When she woke up that morning, she knew immediately something was off. There was something different in the air: a charged energy, a feeling that maybe she had misplaced something but she couldn’t put her finger on what it could be.
She got out of bed to get dressed for the day and tried to shove aside the feeling, pushing it back like she brushed back her dark, black hair. Days off from work usually had a surreal quality to them anyway. Besides, Roy was in town to visit – god, she hadn’t seen him in, what? 10 years? At least. Not since they left Mississippi. It was good to have him in town, show him around. She was really proud of the new house they had just bought. It had only been two months since they’d moved, but it was beginning to feel like home. Safer neighborhood. No gangs, not like where they used to live.
She smiled as she went downstairs. Roy was sitting at the table, coffee in hand. Dave had already gotten up and settled their guest with a cup, so she poured herself one too. She asked him how he’d slept, still trying to push the strange feeling away from her mind. She tried to remember to breathe. She always forgot, letting her chest clench up too tight. Relax, she told herself.
After coffee, they put on their walking shoes, having decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the fresh morning air. She looked at the clock as they headed out the door. Just a little past 7 a.m.
They headed up the street, towards the top of the suburban neighborhood hill. It was a crisp, clear October morning. Warm already. The city had barely begun to stir.
They rounded a corner and that’s when she heard them. Sirens. In the distance but coming closer. Too close. The minute she heard them, she knew. She knew it. “We have to go back home, Roy,” she said with unflappable calm. She was always unflappably calm, unless you looked close enough to see the dark storm in her eyes. “We have to go back.” He nodded, understanding. Roy was that way. He always just understood.
She pushed back down the hill and into the house to find Dave, dripping wet from a shower and dressing as quickly as he could. He looked up at her and she knew. She could see in his eyes. His voice was gruff and it cracked as he said, “She’s been in an accident. She’s at the hospital.”
Wordlessly, they grabbed their wallets and purses and piled into the car. Dave sped to the hospital. Nobody spoke. What could one say? Flashes passed through her mind: the arguments they’d had. She knew she should have insisted on the bus. If their daughter had just taken the bus to school instead of going with that boy, this wouldn’t have happened. Why hadn’t she stood her ground on this one?
They practically ran to the nurses’ counter and Dave gave his name, said the hospital had called. His daughter had been in an accident. Where was she and could they see her? They waited, in long ridiculous moments, watching nurses shuffle papers and talk on phones and whisper to each other. Why are hospital staff always so slow to move in situations like these?
Finally. Finally, they led her down a corridor to the E.R. Nurses hurried past, and her gut clenched as she saw the cops in uniform milling around. The nurse pulled back a curtain, and there she was. Their little girl. Their baby girl, fourteen and with fear in her eyes, IVs in her arms. The nurse filled in the details, something about five cars, ten people, a head-on collision and flipping…but she didn’t hear much past “dislocated elbow”, “will be okay” and “lucky to be alive”. She forced herself to be strong. She did not allow the tears or the anger: her baby needed her to be strong. She took her daughter’s hand in her own and stroked it. She pressed her fingers along her daughter’s scared and frightened brow until the creases went away, until the anxiety began to melt away. She watched as her daughter silently grit her teeth, steeling against the doctor resetting the bone. She forced herself not to panic as they wheeled her away for more x-rays, and then again while the cops pulled her daughter aside for more questioning. Relief only came in little sips, little whispers as moment by moment, it became clearer that it would all be okay.
It was well past noon when they were finally able to go home. Dave helped their daughter onto the couch with a movie and pillows and blankets, while she poured all the comfort she could put into a bowl of rice soup and a cup of tea. The phone rang…persistently…throughout the afternoon. She was a resilient guard, protecting her daughter from the barrage of reporter’s questions, angry at them for interrupting her daughter’s much needed rest.
When the day finally quieted down, the war of emotions threatened to release inside her. All the pent-up fear, anger, guilt, worry; that day probably changed her even more than her daughter (cars would never feel as safe again)…but then children are always so resilient, aren’t they?
But through all of it, she allowed herself one little thought: that day was the day she began to think there might be such a thing as guardian angels. There might be such a thing as a saving grace.
And from now on, Jade was definitely going to be taking the bus.
This week’s challenge: Tell a story about something that happened to you – but from someone else’s perspective. Post a link to your story in the comments below!
(Phfew! That was a hard one! Was it difficult for anyone else? Hopefully this next one will be easier!)
Next week’s challenge: One place, one sense. Pick one place (a room, a landscape, even a time or moment) and describe it using only one sense of perception (taste, smell, touch…). One caveat: You can’t use sight.