Mary Lancaster saw Jim Herman standing on the front porch of his house. He had a bag of groceries in his arms and she knew that he must have just returned from Wharton’s Market since the bag had a bright green W stamped on the front. She could also see that he still had the one crutch he had been using for walking since his recent car accident, the one that had split their town right down the middle. The Pro-Jim side thought that the fact that his car slid on the ice shifted the guilt away from Jim since everyone understood the dangers of black ice and how it sent even the most careful driver into an uncontrollable spin. The Anti-Jim side argued that whether there was ice or not, Jim had been driving too fast in a residential neighborhood and that nine-year-old Amanda, who’d been waiting to cross the street, would not be in the hospital in a coma right now if he’d just exercised some well-needed caution.
Mary, Amanda’s mother, was most certainly in the latter group and was trying to decide how to deal with the man who had once been not only one of her closest friends but also the object of her affection right after her divorce from Amanda’s father, four years before. In fact, it had only been a couple of years since they had broken up, which added a whole other level of conflicted feelings to a situation that was laced with heartbreak, angst, and abject fury. All Mary could do at the moment was to stare at Jim from the safety of her car and force herself not to march up and start screaming at him about his recklessness. But Mary needed to get back to the hospital to check on Amanda and she knew that no amount of screaming was going to do one thing to make her daughter better. That was up to the skill of the doctors and the severity of the head injury her little girl had suffered. So, she watched as Jim fumbled with his front door key, finally managed to get the door open, then headed inside. Once his porch light went off, Mary started her car and drove ever-so-slowly in the direction of St. Margaret’s Memorial Hospital.
Jim Herman saw Mary’s car parked a short distance from his house while he was fumbling with his house key. He even saw Mary’s anguished face illuminated by the street lamp. His hands shook as he tried to fit the key into the lock and his eyes blurred with tears. How could he ever face Mary again after what had happened? Her poor little girl, knocked flat by his spinning car, her little body crumpled on the icy street. The panic that seized him when he realized he had hit a child, any child, then the horror that descended when he recognized little Amanda’s face, her bright pink cheeks contrasting sharply with her face’s sudden pallor.
He wished that Mary had come up and yelled at him, accused him of being the child murderer that he might surely be, just so that he could at least feel some certainty in this vague, “we can only see what happens” time. But he knew Mary very well – had loved her and maybe loved her still – and she was not one to help salve a person’s conscience by ladling heaps of accusation or guilt. No, she was a practical woman who even in anger could control her emotions and do the sensible thing. A quality that Jim greatly admired but one that had been at least partially responsible for the demise of their relationship. He had felt that he needed a woman who could yell at him when he was wrong; a woman who would never temper her reaction but rather display her temper when he deserved it. But he also knew that was not Mary’s way and also that this situation was not her fault. He had been driving slightly faster than he should have been – not much – but just enough to make hitting that ice patch all the worse. He deserved all the venom the anti-Jim people were hurling his way. He should have known better. He deserved their (and Mary’s) disdain.
Amanda Lancaster still lay unconscious in the hospital when Mary opened the door to her room. Mary leaned over and kissed her daughter’s cheek and then picked up her hand and began stroking it. “Aw, darling, if you could have seen the look of pain on Jim’s face tonight when I saw him on his front porch. His heart is broken that he hurt you.” Mary sat for two hours with her daughter then stood up to go. When she turned, there stood Jim in the doorway. His hat in his hand. Mary waved him over. “Tell her, Jim. She needs to hear it directly from you.” Jim whispered, “Amanda, honey, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I would never, ever do anything intentionally to hurt you.”
Jim and Mary stood together for a long time and watched the little girl breathe. Just as they were preparing to leave, Amanda opened her eyes. “Mama?” A look of joy passed between Jim and Mary. Later, as they were leaving the hospital, Jim said, “Can I call you sometime?” Mary laughed. “Call me? How about you put both arms around me right now and hold me?” Jim pulled her close. He no longer needed Mary to be any other way than exactly how she was. He appreciated that she was the best woman he’d ever met and that somehow this terrible situation had re-opened the path to each other’s hearts.
As for little Amanda, she lived a happy and healthy life in which she watched her mother and stepfather love each other – and her – every day until the very end of both Mary and Jim’s lives.
2 Comments Add yours
Gorgeous writing and story, Len. We need happy endings in our lives today. This story soothes that part of my heart that aches for happier endings. May this touch those who might be struggling with their relationship to take a closer look. Shalom!
Aw, Mary Jo, thank you. I wasn’t sure it worked.