This post is going to be kind of long, but I hope you think it’s worth it. About word or idea prompts, I’d gotten behind as I’ve been busy on my current wip, and so had three prompts to get done for my writer’s group this morning. The words were; contradiction, friend and frosty morning. What one of our group did with contradiction was to write about words in English that are the same yet in usage contradict themselves, like “bound”, going somewhere or being held somewhere. See what I mean? I had no idea there were so many because I hadn’t really thought about it before (silly for a writer to admit, right?!). Maybe I’ll see if she’ll let me post it here as a guest blogger… I love using prompts this way and seeing the different results that come in a group. So on to what I did, here is my story…
THE BOY ON THE LAWN
The accident happened one deep October night, coming home from a skating party, a first birthday party invitation for Jake, my son, in our new town. Jake had fallen asleep in the back seat while his mother and I talked quietly about how fun the party had been. We’d moved to this quaint little place at the beginning of the summer so we’d have a few months to settle in. I’d taken a coach’s job at the local high school and Laura, my wife, was a first grade teacher, which worked out really well for Jake, as he was in second grade and went to the same elementary school.
At the beginning of school in August, Jake had made a new friend right away, Howie. They had quickly become inseparable and it was his party we’d gone to. We were all so happy. Maybe too happy, if that isn’t a contradiction. Life was good. The kinks were working out slowly, but surely; until that night. No one likes to admit when they’ve done something they know they shouldn’t, and I’m sure that’s how the young girl felt, right after she text while driving and so didn’t see the light turn red before she T-boned into us, changing all of our lives in the blink of an eye.
The nightmare that followed the accident is not the entire story I want to recount here, it is only a part of it. It’s what happened later that deserves the true telling. After Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter had all come and gone; sedate affairs due to Jake’s inability to walk and the fallout that that entailed for him, April arrived with a slight promise of spring. Six months had passed since the accident and Jake refused to speak, to visit Howie, to have Howie visit, to even leave the house. He could walk with a walker and the Dr’s said he could regain use of his legs if he tried hard enough. But his physical therapy was excruciating and he had begun to withdraw from us. Laura understood, as she too had her own battles to fight. The accident had broken her right leg and arm. It had broken both of Jake’s legs and his right arm. In the beginning they’d gone to therapy together, but Jake had stopped trying, refused to even go, or do the work when a therapist came to the house. I, of course, had no repercussions but sorrow, and that because Jake still continued to weaken before our eyes. I felt helpless.
The first day of April, yes, April fools, dawned, but it held no teasing joy for me. That frosty morning I rose early and went to the high school field to oversee the teams warm up workout as I did every week day. A gray mist hung over our front lawn and seemed to glow as the sun’s rising light caught on tiny crystals within it. I hesitated for a moment to watch, captured by its beauty. Then I jumped in the truck and headed out. Laura and Jake were still asleep.
When I came home an hour later the mist had begun to dissipate. The heavy frost on the grass turned the spiky blades a pale shade of green. There was a young boy standing in the midst of all that green and gray, holding a soccer ball and staring at our front door. I parked in the driveway, got out and headed over to see who he was. He was too tall to be Howie and didn’t look familiar. He hadn’t even noticed I’d arrived. As I started to shout a greeting I glanced at the front door: the boy seemed very intent on staring at it, and to my wonder, Jake stood in the doorway behind the storm door, walker in front of him, staring back just as intently at the boy on the lawn. I said hello, but neither one of them seemed to hear me.
Stopping in front of the boy on the lawn, I saw that his face was as pale as the frost-covered grass he stood upon. His lips were almost blue, his eyes sunken into his little face. As near as I could tell he was about the same age as Jake was. “Hello young man. Can I help you?” I said peering closer. His lips moved as if he were talking to someone, but there was no one but Jake and me there. I glanced at Jake and saw him nod his head as if he’d heard what the boy said. When I looked back at the boy on the lawn, he disappeared. I don’t mean he HAD disappeared. He disappeared right before my eyes. I blinked. He was no longer there and yet I knew I had seen him. I whipped back around, wondering if Jake had witnessed the strange event. Jake looked at me, smiled a little, and then pushed the storm door open. “Come on in Dad. It’s cold out there.”
Stunned, I slowly followed the sidewalk up to where my son stood waiting for me. “Jake?”
“It’s okay, Dad. I have a new friend.”
“I know. He’s dead. It’s okay, really. Come on in and I’ll explain.”
I followed Jake into the kitchen where Laura was fixing breakfast. “Did you see Ian?” she asked, as if one saw a ghost every day.
“Ian?” I nodded, still a bit tongue-tied.
“Sit, and let Jake tell you about him while we eat.”
Jake’s story was a hard one to believe, but from that day on he progressed. He even called Howie and invited him over and they’ve taken up right where they left off. Laura is back teaching full time and life seems to have begun again. And why? What did Ian have to do with stitching our lives back together?
He had everything to do with it. After hearing Jake’s story, I researched Ian and his family and found everything Jake had told us to be true. You see, the young girl who hit us, the girl who was now in a psychiatric hospital, well that fateful night she had also gone to a party. Afterward she had picked up her younger brother who had been at a friend’s house. They were on their way home when she, busy texting with one of her friends, ran that red light. Ian, her little brother was in the front passenger seat when their car had T-boned us. He died from his injuries. Since then, she’s died a small death every day in her mind. She couldn’t cope with what she’d done.
Ian had come to Jake and told him how his parent’s lives were ruined; crushed, and there was nothing he could do to help them or his sister. He asked Jake if he would try and talk to them, try and help them recover, to go on with their lives, all three of them. Ian asked Jake if he could forgive his sister.
“You see, Dad?” Jake said, “Ian changed the way I thought about the accident, about what happened to mom and me. He’s dead, Dad. I’m not. His parents are grieving because they’ve lost both of their kids. You still have me. Mom is going to be all right, and so am I, even if I still have to work hard to get there. I have a lot to be thankful for and I think I should go and tell Ian’s parents that. I think I should go and tell his sister that I forgive her.”
That single event on a frosty day changed our lives as drastically as that one dark night had. So now, every morning when I look out and see frost on our lawn, I think of Ian and hope he is happy.