Dolores Reynard’s high heels clacked on the cold cement of the dark parking structure. At seven thirty, all her coworkers had gone home for the day, and her car sat alone, a testament to the
misfortune of working for a taskmaster. Hitting the unlock button, she opened the driver’s door of her brand new Chevy Cruze and slipped inside. A few calming breaths prepared her for the rest of her evening, but at the same time she pulled out onto the street, a car cut her off. She slammed on the brakes so as not to rear-end it. Cursing under her breath, she switched on the radio to settle her nerves and headed toward the Godwin High School auditorium.
Sirens blared in the distance while she drove down Cox Road toward Three Chopt Road, her mind drifting to the office. Yet again, her boss had kept her late. Tonight of all nights. The tension in her body bunched her muscles, and her shoulders rose to her ears. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony sank into the background, its usual calming effect gone. Glancing up at the dashboard, she checked the clock. 8:15 p.m. Missing another recital would fill her with too much guilt.
She sighed. If only Ethan would get a better job, I could cut my hours to spend more time with the girls. But it didn’t matter any more. Ethan had served her with divorce papers. For years, he’d complained she had no time for him, yet he’d refused to help her out. He’d always encouraged her to climb the corporate ladder. Only recently, she realized his support was so he could indulge in luxury. She’d grown weary of his slack ass always settling for part-time jobs, but coming from a broken home, she’d refused to ask for a divorce and put her daughters through the same ordeal she suffered as a child. Why hadn’t she recognized his laziness before she married him or before she had any kids? Love is blind.
She eased her foot off the gas pedal after noticing she was a few miles over the speed limit. In the distance, the sirens persisted, seeming closer.
Would Ethan be at the recital, or would he be gallivanting, who knew where, with the slutty waitress from the bar he habitually visited? When at last she accused him of having an affair, he’d never denied it. Damn, him! She banged her palms on the steering wheel. Was the affair his midlife crisis?
After the affair came to light, he’d moved out of the house, but continued to leech off her, demanding money from her to pay all his bills, coming to the house to eat her food, and taking anything he thought would be useful in his new apartment. He served her with divorce papers, but it had taken her months before she came to terms with the permanent separation and signed them. No need to prolong the ordeal. After all, Ella and Chloe liked the situation better than hearing them argue all the time. Yet she still felt guilty about signing them.
The wailing sirens blared somewhere outside her car. She jerked her head around. Where—?
Bright blue lights rushed down a side street straight toward her. She moved to the side of the road to let the oncoming police car pass, but a beam of blinding white light flashed through her window. She squinted, trying to see where it came from, and realized another vehicle was headed right at her. She jammed her foot on the gas pedal.
The sound of crunching metal filled her ears. Her body jerked while a force she couldn’t control pulled at her. Oh God!
Her car did a loop-de-loop. Shattering glass ricocheted around her, fusing with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony flowing from the radio. Her temple smashed against the window, sending more pellets flying all around. The nauseating rolling stopped, leaving her hanging upside down, the seatbelt still holding her in place, her neck angled to the side by the pressure of the crushed roof.
God, please make it stop. Oh, God. Please keep me alive for my girls.
Warm, thick liquid streamed down her face from her neck, dripping into her eyes. The stench of her own blood filled her senses. Searing pain radiated from the back of her head, shooting down her spine, enveloping her entire body. Her vision narrowed, gathering into a single dot of light.
Ella…Chloe…Mommy loves you.