The rain was falling hard and visibility was low. Rick was on a two lane road headed down route 1. Dinner was on the table already, and he had stayed late for work again.
“She’s gonna kill me. I have to get home; I have to get home…” Rick thought to himself. “I haven’t seen the kids for more than breakfast or bedtime lately… I’m gonna do my Turbo Man impression and make them laugh.”
A car was parked in the break down lane with its flashers on up ahead. Rick continued forward. A car to his left sped up and blocked the left lane. He had to stay where he was. “I’ve got to get home,” Rick thought to himself. He was approaching the car. Closer, closer, closer. Rick tapped the breaks to slow down. His car skidded forward and swung into the break-down lane. WHACK!!!. Rick’s body slammed forward and the seat belt caught him. His head slung towards the wheel and slammed back against the head rest. Simultaneously, the car in front of him was driven forward off the road. Stunned, Rick slowly got out of his car. The rain was cold and every drop hurt.
“HHHEELLLLPPPP,” a woman yelled. Her husband was trapped underneath the car with a jack in his hand. Rick ran over slowly as he was still dazed. He had difficulty placing his feet where they needed to go. Everything was in slow motion. “What the hell were you doing?!?!” she asked.
“Gimme the jack,” Rick said. “Gimme the jack.” The car was propped up as quickly as possible. The man’s wife pulled him out. He died in her arms on the roadside.
“All Rise.” the judge announced. Rick was standing in his best suit and couldn’t stop tapping his foot. It was loud but he tried to be quiet. His heart was electrified and he was short on breath. His wife looked on and the kids were with their grandma and grandpa.
“In the hearing of Rick Smith, regarding the Route 1 collision, will hear the jury’s verdict,” the judge stated.
“Yes, your honor. After careful deliberation, the jury has unanimously decided that Rick Smith is …” Rick didn’t hear the verdict initially. His guilt alone made him feel the responsibility of Atlas. “Not guilty on all accounts of man slaughter.” His mind finally processed the words and he nearly collapsed in relief. The stress in his body immediately was let out like a balloon being freed. The man’s wife was glaring at him. Rick had nothing to say.
Two months later, Rick was at the bar alone. His wife had divorced him, and she was taking the kids across the country. He’d probably only see them once a year. A woman sat next to him. She had black hair and sharp eyes and she was about five years younger than he was.
“We need to talk,” she said in a tremulous voice.
“Who are you?” Rick asked.
“You don’t remember me?” she replied. “I’m the woman from the roadside.”
Rick’s heart was in his throat, and he felt cemented to his seat. He wanted to leave but he couldn’t. “What would you like to talk about?” he asked.
“The accident. Were you speeding that night?”
“I was going below the limit.”
“Where were you going?” she asked quickly.
“I was trying to get home to see my wife and kids.”
“Does your wife love you?” she asked.
“No,” he replied. She was taken aback. He took a shot of whiskey and put a hand up for another. Rick was wearing a five o’clock shadow, and his clothes were ragged. It was raining again.
“I wanted to get home to see my kids. I don’t get to see them much with work.”
“So, you’re getting divorced?” she asked.
“You’re sick,” he replied.
“How am I the sick one?” she asked.
“What’s the purpose of this conversation?” Rick asked. She sat down and ordered a drink. Her hand was trembling next to the guy who she blamed for killing her husband.
“I loved my husband more than anything,” she said. A pang of guilt hit Rick’s heart.
“For what it’s worth, I’m losing my family too. They’re going across the country,” Rick said. His hand was shaking, and he held it against the counter to stop it. The woman also ordered a shot to Rick’s surprise. He hadn’t been planning to stay much longer. “I never got the chance to say how sorry I am.” Rick said. “I couldn’t help what happened. I was going below the limit.”
“You were going too fast,” she retorted.
“What do you want from me?” Rick asked. “I can’t bring him back. The car hydro-planed…”
“What am I supposed to do without him?” she asked. Her head was in her hands.
“I can’t change the past… I’m sorry.” Rick said with tears in his eyes. He closed them hard and his face was contorted in pain.
“I WANT MY HUSBAND BACK!!!” she yelled. The few people who were in the bar were watching them. After a few seconds they went back to what they were doing. Plates clanked and small talk continued.
“I’m never going to see him again,” she said.
“If I could change the accident and my life and all the stuff and the accident and–” Rick stopped dead in his tracks. His words left him. He put his head down. He did everything he could not to burst out crying.
A moment of silence passed. The woman had tears in her eyes. “Stand up,” she said quietly.
Rick listened, uncertain of his future. He could barely see out of his watery eyes and had trouble standing. The black-haired woman leaned close to his ear. “I hope you rot in hell,” she whispered.
He gulped and searched her eyes. They were dark and cold.