Screech! That was the sound of my world ending. A car careening of the road. Lauren couldn't get out of the way fast enough. I didn't have the time to push her, to save her. Screech and it was over. The stars seemed to dim as I dialed 911. It was too late of course; she was gone. My baby, my whole world.
That was almost two weeks ago. It's been two days since the funeral. It has also been two days since I last slept. Her body was so small. The image of it so broken was like a disease in my mind. I was trying to forget, but the medicine didn't work. She was always there staring at me with tear filled eyes.
Her words never left my mind. She was crushed by the car dying. I couldn't even hold her one last time. All I could do was hold her hand. “Daddy,” Lauren said with rasping breath. “Daddy, it's okay.” Each word took such a clear effort, yet she continued, “It doesn't,” she gasped again, “hurt anymore.”
The the ambulance came, but it was too late. It was all too late. The woman driving the car died too. Her young son lived though. He was only six, a mere two years older than little Lauren. He's still in intensive care, but they think he'll be alright. I pray they are right, but I fear what will happen to him with no mother. The father has not yet come forward.
Lauren used to sleep with me. She had her own bed of course, but she always begged to stay with me. I couldn't help but to allow it. I was going to make her start sleeping in her own bed when she turned five. I never thought she wouldn't live that long.
Coming out of my thoughts, I noticed the sky was beginning to lighten from black to a lighter shade. Another sleepless night. If this lasts one more night I'll be forced to take those damn sleeping pills I was prescribed. I don't like medication.
I lie in bed waiting for the “Wake up, Daddy,” that will never come again. Finally I get up still missing her sweet little voice. If I could only see her once more, I'd tell her goodbye. I was so confident she'd be okay that I didn't say goodbye. If I could see her one more time...
As I walk down the street getting my daily exercise (doctor prescribed), I look down at my clutched hand. Hers should be holding mine. It should be right there, looped through mine, but it's not. It's not there and it won't ever be there again. This is the kind of thinking the doctor told me not to do, but I can't help it. I miss her far too much.
It's not long before another day has come and gone. I don't remember when I made the decision, but I'm sitting on my front porch watching children as they run back to their homes. Night is falling, just as it always does. Soon, I'm bathed in darkness, but I don't go inside. Out here, I can pretend she sleeping soundly. Out here, I can hope she's okay.
Inside though, inside there are shadows from which I cannot hide. Dark thoughts and pain lay beyond the door at my back, so I don't go inside. Instead I sit out here, trying to drown out my thoughts, my pain. Lauren fills my thoughts, a constant reminder of what I lost. A reminder of what was taken from me.
My doctor says it would be better to try to move on, to forget, but I can't do it. It may hurt my soul to remember, but I'd be alone if I forgot. Her mother abandoned us long ago. Without her memory, I'd be all alone. I'm not sure I could keep my life going if I was alone, if I forgot.
I awoke in the morning without realizing I had fallen asleep. I'm still curled up on the porch. The picture I had been clutching of Lauren is on the ground several feet from where I lay. I haven't a clue how it got there, but I don't retrieve it. I wait like always for her to wake me up. Still she says nothing, still she is not here.
Time passes. It has to. Slowly, I am healing. My wounds seem like they will never close until I forget though. I don't want to forget. I sit on the couch and turn the T.V. on for the first time in over two months. I want to watch something to numb my mind.
Unfortunately, the last channel I watched was a news channel. I'm about to change the channel unable to bare the pain of any sad news. Just as I reach a button, something on the screen freezes my thumb. “Six year-old accident victim wakes up.” This is what the caption says.
A moment longer, I watch. Sure enough this is the local news station and they are talking about Jarred Fisher, the boy who didn't die. I don't want to watch the television anymore. I head out to walk. Just like always. When did this become more than just an obligation, when did this become routine. The life I'm living is not my own.
As I think this, I deviate from my normal path. I need a change. I can't fall into this routine of depression. I look up after a long time finding that my feet have led me to the hospital. I don't remember intending to come here, but now that I am, I must see him. I must see Jarred.
The nurse argues with me. She's not supposed to let anyone in. Apparently the local news is insistent upon getting in to speak with him. After a while it dawns on her who I am. “Wait,” she says eyes wide and doe-like, “Are you Lauren Foster's father? Are you Patrick Foster?”
I tell her yes and she lets me in, looking around guiltily to make sure no one sees her breaking the rules. I walk in not sure why I've even came here. I must have had a purpose, but what?
Jarred's eyes blink open slowly. He looks lost. “Who are you?” he asks in a quiet voice. “Do I know you?” he seems to be clinging to the hope that he does. Maybe he know his mother's fate. Maybe he does not.
“I'm Patrick, Patrick Foster.” I swallow at the lump growing in my throat. A memory plays in my head over and over like a broken record. Ambulances screeching to a stop. My daughter is the first to be loaded up and she's gone. Then a woman. Next they tie a little boy down.
His body is twitching wildly, but his eyes are sealed shut. His face, dear god his face. It is an image that will be forever engrained in my mind. The skin has been pealed back almost entirely. Bits of glass cling to his face. And there's blood, so much blood. That however is just the right side of his face. The left side has a small scratch. That is all. It's a disturbing image.
This boy however has almost entirely healed. He's looks at me confused, “I'm Jarred Fisher. Why are you here? Do I know you?”
“No,” I say, “But I know you.” He looks at me still confused. “Do you know where your mother is?” I ask offhandedly. I don't want to give him a shock, but I feel the need to know.
Jarred looks weary, but answers, “The doctors keep saying she's fine, but if she were she would be here now. I'm not sure, but I think god took her away.” He looks at me expectantly, looking for an honest answer. I have to hold back tears.
“Yeah, he did. He took my little girl too. Did you know that?” The boy shakes his head. I sit in a chair near his bed. “She was four. How old are you,” I ask, despite the fact that I know.
“I'm six,” he says shyly. “What's gonna happen now? Am I gonna be a foster child?” His voice is devoid of hope, devoid of life.
“No, someone will adopt you. Someones has to,” I say with an unintended passion. I think about it a moment. We are both victims of this crash. He lost a mother and I lost a daughter. We are both alone, but together, we would never have to be alone again.
This must be God's work. I turned on the T.V. just as they spoke of his awakening. It can't be a mere coincidence. I know why I came here. I understand what I'm supposed to do. “I will adopt you. I will do everything I can to adopt you.” I feel stupid as tears fall down my face. I shouldn't be crying, but I am.
Jarred throws both arms around despite the cast on one. He is thanking me over and over as I cry. I cry for him and his mother and Lauren. Mostly though, I'm crying for my stupidity, for hanging on. And as I cry, I let go. I let Lauren go, and I feel a great burden lift off me.
Year have passed since then. Four years. Today is Jarred's birthday. Yes, I did adopt him. Though I did move on with life and let go, I still remember. I will never forget my beautiful Lauren. Nor will I forget how her death hurt me. I still wish she could be here with me, but one good thing did come out of the crash. Without that crash, I wouldn't have a son.