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Reflected in the Window
The thunder rumbled in the distance.
The worst of the storm had passed, but the rain still tapped against the window. He just sat there staring at the dark gray sky and at the muddy mess he had just come in from. His filthy loafers were thrown to his left nonchalantly, deep blue, button up shirt spotted from the few raindrops that had hit him on the way inside from the car. His khakis were still wet halfway up his shin from waking on the flooding sidewalk earlier that day. His close-cut, dark graying hair was wet and disheveled. He stared at the forty three year old man’s shadow face frowning sadly back at him- reflected in the window. He looked exhausted as though he’d just been hit by an eighteen- wheeler and was waiting for the next one to come and hit him again.
He looked down into his clammy pale hands where a picture of his parents was resting. His mother was wearing a light pink dress and a huge matching pink hat that went out of style a hundred years ago. His father wore a dark gray suit that made him look much thinner than he actually was- only two eighty. The picture had been taken six years ago along with the infamous family portrait. His mother argued with them the whole way there. “ I don’t like cameras and you’ll see that they don’t like me either when you all get copies. You’ll see.” It turned out that she was the only one that didn’t look completely awkward in her pictures, but every time she saw them she would go on and on about how awful she looked and how she had tried to warn them.
He sat the picture back down on the oak table beside the window where copies of all the pictures taken that day sat. He stood. He was tired of seeing his mother’s bright green eyes she’d given him and the sticking-out dumbo ears that his father had contributed. As he began walking across his expansive, dimly lit living room to the hallway he caught a glimpse of his wife, Annette, and their fifteen-year-old daughter, Christi’s, photos smiling at him as if trying to console him. He walked on. He didn’t want to feel better today.
As he was walking down the hallway he was haunted by even more of the inescapable memories. There was a picture of he and his parents half hugging one another in the Smoky Mountains. His dad loved it up there. He claimed that one day he was going to live in the mountains, but his mom had something to say about that. There was another picture of his mom reeling in a small perch at Lake Winonoka where they used to spend a week at every summer in his youth. The way she made such a fuss of it you could have sworn she had hooked Moby Dick. He closed his eyes. It wasn’t the memories killing him, but the thought that there would be no more memories with them to hang on the wall. The smiling eyes in the picture were piercing to him. It felt like they were following him down the hallway and the only way to escape them was to hide.
He stepped left into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. He locked it even though there was no one else home and there wouldn’t be for many more hours. The rain had not been enough to wash away his pain. As he stood in the shower, the day’s blurry events started to catch up with him.
“Mr. Dawson, if you want your company to grow, you have to be willing to take risks.”
He looked around the room. There were ten men, all in their late fifties or higher, and two rather unattractive women seated at the long oak table littered with papers and half drunken coffees.
“No! I’m not going to risk losing my company to a bunch of people who don’t even care if it succeeds or not. I built this company and I’m going to make sure that it succeeds.”
The room was brightly lit by the fluorescent lights above the table and the huge windows that looked out on the city. The walls were dull gray generic wallpaper and the carpet was a slightly darker shade of gray. All that Nick Dawson could think as he glanced at the meeting room was that he really needed to find a new decorator.
“But Mr. Dawson…”
“I said no,” he stated firmly.
His secretary pager began buzzing. He rolled his eyes and slammed the button.
“Marcine, I’m in a meeting right now. Can’t it wait?”
“Sorry Mr. Dawson, but your wife called. She said it was an emergency.”
“ Oh no. If she’s calling about redecorating the living room again, tell her it’s fine with me so long as she doesn’t spend too much money.”
“No sir. She says it’s something about your parents and asked that you come to the Markson Hospital emergency room immediately.”
Everyone in the room was staring at him now, waiting to see if they were about to be blown off or not.
“What’s happened?” he asked gravely.
“She didn’t say, sir. She just asked that you please hurry.”
“Thank you Marcine. Please cancel all of my meetings for the afternoon and refer anyone with a question to Mark Grable.”
“Yes sir,” she said hurriedly.
He stood quietly still trying to guess what happened. He gazed at the members of the board.
“As you’ve all heard, something has come up. I will let you know if I believe another meeting is necessary. Until then, you are all allowed to go.”
He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair, threw a couple random documents in his briefcase and hurried for the door. As he walked out the door, Marcine yelled something unintelligible at him but he just yelled back
“I have my cell phone if you need anything!”
A few seconds later as he weaved between interns and computer geeks, his phone started to buzz.
Marcine answered, “You forgot your keys.”
“Crap,” he said as he hung up on her. He wheeled around and met her halfway.
“No problem. Seeya later.”
This time there was nothing to stop him…except for the overweight new intern who had this irritating tendency to speak.
“I don’t have time, Don,” he said as he dodged him in the hallway.
He just barely reached the elevator before the door closed. It seemed to take forever to get to the parking garage. The only other person in the elevator was some girl he’d never seen before talking on the phone to her boyfriend or something at like a hundred words per second. The person on the other end of the phone must‘ve been just as overwhelmed as he was with this girls amazing motor mouth.
Ding. Finally, the garage. He ran to his silver Nissan convertible and found that some idiot had parked his jacked up Ford pickup right beside him on the drivers side. He threw his briefcase in the back seat and crawled over the trunk being careful not to step on the tan leather seats. After he was sitting in the driver’s seat and backing up, he looked over at the Ford truck’s license plate.
“GODONGO. I hate that guy,” he thought as he started to pull toward the guard station. As he approached the gate, he began fumbling for his ID. As if the guard didn’t know exactly who he was and that this was indeed his car.
“Hey Mr. Dawson!”
“Hey Bill,” he muttered almost too quietly to hear. “Look, I’m kind of in a hurry so if we could make it quick…”
Bill turned to check the ID in the system with an agitated look but at least he didn’t start one of his gossip-head stories that he’s so fond of.
“Thank you Mr. Dawson,” he bellowed as he hands back the pass. “Have a nice day.”
“Yeah you too, Bill.”
As he wheeled out of the dark garage, he had to squint to see. The sky was cloudy and it looked as though a storm was rolling in, but it was still very bright outside compared to the garage. Lunch hour was over and most of the cars were already back to work. It didn’t take long to get to the hospital. When he pulled in the parking lot he pulled next to his wife’s red Dodge caravan, about a half mile away from the main entrance.
“Lucky me,” he thought. “Right by my wife.”
As he ran to the main entrance he could see his wife through the glass automatic sliding doors. She was wearing a gray pantsuit with a light pink shirt underneath the jacket. Her cascading, dark hair framed her dark complexioned face. Her brown eyes were staring out the window at him as he ran in. She was sitting in the lobby waiting on him. As he walked in, she ran over toward him. She had been crying. Her eyes were red and puffy and she was still sniffling. When she hugged him, though, she started crying again and muttering incoherently in between sobs.
“Honey, they had an accident.”
“What kind of an accident?”
“On their way back home from Pennsylvania… you know they went on that trip…”
“No, I had no idea. What were they doing in Pennsylvania?”
“… they were visiting friends and… then they were going to come and visit us… before going back to South Carolina, but they… they had a wreck…a few miles out of the city. It was raining and they… they slid and… smashed into a power pole.”
“… are… are they okay?”
“They both suffered serious head wounds. Both of your dad’s legs were broken. He’s stable for now, but… your mother…”
“What?! What happened?!”
“She’s gone, Nick. She died just a few minutes ago. They wouldn’t let me in to see her. I’m… so sorry.”
He collapsed in the middle of the room. A sobbing mass. If only he had been here. If he had listened to Marcine and got his keys and if that idiot Don could learn to park and if the guard wasn’t so damn talkative, he could have been here. If he were here she would be okay. She would’ve lived.
He just kept sobbing uncontrollably. Everyone in the lobby was staring at him. A little kid sitting with his mom started to whimper even though he had no idea what he was crying about.
No one else mattered. She was dead. Dead. She couldn’t be dead. They had made a mistake.
He was shaking back and forth and Annette was hugging him, trying to comfort him, trying to calm him down, but he couldn’t. He wouldn’t calm down. It was the doctors’ fault. It was his fault for not being there on time. It was God’s fault for making it rain. It was everyone’s fault.
After a few hours of crying and hugging and blaming he was finally under control. It had started raining again. He looked up at the clock on the wall. Two thirty seven. Christi would be getting out of school soon. They would have to tell her.
The doctor walked out. He had a questionable look on his face. It couldn’t be described as any specific emotion, probably because he had seen so much death that emotion for others was almost impossible for him. He was trying to show remorse and at the same time optimism. It just made his forehead wrinkle up, his lips frown, and his eyes solid and determined. Who did he think he was fooling?
“Hello Mr. Dawson. I spoke with your wife earlier. My name is Dr. Schwan. I’m very sorry about your mother. I know how hard it is to lose a parent. I lost my dad a couple of years back.”
He didn’t care about his dad. He didn’t care about what this emotionless crackpot doctor had to say. He wanted to know about his dad. He wanted to know what had gone so wrong that they were unable to save a woman that was tougher than he would ever be.
“Your father is okay right now. We’ve sedated him so he could get some rest. Both of his legs are broken and he’s had some kind of nerve damage. He will probably be paralyzed for life. We’ll have to take more tests, but all three doctors are fairly certain.”
“What are the chances of fatality?” Annette whispered.
“Right now it’s hard to tell. He’s stable right, but until we know the extent of the damage to his spine it’s hard to guess.”
“What about my mother. Can I see her?” he asked solemnly.
“I would recommend you didn’t. Of course you’re allowed to, but it would probably be less upsetting to see her after her major wounds are cleaned up. She’s in pretty bad shape.”
“Okay,” he exhaled. “How about my father?”
“We’re moving him to a private room on the surgical waiting floor and we’ll have you meet him up there. If you have any family that you might want to call now would be a good opportunity to do it.”
“Okay, thank you doctor.”
Dr. Schwan walked back through the double doors from which he had just come.
“I guess I’ll go pick Christi up from school. Will you be alright?” Annette asked.
“Yea I’ll be fine. I should call my sister. She needs to know.”
She kissed him softly on the cheek and began walking toward the door. He watched her as she left. She was running to try and escape the rain. But the rain was inescapable. It caused so much pain. Floods, hurricanes, car wrecks. Rain is cold.