KLM

KLM

(Karaoke, Love, and Modeling)

Robert Soul

Figuring out how he would live the rest of his life was Tom’s challenge.

After the divorce, seeing Tay and the Ballerina two weekends out of the month, including the days leading up to it, became the highlight of his life.

But when they left, loneliness and monotony settled back in.

He had been told as a boy that God didn’t give you more than you can handle but he doubted that was a hard and fast rule, more like a theory.

Coming home from work, laying on the bed, listening to the hum of the air-conditioning or to the droning dishwasher, was suffocating him.

He was running more. He loved to run, but after a good run and a shower, then what?

A coworker suggested Karaoke or getsomedates.com.

He didn’t tell his buddy that he already had a profile at getsomedates.com, the profile picture with shirt off, in the bathroom mirror, belly sucked in, toilet in the background, ring up. He knew nothing of the wrongness of the whole scenario until it had indirectly been pointed out as heinous in a full, exact, down to the detail description of dating site no no’s by a friend of a friend on Facebook.

But karaoke, hmm.

Karaoke was awkward because he could really sing and most of the people who loved it couldn’t. It felt odd for him to get up there and perform. But tonight he would go and maybe it would give him a chance to meet people.

What if he met someone, he thought.

He bought candles, put them by the bed, and lit them to fill the room with their scent. Vanilla is nice. He squeezed baby powder out of its bottle a little at a time into the carpet of the bedroom. That was supposed to turn women on he read somewhere.

The bed looked good for a single man, he thought. The headboard was dark leather and large. That looked sexy. But the bedspread was so old. It was still in good shape and it no longer smelled like picnic. That’s what it was for a long time, a large green comforter turned into picnic blanket, now back to comforter. He knew he needed a better comforter but at least it smelled better after a couple good washes and a little baby powder.

He wouldn’t be bringing anybody back to the apartment. But what if he did?

The apartment wasn’t anything impressive. He could spend money and make it cozy but why, when he would be buying a house in the next couple years. He wouldn’t be bringing any girl back here, he thought.

But what if?

When all your friends are married and you’re single again it’s like being thrown into someone else’s life without instructions. You’re just expected to figure it out and it isn’t like it was before. The last time you were single you were living in a dorm and the dates weren’t about impressing someone with your car or your bank account or the size of your house or how nice your apartment was decorated. Those things mattered now, to the single woman in her late twenties or early thirties.

And the coffee date left something to be desired to the two women from work that hadn’t given him a strange look after the invitation. It certainly isn’t wining and dining, which was at least expected after the Starbucks meeting. Suggesting they do this again sometime soon was met with the look-away and a hollow sounding, ‘yes definitely’. The coffee date wouldn’t be tried again.

How did they do it, the ones that brought women back to their place after just meeting them? You have to meet them first and find out, he told himself. So, he was driving to the Karaoke bar. It was a restaurant as much as a bar and Karaoke was highlighted on weekends.

Tom had driven straight home and had taken a nap after the last workday of the week. He would drive to the bar around 11:30. There would be plenty of tipsiness going on by that time.

When he got there he squeezed up to the bar and ordered a beer and turned around to look at the stage where a group of girls were singing a Matchbox Twenty hymn. He scanned the audience where there were tables filling the semi-circle around the stage.

He watched one person after another singing Journey, an Outkast tune, and Britney’s Oops I did it again. Ace of Base left the stage and four women sauntered up to his left as he faced the Karaoke stage. One of them looked at him and turned to her friend and laughed and the friend craned her head out to look at him and their eyes met. Her eyes crinkled in a smile and then she disappeared behind the three other women. The woman next to him leaned in to her friends to hear what they were whispering about and then a loud laugh by one of them broke up the huddle. The one closest to him flashed him her brown eyes, tilting her head, throwing her long lovely red locks behind her.

“My friends are being rude. I’m sorry,” she said.

Did she bat her eyes at me?

Tom tried to forget what he thought he saw. It would have made him self-conscious.

He leaned over to her, lending her his left ear.

“I’m sorry?” he asked, looking straight ahead at the singer waiting during a 16 bar intro.

“They wanted me to ask you and I told them they were being rude.”

“Ask me what?” he said, nonchalantly.

“What the hell are you wearing?” she asked with a giggle..

He turned to face her and noticed freckles on her face under a light base of make-up.

She winced and shook her head.

I think you pull it off but the t-shirt over the long sleeve button down isn’t really a hit with most of the ladies.”

Looking at his face, she tried to change the subject.

“Are you going to sing?” she asked.

He thought it looked good in the mirror before leaving the apartment. Besides, he had worn this very thing to work a few times on casual day and no one ever said anything negative about it.

“Are you going to sing?” she asked again.

He could see an apology in her eyes for repeating what they had said.

“Yeah,” he nodded.

“Oh, cool,” she said, smiling and biting her lower lip.

It suddenly became hard to look her in the eyes but he ignored it and overcame.

She bounced slightly in what he thought was a preadolescent way.

“What are you going to sing?” she said, her eyes sparkling.

“U2 or something like that.”

“You haven’t put your name on the list? You know there’s a pretty long wait.”

“Oh, okay,” he said, remembering to act disinterested, looking away from her towards the stage.

She pointed to the side of the stage where a deejay sat behind a laptop and another monitor.

“Tony takes your name. I haven’t decided what I’m singing.”

“What do you normally sing?” he asked turning back to her.

She mimicked his far-off stare technique as she looked away to the stage, watching the current singer botch Alanis Morissette.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

He cleared his throat hoping she wouldn’t notice his irregular breathing.

“I’m Lane.”

She smiled, cocked her head to the left and both of her elbows flared out as she stuck her hand out.

He smiled at this. It seemed awkward in a sexy way.

“I’m Tom.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said lighting up, “Do you like Radiohead, Tom?”

He nodded.

“I have to admit Thom Yorke’s my celebrity crush,” she said blushing.

He raised his eyebrows, still nodding.

“I’d do him,” he said smiling.

She laughed, leaning in, putting her hand on his shoulder.

Just then, one of the other women walked up and put her arm through Lane’s.

“We’ve got a table, come on.”

She shrugged her shoulders as she was pulled away, giving a tiny wave and a cheesy smile goodbye. She pointed to the deejay, mouthing something he couldn’t read but he knew it was about putting his name on the list.

He waved and watched her float into the crowded tables to a table close to the front where he could see the tops of the heads of the other two women.

He put his name on the list and walked back to the bar.

For the next forty-five minutes he watched the performances and caught glimpses of the woman’s red hair and her friends.

Tom’s time came and he sang “Beautiful Day”, feeling good about it other than losing his timing a bit during the break, but knowing only a few people would have noticed. He smiled at Lane a few times but for the most part worked the rest of the crowd to avoid becoming nervous by her.

From on the stage he saw a noticeable difference between Lane and her friends. All four of the women were uniquely perfect in their physical features with supreme skin and impeccably adorned with the latest designer dresses and accessories but Lane stood out.

Her pure eyes and courageous smile separated her from her associates.

The other three were constantly peering, leering, and sneering at people sitting at other tables and displaying disdain and disparagement with strategic and calculated looks.

Lane stayed above all their encouragement to participate and he wondered how she managed to spend outings with them.

Tom settled back up at the bar as the Karaoke parade continued and the crowd became more riotous with a white boy’s surprisingly accurate rendition of Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice.

Lane squeezed in close between Tom and the person sitting next to him.

“You sing like an angel. I’m impressed,” she said blushing.

The urge to avoid direct eye contact hit him again but Tom forced himself to look her in the eyes.

“Thank you. I was in a band.”

“I always wanted to be in a band! But I’m not really a singer,” she said, biting her bottom lip.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a spokesperson.”

He nodded and smiled forcing his eyes to stay in contact with hers.

“You’re a speaker?” he asked.

Lane looked at him modestly.

“I’m a model.”

Stepping back she flourished the bottom of her dress.

It floated out and then formed back to her shapely hips and legs.

“Stella McCartney,” she said, proudly.

“The daughter of Paul McCartney?” he asked.

She nodded and grabbed his arm, looked at his lips, and then into his eyes.

“Sing with me. I picked Creep by Radiohead. Please,” She batted her eyes.

So, Tom sang a duet with her, a lubberly but lively version of her favorite song ever.

The bass line was her favorite part of the song and they waited to sing, both of them moving somewhat awkwardly during the seven and a half measure intro.

She sways like
an angel, Tom thought.

He’s sweet, she thought.

Lane smiled gently as they began to sing together.

She glistened in the lights of the stage and she knew that he had noticed something about her.

Throughout the song Tom felt a connection with Lane and he thought she felt it too.

When the song finished she collapsed in his arms and smiled at the crowd as if she had planned it all along. She felt supple and tender in his arms but he released her as quickly as she fell.

Lane took his hand and pulled him to her table motioning for him to share her chair with her. They were both panting and laughing at each other.

Tom noticed the rolling eyes of her fault finding fellowship.

“Put your number in my phone,” he said squeezing her hand, putting his phone in her other hand.

“I’ll text you sometime,” he said trying not to act nervous.

She smiled, taking his phone, and entered her number.

She kissed him on the cheek before being pulled up from the table by one of the women.

Tom watched her smiling and waving goodbye as she was dragged out of the restaurant.

 

Saturday morning came early.

Tom had Tay and the Ballerina from ten a.m. to the early evening and then he would have take them home. It would be a short visit this weekend but he, the kindergartener, and the second-grader would make the most of it.

They played at the park next to the apartment, climbing trees. Daddy made sure they didn’t climb too high. Tay demanded she take off her glasses to climb and they had a small argument until Daddy finally took the glasses and put them in his pocket.

They were both big enough for climbing trees for the first time and he was happy to be a part of these kinds of moments. It was these moments Tom lived and died for.

Some day they would go on runs with him, probably the kindergartener before the second grader ever would, he thought. Tay was a natural runner. Everyone said that about her since she was four. Elizabeth was the Ballerina.

After the park, they rested on the couches in the apartment drinking Hi-Cs.

“Daddy, can you come over after church?” the Ballerina asked.

“I guess I could.”

“I will ask Mommy. It’s my idea,” she said.

“Okay.”

“See,” said the second-grader, “when you and Mommy were arguing last weekend about the pictures I decided you just need to get together to work it out. So, can you come over tomorrow after church to work it out with Mommy?”

Tom took a long slow breath in and exhaled before speaking.

He looked into her pretty little eyes.

“I shouldn’t have let her get to me. I’ve already apologized to her, Ballerina. You have to understand that every time I know I’m going to see your mom I tell myself I’m not going to let her get to me, no matter how mean she is, but I can’t help it sometimes. All I can do, B, is keep trying, even if she doesn’t.”

“She was wrong when she called you that name, Dad. She said she was going to work at it.”

“Well, B, that’s all we can do. I’ll come over if you want, B, but it isn’t that simple.”

“I’m asking her and if she says yes, I will text you.”

The time came to drop them off and he hugged them and kissed them inside the door.

Tom’s ex-wife was standing in the entry way politely smiling.

The sound of water running came from their bathroom and she shooed them off to take a bath.

It had become awkward after the divorce when they were alone, mainly because he was tired of arguing about everything, and since they were divorced he didn’t want to waste energy any more arguing with someone who didn’t want a relationship with him.

She looked at him and he couldn’t interpret it.

It wasn’t a look that would describe someone about to argue.

It made him nervous and he didn’t want to have to figure it out.

“Okay,” he said, reaching for the door. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Goodnight,” she said cordially.

On the drive home he thought about her look.

Saturday night inside the empty apartment he walked around.

Tom thought he probably could have stayed there, at their mother’s house. That’s what her look was all about, he decided. He had done that before and regretted it so he was glad he didn’t.

He texted Lane.

TOM: What’s up singer?

Tom waited.

No response.

Five minutes later, no response.

Ten minutes.

No response.

Time for a run!

Tom went on a good run, a six-miler this time. It felt good.

Back in the apartment he checked his phone and again, nothing.

He took a long hot shower, dried off, brushed his teeth, and crawled into bed.

He fell asleep and dreamed he was running.

 

Sunday morning came and when he woke he thought about his phone.

He checked it.

One text.

At two a.m. Lane texted.

Normally, even at two in the morning he would have heard it chime. It must have been on silent. It was from Lane.

LANE: Hey : )

He looked at it and clicked standby, shutting the display off.

Then he opened it up again even thought he knew nothing would have changed.

He looked at it.

LANE: Hey : )

He texted her after making breakfast and sitting down with coffee at the breakfast nook.

TOM: Hey.

After breakfast he took a load of laundry to the Mexican laundromat across the street, washed it, dried it, folded it, and put it away, back in his apartment.

Tom sat on one of the living room couches looking back and forth from the living room patio window to his phone.

On his phone he read a comment on Facebook that made his eyes begin tearing up.

He hadn’t cried in a while but he wasn’t going to this time.

It just made him remember how helpless he felt for a long time about the divorce, until he let it go and stopped trying to figure it out why it happened.

His phone chimed as he looked out the window.

He thought it could be from B about meeting with her mother and his heart sank.

He opened his phone.

It was a text from Lane!

LANE: Hey, Bono : ) I’m in CA visiting the fam.

TOM: : ) Nice. Have fun. It was nice meeting you. Let’s duet again. : )

Tom expected a quick response but it didn’t come.

Thirty minutes later, after checking his phone nearly every minute, he texted her again.

TOM: Have a nice time with the fam. Later.

She responded quickly.

LANE: Later : )

 

Monday and Tuesday went by as they normally did; emails, meetings, more emails, and more boring meetings. Tuesday evening, after dark, he went for a long run.

 

Wednesday came and Tom thought a strategic Wednesday afternoon text to Lane would be a good idea. He thought about texting her many times before this but didn’t want to appear desperate or lonely.

TOM: Hey singer/model : )

Thirty seconds went by. Chime.

LANE: What’s up?

TOM: Work. : ( How’s CA?

LANE: Having a blast!

She sends him a picture of her and a girlfriend with the Hollywood hills behind them.

LANE: Wanna come to CA?

TOM: Wld love to but work. Ughh. Nice pic.

LANE: Thanks! My BFF Candace and me causing all kinds of trouble lol

TOM: Cool. How long are you in L.A.?

Tom sat at his desk, waiting for a response while checking and responding to work email. He made calls after lunch and wrapped up the day with a video conference.

She never texted back.

At his apartment he made some pasta and sat down for dinner, sipping a beer while listening to sports radio.

Why does a girl send a picture of herself in a text? Does it mean she’s into you?

Tom looked at the picture. She looks so fun and carefree.

Tom thought about how much work a relationship can be and how impossible it felt to be in one and still be fun and carefree.

It was easy to be fun and carefree with Tay and the Ballerina.

Why does a woman send a guy a picture of herself?

It’s not like it was a nude picture or anything, just a picture of her and her friend.

Maybe she just likes sending pictures of herself to friends. That’s what we are, he told himself. But he wished they could be more, just without all the things that come with relationships, all the hard things like expectations, dates, and communication. Damn, it’s hard being a guy.

 

Thursday and Friday at work he checked his phone for texts on an hourly basis.

He received one Thursday morning from one of his best friends Alan who reminded him of the game on Friday but no texts from Lane.

Thursday night he went for a short but strong run.

Friday night, Tom met Alan and two of Alan’s friends at a parking lot close to his apartment and he hopped into the front passenger seat of Alan’s car.

From the driver’s seat Alan extended his hand to Tom.

“How you doing, brother?”

Tom took his hand in a strong handshake.

“I’m making it.”

On the ride to the ballpark they exchanged small talk and introductions between Tom and Alan’s friends. Tom looked forward to a relaxing time at a Texas Ranger’s game. A few beers, laughs, and some good pitching would be good, he thought, much better than being cooped up in the apartment.

But there was a reason he hadn’t spent much time with his friends.

They were married.

Hanging with the married guys can make you feel so isolated, when they all appear to be so happily married.

You’re at a baseball game and the talk is about how you and your wife love watching the latest comedy or drama or reality show. It’s depressing because that’s one of the things you can miss, laying in bed with your wife, laughing together, rewinding that funny scene, and laughing again. You can miss anticipating the next episode of your favorite hospital drama, putting the kids to bed, making sure the dishes are done, turning off all the lights in the house, and then crawling into bed, ready for the intensity of the emergency room or finding out who gets shot or who’s going to survive a crash. It’s trivial but you share it together and it’s a pleasurable part of companionship that you can’t experience anymore with your wife because you’re divorced from your wife.

I came to watch baseball and drink beer, not celebrate your marriage.

Tom didn’t hold any of these feelings against them. He knew they had no idea.

But this would be the last time for a while he would do this.

This is part of one of many dreadful dilemmas.

Going alone only accentuates loneliness and going with husbands produces, well, that.

Tom had set his phone set on silent so he checked it every inning and every pitching change for a text from Lane.

Nothing.

 

Saturday morning Tom woke up at 6:30 a.m. and just lay in bed.

He could go into the office and get ahead but there wasn’t any need to do that. He could get ahead Monday if he wanted. So, he just lay there, doing nothing.

Then he thought about Lane.

When you’re a divorced and lonely man and there’s nothing on your schedule you can anticipate a text or a call or response on Facebook with unrealistic expectations. It’s difficult not to.

Tom thought about what was happening to him.

He decided he would check his phone one more time and if there was nothing he would leave it alone the rest of the morning.

He’d go for a run, take a shower, make some breakfast, and try to ignore the urge to check that damn phone.

He checked it.

Nothing.

Let it go, he told himself.

Stick to the plan. In fact, don’t check the phone all day.

Check it tomorrow if you have to. You don’t need her.

You’ve been here before, remember?

Let it go.

His phone chimed.

LANE: Wanna meet for breakfast with me and some friends?

TOM: You’re in town?

LANE: Yah : ) Got in last night. Straight to a premier of a new line of cosmetics and a super late dinner at Victor Tango’s, etc, etc. Now heading to Murphy’s Pancake House : )???

TOM: Sounds good. See you in a bit.

LANE: K : )

Tom met Lane at the restaurant and she introduced him to her friends, two of which he recognized from the first night they met at the karaoke bar.

They were just as friendly at breakfast as they were that night.

It didn’t bother Tom since he could tell that Lane saw the same humor he saw in how her friends interacted with him.

All during breakfast they played off each other’s reactions to her friends’ discussions.

During the first half of the meal it was all about the anticipation of Justin Timberlake’s new album mixed with various opinions of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s relationship and the coming baby. The second half of the breakfast conversation centered on modeling.

This was when he had the most fun because his comments got the most eye-rolls and sighs and muffled laughs from Lane.

After breakfast Tom walked her to her car.

“I told you models ate,” she said sarcastically.

“I wondered if there was anything on the menu that fit your diet.”

“Very funny. Omg! I’m a fat girl in a skinny girl’s body. I live off of sugar which is so bad.”

“Can I take you out this coming Friday?” he asked.

“Oh, Tom, yes, of course, but let me look at my schedule and get back to you, okay?”

Tom gave her a hug and they said goodbye.

Tom spent the rest of his Saturday and Sunday morning in the office getting ahead with paperwork and responding to and sending email.

Sunday morning Tom ran and then after arriving at the office for more work he received a text.

BALERINA: Tay and me miss you xoxo

DAD: Aren’t you in church?

BALERINA: No Mom is in bed sick so we’re playing. Tay wants to know if you will come play with us?

DAD: I’ll be there in thirty minutes.

BALERINA: yeah!!!

Tom drove to meet the girls and on the way stopped at a grocery store where he bought some chicken soup at the deli and a potted flower.

He thought it would help their mother feel better.

Why do you care about making her feel better?

She wouldn’t be doing any of this for you.

He regretted stopping on the way because of these types of conversations he had with himself and he considered not bringing any of it in.

Have some pity on yourself and quit doing this.

But I still care.

No you don’t. You just want to be the nice guy.

But I am a nice guy.

But this isn’t helping anybody. She’s not going to be grateful for it. She’s got her own appearances to keep up. She’s going to make you feel worse. Watch.

If she does, then I won’t do it again.

You said that last time. Okay, I know you care, you really do, but if she makes you feel small again for doing it, you have to stop caring, for your own good.

He decided to give her the soup and the potted plant and if she made him feel bad about doing it that would be the last time he would go out of his way to be nice.

“Hey, Dad,” Ballerina answered the door and Tay grabbed his neck, nearly knocking the plant out of his hand.

“Taylor! You almost made me drop these.”

“Who is this for, Mommy?” Taylor asked.

“Yes. B, will you please take this and put it on the table?”

Tom carried the kindergartener into the kitchen with the soup and started the stove. Instead of taking the plant to the kitchen table the Ballerina went straight back to her mother’s room with it.

“Tom,” their mother called from her bedroom.

He had heard her say his name that way so many times and this time sounded just the same, as if there had never been a divorce, as if none of the other stuff had happened either.

The Ballerina came out of the bedroom with a smile.

“I gave mom the plant you bought her,” she said.

Tom wanted to be mad at B but he knew it wasn’t her fault. She fought the hard to keep them together. Tay never made any qualms about it other than not seeing daddy as much.

The girls resumed playing in one of their rooms and Tom walked back to the bedroom.

“What am I going to do with you?” she said, looking sick and sitting up in bed.

“I brought you some soup as well. I’m heating it up.”

“Okay, the girls have been asking to see you and last weekend was short so they want to spend time with you. You don’t need to come up here trying to take care of me. I was just getting up.”

“Do you want me to make the soup?”

“You don’t have to be the martyr, Tom. Of course, make the soup. We’ll feed it to the girls with lunch. Are you staying for lunch?” she said getting out of bed, putting on a robe.

“Sure,” he said, sighing, hoping she hadn’t heard it as she walked ahead of him to the kitchen.

At that moment Tom’s phone chimed and it startled him.

“Who’s that Tom, your girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend, Marianne.”

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked to see if she was watching.

He looked at the text when he knew she wasn’t paying attention.

LANE: What time Friday? Pick me up at my place?

Tom looked again at his ex-wife who was turning the stove down as the soup started to boil.

He texted Lane behind the bar, between him and the kitchen.

TOM: 7pm. Text me your address. Ttyl.

Tom suddenly didn’t care about how Marianne was acting.

He could stay for lunch, even dinner, and he was pretty sure she wasn’t going to change his sudden feeling of exhilaration.

But then he reasoned that if his mood changed too suddenly she would ask questions so he tried to dampen his spirits, at least the appearance of them.

Tay and the Ballerina called to him from the other room.

They enjoyed playing ‘Princess marries the Prince’ with Daddy.

It was their favorite game other than ‘I spy’ in the car.

Since there were two girls and one ‘boy’ it was always difficult for Tom. With two princesses, sometimes four or six, and he had to play the part of every prince, each having his own name. Then there would be the argument about who would be marrying whom.

Trying to make a princess happy with who her prince is going to be is a chore.

Not to mention six of them!

There would always be the meeting or introduction of all the characters and each of the princesses being asked to the ball that would be happening that evening or the next night.

Then there was some leeway as to how the rest of the story went before the ball actually happened but before the ball the prince had to ask his princess to marry him after the ball.

Then the ball would happen and then the marriage which wasn’t always right after the ball. Sometimes it was the next day or the next week, depending on time.

After about forty-five minutes to an hour of this Daddy was normally worn out and they understood. It was time for lunch anyway.

Lunch with the girls and their mother was chicken soup and sliced up apples and grapes for dessert. Marianne always fed Tay and the Ballerina a nutritionally sound meal and never taught the girls any bad habits in their diet. They abhorred sodas and sugary snack foods. Tom always respected her for this and many other ways that she was a good mother.

In the same way, as a wife, Tom thought she had been a good model for the girls, until the ninth year of their marriage, when things went wrong.

 

Tom and Marianne met when they were teenagers and were married in their early twenties. About nine years after they were married, one night in bed, after watching one of their favorite shows, they had a discussion how neither of them had many sexual partners before marriage. This was a harmless conversation to Tom but to Marianne it meant much more.

A year later, when Tom thought he had truly been a model of forgiveness, he was told to leave the house they bought together, and was told by the courts he could only see his daughters every other weekend.

Tom looked at his ex-wife sitting across from him with each girl between them at the round dining room table the way they had eaten together many times before she divorced him. He still loved her and he thought she probably still loved him, in her own way.

He had forgiven her but she hadn’t forgiven herself and he wondered if she ever would.

He wasn’t sure if he would ever want to be with her again, even if she was ready to try.

Many times he told himself to move on, but at times like these, he wondered if he ever could. Maybe it was the girls that kept him from moving on. He’d never move on from them.

When they were separated, before the divorce was final, he grieved over not seeing them every day and missing out on all the day to day things with his daughters. He grieved because he knew their lives would be changed forever. He grieved with them, assuming they felt the way he did. After a while, he began to understand that he had his perspective and they had theirs. Theirs was much more adaptive. They were surviving and getting used to it and it helped him to adapt and relax about how life was going to still go on.

Tom thought a lot about how amazing children are, bouncing back from things.

Eventually he stopped grieving for them, knowing they were going to grow up and be okay.

 

The work week went by quickly, each day quicker than the next, as Tom was looking more and more forward to the date. He knew she was looking forward to it too by her quick responses to calculated texts he sent throughout the week. She was having a busy week and this time with him would be a welcomed break from the cruel, grueling grind of the life of the model, she said in so many words.

They had decided on dinner and a movie and dessert at an Italian restaurant in Oak Lawn.

 

Thursday night before going to bed, Tom looked at what he was wearing.

He changed shirts. Tucked in? He untucked the shirt, then tucked it back it in, then he pulled out the right front of his lightly-starched button-up. It showed enough of his belt, he thought.

He shook his head and tore the shirt off, throwing it on the bed with three other failed ideas.

Next, the short polo.

He looked at it with it tucked in and then partly tucked in.

Jacket on.

Jacket off.

He hadn’t shaved yet so he started thinking that was the reason he didn’t like anything he saw.

He shaved.

Back at the mirror, Tom tried every shirt on again, still not happy.

It was his hair. He wouldn’t have time to get a haircut and he couldn’t do that anyway.

It would be too strange if she thought he got a haircut just because of the date.

He stood closer to the mirror and closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead.

Relax, Tom.

He opened his eyes, then closed them again and sighed.

He went for a short run and then to bed.

Tom woke up very early that Friday morning, refreshed and positive and even more so after a cup of coffee. He picked out his clothes for the date and sat them on the made bed. He had breakfast and looking at the time felt like he could go for a quick run and a shower but decided to run after the date.

Then he thought about what would happen if the date went really well.

Tom looked over at the passenger side of his car on the way to work and wondered if it was clean enough. It would still be light when he picked her up. He thought about how the car smelled. I can never smell anything, he thought.

Tay and the Ballerina had said one time that his car smelled and he knew it probably did back then because in the backseat the girls would drop snacks down the cracks of the back of the seat. He had cleaned out the molded raspberries and strawberries and yogurt that had spilled. He put baking soda under the back seat to soak up the aroma when he cleaned up their mess. But that was a few months back and they had ridden back there a few times since then and who knows what could be back there. He couldn’t smell anything.

In the quiet office, Tom sat down at his desk and sent Lane a text.

TOM: Looking forward to tonight!

He waited for a few minutes, doing nothing, and then started answering email to keep his mind off of her response.

About an hour later his phone chimed.

LANE: Me too!!! Can we make it 7:30???

TOM: Sure. See you then : )

LANE: k

After another few hours of email and a conference call Tom left the office and vacuumed his car at a car wash close to the office.

Back at the office he got a text from Lane.

LANE: Can we make it 8:00??? I’m sorry. We’re shooting at this amazing house in Hickory Creek and some people were late and it might run long.

TOM: No problem : ) Text me when you’re about ready and then I’ll pick you up.

LANE: Perfect. Ttyl.

Tom picked Lane up at her apartment at 9:00pm and he was happy the sun was down so she couldn’t scrutinize his car. He only hoped it didn’t smell bad or that the cologne he sprayed on the back seat didn’t make it seem like he was masking a smell.

In the restaurant, the nervousness and awkwardness Tom perceived on the ride from her apartment was gone, in part because he decided to be happy even if the date bombed.

“I’m sorry about the movie,” Lane said. “Are you sure there’s no other place we can see it at a better time? At the shoot this morning, people showed up late and it put us way behind. Thank you again for being so patient, Tom. And I love this restaurant, by the way!”

He shook his head and smiled. Tom browsed movie times again on his phone.

“We could go do some Karaoke,” he said smiling, raising his eye brows up and down.

She didn’t laugh or respond. She looked at his face and his lips.

“Honestly, Tom. I don’t like that place and I don’t like karaoke that much unless I’m a little tipsy, like that night.”

“We could get you tipsy.”

“Oh, I see, Tom,” she laughed, “No, I’m kidding. Let’s not do karaoke. You should have seen this house we were at. It’s one of the biggest in Texas, no lie. The owner has a bathroom in the master suite that is an exact replica of a Chanel store in Paris. It was unreal. I was in a dream shooting there. I drove up to the house and this guy rode up on a golf cart and told me where I could park and then drove me up to the house after I parked. It really is bigger than any house I’ve ever seen. And inside it’s like a museum. Have you been to the DMA? It’s like that, no lie. The guy who drove me in his golf cart could have driven it around in the house.”

Tom was listening but as he watched Lane talk he thought about how different they were.

She had complimented his looks. She said he was very handsome but he felt that his short sleeve polo with suit jacket and jeans didn’t quite go with her sheer green, blue, and purple, chiffon jumpsuit with flowing batwing sleeves. The matching scarf tied in her hair pulled her red hair back draping it behind her over her shoulders and down her back.

Entering the restaurant and walking to their table she had everyone’s attention.

“Tom, what do you do when you’re not at the desk of yours you keep talking about and you’re not singing at Karaoke bar? Can you tell I love saying ‘Tom’? I’m pretending you’re Thom Yorke, I hope you don’t mind. You sort of look like him, you know.”

“I’ve heard that. If I get to play the part of Thom Yorke on a date with the beautiful Lane Roberts then I’m a lucky man.”

“Yes, you are.”

“So, yeah, when I’m not working I’m looking forward to spending time with my girls, Elizabeth and Taylor. They’re amazing. I miss seeing them every day. It’s been tough but I’m making it.”

“God only gives you what you can handle, Tom,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Really,” he said, amused.

“Yeah, like, when I’m at a shoot, I’ll be all like, I can’t do this! I can’t do this! No lie. But, I can. You’re doing fine, Tom, but I have to ask, Am I your first date since the divorce?”

She asked like she was encouraging a little boy to tell the truth.

“Is it that obvious?”

“No. You’re awesome, Tom. I have been looking forward to this all week. You’re a really nice guy. My dad, when my parents divorced didn’t go out on a date for a couple years, I think. Not saying, you’re his age. He’s a lot older than you. How old are you?”

“Thirty-three,” he replied.

“Okay,” she laughed, “he’s forty-six and when my parents divorced they were both thirty-something, too. I think you’re doing better than my dad. He wasn’t ready at all to go on dates. His car was always a mess and it’s like he forgot how to dress and what to do on a date.”

“Marriage can do that to you,” Tom said.

“So what do you do with your free time? I keep talking, I’m sorry.”

“I run. I’ve done a lot of running. No races yet, just running at night. I almost ran this morning before work. It’s better here in Texas to run when it isn’t 108 degrees.”

“You going running after our date?” she asked.

“I just might.”

“Do you listen to music or anything when you run?”

“Sometimes. Mostly, I run and think. I come up with ideas for work. And I talk to my body.”

“I do that too, when I’m working and my legs or shoulders start to complain because we’ve been holding a pose for what seems like an hour. So, what do you say to your body?”

“Keep going. You can do it. Stuff like that. For example, my left knee complains before anything
else and I encourage it. Sometimes I tell it to quiet down and it stops hurting immediately. My stomach will complain and I’ll remind it that I’m not stopping so it might as well get used to it. Things like that. I talk to my upper quads too. They never complain until after a very long run, so during a good run I tell them how much appreciate what they are doing and how they never complain and I want them to know it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Lane bursts out with laughter getting looks from neighboring tables. They both notice the unhappy responses and it causes both of them to quietly laugh.

“Tom, that is so funny. I love that!”

“Why did you come over to me that night? Was it just to tell me about my clothes?”

“Your clothes?”

“Yeah, my clothes. You don’t remember.”

Lane shook her head, embarrassed.

“Tipsy,” she said.

“Maybe a little more than tipsy?”

She nodded again, more embarrassed.

“I came over to you because you’re my type,” she said.

“A guy?”

Lane laughed and slapped him in the arm.

“Of course. Am I your type, Tom?”

Tom looked at her, playing as if he was sizing her up.

“I’m not sure,” he said with a blank face.

The smile on her face faded and matched his blank stare.

“What is your type?” she asked.

Her nervousness made him smile.

“A woman who adores me,” he replied.

She slapped his arm again, laughing even louder.

“You are adorable, Tom!”

The rest of the evening Tom and Lane made each other laugh. Several times she reached over and touched his shoulder or his hand so he looked for opportunities to do the same.

Walking from the restaurant to Tom’s car Lane put her arms through his right arm.

“Thank you for dinner. I’m sorry about us missing the movie. I’ll take you out next time and we can go see whatever you want. If my flight wasn’t leaving at ten in the morning I’d say let’s go dancing or something. You understand, right?”

“Of course,” he said.

“I was afraid after I invited you to breakfast and then said yes to a date you would start texting and calling this week like we were a thing.”

“That sounded like a compliment,” Tom laughed.

“You know what I mean, right?” she asked.

“No, I understand. If I’m blessed beyond what I’ve already experienced, it’s icing. We don’t have to be a thing, Lane. If we become a thing, we become a thing, but I’ve loved, been loved, and lost love. If I die tonight I’ll die with an already full life.”

Tom opened the passenger door for her. She closed it shut and pulled him close and kissed him. In spite of her intoxicating perfume and feeling overwhelmed by her body pressing against him, Tom attempted to relax. While they kissed she measured his frame.

She pulled away from him as fast as she had started kissing him.

“Now I’m ready,” she smiled and motioned for him to open her door again.

On the way to her apartment he asked her about previous trips to New York and she told him about them and how lucky she felt seeing New York, Paris, and other cities in Europe, because of modeling.

Parking at the foot of her apartment building they walked up the stairs to her apartment.

At her apartment door Lane pulled him close again.

Tom’s heart was in his throat and she could tell.

Lane took his head and kissed him again.

“Relax, Tom,” she whispered.

He enjoyed the feeling of their noses touching and her tender kisses on his mouth.

They shared another long kiss.

Lane cleared her throat and looked into his eyes.

“So, this is going to be one of those trips where I’m literally working the entire time. If I don’t text you know why.”

“I’ll see you when you back,” he said.

She kissed him again and turned unlocking her door.

Tom leaned in as she turned back to him and he kissed her.

“Goodnight, Tom. I had a great time.”

She smiled as she shut the door.

On the drive back to his apartment Tom wondered if she wanted him to spend the night.

She would have invited you in if she wanted to.

She would have made up some reason for you to come in.

He shook his head as he pulled up to his apartment.

As he walked into the apartment and locked the door his phone chimed.

It was the picture of them in the restaurant subtitled, “Fun!!!”

TOM: Yup : ) Have fun in NYC!

LANE: Nite : )

TOM: Nite.

It was midnight and Tom was too awake.

He had to go for a run.

The first mile felt smooth and effortless but then he felt a pain growing in his left knee.

It’s okay, he told his knee. You’re going to be okay, relax. Relax, he said again. Breathe.

This was important, consistently breathing.

In a minute the pain subsided.

Tom felt like he was being pulled by a string as he glided down the quiet sidewalk along the dimly lit thoroughfare.

The miles flew by and he thought about nothing but his feet tapping the pavement until it was time to turn around at the halfway mark, four and a half miles from home.

Tom turned around and felt a breeze, briefly feeling chilly from his sweat.

He thought about the girl’s mother and missed her and wondered if he’d ever feel about Lane what he had once felt about her.

Possible, he said out loud.

Running was natural for Tom, like singing was, but running always made him feel stronger and at the same time draining.

A good run took Tom a couple days to fully recover from.

He thought about this concept from time to time when he ran.

This evening was one of those nights.

Running reminded him of Marianne.

She made him feel stronger too and at the same time she drained him.

Sometimes when he was with her he had to tell himself to breathe.

When they dated she kept him up all night, from talking, not anything else.

They waited for that until they were married. Her beliefs were stronger than both of their desires. He found that out early on and respected it. Again, she made him stronger.

But she kept him up, talking on the phone for hours at a time, early into the morning and sometime right up to the time of his first class in the last couple semesters at North Texas.

Then when they were married and he started his first job she kept him up all night in other ways.

Every year of their marriage she made him stronger and he loved her drive and how she pushed him to be better. They only took three day weekend vacations where he literally recovered and she encouraged him to do more in his work and the company, to strive for the next promotion or position.

She was like running, he worked so hard to become stronger for her, convincing himself that the pain was worth it, that he would thank himself later.

It was that way until her father died of cancer.

When Marianne’s father died, Tom slowed down what he was doing to be with her more, and to be there with Tay and the Ballerina.

When he started coming home early and not working every weekend she became edgy and cranky as if he was doing something wrong.

She never saw her dad because he was a workaholic and she turned out okay, she said.

Tom didn’t see a choice. He knew she was hurting and decided that being with her and the family was more important than the next promotion or raise.

He took off work that next summer for two full weeks and drove the family to Colorado and the Grand Canyon.

They introduced Tay and the Ballerina to ‘I spy’ that trip.

This change she saw in Tom, she interpreted as some kind of weakness or a nervous breakdown.

She started seeing Tom in a different way.

Even though he still loved her, he wasn’t sure she loved him.

She slept with Tom less and less and stopped saying encouraging things and dwelt on how he was no longer a high achiever.

He told her time and time again that she and the girls was his greatest achievement and at first she had little or no response but then she started telling him that unless he got his act together that he would lose them; unless he started aiming higher eventually anything he did would just be for him.

It was during that time he suspected she wasn’t faithful to him anymore.

It was inconceivable that she would do it but that was because Tom always saw people the way he saw himself.

 

Saturday morning, Tom woke up early, full of energy.

He had a bowl of cereal and then cleaned every inch of the apartment in less than two hours. After that, it was time to pick up Tay and the Ballerina.

They would go to the science museum that morning, have lunch a few minutes from the library, spend a few hours at the library, then come back to the apartment.

They would play at the park close to his apartment or stay inside making a fort or playing princess marries the prince. That was the plan he thought of as he drove to pick them up.

The girls settled in the backseat and Tom asked them what they wanted to do.

He’d listen to their response and if it wasn’t too outlandish they would do it.

If they didn’t care, they would go with his plan.

“Go to Papa’s grave,” the Ballerina responded.

“No, B, that’s too far.”

“Dad, it isn’t too far. Mommy took us last weekend.”

“Then why do you want to go again?” he said, already thinking about the route he would need to take as he approached the coming intersection.

“Just want to,” the Ballerina said.

“And they have pretty purple flowers,” Tay blurted out.

Tom looked at the Ballerina in his rearview mirror.

“It was her idea, Dad. She really wants to pick some of those flowers,” she said admittedly.

“Okay,” Tom said, turning right so he could turn around to go back the other way.

Their mother’s father was buried an hour and a half north of the girl’s house, in the middle of nowhere, at a cemetery outside an abandoned church on the outskirts of a one-street ghost town, about ten miles from the closest inhabited town.

The whole trip to the cemetery they played ‘I spy’.

Two or three times Tay spied something blue and the Ballerina guessed the sky immediately and it made Tay angry.

The Ballerina spied everything inside the car, the seats, the ashtray between the front and backseat, the green and white University of North Texas umbrella laying in the rear window, her yellow and pink sundress, Daddy’s red Texas Ranger’s hat.

Daddy looked in the rearview mirror and spied the girl’s brown eyes, Taylor’s first, and then Elizabeth’s on his next turn.

He saw their mother when he looked at just their eyes, and Tay had her mother’s eyesight. Daddy spied Taylor’s glasses next and then the pink barrettes in the Ballerina’s hair after that.

Arriving at the cemetery, Tom pulled his car right up to the gravesite since there was no fence around the church or the graveyard.

The girls jumped out and Tay ran straight past several graves to a patch of purple flowers and began to picking them.

A perfect patch of clouds covered them from an otherwise bright and hot sunny day.

“Watch out for bees, Tay,” Tom called to her, knowing she probably hadn’t listened.

“Einstein said we would die if all the bees died. Is that true, Dad?”

“How do you know about Einstein, B?”

“Uh, school, Dad. Why do you call me Bee?”

“Not, Bee, the letter B, Ballerina.”

“Oh. Is it true though? Elton said that the bees are disappearing and then we’ll die after that.”

“It’s just a theory, B.”

“What’s a theory?”

“It’s a guess.”

“A guess? Einstein guessed? I thought he was smart. Are you sure?”

“An educated guess. B, we’re not going to die, and I don’t think the bees are disappearing. Go over where Tay is and you’ll see. Trust me.”

“Okay.”

They stood at the grave they came to see and Tom called Tay to join them.

She ran over to them, clutching the picked flowers in her hand, and then placed them on the ground next to the headstone.

Tom looked up at the clouds which had darkened and he felt a few drops of rain on his face.

“What’s a Vet…er…an?” the Ballerina asked, reading the headstone.

“Veteran.”

“Oh, from the war he was in,” she said, needing no further explanation.

“When will we die, Dad? When we’re old?” Tay asked.

“Yes, hopefully, when it’s time for us to go.”

“I’m going when I’m old,” Tay said.

Tom felt sprinkles of rain from above.

“Can we play in the rain, Dad, if it rains?” the Ballerina asked.

Tom looked up again at the clouds and then thought about them wet inside his car.

“You might get your dresses muddy, B.”

She shook her head.

“We can wash them.”

“I guess we can play in the rain, if it rains.”

Rain began to pour down on them and Tay and the Ballerina were ecstatic.

They ran around the field of flowers, their dresses getting soaked, opening their mouths to the sky.

One at a time, upon request, he twirled them around in the air by their arms, the thing Marianne had warned him to be careful doing because her arm got pulled out of its socket by an uncle when she was young doing that.

Tom did it until he was too dizzy to do it anymore.

The girls enjoyed jumping in puddles that had formed.

After about ten minutes it stopped raining.

The sun came out quickly from behind the dissipating clouds and Tom thought they might dry if they played some more and it didn’t rain again so he told them to run around a little more and then they would go. They found a tree they wanted him to help them climb and then when he thought they were dry he said it was time to go.

They complained about leaving and then finally crawled into the backseat. He knew they were all still wet but it didn’t matter.

In less than five minutes they were back on the highway driving south and the girls began to complain about being hungry, which he knew would happen.

Tom began driving faster so he could get back to civilization before they drove him crazy from starvation.

He had them start another round of ‘I spy’ to get their minds off their growling bellies.

It started raining again.

“I’ll start. I spy something green,” he said.

“The grass!” Tay shouted.

“No.”

“The trees!” the Ballerina screamed.

“That’s it. Your turn, B.”

“I spy something brown.”

“A deer!”

“No,” Ballerina yelled.

“No, a deer. Look Dad, a deer,” Tay shouted.

At that moment, Tom looked to his left where he believed Tay must have been looking and he saw something move very close to the car, a blur, and he reacted to it, attempting to miss it, turning the steering wheel away from it.

A roaring flash and a thunderous crunching immediately followed by the high-pitched sound of glass shattering and wheels screeching, mixed with Tay or the Ballerina’s terrible screams, all echoed in Tom’s ears, and then suddenly there was no sound at all as he fought with the steering wheel.

The spinning car bounced off the highway and rolled on its side down a ravine.

Somewhere halfway down the ravine Tom lost consciousness.

Mangled metal and glass in thick trees, the car looked like it had found a quiet home for the next few decades as it lay still with steam slowly rising from the rain falling on a hot engine.

 

Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Tom was running, or floating.

No.

Where was he?

Breathe.

It’s okay, he told his knee.

You’re fine, he told his chest.

He was running until he realized he wasn’t.

Breathe.

He woke up and felt the pain in his right knee and his chest.

He remained still until his hearing came back to him.

It was like hearing with cotton balls in his ears, the rain tapping on the driver’s side window, and the Ballerina.

“Dad?”

Tom turned and saw his daughters strapped in their seatbelts, hanging sideways.

“I’m okay, Dad,” the Ballerina said, “but I can’t wake up Tay and I can’t get out of this.”

She struggled to unbuckle.

“No, B. Let me do it. You’re going to fall if you do.”

He started to move but a searing pain flashed up the entire right side of his body when he pushed up on his right leg.

He looked down and nearly passed out seeing the dark red wetness.

He thought of Tay and forgot what he saw.

He unbuckled and steadied himself in the car, his left leg standing on the passenger side window. He then crawled over the right front passenger seat to Tay and held her.

He could feel her breathing.

“She’s okay, B. She’s sleeping. She’s okay.”

Tom reached up and felt the Ballerina, checking for blood.

“Where do you hurt, B?”

“I don’t hurt,” she said looking at her body and showing him that everything worked.

He examined her body, looking at and feeling every part of it, and saw no blood, not a single scratch.

He looked at Taylor’s body.

He thought he had already felt a cold wetness on her but couldn’t tell if the blood on his hands was from his body or hers.

He wiped his hands on his shirt but they became more bloody so he wiped them on the other side of his body, where it wasn’t wet with blood.

In seconds he found where she was bleeding and knew he had to get her laying down in a way that he could apply pressure and slow it down.

She felt cold.

As he tried getting her unbuckled he thought about what to do next.

He could carry Tay to the highway, maybe someone would be coming by and he could stop them. He would have to leave B. She would be okay until someone came back for her.

But how far could you carry her and keep her from bleeding like she is?

How long had they been there, at the bottom of this ravine?

Taylor’s body was feeling cold.

He could leave them both and he could instruct B how to keep pressure on Tay’s wound.

He thought about his phone and felt it in his pocket.

As Tom pulled his phone out of his jeans he felt a sudden lightheadedness and shook it off.

The phone was working but there was no signal.

He decided he would leave them and run to find someone on the highway and they could call or drive to a landline.

He agonized over leaving them.

Tom decided maybe he needed more time to think and until his thinking was clear he would hold Tay’s body against him.

He unbuckled B and then found a way to get Tay loose as he collapsed with her in his arms.

Tom lay there holding Tay close against him to apply pressure to her wound and he pulled B close to him too.

He would think about what to do and play ‘I spy’ with B to keep her mind off things.

“I spy something grey,” he said.

He heard what she said and responded, only thinking about the choice, to either stay there until help comes, which may be never, or run for help and give Tay a chance.

He could carry her up and try to keep pressure but then he couldn’t run.

He would have to walk, and then how far could he walk, trying to carry her.

He had to run.

But he stayed still, holding Tay close.

He wasn’t ready to let go.

“Something yellow?” he asked.

“Uh huh,” the Ballerina replied.

Tom saw the sun shining down through the tree limbs and refracting through the glass hanging down from the left rear window above them.

“The sun,” Tom whispered.

He wasn’t sure if she heard him.

He didn’t hear a response from her so he leaned over to look at her face.

She looked up at him and smiled.

That was all he needed, to see the Ballerina’s smile.

He told himself to breathe and he knew he was ready to leave them.

He would run for help and the Ballerina could keep applying pressure on Tay’s wound.

No decision left to make.

He was going to leave and it would be okay.

Tom had B take off her dress and he showed her how and where she needed to press it against the wound on Tay’s left side.

“As hard as you can, B! Keep the blood in her body!”

She nodded and smiled, cradling her little sister, pressing the dress against the blood.

Tom crawled out of the car and looked back at it only for a moment before climbing to the top of the ravine.

Standing for a moment at the edge of the highway he looked down both ways of the highway and it went as far as he could see either way.

He turned to the right and ran.

Tay was going to be alright, he told himself over and over.

And so is B.

He ran smoothly, not thinking about breathing, not talking to his body like he always had.

He knew he was badly injured in multiple places but there was no time to assess, no time to worry about pain.

He just ran.

With determination, pulled by love and pushed by a will to save his daughter he ran effortlessly strong and straight, the sun high above him.

He knew he should be thirsty but he didn’t feel it.

It was the shock of everything.

He was doing this whole thing on adrenaline, he told himself.

With a cut like that on your knee and the bleeding on your side, you’re doing this all on adrenaline.

No time to stop and assess.

Find a house, something.

Someone will be driving down this highway any minute and they’ll stop, you’ll stop them.

Tom thought about how far he had run.

Three miles, maybe four?

Maybe it had been twenty minutes.

Sub-seven miles?

That was probably about right, in his condition, he thought.

Marianne’s going to kill me if Taylor dies, he thought.

That made him laugh.

He laughed as he ran and wondered how strange it would look if someone pulled up beside him and saw him in his state, laughing.

How could anyone laugh during a moment like this?

The shock, he told himself.

You’re in shock.

That’s the only way you’re running like this.

At that moment Tom heard something behind him and he turned to see a police officer.

It shocked him because he didn’t see a patrol car, just the officer.

“Slow down,” the officer said with a calm and steady voice, taking Tom’s arm.

“Oh my God, thank you!” Tom said.

“My daughters are in my car. We crashed down the side of the highway, a few miles back, hit a deer or something.”

The officer responded back with the same steady voice. “Okay, let’s go see.”

Tom spotted the officer’s patrol car.

“We need an ambulance! My youngest daughter is in serious condition.”

“Okay,” the officer said quietly, nodding reassuringly.

“Let’s go over there to see, okay?” the officer said.

It seemed like just the very next moment and Tom was standing at the top of the ravine on the side of the highway where they had crashed.

“They’re okay?” Tom asked, looking back up from the dried out and rusted wreckage.

The officer shook his head, yes.

The next moment Tom saw the Ballerina dancing in a large theater with hundreds of people.

It was Christmas time and it was a performance of the Nutcracker.

Tom then saw Tay standing on the top of a three tiered platform, accepting a gold medal.

In a flash, he saw them graduate, both Tay and the Ballerina, from high school, then college.

He then saw each of them marry their princes.

And the princesses had babies.

And Tom saw their graduations.

He looked at his body as if he was outside of it.

It was a body but it wasn’t the same body. And it was indescribable.

There were certainly no cuts or bruises or gaping wounds from the wreck.

He realized that was years and years ago by now.

Tom turned and looked at the officer and his body too was different.

He was still the officer but he had also changed and it was more like Tom’s eyes had adjusted to see the officer for who he really was.

He wasn’t an officer.

He could see clearly now it was the girls’ mother, Marianne.

“Let’s talk,” she said holding his hand, leading him to sit down on what seemed like a bench in a lush park, similar to the one next to his apartment, but much nicer and bigger.

They talked like they once had when they were alive, like when he was in college, when they used to talk on the phone for hours late at night.

They talked for what seemed like years about everything that happened after he died.

Then she told him about her death, which to her seemed like a dream that brought her to him where he was, standing there on the side of the highway above the accident.

As they talked he saw someone far off coming toward them.

It was Tay.

Then he saw the Ballerina, a distance behind her, getting closer.

 

 

 

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