Note: I hesitate to post pieces of my fictional work. I think they're pretty good, but what if nobody else does? But then, I remind myself, I only have eleven followers, so what the hell, just go for it.
At three-thirty in the morning, Caitlyn Crossman cursed under her breath as she opened her front door to her neighbor Marcus James who was accompanied by two uniformed police officers. She had been expecting to see her twin sons standing on the porch. They were supposed to be home at midnight- a special curfew for their best friend's sixteenth birthday celebration.
At one o'clock she'd called the cellphone that they shared, but they had not answered. She had left an angry, motherly message, "Zane Zachary, Cage Samuel Crossman! Get your butts home right now or you can just forget about going to the lake for the rest of the summer." She had even used their middle names. Every child on the planet knows that when your mother uses your middle name along with that bossy tone, she means business, and there had better not be any whiny protesting.
At two o'clock she started to worry that perhaps something had gone wrong. Possibly they had a flat tire or a busted fan belt in the mammoth truck that Marcus had bequeathed to Drew for his birthday. Perhaps they didn't get cellphone reception at the lake. Maybe she should get into her minivan and go look for them. She could envision that they were out there under the stars with no tent and no protection from the elements or animals.
She talked herself out of that very quickly. The lake was too big to be able to find all the ins and outs in the dark, and she didn't know her way around the way the boys did. One dirt road looked just like all the rest.She'd most likely end up getting lost or running out of gas before she found her way back to the main road. She could let them sleep in the truck for one night. It was a warm summer night. There weren't any storms in the forecast. They should be fine.
She would find Marcus in the morning and they would go out and look for them together. Until then, she sat in the worn swivel armchair facing the door. If they came home during the night, she would be sitting in wait when they strolled through the door, and she would not be happy.
When the doorbell rang at three-thirty, she exhaled with relief. She hadn't even realized she'd been holding her breath. They were late, but at least they were safe at home. As she turned the knob to let them in, she briefly wondered why they hadn't used their key.
But they weren't home. There were two sheriff's deputies standing on her porch decked out in tan khaki uniforms, shiny brass badges reflecting the porch light. They had their hats in their hands. One fiddled with his nervously, turning it in circles between his thumb and his fingers. They both stared back at her with solemn expressions. Between them stood her longtime friend and next-door-neighbor, Marcus James.
Behind them, across the darkened street and a few houses down, Caitlyn spied a rectangle of light breaking through the blackness as Fiona Matthews opened her own front door to her own set of deputies. Jeremy Matthews' silhouette joined Fiona's. They're son Josh was out there at the lake with Caitlyn's boys.
Confused, she looked to Marcus and saw that his eyes were swollen and rimmed with red. Had he been crying? She had known this man for the better part of ten years. He was the neighbor she went to when she found a snake in her pantry. He had come to her rescue when her car had a flat tire. He had taken her three boys, Zane, Cage and young Max on camping trips with his own son and told them about the facts of life and how to bait a hook and why God had created boys and girls differently. He was the manliest man she knew, and she had never seen him shed a single tear.
"What is it, Marcus?" she asked in a low, accusing tone. "What's happened?"
Her heart began to beat faster, so fast that she had to struggle to hear Marcus tell her the things that she knew she didn't want to hear.
"Caitlyn," Marcus began. His deep voice trembled and cracked as he spoke. "There was…an accident." His eyes never left hers. He focused on her so that she would stay focused on him. "The boys…the boys lost control." She started to shake her head, but he stopped her, placing a hand on each side of her head. He held her gaze. "They lost control of the truck, Caitlyn." His dry voice could barely utter the words to her. He swallowed the lump in his throat and found his voice again. "They died... they all died."
He'd told her the words she needed to hear. She'd heard him clearly, she was sure. He moved to encircle her with shaky arms, longing to comfort her and to comfort himself in her embrace, but she stepped back, away from him, her head shaking in disbelief. She didn't want to be consoled. If she allowed him to console her, it would be like admitting that he was telling her the truth.
This is not true, she thought to herself, as if the simple denial could solve her problems. Not true. But here was Marcus, defying her irrationality, keeping her firmly planted in reality. Two of my sons are gone? Dead? Just like that? Just gone.
Not true. NONE OF THIS NONSENSE IS TRUE!
As she stood in the middle of her small cluttered living room, Caitlyn's vision blurred and her ears seemed to fill with water. She could make out Marcus' face as he tried to speak to her, but she only heard a garbled version of his voice. An unseen power reached out of eternity and knocked her sideways with an astounding force. She felt she had been run through by a sword of fire and gutted by the hot steel. Something tore her open, reached into her chest and extracted her heart in one quick and painful effort.
All her life, Caitlyn had heard other people describe that feeling in exactly that way. "It was as if someone had ripped out my heart and left a gaping, throbbing hole."
And now she knew what they had meant. It was happening to her. There had been no gentle release of her connection to her children. She felt as if their souls had been violently forced away.
She staggered and stumbled until she fell to her knees. She clutched her chest, trying to keep herself whole, to put back what had very definitely been RIPPED out of her. She was sure that if she were to look down, she would be able to see clear through herself. She would be able to put her arm through the hole in her chest, and her hand would come out grasping at the air behind her. There would be only ragged edges of torn flesh around the space where her heart should have been beating.
I'll fall apart and I'll die right here on the floor. She couldn't bring herself to look at herself. She refused to die now, no matter how appealing it seemed. She still had two other children, a daughter and a son, who needed her, who were going to need her now more than ever. She would need to be alive for them. She began to rock back and forth in her crouched position on the floor, no longer aware of the men in front of her.
Marcus cupped her elbows and pulled her up. He wrapped his arms around her and rubbed the small of her back in warm, rhythmic circles. Though she heard his low, murmurs in her ear, they harbored no real comfort for her.
So she closed her eyes and just barely managed to keep breathing.