the bathroom..." A pair of satin look blue running shorts and a white T- shirt with a big eyed cartoon girl-child staring out from beneath the words 'Irresistible li'l Angel'on the front sailed towards the bed. "..Until I'm..." She shot her brother a look that would etch glass "Out...and with that thought in mind..." She shot through the door, weaving between mother and brother like a ball carrier on the way to a winning touchdown. Jo couldn't help but notice, with a little smile, that she quickly tousled Matt's hair as she shot past. The bathroom door 'crump!'ed closed, an instant later the shower splooshed to life, then settled to a to a soggy roar.

"Not bad..." Matt noted with cheerful sarcasm, looking at his watch. "Two and a half minutes..."

"And you, young man, need to get moving, too...you have a bus to catch!" Jo told Matt, patting him lovingly on the back as he headed for the stairs, far more stylishly attired in a dark blue and tan long sleeved shirt and black jeans than he had been the previous evening

"And with this...lovely...weather, I'm not even thinking 'Bus stop' until I absolutely have to..." He noted as he scampered down the steps.

"Miss it you're walking..." Jo McGuire called after him as she too headed down stairs.

Lizzie snagged her cordless phone and thumbed an auto dial number with one hand as she stuffed running shorts, t-shirt, white gym socks and sketchers into her backpack with the other,. The phone's ring tone rasped in her ear. A quick glance at the clock.7:36. She had just finished one of the quickest showers she had ever taken, dressed in something like two minutes flat, yanked a brush through her damp hair, flailing it into something resembling submission, and quickly applied what little make up she ever wore. I managed all of the above, she reflected, in barely more than ten minutes....go ME!!

 The phone rasped again. Lizzie looked at the window, grimaced, and wrinkled her nose at the sodden gray light that barely deserved the title 'Daylight'. My brother, she thought, was right. It's still nasty out...their back yard was ghostly, mist-shrouded and suddenly mysterious, the window pane was spotted and speckled with raindrops.Gordo's mom finally answered.

"Hi Mrs. Gordon...I have a boyfriend roaming around your house?" She yanked the gym bag's zipper closed, walked around to the other side of her bed, and slipped her feet into a stylishly comfortable pair of shoes.

"Hey, Lizzie!"  Gordo's mom said cheerfully. "Honey, you missed him by a good thirty minutes..." Lizzie shook her head, quickly rolling her eyes and chuckling.

"Figures, my over-achiever other half...just wanted to see if he changed his mind about needing a ride...."

"Naa, he took the wagon, and left me his Camaro...

"That's what he said he was gonna do...I'll catch him at school, se ya..."

"Hey...good luck this afternoon!"

"Thanks Mrs. Gordon!..." Lizzie said, smiling. She rang off, hung up, than snagged her backpack and hustled out of her room, heading for the stairs.

"Matt!!"  Jo and Matt McGuire both turned their heads towards the front hallway in time to see Lizzie grab the end of the stairway banister, using it and her momentum to swing her towards the kitchen. "There had better be some Pop Tarts left..." Lizzie deposited the backpack on the kitchen table. "...or I'll..."  She slid to a stop at the kitchen's center island, where Matt was pointing to an open box of frosted cherry pop tarts. "Oh...Good, you get to live another day..." She told him, at the same time yanking a foil-wrapped pair of pastries from the box. She tore the foil open, dropped both pop tarts into the toaster, shoved the lever down, and then took off for the Florida room. Jo and Matt looked on with interest as Matt finished up a glass of orange juice, then asked 'She seem just a little hyper this morning?' as Lizzie jogged through the family room, hanging on to Miranda's boom box

 "Sweetie, grab a jacket..." Jo called to her, ignoring Matt.

"Purple jacket..?" Lizzie asked, also ignoring her brother.

"Hall closet..."

"Thanks Mom..." She did a quick, hair slinging about face, Jo and Matt heard more hanger-clatter, then she reappeared with the jacket in question slung over her shoulder. Matt timed a loud and meaningful belch to coincide perfectly with his sister's reappearance in the kitchen.

"Euwwwwww...GROSS!!!"

"Thank you, I work at it..." Matt noted proudly, raising his eyebrows and mugging at Lizzie as she put the boom box down on the table next to her backpack. Lizzie shot him a look, then rolled her eyes as she shrugged into her jacket just as the toaster went 'clonk! She snagged one of the pop tarts and put it in her mouth, then turned towards the 'fridge, opened it, and rummaged through it, holding the pastry in her mouth as she did so.

"Lizzie did you know that jacket makes you look like a giant bottle of grope Robitussin?" Matt noted sagely as their mother said 'MATT", then said 'Lizzie, sweetie, is that all you're eating..."

"MnnmNnnMMmnnmMMMn." Lizzie explained through the pop tart.

"Huh?" From Jo and Matt.

Lizzie backed out of the fridge, pushed the door shut, and turned hanging onto a grapefruit flavored Fruitopia. She removed the pop tart from her mouth and said. "Haven't got time...I'll grab something else at school" To her mom, glancing at the clock on the microwave as she did so. "If I haul freight, I might make it..." She actually bit and chewed some of the pastry, then headed for the kitchen table, shoving the fruit drink into one of her jacket pockets and taking another bite of pop tart as she snagged her purse, which had been hanging on one of the chairs. She then rolled her right arm to flip it onto her shoulder and grabbed her backpack, saying 'Want a ride, squirt?' to Matt as she also picked up the boom box..." She finished off the last of the pop tart.

"The opportunity to make you unbelievably late!" He enthused sarcastically. "Naaa, get, I've got some...er..business dealings with some guys on the bus..."

"Don't even wanna go there..." Lizzie told him, rolling her eyes. "Here, though, make yourself useful..." She continued, holding the boom box out to him. "...as well as majorly undecorative..."

"You're just mad 'cause I got the looks in the family...:" Matt told her, at the same time grabbing the boom box and heading for the front door. Lizzie declined comment, instead performing the same head shake/eye roll that her brother inspired on a regular basis.

"Gone, Mom..." Lizzie said as she too headed for the front door, hearing 'be careful, Lizzie, it's really messy out..."

"God, it's nasty..." Lizzie shivered as she walked out on the porch, pulling the door closed behind her with her free hand.. Matt was standing on the porch waiting, he just looked up towards the gray mass of clouds pressing down on them.

"You've always did have a way with understatement, Sis."   He told her.

It was beyond nasty. Last night's steady rain had turned into a heavy, soaking mist that was just a step or so short of being fog. Streetlights still gleamed orange, the one directly across Orchard Oak Drive kicking an orange flare off shiny-wet macadam. Chill bumps instantly broke out on her arms...It was big time chilly, no, she thought, down right cold, especially for Aprill. Even with the jacket (Which, admittedly was made far more for style than warmth.) she was shivering in the damp chill.

"Ya know, Lizzie...I might just take you up on a ride, at least to the bus stop..."

"Get your jacket an' stuff...hurry up..." She told him absently, digging her keys from her purse. A big, gold 'L'and a plastic encased photo of her and Gordo swung from the keys, Matt put the boom box down long enough to disappear back into the house, tell their mom about the plan change, and reappear pulling on a black Old Navy bomber jacket., hanging on to a dark burgundy back pack. He reached down and grabbed the boom box, then the two of them scrambled town the steps and jogged through the mist to the driveway, where her metallic beige (Chrysler called it something like Autumn Mist Gold) Cherokee Laredo was sitting. They walked around the back of the Jeep, Matt reached for the tailgate, Lizzie just said 'Uh uh...back seat..."

"Ok..." they opened the two rear doors at the same instant, Matt sliding the boom box in, Lizzie tossing her backpack inside.

"Sure you got time Liz?"

"Yeah, I'll just go out Gammon Forest instead of HolyOak...in!"  She told him, shutting the back door, then opening the driver's door, and climbing behind the wheel. Crush 102's Morning Madhouse filled the Jeep as she started up, Matt climbed in and slammed his door, Lizzie went to pull her seat belt around, breathed something inaudible, quickly pulled her Fruitopia out, putting it in a cup holder, then said 'Ready?'

"Yeah, go..." Matt told her as he dragged his seat belt around. Lizzie backed out of the driveway, flipping the headlights on as she did.

"Man, it's nasty..." she said, flipping the wipers to the fastest intermittent setting. The windshield misted over instantly and totally between swipes, she flipped them to 'low'. "I mean, this reeks" The Jeep's tires went 'tshhh...tshhh...tshhh' as they slashed through puddles, ahead of them, at Orchard Oak and Gammon Forest, a group of kids could be seen standing at the corner, huddled up close to the honeysuckle covered privacy fence that separated the Woloman's yard from the street. The same fence, Lizzie reflected,  that she, Miranda, and Gordo had huddled against during bad weather when they had been at HJHS. "Ya know, Matt I really don't mind giving you a ride to school..."

"That's Ok, Liz..." Matt said absently as he leaned forward, gazing through the windshield intently. She glanced at him just in time to see a smile lift the corners of his mouth, then she looked to see Melina, wearing a bright blue rain jacket, leaning out so she could see. A grin broke over Melina's face as she waved towards the Jeep.

'...An' me thinks it's not me she's waving at...' Lizzie thought, smiling to herself, as she rolled to a stop. Mat unbuckled and opened the door as Lizzie said "Out...you're interfering with my edumacation an' stuff..." .

"It's dweeb-child!...Hi Lizzie, good luck!' Melina exclaimed cheerfully.

"Thanks, 'Lina...don't you guys get wet!"  Lizzie called to her, to get  'I think you're a little late!'  as Matt dragged his backpack out of the back seat and said 'Ok the party can start now' to his group. From the fence, Matt's best friend Lanny shook his head, his eyes rolled skyward. Matt turned, grabbed the edge of the door, and went to close it, then stuck his head inside for a second.

"I'm really looking forward to tormenting you while you're cheering next year you know..." He told her. Lizzie just smiled at him, saying 'Thanks, Matt', recognizing it for the good luck wish it actually was.

Matt shoved the door closed and scampered to the fence, immediately entering into animated conversation with Melina. Lizzie threw them a wave, yanked the shift back into drive and pulled off as Avril Lavigne belted out 'Complicated'. Lizzie slowed  at the stop sign at Orchard Oak and Gammon Forest, glanced left, then right, then hung a left on Gammon Forest. Ahead of her, the stop sign at Sampson Road glowed in her headlights, a block further up, the stop lights at Hillridge Parkway gleamed at her. She, Gordo, and Miranda had gone in to school off Hillridge yesterday because they had hit McDonalds, but on most mornings, everyone who lived off Sampson Road went in the back way, tuning onto Hillridge Place off of Sampson.

  Lizzie flipped her left blinker on and eased to a stop. Avril finished up and The Back Street Boys started into 'My Way'. Cars blasted by on Sampson, throwing rooster tails of spray up behind them, tires making ripping noises against wet pavement. Lizzie picked up the drink, uncapped it, and took a swallow, glancing at the clock. It was 7:44. I might  just make it, she thought to herself, recapping the drink and reaching for the cup holder, singing along as she did, head swaying to the music.

"I never wanna hear ya say..!" She went to put the drink in the cup holder. "I waaaant it...damn!" as she missed and the drink tumbled to the floor, rolling beneath the passenger seat. Lizzie went to reach over and down for it, only to be pulled up short by the shoulder harness. 'At least the cap's on it...' She thought as she unbuckled her seat belt, bent sideways, then retrieved the drink.

"BEEEEP BEEP BEEEP BEEEEP!!!'" She heard, sitting back up quickly, just in time to see a green and white '92 Ford F-150 rolled through the intersection on Sampson, headed for school. Lizzie popped the bottle back into the cup holder, then laid down on her horn, grinning and waving. Tudge was grinning at her from behind the Ford's wheel,   Miranda was also shooting her best friend a grin as she leaned far enough forward to look around her boyfriend, reaching her hand in front of Larry and fluttering her fingers at Lizzie.

"Least I'm not the only one running late!" Lizzie giggled, glancing left. Clear. She glanced right. A big pick up, pulling some kind of trailer had just passed the back entrance to University Square Mall...She had plenty of room.

Lizzie squirted the Jeep out to the left onto Sampson Street, tires slipping and saying 'Sqrrrrrsh!!!' against the wet road. She then did the same thing almost all sixteen year olds would have done...she decided that they weren't going to beat her by but so much. Lizzie pressed down hard on the gas, grinning as the speedometer swept around past 35, then 45, finally easing just past 55. She flipped the wipers to high as Larry's tail lights crept closer and closer. The wind whipped around the Jeep as the mist like rain made frying-bacon noises against the windshield.

Somewhere in the friendly competition, Lizzie had forgotten something she never forgot.  Her seat belt was still unbuckled.

"LIZZEEEEEE!!" Miranda Sanchez exclaimed exuberantly as they blew past Lizzie's Jeep. They...along with nearly every teenager in Atlantis...also had 'The Morning Madhouse' on, Larry was tapping time against the rim of the steering wheel with his fingers. The two of them had finished demolishing a cholesterol-laden extravaganza only about ten minutes earlier, making small talk and talking about nothing, and just looking at each other with silly grins on their faces, the way teenage couples have done since the beginning of time, until they  realized how late they were running.

.. "Lizzie musta dropped Matt off at the bus stop.."  Miranda said, looking  over at Larry. "She's running almost as late as we are

 "But, my fair maiden..." Larry began. "Has she got anywhere near as good an excuse ?" He glanced at his girlfriend, smiling. Miranda had on a purple, black blue and yellow swirl tie dye on with a pair of jeans, her dark hair pulled back, secured into a wide ponytail by a purple scrunchy.  Larry's hair, as always, was the slightest bit mussed. He had on a green and white Polo shirt with a pair of khakis, and looked about as casually comfortable as it was possible to look. My boyfriend, Miranda reflected affectionately, was a closet hunk, all those years. "How many pancakes did you put away, anyway...I know beat me..." Larry continued shaking his head in adoring amazement, then adding "...Of course, you do need energy to do battle with evil alien cheerleaders..."

"It wasn't even close to being a battle...She gave up before I even got to remove her teeth for her..." Miranda noted. "And I lost count..."  She told her boyfriend, then gazed upward and sighed contentedly."...Blueberry pancakes should really be a controlled drug, I mean, I'm, like, totally addicted to the things, but they are soooo good!".

"Naw, strawberry...come on now..." Larry told his girlfriend, who he heard say '...Here she comes...'

"...Here she comes..." Miranda had turned in her seat and was watching as the Cherokee's head and fog lights closed on them...Lizzie had gained to within about five car lengths of them in the quarter mile or so since she had turned. Miranda could see her best friend's blond head, see a grin on Lizzie's face." I know you're not gonna let her beat us..."

"We have the upper hand, fair maiden, she can't get around us..." Larry answered jovially as they went through Sampson's intersection with HolyOak. Sampson Road had three lanes, one in each direction with a center turn lane. The residents of Hillridge had wanted the state to widen it for years.

 Miranda noticed a big dark blue S.U.V. in the northbound lane, it's left turn signal began winking just as they passed it.." She'll just have..." Larry began, then paused. "What's this kid doin'...?" He asked , puzzled,.

What's what kid..." Miranda started to ask, turning just as Larry shouted "What the hell!?"  at the same instant she was suddenly jerked hard to the left, bouncing against Larry as he swerved sharply to the right. She caught a glimpse of something...no, some one, dark hair, wearing some kind of shiny jacket...whip past, close, missing the pickup's left side mirror by inches. Larry hissed one of the few curse words Miranda had ever heard him utter as he fought the pickup, his face a study in concentration. She felt her stomach try to perform aerobics as the back end started to swing around, Larry whipped the wheel back to the left, catching the skid, as the pick-up's light rear end tried to snap out on him. Miranda heard rocks clattering from the underside as, for a second, the right wheels went off on to the shoulder.

 Oh ma God, she thought, Lizzie's right behind us...she scrambled back up, looking out of the back window, taking in a sharp breath.

"Oh, God, Lizzie..!"

"I WANT IT THAAAAT-A –WAY!!!!" Lizzie crooned at the top of her lungs as, ahead of her, Miranda mugged at her through Larry's back window. 'You guys are gonna be late tooo-oo!' She then exclaimed as if her friends could hear her...not that they were going to be that late...she was running fifty now, just staying behind Larry, no way she was going to try to pass him. Besides...they passed the Sampson Road entrance to the University Park office park., they were coming up on HolyOak...they were almost...

The thought died as Lizzie caught a glimpse of something ahead of Tudge and Miranda as they went through the intersection. She tilted her head, looking puzzled, thinking 'What's a kid...'  Lizzie's eyes suddenly snapped open wide as Tudge's pickup swerved hard to the right, squeaking past a kid, maybe Matt's age, riding on the inside of their lane, with barely inches to spare! She saw the truck start to skid, shouted 'Hold it, Larry, hold it!!' The kid turned to look back at the truck, Lizzie started easing towards the right to give him...."

Lizzie yelped as the kid, still looking behind him, leaned into a hard left turn, cutting in front of her, two car lengths ahead. He was dark haired, wearing a transparent rain jacket, legs pumping hard as he worked the pedals...

"Oh, God, I've..."

Lizzie sawed the wheel hard to the left. The kid turned, staring at her, bug eyed and white faced, escaping annihilation as the on-rushing right front corner of the Jeep missed him by less than a foot. The Jeep straddling the yellow line between lanes, hurtling into the center turn lane. A Ford Excursion was coming towards her, easing into the center lane, turn signal winking. A thrill of panic twisted into Lizzie's stomach as she realized she was heading straight at the Excursion, which nose-dived as its driver saw Lizzie heading for him.

She yanked the wheel back to the right, hard, at the same instant stamping on the brake. realizing, in the same instant, that that was the absolute worst thing she could have done. She jerked her foot off of the brake pedal as it were a coiled rattlesnake, but the Jeep was already in a slide, tires screaming in protest.

"Oh, God..."

Lizzie grasped the steering wheel in a death grip as the Jeep slid sideways, straddling the lane divider.  Houses on the west side of Sampson were whipping past the front end in a blur. The Jeep's left rear window exploded inward, sending Safety glass spattering around like wind blown sleet as the left rear of the Cherokee (Mom and Dad are gonna kill me!) smacked the Excursions let front corner with a deep 'WHUMP!!.  The front of the heavy S.U.V. acted just like a hard-swung baseball bat, snapping the Jeep sideways and slamming her left shoulder and head into the driver's side window as it threw the Jeep into a violent spin. More tiny particles of safety glass blew outward as Lizzie's head shattered it, the impact flashed stars before her eyes. Behind her, Miranda's boom box and her backpack catapulted off of the seat and into the floor, the world became a blur as the Cherokee careened around a full 270 degrees. Lizzie saw the back end of Tudge's truck, then oncoming traffic, then the rapidly receding back end of the Excursion, and finally, as the spin slowed, the pick up that she had seen as she turned off of Gammon Forest onto Sampson...a big, dark gray Dodge Ram crew cab pulling a landscaping trailer loaded with lawn care equipment. The world was suddenly moving in slow motion. The spin had stopped, the Jeep still sliding, backwards now, front end almost all the way around, aimed towards the Excursion that had thrown her into the spin. The big Dodge was headed...."

"No!..."

Right towards....

"Please..."

Her door...She saw the trucks driver whip the wheel hard to the right, saw the truck start to swerve...if it hadn't been for the trailer...

All four of the trailer's dual wheels locked up, the trailer started hopping, back end bouncing towards the left, jackknifing the front end of the pickup back around.

Tires were screaming against asphalt like banshees. She could see the pickup's wipers flip-flopping back and forth. A big commercial lawn mower teetered, then toppled over on the trailer. The ram's head on the pickup's hood was the size of the long departed HJHS statue-head. The front end of the pickup kept swinging...she was looking into the drivers eyes...he looked so sad, he knew he was going to hit her, oh God, no, please, it's gonna...

The world exploded and tilted and Lizzie felt herself sliding down (Oh, no, my seatbelt) and a giant sucker punched her in the chest, then crushed it in a vice while another one dropped a house on her leg...

 Lizzie finally screamed.

Miranda watched in helpless agony as Lizzie swerved when the idiot kid shot across in front of her, her heart went into her throat when she saw the Jeep careen towards the big Ford Excursion. Then the night mare started...she watched as Lizzie yanked the Cherokee back to the right then saw the back end whip around and  the tires shoving water ahead of them as the Jeep went sideways and started sliding. A cloud of something (Glass, Miranda thought to herself) flew as Lizzie's back end caught the front end of  the Excursion.

Oh, God,,,"

Miranda could see the Ram bearing down on Lizzie, watched as the Cherokee spun around until she could see it's back end and right side as it slid backwards, slowing...

"NOOOO.!!"

The Jeep jerked as if in spasm as the big pick-up's left front bit deep into the Cherokee...

"Oh, God, LIZZEEEEEEE...."

The Jeep tilted to the right spinning further around, then bouncing down on it's wheels as the trailer being pulled by the Dodge bounced and swung until it was almost at a right angle to the road, The pickup shuddered to a stop inches from hitting Lizzie's Jeep a second time..

"...NOOOOO, LIZZZEEEEEEE!!"

"Oh God, LIZZEEEEEE...NOOOOOO, LIZZZEEEEEEE!!"

Larry Tudgeman stood on the brakes when Miranda screamed, his heart going into his throat and braking into a million pieces as Miranda wailed in anguish. No one should ever have to hear anyone they care about make a sound like that. Larry had the Ford locked up, his right leg quivering as he all but stood on the brakes...

Larreeee, Oh God, get us turned around..." She was hitting him on the shoulder "...Oh, GOD, we gotta get Lizzie outa there, Oh, God LIZZEEEE..."

Miranda's voice collapsed into tears as Larry brought the truck to a sliding stop. Oncoming traffic was slowing; nothing was coming up from behind him. He glanced it the rear view mirror to see a mist and steam obscured jumble of vehicles. Maybe it's not as bad as it looks, he thought, trying not to think about the fact that Lizzie was some where in the middle of all that twisted metal.

"Larry, please, get us turned around..." Miranda was sobbing great gulping gasps.

"Hang on,' Randa..."  Larry waited for what seemed like centuries, what could have been no more than seconds for oncoming traffic to clear. Hang on honey..." He ruled her close to him, she buried her head in his shoulder, sobbing like a child, Larry finally saw an opening and swung wide, across the turn lane, then back across the south bound lane, the truck jolted as the left front wheel jounced off of then back onto the shoulder. Miranda scrunched up next to him, sobbing. Someone had finished breaking Larry's heart, and was now using a sledgehammer on the pieces. Then he saw Lizzie's Jeep.

"Oh my God..."

Get her out, Larry, Oh God, Get her out..."

"It's steam, baby, it's coming from the other truck..."

"LIZZEEEEEEE!!..."

Larry floored it, roaring back towards the wreck...JESUS, he could see the right side of the Cherokee, but he could also see the left front...JESUS...

Two guys got out of the back seat of the big crew cab...please, let it be steam...it was, thank God for that...Larry stood on the brakes, sliding to a stop twenty feet behind the Cherokee...

"LIZZEEEEEEE!!..." Miranda was out of the truck before Larry got stopped good, running through the mist towards the Jeep, desperate to get to her best friend. Larry stamped on the emergency brake and threw the transmission up into park, hen bailed out of the truck, digging in his pocket for his cell phone as he ran towards the Jeep. Miranda was kneeling by the drivers door. Larry saw a blond hear laying against the steering wheel and thought 'Lizzie, please move...' A lump formed in his throat. 'Please...'