Sunday, April 26, 2009

if only

It had always been hard to think about that day in any detail, even years and years later. Not because she forgot, that could never happen. It was because the details made it excruciating, made it just that much more unbearable. They revealed how preventable, how avoidable it all was. That was the part that could stay hidden in silence, in the vagaries faded by time. To even think about the details lead to the inevitable “if only” and that sick feeling of wanting to reverse time, to take it all back and erase it.

Kate could clearly remember what Ethan was like right before it happened, those last hours of what would end up being his final day on earth. He was excited to go trick or treating, jazzed up about his Batman costume, impatient to go. He didn’t know something bad was going to happen, of course, but that wasn’t the part that really got to Kate. What haunted her most was the thought that at some point he did get scared, did feel he was in danger. She hoped that wasn’t the case, that he got to stay happy and bright, his innocence protected right up until the very last second. He might have just been going happily along when that car hit him, completely unaware. But he also might have been scared, realized he was lost, crying for her, wondering why she hadn’t come for him, wondering where his Mommy was.

She could talk for hours on end about Ethan. It filled her with happiness, kept him alive, kept him from fading away into nothingness. But she rarely retold the last bit of the story of that day, not about how it all had transpired, what lead up to it.

Graham never talked about it either, of course, but then he never talked about Ethan in any way so it was less noticeable. In all these years Kate had always blamed herself completely and only barely let herself form the thought that it was his fault too. On some level she’d known, believed it in some internal way. But she didn’t let the idea take full shape; she kept it in the shadows, away from the light. Even when they spent all that time waiting at the hospital, she never once went there. He had looked so grim. Was it because she didn’t have the heart; did she feel sorry for him?

Eventually the idea took hold, came out of the shadows into the glaring light of consciousness. But she still wouldn’t say it out loud. Kate would never give him the chance to defend himself or try to twist it around to being solely her fault. Because everything that ever happened was her fault. So of course he would never say he was sorry, he never would say that he had made a mistake. Graham had never apologized for anything in all the years she knew him. He felt justified, right in every single thing he did. He was so sure about everything, so absolutely sure of himself at all times that it would never occur to him to say he was sorry. He didn’t think he’d ever made a single error.

Kate couldn’t imagine what that felt like. Her whole life she second-guessed nearly everything she did, everything she thought. But not this, not anymore. This was the one time she was sure she was right. She knew in every fiber of her being Graham was to blame as much as she was. And she knew he knew it too, because he would have had at her, at some point during all these years he would have ripped her to shreds if he could have, if he thought even remotely that it was her responsibility alone. But he never had, and that’s how she knew. That was as close as you would get to seeing a guilty conscious in him.

When Nola began asking questions about that day it made Kate feel nervous and uncomfortable. She told Nola it was too painful for her to think about, and it was. She’d been so open and free with Ethan’s life story; Nola had always been such a willing listener to every tale. Eventually she relented, told about the accident, the hospital, the funeral, wine made her brave. But this part of the story was different. Now Kate wished she had told her, destroyed her father forever in her eyes. Nola already thought he was mean, cruel. This would finish the job, annihilate him and show him up for the uncaring monster he really was. Maybe then Nola would stop blaming her alone for so much of her childhood sorrow.

She could tell Nola how Graham hadn’t called out that day, hadn’t simply said, “I’m home.” If he had, Kate would have told him Ethan was waiting by the front door for him, had been waiting not so patiently because Graham was late, as usual. Ethan was whining and fidgeting and Kate had needed a break, she’d left him there in the foyer to wait and watch for Daddy to get home through the glass door while she went upstairs and started cleaning up. If Graham had only called out she would have told him where Ethan was and then when he didn’t find the boy there waiting where Kate had left him they would have realized he must have slipped out of the house, somehow opened the door and gone out into the evening in a dark colored costume, barely three years old, never crossing a street by himself yet. They would have searched for him sooner, found him before…

But Graham didn’t call out to her when he got home because he was angry. That was nothing new, he was always angry, always in a rage about something she had done or hadn’t done. He wouldn’t speak to her; she was beneath him because of her stupidity, her endless fuck-ups and mistakes. She never lived up to his expectations and he seethed at her for it. It was his hate, his anger and her willingness to silently endure it that had killed their son.

Graham thought she was already out with Ethan, that she’d given up waiting and took him out trick or treating herself. She saw his car in the driveway from the upstairs window and then when she peeked over the railing and looked by the front door Ethan was gone, she’d thought Graham came home and took him without saying a word, typical of him. They didn’t realize that neither one of them had him, didn’t realize that Ethan had gotten out on his own, until it was too late. Until they heard the fiercely close sirens screaming and each came to the front window too look, finally seeing each other and realizing, immediately, silently, their mistake. Fearing the worst, running down the short little street, following that roaring sound, as it grew louder, bringing them closer to the unthinkable.


notSupermum said...

Wow, that's powerful stuff there Kayleigh. You write so clearly, and capture emotion so vividly that I could read a whole book. Hey, fancy that!

Kayleigh said...

Thanks notSupermum, as always you brought a HUGE smile to my face...I so appreciate your encouragement!

Weronika said...

I hope you don't mind that I muse as I read along. :) I've chosen not to comment upon your grammatical errors and such, considering it's a draft-in-progress. Expect my comments from now on to be no different.

- The first paragraph here has a lot of awkward sentences; your commas break up too many of them for it to flow perfectly.

- Watch how you use past/present tense in the second paragraph, especially about the moments of Ethan's death.

- I wonder if you could make this easier to read by showing Kate in the present, instead of inducing so much back story in the form of telling? I want to see her, i.e., looking out a window--I'm curious about her eyes, her face...

- This is the first time I've stopped by--I wonder if you can show us how Graham is in previous chapters? Again, feels too much like telling.

- Aye, I do need to see some of this happening in present tense. You could put in so much more emotion, make it much more real.

- I loved the conclusion. Again, I want to see what was in their eyes, their faces, their postures, as they realize the unthinkable.

Nicely done. :)

Kayleigh said...

Weronika, thank you for stopping by, and most especially for putting so much thought into your comments -- I can tell there is much insight to glean. I am dealing with a crisis at the moment and am just unable to give your comments attention right now-- but I wanted you to know that I do appreciate you making them and hope you continue.

Mervat said...

I am hanging on your every word, gliding over every sentence.

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