by Trish Olson
Tyler Adams put down the New York Times and caught himself gazing at his son Ben’s high school graduation picture again. He missed that smile.
Four days after Ben’s graduation, the phone rang at four in the morning.
“Mr. Adams, this is Lieutenant Phillips. We need you to meet us at St. Luke’s. Your son Ben has been in a motorcycle accident.”
Ben had broken his promise. When his dad bought him a motorcycle for his sixteenth birthday, he swore that he would always wear his helmet.
“No excuses dad, I promise.”
Tyler could still hear his son saying those words to him. The accident had happened almost four years ago, and time wasn’t healing many wounds. Ben’s room was still a sanctuary, and the accident was still a taboo subject. It had been a hit and run accident. No charges had ever been pressed, and the person who hit their son seemed to be getting away with murder.
Tyler spent the afternoon cooking dinner for his wife in honor of their twenty – fifth wedding anniversary. The main course was baked haddock with scallops. It was the same meal he had cooked her for their first date. There was also a small Waldorf salad, a bottle of chilled Chardonnay, and a couple of slices of cheesecake from Junior’s bakery in Times Square to top things off. He was hoping that things would go well tonight. He was praying for a way to rekindle the spark in their relationship that had been missing for the past few years.
Melissa had called from the office two hours ago. She promised Tyler she would be leaving shortly and she was bringing home a surprise. It usually took twenty minutes to drive from her office to their house, and that included a quick stop at the corner store. Now, as he sat staring at the clock, Tyler felt his emotions waver between his concern for Melissa’s safety and his frustration over the fact that her attitude toward coming home seemed to be growing more indifferent every night. Just as he picked up the phone to call her, he saw her car pull into their driveway.
He suddenly saw his surprise. Their daughter Savannah was with her, and it looked like she might be home for awhile. He started some rice and stuck some frozen vegetables in the microwave to try and stretch out dinner. He was happy to see his daughter, but this was going to change the atmosphere. He put the candlesticks away and turned off his jazz playlist. Then he went outside to welcome his daughter home and help with the groceries and her luggage. He had to give his family credit. They had come a long way since the accident. Savannah still had a visible scar on her wrist. There had been several suicide attempts the first few months after the accident. She had finally sought out counseling, and it seemed to be helping. She still never talked about her brother’s death, but the suicide attempts had stopped.
“Savannah, what a nice surprise. How long are you home for?”
“Thank you daddy. Honestly, I’m not sure. I think at least for the summer. Is that okay?” Then it suddenly dawned on her that today was their anniversary.
“Oh my God! Guys, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt your anniversary dinner. I can stay at Megan’s tonight.”
“Sit down honey. We’re happy to have you join us. What’s going on with you and Trevor?”
“We broke up. I knew I couldn’t afford the rent on my own and still finish school, so I called mom.”
“I’m sorry sweetheart. Have you heard from Trevor since you broke up?”
“Nope, and I won’t. I caught him reading my journal.”
“Well, I can understand you being upset with that, and it’s unacceptable behavior, but is it worth ending your relationship? Did he apologize?”
“It’s a long story dad, but trust me, it’s over.”
“Where is your furniture?”
“It’s in storage for now. It’s costing me two hundred dollars a month.”
“I’ve got space at my office warehouse and my rates are a lot cheaper.”
“Thank you daddy. And yes, for two hundred dollars a month I’ll take the dishes out of the dishwasher and do a few loads of laundry a week. I’ll even make sure the dishes are clean and that a few of the loads of laundry are actually yours.”
“That’s the spirit!” he said, patting her on the back.
“I love you dad, but I really need some sleep.” she said. Then she hugged him and headed up to her room to unpack.
After her parents fell asleep, Savannah snuck into Ben’s room and sat on his bed. She She was thumbing through the journal entries Trevor had found that sent him flying off the deep end. They had been the three musketeers. He was her boyfriend, but he was also one of Ben’s best friends. When they all spent time together there really was no third wheel. They just had fun.
Ben, please forgive me. I wish I could change what happened. I would give anything to have my big brother back, but turning myself in isn’t going to bring you back, it’s just going to destroy my life. I told mom and dad I hit a deer, and they were so shook up about you they never questioned it any further. It has been a little over three months since the accident and no one has questioned me.
I only had two beers that night, but at sixteen I don’t think the police would have been so understanding. Trevor is lost without you, and while he doesn’t know I’m responsible, I know my guilt is taking its toll on our relationship. He senses something is wrong, but I won’t talk about it.
My pledge to you is that I am not going to waste my life. I have been focusing on making the lives of the people around me a better place,, like you always did. I started volunteering at the soup kitchen Thursdays and donating ten percent of my paycheck from Starbucks to the homeless shelter. I know nothing can fix what happened or bring you back, but I want you to be proud of me.
So much had changed in such a short time.
She held up her positive pregnancy test, looked up and said, “What should I Do Ben?”
When she woke up. Savannah saw a text from an unknown sender, but she was sure it was from Ben.
You’re heart knows the way feel its strength every day. Whatever choice that you make, I’ll share each step that you take.
She texted Trevor and told him they needed to talk. She wanted to make things work. She felt an overwhelming sense of relief that she had made a decision. She needed to talk to Trevor first, and tell him about the baby, but either way, her parents would be getting a grandchild out of this, and she hoped it would help fill in some of the void that Ben’s death had created.