Sharon ran down the stairs, putting on her earrings. She shouted upstairs, “You have one minute, and then I’m leaving without you!”
She stood in front of the mirror, checking her hair, her lipstick, and her eye shadow. From above, she heard, “You can’t go to ballet without me!”
“You don’t know that. I may just go to hang out with the other mothers.”
Scotty wasn’t home. It didn’t worry her a lot, because his schedule was erratic recently, but she had hoped he would get home before they left for class.
Sharon talked around the lipstick, “Fifty-two seconds, and we’ll know for sure.”
From the kitchen, her phone chimed. She walked in, reaching for her purse. It would be Scotty, texting her about being late. He loved texting, and generally chose it over calling her phone every time.
Cindy came barreling down the stairs in sneakers, a leotard and an oversized sweater. She held a toeshoe in one hand, “Oh. I thought you’d gone.”
Sharon picked up the phone, talking to her without looking, “You called my bluff. Get your other shoe and fix your hair.” She looked at the phone, expecting to see another three-paragraph explanation for why he was still at work. It surprised her to see only one line.
“car crack hlep”
She blinked at it for a second, wondering if the message was even from Scotty. Then, as realization hit, a cold chill ran down her back.
“I’m thinking about leaving it down,” Cindy said, looking around the living room, “It doesn’t really help to tie it up, anyway.”
Sharon whispered, “Be quiet, honey.” Her hand felt disconnected and seemed to float as she hit the “callback” button.
Cindy started checking under the cushions of the sofa, “Because it really gets hot in there, and it doesn’t exactly keep the sweat out of my eyes to have my hair back.”
She listened to the phone ringing on the other side. It rang for a long time.
“And besides, I saw Mike and some of the others hanging around outside the studio last time. If they see me, I don’t want to look all -”
Sharon shouted, “Shut up!” and held the phone with both hands. It rang for a long time.
Cindy looked up at her, stricken, and slowly walked over. At last, the phone crackled with a connection. Sharon asked, “Honey? Are you okay?”
She could hear him, but he seemed to be a long way away, “Sharon? I . . . something happened. . . “ He wasn’t holding the phone up to his ear.
“Honey? Are you okay? Where are you?” She shouted into the phone.
“I’m . . . I – I don’t know what happened. Something . . . I don’t know what -”
Sharon hung up and dialed 9-1-1. The phone didn’t ring for as long this time, “911, what’s your emergency?”
Cindy, standing next to her, whispered, “What happened?”
“Yes. My husband has been in a car wreck. He’s hurt, but I don’t know how bad.” Cindy covered her mouth with her free hand.
The voice on the other end was calm and measured, “Are you in a safe place, ma’am.”
“I’m fine. I wasn’t there. He texted me. I tried to call him, but he’s in shock or something. He can’t talk in the phone.”
“Ma’am. I’m sending a car out there right now. I need to know where he is.” Sharon could hear the quiet tapping of keys.
“I don’t know where he is. Can’t you find him by his phone or something? You can do that, right?”
“What is his number, ma’am?”
“555-470-0235. You can find him, right?”
“We’re working on it now. It would help if you could tell us where he is.” Cindy started pacing, hands over her head.
“I don’t know! I don’t know where he was!” Sharon closed her eyes and put her free hand up to her forehead. “He’s probably just left work, so it would be somewhere on the 35, between the King’s Fortune exit and the Calloway exit. But that’s about twenty miles!”
“Yes ma’am. We’ve had a report of an accident along the 35, and there are officers headed there now.”
Sharon grabbed the phone with both hands, “What did they say? The reports! Was it a bad wreck?”
The voice on the other end remained calm, “We have officers on the way now, ma’am. I need you to stay by the phone so that we can call you with other news. Are you in a safe place where you can wait by the phone?”
Sharon looked around the kitchen, and nodded, “I – yes. I’ll hold. I mean, I’ll be here. I – Oh, God.” Cindy walked over to Sharon and put her arms around her shoulders.
“Thank you, ma’am. We will call you back as soon as we have any news.” The phone went dead and Sharon slowly eased it onto the counter next to her purse.
Cindy held her mother and said, “It’s gonna be okay. He’ll be okay. It’s okay, Mom. Really.”
Sharon nodded and hugged her close, not hearing the repeated mantra.