THE SECOND MILAGRO

 

What you do today is important! You trade one day of your life for it!

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PROLOGUE


Gray skies, gray concrete, gray metal hood of a borrowed car. The world has lost all its color. Another day in May might promise light and rainbows again. This day only darkness is on the horizon. It surrounds me. No, it fills me. My heart is already black.
Doors slam and the sounds of people and carts coming and going to the shopping center assault the quiet of the car. I am not distracted by them, but keep my eyes on the rise of the highway in the distance.
His car, our car, is white. As I watch the flow of traffic, I realize how many cars are white. Today they all look dirty.
It feels like hours, but I’ve only been here for fifteen minutes. I am marking every one as it ticks away. It is important for me to be here before he arrives. Surprise, my intention.
Several white cars turn off the highway, but they all take spaces near the building. Everyone’s saving steps and time. I parked as far away as I could without sitting alone, too conspicuous.
I fumble with the paper in my hand. A short list. The lawyer was very specific as to what my demands should be. Of course, he also told me not to come here. The last thing he said this morning was NOT to go where they were meeting. I didn’t even consider his words. Without thought or plan, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove the twenty miles from home to the place where I would be, not her. Too late for argument, forgiveness, or attacks. We had already been there, too many times. Nothing left now, but this.
His call came about four o’clock, as soon as work was done. “I’m going to see a friend in the hospital. I’ll be home for dinner,” he said. The lie flying off his tongue like sand in the wind.
Her call came fifteen minutes later. “He’s meeting me at Howard’s in the shopping center parking lot at five.”
Silence vibrated the line. What do you say to someone who has just betrayed the betrayer? "Thanks. This is very kind of you. I couldn’t have done it without you." I don’t think I said anything, but then I’m not sure. The last hour is all muddy.
A familiar white car cuts through my thoughts and vision. He stops near the end of the lot. How obvious. No one would park there who was planning to go into the store. Doesn’t he realize this? I have the wifely urge to instruct him in the error of his plan.
Nerves tight, silent screams bloat me like a balloon. A slight prick and I will explode. My thoughts, my plan does not waver, but doubts flash like neon signs in my brain. I know I can hear the kids saying “Daddy.” Tears filling my eyes dry like water drops on a hot iron. I will not cry.
My hand on the door handle, I force myself to stay. Can’t let him claim later that he was really going to the store, or he was checking something about the car. He’s good at excuses. I know them like old friends.
I wait and watch. He rolls down the window and lights a cigar. Leaning his head slightly, he blows smoke into the gray day. He says he doesn’t smoke in the car because of the kids. The smell always confirms the lie.
The wind blows his black hair down on his forehead. I can feel my fingers pushing through those wayward strands. My hand clenches.
He drops the visor and checks himself in the mirror.
Minutes go by. He glances over his shoulder, looks at his watch, leans toward the radio. I can hear, maybe in my mind, the music from his favorite station.
He throws some papers that have been in the front seat for days into the back. Getting ready. Cleaning up the car. For her.
My hand has grown numb from clenching the door handle. It takes the effort of my whole arm to raise it. I pull the key from the ignition and slide it into my pocket. That’s all I need. The key and the paper from the lawyer’s office.
My feet settle onto the asphalt. The crane of determination lifts my thin body.
The borrowed car is old, long and heavy. Easing the door closed, my hand acts like a spring, slamming metal against metal. My eyes do not leave our car or the dark-eyed, handsome man at the wheel.
His head jerks upward.
My legs stiffen stilt-like as I walk slowly across the pavement. Adrenaline kicks the ticking of my heartbeat like a second hand.
He’s saying something. I see his mouth move, but cannot make out the words. His eyes darken. He glances toward the passenger door. Looking for help? Looking for her?
He reads my face.
He knows.