Samantha tried to maneuver through the morning drop-off line. On sunny days, Samantha walked her children, Sydney and Ryan, to the crossing guard and let them walk the rest of the way on their own. When the weather involved any unpleasantness-too cold, too hot, and definitely rain-she, like the many other pampering parents, drove the short distance and let them off under the covered entrance, protecting them from the elements. In the background, she heard her children begin to bicker for the third time that morning. 

“Kids, seriously, it isn’t even eight o’clock yet. Could you give it a rest?” she begged.

“But Mom, all I said was that he couldn’t read a historical fiction if it’s supposed to be a nonfiction, and he swung his lunchbox at me,” Sydney whined.

“You don’t always have to try to be the boss of me!” Ryan retorted. Samantha knew he was growing increasingly weary of Sydney’s constant corrections.

“Sydney, why don’t you let me handle Ryan’s reading requirements and you…” 

Samantha saw the seething looks pass between them as they both crossed their arms and turned to stare out their windows. She let out a sigh and turned the radio up to calm the atmosphere and, for a moment, let her mind drift toward what she needed to accomplish.

Is that what her mother felt like the countless times Samantha had fought with her sister? God, she still loved Haley despite what her sister might believe. Samantha remembered the envy that began to suffocate her every time she watched Haley playing the piano effortlessly. Samantha was only the “cute” one, while Haley, held the talent and brains.

Report-card day proved it over and over again. The quiet conversations she had overheard between her parents embedded in her memory.  Her parents’ pitiful attempts to praise her for her honor accomplishments did nothing but demean her even more. They demonstrated just a bit too much forced pride and probably never realized how much their praises hurt.

Samantha’s blond hair was the first thing people commented on when they met her. The second was her blue eyes that her mom said she’d inherited from her maternal great-grandmother, a gene that somehow skipped both her mother and her sister. Haley had medium brown hair, that some might call mousy, and brown eyes, the kind of brown that was so everyday that if someone asked what color they were when they weren’t standing next to her, they would have to think about it. They were that unnoticeable. Yet, Samantha could remember pictures by their pool of the two of them, arms wrapped around each other, their wet hair slicked back and sunglasses covering their eyes. They were undeniably sisters, so similar and different at the same time.

Samantha understood Ryan now, always trying to prove himself, to prove he was smart enough and good enough beneath the shadow of Sydney’s large personality. Samantha had learned through time win over her sister. Unfortunately, this also meant she would lose her sister’s friendship. Maybe their last competition had taken them too far to ever hope for recovery. She glanced toward the backseat at her children-piece of herself she gained by giving up so much. In the end, she had won-although, one never truly knows when it is the end until the cover closes, smothering future possibilities. 

The memories still stung the child inside of her, and she pushed them to the side settling instead on adult matters that did not involve solving the petty problems of the youth, yesterday’s or today’s. For the next six hours, she could be lost in her thoughts, accomplish things that would not be immediately undone, and enjoy blissful quiet. Some days, she desperately needed those six hours to prepare for the next round of homework, fights, and drama. 

She slid into the row of cars letting the children out as the song whispered its final notes. Routinely, the masculine radio voice began going through the morning’s traffic problems. Since Samantha’s daily business kept her close to her neighborhood, she didn’t need to know, so tuned it out as she said her goodbyes.

Ryan popped his head between the seats. “Bye, Mommy.” As always, he made sure he kissed his mother before leaving the car.

“Bye, baby. Have a great day. I love you.”

No one heard the radio sounds which mingled with their goodbyes. “Broad Street at Pemberton is closed due to an accident with a fatality…” The radio sounds mingled with their goodbyes. “The eastbound lanes will be closed for rush hour. You’ll need to find an alternate route if you are traveling in that direction.”

Ryan shimmied to the door with his overloaded backpack weighing him down while Sydney gave an irritated wave from the sidewalk. 

“Bye, Sydney. I love you.” 

No response, as usual. Samantha was quickly learning that motherhood took thick skin, and she suspected the older they became, the thicker her skin would need to be for survival. 

As the door shut behind them, she watched them both avoid each other as they entered the school. Maybe Ryan shared her personality, feisty and determined fueled by a bit of envy, but she understood Sydney as well, just as she understood Haley, to a degree. Both of them had begun their lives feeling just a bit superior, looking down at the ones who just didn’t get it quite the same. Haley, maybe with good intention, became the mothering type, trying to help Samantha feel better and smarter than she was while unknowingly making her feel smaller with every intervention. 

Sydney was just annoyed with Ryan’s occasional incompetence and had not yet practiced any form of patient mothering. Samantha just hoped that one day her children would figure out how to be friends before they realized the hard way that it was not a guarantee. 

She carefully inched forward, switching the channel to a song that would allow her to get lost in another world. I’m Giving Up On You filled her pearly white Lexus SUV making her quite sure that someone somewhere existed for her to give up on, but she had no clue who it could be. 

Samantha pulled into the driveway. The silence chased out the last of the mystical melody. She stared at the front of the house knowing within it were the remnants of her family’s morning. Strewn across their home would be the oatmeal already solidifying on the bowl, the towel left hanging on the bedpost, the brush drawer frustratingly left open by one of them. The familiarity was both comforting and somehow so monotonous it hurt. 

She sighed and stepped out of her SUV her husband had bought after she had experienced a mild midlife panic attack. She had adamantly declared the minivan to be sucking the last bits of youth out of her, leaving her a claustrophobic mess, suffocating in the mundaneness of life. 

Turning thirty-eight had brought with it sudden anxiety attacks as she watched forty dangerously approaching at a rapid speed. She had overcome the last premature crisis in slightly over a week, but apparently Jacob had heard her loud and clear. Only a minute amount of guilt remained to riddle her consciousness that slipped away every time she melted into the driver’s seat. 

Once inside, Samantha searched her playlist until she settled on a station playing Zac Brown, allowing his words to make her feel like vacation was only a chore away. As she dumped the last of her coffee down the drain-three cups would be plenty for the day, she smiled at finding one last spot in the dishwasher, the phone rang. The caller ID listed the police department. Just the day before the police had sent out an Amber Alert, so she expected to hear a recorded voice after her hello. It was not the recording.

“May I speak with Mrs. Truax?” It was a man’s voice on the other end, curt and seemingly ready to get to the point.

“This is Mrs. Truax.” Immediately, she felt the weight of things to come.

“This is the Henrico County Sheriff’s Department. There’s been an accident.”

Silence followed as the officer allowed her time to prepare for the meteor to hit its second target.

“Is Jacob all right?” her mouth uttered before her brain could even register what the officer had said.

“Your husband is at Henrico Doctor’s hospital with non-life threatening injuries, broken ribs and a concussion, is what we are being told. They expect him to regain consciousness shortly,” the officer said flatly.

“Oh, thank God! Thank you for telling me. I’m heading down to see him immediately. Thank you again.” Samantha foolishly thought the worst they were going to face were bandages and a good deal of time healing before continuing on with their lives.

“I’m afraid there is more to the accident than Jacob’s injuries, Mrs. Truax.”

“Was someone else hurt? Oh my goodness, was the other driver injured?” Samantha asked, and she really did care. She truly did, but she was still feeling the burst of relief that her husband was going to be fine, a relief so strong that it would not let someone else’s pain destroy her moment.

“We believe your husband hit a woman while she was crossing Broad Street and then fled the scene. It appears he was T-boned at the next intersection after speeding away from the incident.”

“Jacob? No, you have it wrong. Jacob would never do that.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Truax, but there are witnesses that saw the accident and saw him texting behind the wheel right before the incident occurred.”

“No, there has to be another explanation. Jacob would…”

“Mrs. Truax, that’s the information we have at this time.” Conversation over or at least her part in the conversation. 

The last statements were a blur of mumbled nothingness and then the phone was silent. Charges would be filed. The future she had envisioned for so long faded away leaving only an unknown darkness.