by Renette Steele
Words from others were like knifes to my heart and could send me running for cover in an instant. “You were with him when it happened. …. Weren’t you? A simple question, a statement really, but it ripped through me just the same. Like a knife stabbing and twisting over and over again. When I think I can breath, the knives twisting shatter me into a gazillion pieces. From unintended words, …. words meant to comfort…. Innocent words that dig deep into my heart.
Yes, I was there that night. Nothing had gone as planned. Rick came by with his new Kawasaki.
“A short ride, only around the block.” He said.
I should have known better, at least gone and put on some long pants and shoes. But what could happen in just a few blocks?
I pulled my hair back in a pony, climbed on behind him. Even though our long drive is gravel he handled it well. But the busy intersection at the end of the street proved not to be so easy. We stopped at the red light before making the right hand turn. I swear all was clear as we rounded the corner. Out of nowhere the jacked up pickup truck cut us off. The bike flipped, skidded down the pavement. Screeching as though it were some sorta balloon squeezed between two tight objects. My leg trapped underneath, pulled me along. Rick was nowhere to be seen. The roar of the truck engine was a mocking laughter as it speed away. The world went dark.
I woke up two days later in a hospital room. The Doctor informed me I’d been severely burned near my ankle and had road rash all up my right side. The pain and recovery were excruciating. Although nothing compared, to the pain of learning, the bumper of the truck clipped Rick in the head. Throwing him from the bike, killing him on impact.
My future dissolved in an instant. Rick had a promising opportunity, a full ride scholarship to a big four college. I was accepted to Juilliard School of Dance, a life time dream. But none of that was to be. The guilt of survival. The what if’s and if only’s were all that was left.
Maybe, if I had said,”No.” or taken time to change from my shorts and sandals. We wouldn’t have been in the intersection, when Thomas James, the star football player, and his fancy truck suspended a foot and a half above the axles, decided it would be fun to run the red light. Playing chicken, cutting us off. There aren’t to many trucks like that in town. I was to out of it to be sure who it was. Once the officers finally caught up with him, they believed he was high, on something. But none of them dared jeopardize their jobs by arresting the Mayors son, again.
Thomas James had worked hard from the age of six to meet his dads idea of perfectionism, especially in football. He got tired of people saying he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was only the quarter back because of his dad. All he wanted was his dad to say he was proud of him. Instead, he got; I’ll bail you out this time. Your nothing but a mess up.
After the accident. On his 18th birthday, Thomas James decided to take his partying thirty six miles away. Across the state line. When he got arrested on a DUI. His records showed three strikes already. He would do jail time. Daddy couldn’t help him this time. There he had nothing to read but the bible.
Rick is gone and I have no one but myself to blame. Most of the evidence of the road rash is gone, except on the lower leg, the larger burn mark also remains. When I look in the mirror I don’t look the same. The only thing I can see, is my heart ripped open before all the world. The smile, the hope the dreams, all gone. Why Rick? Why not me?
Will I ever find a way to fill my life again with hope? Will the words ever stop causing this onslaught of torture? Will this scar, the one you can’t see, ever heal and fade, like those upon my leg? There as a reminder of that day but unusable.
The answer is Yes! I won’t ever be a ballerina, but I can still dance. I have even been in a few competitions. I drive a four wheel drive jeep at normal height. Life is good. I have learned to love and laugh again. Thomas James and I have an incredible story to tell. I will save his for another time. For now this is mine. God is good and loving. We may not understand all he has in store for us, but we can trust him.
You wonder how I got here? Once a week for a year, I received a post card in the mail with nothing more then a bible verse. One day I got a letter asking, begging me for forgiveness. A young man came along beside me, read his bible to me and took me to church. I find strength in the words I hear, the words I read and the life I see lived out in this young man who sent me post cards. I have learned to forgive not only Thomas James, but myself, God and Rick. Forgiveness is like a salve to my soul.
It’s been ten years to the day, of the accident. I can now look at myself in the mirror. I see a women who has been through much. The scars show me I am strong and I will live on. The ones you can’t see are still healing and fading. The knife still penetrates my heart, but does’t send me into such torture as it once did.