After Parting – Part One

By the time Laila asked her, Sally was already sick of the question, but she did appreciate that it wasn’t the first thing she asked. Ever since the accident it had been one of the first things anyone had said.

“What do you remember about it?” Laila asked, while nibbling on a little cracker with cheese.

“I don’t remember anything, really,” Sally’s stock answer.

It wasn’t true though. She did remember bits. The sound of metal scraping and grinding. That instant shock when she turned and saw the oncoming car, thinking that she even made eye contact with the other driver as she did. Being thrown about and panicking. Not being able to breath. The noise of sirens. People screaming and trying to speak to her. Then darkness for a little while, before the sterile lights of the hospital room that was her home for the following two weeks.

After that is when they told her that Christopher died in the car crash of a head injury, and it felt to Sally like she’d been hit by a second car. Her chest was tight. She couldn’t breathe. The room spun around her. None of the faces were recognisable. Again, blackness arrived.

“I think that’s probably a good thing,” Laila said after finishing the cracker. “I don’t think it’s something I would want to remember.”

Sally didn’t reply. Instead, she shakily picked up a glass of water and brought it to her mouth. There was still pain in her side when she lifted things, but no one else needed to know that. At least it didn’t hurt to drink anymore.

“Laila, I don’t think Sally wants to talk about that,” Satish said.

“Sorry, you’re right.”

“It’s alright,” Sally said. “I don’t mind.”

Laila had been kind enough to let Sally stay with her and Satish in their house. It was closer to Sally’s own home while she got better. When the doctor had told her that she would be able to go home soon, Sally burst into tears. She couldn’t face going back to a home filled with memories of Christopher and not have him there. It was suggested that she went to stay with her parents, but that idea didn’t sound much better. She could already imagine laying in bed, in the room that was once hers and just staying there for weeks, her mum doting on her. Staying with Laila made more sense to her, and that’s what was decided. They’d been friends since their first days at school and had been near-on inseparable since.

“No, I shouldn’t have asked. I’m just curious, you know?”

“I get it. Don’t worry about it. Everyone else has asked. It was pretty much the first thing Dave said when he saw me in the hospital. Not even, how are you feeling or he’s sorry to hear about what happened. Just straight into, what happened.”

“He watches too many American shows,” Satish said. “He was talking about suing the other driver.”

“I can’t imagine going through that,” Sally said. “It was an accident, and they were hurt too. It wouldn’t do any good.”

Even though some of it was a blur, the story was all captured from cameras and witnesses. They’d been driving along on the dual carriage way when it was pretty busy. The other driver came down the slip road coming onto the road, and they didn’t realise it merged into the lane so soon. They were picking up speed and collided straight into the side of Sally’s car, and it spun out of control, moving across the lanes and into a barrier at speed. Chris smacked his head off the side of the car and as it was gridlocked it took too long for the emergency vehicles to get to them, so he died on route to the hospital.

“I get that,” Satish said. “I’m going to go and clean up the kitchen.”

Satish collected the plates in the room and left to the kitchen, so it was just Sally and Laila together for the first time since Sally had been in the house.

“Thank you so much for letting me stay,” Sally said. “I couldn’t face going back to the house, not so soon.”

“That’s fine. Don’t mention it.”

“Is Satish okay with it? I mean I get it if he isn’t. I don’t want to be an inconvenience to either of you.”

“Don’t worry about him, he’s fine. Honestly, we’re happy you’re here.”

“Happy?” Sally said with a smirk.

“No, that’s not the right word. I’m sorry. I don’t mean that we’re happy. I mean that we’re happy to have you. No, I mean that it’s not bother that you’re here. Not that you’re ever a bother.”

“It’s okay.”

Sally smiled, half-heartedly. The idea of people walking on eggshells around her for the foreseeable future was not a nice thought.

“Thank you. Sorry, I know I’m being weird, and you probably don’t want that. I’ll be normal. Promise.”

“Thank you.”

“I do want to know something though, as the funeral is coming up. Have you spoken to Chris’s parents at all?”

“A little. They’re organising it all. I think that was meant to be kind. I think she blames me for what happened.”

“What? That’s not right.”

“She hasn’t said anything, I just get that impression from her. I think it’s just grief.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Sally didn’t reply. She just took another sip of the water and noticed how quiet Laila’s house was. There was a tickle at the back of her throat that the water didn’t quite reach. There was always noise at the hospital, so just being quiet was different.

“I think I’m going to go and lie down, if that’s okay?”

“Yes of course. Do you need any help? Sorry. I know you’ll be fine on your own. If you need anything, just give me a shout, please.”

Sally smiled at her friend, hoping that the worry in her eyes would disappear over the next few days. Maybe it was a mistake to come here, she thought. Maybe going home was the better option just to get on with everything.

The bedroom had a slight chill to the air and the quiet from downstairs was magnified. As sally closed the door, she could hear Laila and Satish talking downstairs in hushed voices, but couldn’t distinguish and words, that were almost definitely about her. On an armchair in the corner was a bag with some clothes in, which acted as a reminder that someone else had Chris’s key to their house now. On the bed was a fresh set of pyjamas, again taken from her house, and Sally started to change into them, spotting the bruises around her side. The pain had started to subside a little compared to the first few days, but she didn’t feel normal. There was also a nasty bruise on her face, near her eye where she’d smacked her head into the steering wheel. It looked better than it did. She wondered what Christopher looked like, or where he even was. Every day since the crash had been a daze of information, sleeping, drowsiness. She was lucky to have escaped with so few injuries, but it didn’t feel lucky.

After changing into the pyjamas, Sally moved to the bed and laid down on her back, despite wanting to curl into a ball, and started to cry. It was the first time that she’d been truly alone since the accident and the tears came quickly and easy. She cried until sleep took hold.

To be continued…

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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