A Life Returned

Prompt Day #7: Car crashes are common, but traumatic, experiences. Dramatize one in which something really surprising happens mid-crash.

 

A Life Returned

 

Allison

                Allison feigned sleep until he left for work. Even after he was gone she lay there immobile. She scratched at the dried blood on her thigh. She needed to shower but it was all she had left of the life that was growing inside her just this morning. She hadn’t cried yet. He hated it when she cried. Now that he was gone and it was safe, she was just too numb. It was probably for the best; what kind of mother would bring a child into this home knowing the kind of man its father was. He’d hit her before, plenty of times but this was the first time he’d kicked her. She knew it was time to leave. She just had nowhere to go. She had left everything for him. Her parents disowned her, she’d lost her job from too many sick days (days when the bruises were too bad to cover up), and she had no money to her name.

Tim

                The baby would not stop screaming. It wasn’t fair. He wasn’t supposed to be caring for her all alone. How does a woman die in childbirth in the 21st century? They’d done everything right, gone to every appointment and yet, just like that, Michelle was gone. He finished off the can of beer and got up for another. There’d been so much help at first, and FMLA so he could sleep when the baby slept and someone was always there to make their meals, to hand the baby to when she got to be too much. But now, eighteen months later, everyone just assumed he’d had time to adjust and if he needed them, he’d ask. Well fuck them. He didn’t need anyone. The baby needed to learn to soothe herself. It was bedtime goddamn it and his time to relax before going to bed just to get up and start the whole thing over again. He pulled the can of beer out of the box and the empty box caught on his closed fist. He pulled it out and looked into it astonished. He’d bought this case yesterday on the way home from work. How many beers had he had tonight?

Allison

                The shower helped her think. She watched as the water turned from pink to clear. Bye-Bye little one, she thought and started to cry. This was definitely not how life was supposed to be. How many times was this going to happen before she was dead, herself? What if he had already done so much damage she would never be able to have any babies? She had to get out of here. She had to take her car, registration or not, and drive. If she drove all night she’d be halfway to her parents and have a good day’s head-start on him hopefully. She toweled off and pulled her hair into a ponytail. Searching his sock drawer, she found his roll of money stashed in the toe of a sock and shoved it into her purse without counting. Now that she had decided to leave, she felt rushed, she couldn’t pause or she might change her mind. Chicken out. She packed a small duffle bag, grabbed her keys, and walked out the door. She never once looked back.

Tim

                The baby was still wailing. He found the monitor and struggled to turn it off. It took him several tries before he realized it was already off. The baby was just shrieking that loudly. Had he fed her when he got home? Maybe Shelly had before she left. He couldn’t think. He needed a coffee and a cigarette; that combo would clear his head. He stumbled back to the kitchen. The coffee tin was sitting empty with the lid off. Damn. He felt around for his pack of smokes, nothing. He headed back to the living room where his lazy boy sat well-used. There on the dirty side table was an empty cigarette package crumpled up in the overflowing ashtray. Fuck. Well, that was it. He needed to go to the store. He’d get the baby and go to the store. Maybe the ride would put her to sleep. If it did, they’d sleep in the car tonight, he wouldn’t chance getting her out of her seat. The baby was standing in her crib. Her diaper full and sagging halfway to her knees. He didn’t want to take the time to change it now. Probably couldn’t manage the dexterity necessary anyways. She’d waited this long, she could wait a little longer til he had his cigarettes and coffee. He carried her kicking and crying to the car. Opening the back door, he cursed loudly. The car seat wasn’t there. Shelly had taken it that morning, planning an outing for that day. Had they even gone? He couldn’t remember if Shelly told him anything about it or not. He looked at his daughter and back at the car. The convenience store was only about five miles away, what could happen? He sat her in the front seat and adjusted the seat belt as best he could. She had wiggled out of it before he’d backed out the driveway. Only five miles.

Allison

                The rain began shortly after she pulled onto the freeway. The tears came about the same time. She couldn’t see the road well, and she didn’t know if this was from her shitty windshield wipers or the tears. Probably both. She fiddled with the radio, trying to find a song to match the mood or maybe one about a strong woman, a survivor song, motivation to keep her foot on the gas and her transmission in drive.  Cars around her began to slow in the torrential downfall, she sped around them. She was on the clock, she had to get far out of town before his shift was over or else she would have no choice but to turn around and try to beat him home.  She found a Katy Perry song she liked; Roar like a Tiger or something like that and she turned it up. She tried singing along at the top of her lungs but she only knew the chorus. She whipped around the other cars, watching as the speedometer climbed first 5, then 10, now 15 miles over the speed limit. She wasn’t feeling this song. She needed one she knew all the words to. She looked down for the seek button; reflexively her left hand pulled the steering wheel and the car eased over the yellow line. She looked back up in time to see the small hatchback coming at her head on. Her scream was cut off by the collision.

Tim

                The rain started just after he pulled out of the convenience store parking lot. He’d decided to buy a case of beer as well as the cigarettes (the coffee had been forgotten as soon as he got in the car). The baby, still very unhappy had climbed into the back seat while he was in the store. And she sat back there throwing her little body all over the place to emphasize the howls of anger and frustration. He chugged the first beer before pulling out and opened the second one, plunking it between his legs with one hand as he wheeled the car out of the parking space with the other. The wipers needed replacing, but that would need to wait til the next pay. He’d spent the last of this one just now. He pulled out in front of another car and it honked its horn at him. Fuck you, he thought and threw up a middle finger. He tried turning on the radio to drown out the bawling from the backseat but the cacophony just gave him a headache. He hit the off button, turned around and yelled shut up at the top of his lungs. The baby, his child, stopped abruptly, looked at him, her lower lip pushed out and trembling and then she took a deep breath and started screaming again, this time louder than before. He screamed too, turned around and saw that he was currently speeding directly into a small, light colored sedan. He instinctively put his arm out across the passenger seat protecting what was no longer there. He never heard the sound of the crash; his chest was crushed against the steering wheel on impact. The baby, unbuckled in the backseat flew up between the two front bucket seats towards the windshield.

Allison

                She heard the crash, saw the hood of her car crumple up as if in slow motion. She felt her body hurdling towards the steering wheel and the catch of the seatbelt snap her back against the seat. Then everything stopped. Silence. She looked around. The cars outside were froze. There was no sound, there was no movement. Her car was folded, the floor beneath her rose up bringing her knees up to chest height. She tried to get out but her door was jammed. She crawled across to the passenger seat and tried that door. It opened. She stepped out, stumbled and went to her knees. Weakly, she got back up. She turned in a slow circle. None of the cars were moving. The rain drops reflected the neon lights of the city as the swirled suspended in mid-air. She reached out and ran a hand through the droplets. The space where her hand had moved was now devoid of water molecules. She looked at her hand, it was wet. What the hell was going on? She wiped the hand on her pants and looked over at the car that hit her. She could see a body slumped over the wheel. Dead. She knew it, somehow. What caught her attention, though was the body of a child, no a toddler, floating in the middle of the car, about a foot from the windshield. It wasn’t moving either. Not dead, though. No. Just waiting? Maybe. She walked around the side of the car and opened the passenger door. The child’s eyes were looking around, not panicked exactly, just interested, curious even. She reached in and pulled the baby to her. It was a little girl. What she had hoped and prayed her own baby would be. “Hi there, Baby.” She said. And once in her arms, the child re-animated. “Hi there, Sophie.” She said, this time giving the child the name of her own now-lost child. Sophie smiled at her and wrapped her arms around Allison. “You ready to go home?” She asked the baby. Sophie gurgled and babbled, touching Allison’s face. “Me too” she said. “Let’s go”. The two walked away from the accident, from the still-life all around them. They walked towards the light of a new day, a new life rising on the horizon.

 

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