To Love and To Fall

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NINETEEN

Day passes into night into day again. This time I wake up ready to haul Arbuckle’s ass. I have been sober for the last twenty-four hours. I am geared up and fired. The clock reads eleven-ten. I wear my best Gap clothes and drink strong coffee that I take black because the milk is bad. I am prepped.

The doorbell rings just as I drink the last of my caffeine. I freeze, wondering who it is. I peek through the shade and see the letter carrier looking for my signature. I tell him as I sign for the letter that I hope I won the lottery. He gives me an obliging smile, thinking I have told a joke. I am not joking. I need all the luck that I can get.

But it isn’t from the lottery. It is from the university, postdated the day after the accident, September 23. Maybe the board has finally approved my dissertation work. If they have, this is my weapon against Arbuckle. I can’t wait to take him down—

I am cold as I read the letter. The board has not approved my dissertation. In fact, they do not even approve of me. I have been suspended for four months, at which time I have to go back to the board to see if I am to be reapproved. The bastards. I was nearly a perfect student. But I tainted their virginal image. They didn’t want drunks in their program involved in fatal car crashes. What the hell would the neighbors think. Not in my back yard. To them, I was nothing but white trash, like my father. All the work I had put into making a better life for myself and it was gone.

I thought of the crash. A thirty year old mother, a seven year old, gone. A man driving with his family having it vanish in one second. And Carla. I remember the warmth of her body; she is cold now. I should have been sitting in the seat where she was. I should have died, not Carla. I cry, barely ashamed at my tears, jealous of her, because she is somewhere that I would rather be. Even cold in the ground would be better than the existence I was living now. God in His Asshole wisdom had given me His own prison sentence—I was still alive.

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