I wake with a start, the screensaver on the TV the only illumination in the dark room. I hit the home button on my phone to check the time and it’s 3:05. Without warning my mind snaps back to another time I saw that number on the clock. There is smoke and it is choking me, I’m craning my neck to make out what’s on fire and my eyes just won’t focus. I attempt to rub at them, clear them of whatever it is that’s in them but the pain jolts me still. Pain. Pain so horrible I’m gonna be sick to my stomach. I turn my head to throw up and I see it. The car, the fucking car is on fire. Where’s JJ? My mind races and I see the calming blue of the clock, 3:05. I can hear someone screaming but before I can scream back I realize it’s me. Deciding that the pain is just going to have to come I try to get out of the car but I can’t. Then I hear him, JJ, he’s outside the car. I turn the other way and I see him, he’s sitting on the road, get off the road asshole, you’re going to get hit! That thought is the last thing I remember of that night. It’s funny really that it always seems to be that number that appears on the clock when I start awake.
I’ve read the article, seen the pictures of the car and I wonder how I ever survived. How either one of us survived. I hadn’t even been drinking that night, JJ had fought with Lacey and chose to shellac his insides with tequila. He walked away with just a few broken ribs and bunch of scars. His voice is the one she heard before they had even extricated me from the car. I don’t know how he managed to do it, I wouldn’t have ever been able to make that call. I shake my head trying to banish that particular set of horrid memories. Just a few of many I wish I could erase.
Before I climb into bed I pull out the box. It’s all I have left of her and occasionally I put myself through the struggle of looking through it, why would this be any different. Running my hand over her face in my favorite photograph of us I can’t help but imagine what life would be like if I’d stayed home that night. I pull out the stack of little notes we used to write each other and go through them, her handwriting so familiar to me. The picture I conjure in my head of our hands, all three of them, hers, mine and his. She doesn’t have a clue that I know, but I do.
“You have to get through this Jack, not for me or you, but for the little one that is on it’s way…” she says over my bed tears falling from her red eyes.
I never let her know that I was awake when she came in a few days after the accident. Then it was like a weight so heavy, how could I be a father, when I didn’t even know who I was anymore. At first, I thought maybe I dreamed it, that it was wishful thinking. She was different, though, her skin was glowing, the way she turned green every time they brought me bacon, one of her favorite foods. I waited for a few weeks for her to tell me, to try to brighten my spirits but she never did. Instead, she stayed away for three days straight and I thought she’d just had enough of me, of my shit attitude. When she finally started coming back she was more different than before. She was distant, withdrawn and looked like she had lost everything. I didn’t know it at the time, I chalked it up to being a dream for so long and then one day JJ slipped.
“What the fuck is wrong with you Jack, don’t you see that you have everything and you are thinking of throwing it all away?” he yelled at me.
“I don’t have this everything, you’re talking about JJ, I have nothing…” I yelled back.
“Don’t do this to her, Jack hasn’t she lost enough, this, the bab…” his scream stopped.
“The what?” I asked a little quieter.
“Nothing, she has lost everything, you treat her like trash, you scream and yell at her, why she even comes here I don’t know…” he said trying to pull the conversation away.
“No, you were going to say something else, what else has she lost?” I press him, the guilt on his face telling me there is more to this.
“She was pregnant…” he says in barely a whisper.
“Was?” I ask.
“She lost the baby, Jack… about three weeks after the accident,” he says looking anywhere but at me.
“Did everyone but me know this? Why didn’t she tell me?” I scream with rage, it hadn’t been a dream.
“She didn’t want to make this worse for you…only Lacey and I know, she hasn’t told anyone else, and she is going to kill me for slipping up,” he says the worry written across his face.
“How far along was she?” I ask, the urge to break something creeping up.
“I don’t know. Lacey said she had just found out that morning…” he says quietly.
“All this time, you’ve known why she was acting strange, all this time I thought it was because she couldn’t deal with this…” I yell again, moving closer to him.
“It wasn’t my place to tell you, Jack, this was what she wanted and you know what, with the way you’ve been acting towards her I don’t blame her for not wanting to add to your hell. She was protecting you, you asshole, imagine what that was like for her for a minute here,” he spits at me.
“Imagine what it’s like to find out your wife kept a pregnancy and a miscarriage from you for a minute JJ,” I scream.
“If we are going to play imaginary imagine what it would be like if you let her try and help you get through this, hell imagine what it would be like to actually try and get over yourself for her,” he says slamming his finger in my chest before he turns to leave.
JJ held that secret for three months, I’ve kept it almost two years and so has she. It eats at me every day so I can only imagine what it does to her. She held that life inside her and then it was gone. Not too mention the hell I put her through. I railed against her at every chance I got, in her greatest time of need I couldn’t be there for her. I hate myself every day for that. I couldn’t see past myself long enough to realize just how much she loved me, how much she was trying.
I pull out the box that holds our rings, hers can almost fit inside mine as though it was meant to be that way. Deep regret flows through me as I sit one by one putting everything back. I know I won’t find sleep anytime soon, and I wonder what she’s doing right now. It’s a game I play with myself sometimes when I can’t sleep. I try to imagine what she did during the day, she had a habit of telling me all about her day as we used to cook or lay in bed at night. It was fun watching her describe the things she did, watching the expressions pass across her face.
“You won’t believe this, Lydia found out that Bob from the mail room dumped her because of this new FedEx guy…” she said animatedly.
“So basically what you’re telling me is that I need to worry about the delivery men?” I joked with my best concerned face.
“Jack, you know me better than that, there is no one else for me,” she says taking her place in the crook of my arm.
“Ditto, Luce,” I said softly, breathing in the scent of her hair.
I miss the nonsense moments the most I think, those moments that you can’t really remember, but flash across your mind at the oddest times. They stopped long before I watched her walk away. The almost year and a half before she walked out our front door were full of miserable times, none of those simple little moments remained. I did most of the work to make it as miserable as I could, not only for myself but for her too. I refused to see anything other than myself in those two years after the accident, not her, not us, not the loss she experienced too. I’m the one to blame for her leaving and I knew it was going to happen, I set it up, I planned for her to go.
“You haven’t even been back to work for three months Jack,” JJ said when I approached him.
“So? We are miserable JJ. I can’t force her to do this with me, I have to find my own way…” I said knowing the only way she would really call it quits.
“Have you really thought this through, you know if you do this she will be done with you, for good… I don’t think you’ll ever be able to take this back,” he tried.
“I won’t want to take it back,” I said looking at him eye to eye.
“I don’t believe you,” he replied.
“You don’t have to believe me, you just have to help me make it happen,” I said plopping back down.
He couldn’t have said anything in those days to make me change my mind, no one could have. I can’t believe how selfish I was to drag him into my drama, my mess, but I did it, mostly because he was the only person still talking to me at the time. I don’t know what made him stick around but I sure am glad he did. Even Lacey, despite what I did to her sister has been there for me, not much in the beginning but she’s come around in the last few months. She doesn’t realize it but she looks more like Luce than she will ever admit. It frightens me sometimes when I’m around her just how similar they are, the expressions, the mannerisms, the way they say certain words. That’s where it stops, though, their personalities are as different as night and day. As much as it drives me crazy I crave those little glimpses of her. Sometimes I see a smile that reminds me of Lucy or the way that Lacey will tip her head back in laughter. I miss her. Worst of all is that I did this to myself… Of all the things I could want in this world, all the things that have been taken from me, I want Luce more than any of them…