This is another excerpt from my novella Cut to the Chase. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!
The ringing phone woke me from a sound sleep. I was disoriented, having just returned home after ten days in Europe; my body was still on London time. I had two weeks stateside then I would be headed to Tokyo for three weeks.
It was my little sister, Janay. She never called. Like my parents, Janay didn’t understand me. We had nothing in common. Separated by nine years, my sister was unwed, with two children. She’d barely finished high school before announcing she was pregnant. The father was some deadbeat married man from our hometown Janay was head-over-heals in love with. He was in love with her too. His love lasted long enough to produce two children, but was not strong enough to make him leave his wife. So my parents took care of Janay and her two little girls, Alexis and Alison.
I sat up immediately and fumbled for the switch on my bedside lamp. “Janay?”
I heard her sniffle. “You need to come home.” I could hear the tears in her voice. I was transformed to our days sitting in my bedroom in Mabrary Springs.
“What’s wrong, Nay?” I used my pet name for her as I threw the covers off and headed toward my walk-in closet, grabbing my overnight bag. I didn’t have any details, but something told me I would be visiting home. Soon.
“Momma and Daddy were in an accident. And Daddy…Daddy’s dead.” I dropped my overnight bag as I lost all sensation throughout my body. My free hand went to my stomach as I doubled over in pain. My Daddy was dead. I tried to recall the last time I saw him, heard his voice. Nothing. I drew a blank. Dead. My thoughts shifted to Momma.
“Nay,” I gently called my sister’s name to get her attention. I could hear her crying. “How’s Momma, Janay?”
“Not good, Sissy.” She hadn’t called me that in years. Not good, but alive. That revived me. I stood up and raced back into my closet. I hastily grabbed a few outfits and stuffed them into my bag. I moved to my chest of drawers, pulling out underwear, pajamas, and whatever else I could grab.
“Listen, Nay. I’m on my way, okay? Keep your phone on, and I’ll call you when I get close.” I grabbed a sweat suit and pulled it on over my pajamas. My plan was to go to the airport and catch the next available flight. Flights to Atlanta left Reagan National every-hour-on-the-hour. “I love you, Nay. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I hung up from sister as I shut down my apartment. There wasn’t much to do since I’d only been home for a few hours. I grabbed my bags and headed to my car. I dialed Bianca as I loaded my trunk. She answered on the second ring.
“Cheerio, mate!” Bianca greeted in a faux British accent. “Back from the land of fish and chips?”
“Hey, B. I’m on my way to Atlanta.” I got in and put my key in the ignition. “My parents were in an accident.”
“Oh my god, Lainey! What happened?”
“I don’t know. Janay called, said there was an accident.” I paused before taking a deep breath, summoning the strength to say it out loud. “Daddy didn’t make it, but Momma did. That’s all I know.” I attempted to shift my car into gear. “I’m on my way to the airport now.”
“Ok. What time is your flight? I’ll meet you at the airport.”
“I don’t have a reservation, but flights to Atlanta leave on the hour. I plan to be on the next one.”
“Elaine Denise Winters, stop what you’re doing and listen to me.” I froze. It was something about the way Bianca said my full name that always got my attention. I held the phone in silence. Pleased with my non-verbal response and acquiescence, she continued. “Where are you?”
“In my car,” I responded, child-like.
“Okay. I want you to go back inside. Now, Lainey. Go now. Let me know when you get there.” Normally, Bianca’s bossy nature was annoying. Right now, I found it comforting and oddly reassuring. I didn’t have to think or act, just respond.
I grabbed my bags and mounted the stairs to my front door. Re-entering my apartment, I dropped everything by the door and headed to my kitchen. “Okay.” I leaned against my island, awaiting further instruction.
“Okay. I am going to call the airline, make a reservation. Once I get your flight booked, I’ll call and let you know what time the car will be there to take you to the airport. I don’t want you driving while you are upset.”
“Okay,” I managed as I choked back my tears.
By 8:00 am the next morning, I walked out of Hartsfield Jackson Airport. Bianca met me in the departure hall as soon as I stepped off the escalator. She hugged me briefly before grabbing my carry-on and leading me to her car, cell phone glued to her ear. I absently stared out of the window as Bianca navigated out of short-term parking. I tuned out her conversation and focused on the passing scenery. Much to my dismay, the landscape grew more urban instead of rural, indicating that we were headed north into the city instead of south toward Mabrary Springs. I turned to Bianca, with a questioning look on my face. By now she was off the phone.
“I talked to Danny. Your mom’s injuries were pretty severe so they life-flighted her to the level one trauma center downtown.” I nodded my head. That made sense. Not good but alive. Of course Bianca talked to my brother, Danny, who was a highway patrol officer. I called my sister in route to the airport to let her know what time my flight was landing; she didn’t answer so I left a voicemail message. I powered my phone down once I boarded the airplane and hadn’t thought about it since then.
“You talked to Daniel? How is he?” I asked as Bianca zoomed towards downtown Atlanta.
Bianca laughed. “Official.” I smiled; my brother was always so serious. “He was at the medical examiner’s office when I talked to him, handling identification. Then he was going to the hospital. He said Janay was on the way here.” Bianca expertly navigated her car through the crowded streets of downtown Atlanta, dodging working professionals, college students, tourists, and the homeless along the way. She eventually parked in garage adjacent to the medical center.
I followed my best friend into the emergency room, grateful for her presence. We took the elevator and got off on the floor housing the intensive care unit. As we rounded the corner from the elevator bank, I saw my brother still dressed in his uniform standing with his arm draped around my little sister. Janay saw us first.
“Sissy!” she exclaimed as she speed-walked towards me, a fresh wave of tears streaming down her face. I quickened my pace and embraced my baby sister while she sobbed uncontrollably. I felt Bianca rubbing my shoulders seconds before we were wrapped in the set of masculine arms. I opened my eyes and saw my brother Danny. His bloodshot eyes along with Nay’s sobs sent me over the edge, and for the first time, I broke down.
My Daddy was dead.
Copyright 2016 Kay Morris