IT WAS A BEAUTIFULLY CRISP WINTER EVENING in December. Lisa was in high spirits driving through the little town in Nevada called Minden. Minden was a quaint little town about sixty miles south of Reno, Nevada where she had just driven from after a long visit with her sister and brother-in-law. She looked around her surroundings, noticing the downtown centers, as they must have appeared back in the 1800’s when they were first established. On the right of her was an old casino called “Sharkey’s”. The history behind it was that there had been a terrible fire started in the kitchen a few years back burning over sixty percent of the building to the ground. The town of Minden and Gardnerville had gotten enough money together to restore the old casino back to its original structure. The planning had taken many years but, by the beautifully detailed facing on the building, it was well worth the wait. The neon, red and yellow, lights flickered quickly in a row displaying the sign of “Sharkey’s Casino”. Lisa felt mesmerized gazing ahead at the elaboration of the sign. On the face of the building was a magnificent gray stone that shinned like marble under the lights. The city had even gone to the trouble of refinishing the walkway around the building with red brick giving it the appearance of the early 1900’s. On the left were salon-type looking buildings placed side by side with wood facing and red bricks lining the doorways. These buildings also had neon signs welcoming passerby’s and guests. She was tempted to stop and stay the night in one of these fascinating structures, but she really needed to keep going. She still had a 9-hour drive ahead of her to Orange County. She had hastily decided to leave in the evening even though her sister had insisted on her leaving in the morning. She had proposed that she must get home to talk with her husband. Prior to her visit and after a very painful decision, she had decided to give him a divorce, but now everything had changed.
After 10 years of marriage she had come to the conclusion that she and her daughter Paxton would be happier on their own. Cole was the love of her life, but she could no longer bear to live with his addiction and emotional abuse. He had been smoking marijuana for most of his life and still wasn’t willing to give it up. Lisa had threatened him with divorce for several years if he didn’t quit smoking, but he always laughed at her, telling her that she could ‘take a hike’ if she didn’t like it.
There was more to their break-up than his addiction, the business. Somewhere along the road to happiness and success, Cole had made their tile business his main priority over everything else. Lisa couldn’t have disagreed with him more, arguing that family should always take precedence over work or money, but they couldn’t see eye to eye on the matter, tearing them apart over time. So, this Christmas she had packed up her daughter with a few things of her own and left him. They spent the Christmas holidays in Reno with Mimi and her family. All she had left Cole was a note explaining that she could no longer live that life with him. Of course, he wouldn’t take her serious, telling her that she would get over it. Well, she wasn’t getting over it this time. She was tired of living with his mood swings, constantly talking about “the business” and his low-life friends whom he chose to hang out with, but most of all she was tired of the mood swings. Once the mood swings shifted into something more, emotional abuse, it was more than she could bear. What was emotional abuse, her friends and family would ask her? It was hard for her to pin point the exact definition behind it, but she knew that it was a silent abuse. It quietly snuck up on you and although it hurt, you couldn’t justify it or explain it. Over the years the abuse continued while her self-esteem and self- worth deteriorated. She cried all the time and wasn’t happy. The things that once made her happy no longer did. The warning signs started with isolation. She spent a lot of time in her room mentally beating herself up, telling herself that nobody loved her, including Cole. She pushed away her friends and family, making a mental note that they didn’t understand her or what she was going through. How could he love someone as weak as she? He had told her the same thing on numerous occasions. He said that she was a monster and it was no wonder she had no friends. This only made her feel worst and over time she grew to believe him. She didn’t have many friends. Was it because they didn’t like Lisa or was it because they didn’t like Cole? He always said that she was pretty, but…… she could work on this or that a little more. Why are you watching that smut on TV, he would ask? Why do you make me break this? Why do you make me so mad that I want to punch your face in? Why do you make me act this way? Was this emotional abuse? Maybe, but all she knew was that she wasn’t happy with him anymore and had been putting up with this abuse and behavior for far too long. What made her stay with a man who contributed nothing positively to her self-worth, it was more than physical and she knew that deep in her heart. But what was it? Did she stay with him because family was so very important to her and she wanted her daughter to have a mother and a father? Where did the importance come from? Was it because her own father had abandoned her when she was so young and she had sworn to herself that she would never put her children through that pain? Was it because she had promised herself that once she got married she would never divorce like her mother and father had divorced? When Lisa and Cole were young and dating, she remembered feeling so lost and incomplete when he would leave her. The moment he came back into her life, after the break-ups, she felt happy and complete once again. It was as if her heart and soul weren’t hole when Cole was gone, he completed her. He was an addict and so was she; she was addicted to Cole Williams. Do we really understand love? It has always been a mystery. We don’t chose who we fall in love with, we just know when we have found it. There is no second guessing yourself, was that love? You know when you have and after you have fallen truly in love with that person, you are never the same. You can not go back to the person you were before you met them. You can not enjoy the same things you enjoyed before that person came into your life. You are empty when they are not in your life as you try to live with the hole in your heart that only that person can fill, as crazy as it sounds, it is so.
However, something was missing in their relationship and had been for the past couple of years. Cole was physically there with her, they lived in the same house, but he wasn’t truly there. The bond that once connected them had been severed. The connection was lost. There were so many fights, so many hateful words spoken, so many resentments formed. Sometimes, you can not go back and take back all the bad things that you have said or done. Sometimes, it is just too late. The damage has been done and there is no repairing it, no matter how hard you try to make the marriage work.
Lisa was tired. Paxton was tired. Cole was tired. This is why she had left him to visit her sister in Sparks for Christmas. She needed time to clearly think things through.
Many times, he thought it best to go their separate ways, but she had cried begging him to stay. She had loved him then and still loved him. She had known this man for more than half of her life. The time away from him had put everything into perspective. Cole had changed. She had changed. Did they grow apart? Were they going to be a mere statistic, included with all the other marriages that had failed because they had grown apart? Was this the same man that she wanted to grow old and to share her dreams? He had spent the holidays alone, by his determination to prove Lisa wrong. He felt in his heart that she would return to their home in Fullerton, with Paxton, when she had gotten over her foolishness. She was always pouting about something, he would say, walking away from her, but this time it would be different.
She was entering the most beautiful part of the drive. She turned the music up louder, singing along to the Cranberries, looking around her mystified by the virtue of nature. It seemed so dark to her as she drove down the narrow mountain road just about thirty miles out of Gardnerville. There wasn’t a single light pole around as she turned her lights onto the high beams to get a better view of the narrow road. The tall green pine trees surrounding the road looked as if they could touch the dark sky allowing no moonlight to penetrate the path below. She continued singing aloud unaware of the dangerous curves ahead. She stared into the darkness ahead noticing light white snowflakes flitting softly across the windshield of her new black BMW 740iL. The snow made Lisa a little nervous, considering she had spent most of her life in sunny southern California. She slowed down a little, cautiously observing the highway in front of her before deciding to call Cole on her cell phone, letting him know that she would probably be spending the night in a local motel. Suddenly, out of nowhere she saw the headlights shoot across the night in front of her. Without thinking, she slammed on her brakes, a little too hard, considering the conditions of the road with the newly fallen snow. The rear of her BMW started to skid to the right; she turned the wheel remembering to steer with the skid.
“Damn!” She said out loud, terrified of the weather now. The snow was beginning to fall harder and heavier. It was getting harder to see out her windshield. She prayed that there were no other cars driving in her lane. She couldn’t see anything, except for a pair of bright lights ahead of her that was blinding her beyond visibility. Does he have his bright headlights on, she wondered?
She believed she was out of harm when suddenly she saw the truck out of the corner of her eye. It was closer than she originally thought; so close in fact that it was practically on top of her. Time seemed to slow as she took a double-take out of the driver side window. Her mind remained blank, trying to process the image of the truck. Then her mind clicked, while the seconds seemed like minutes frozen in time, she suddenly realized that she wasn’t watching the diesel truck pass her on the left as she previously thought, the image was all wrong. No, the rear end of the truck bed was crossing in front of her, the truck was jack-knifing. In slow motion she watched as the driver tried to correct the jack knifing truck, but at the same time the truck was coming closer and closer. Lisa realized that she had been holding her breath when instantaneously; the two vehicles barely missed the other; however, the truck bed was still coming straight towards her. She didn’t have anywhere to go. If she slammed on her brakes, the truck bed would still collide with her and her BMW and if she turned to the left, she would crash into the side of the truck and if she turned to the right, she would go off the side of the road. She decided to slam on her brakes, what else was she to do? Maybe by some sort of luck, the truck would stop before it hit her. Lisa let out all the hot air that she had been holding so tightly inside of her lungs with a sense of panic, when all of a sudden she felt a sharp jolt in the front left of her BMW before she was sent into a tailspin. This time she was unable to correct the skidding vehicle, she felt so disoriented she didn’t know what direction she was headed. All she could see now were the white snowflakes falling into the darkness that lied ahead. She let out a scream when she saw where she was headed. She couldn’t see anything but a big black whole, but she knew. She had skidded off the edge of the highway and was falling down the embankment. She didn’t know how far down it went, but it appeared to her that time had stopped. She was suspended in mid-air, heading deep into the dark mass of nothing. All she could do was cover her face with her hands to protect it from the impact that was soon to follow.
As she was falling, she felt tears streaming down her face as an image of her sweet little Paxton, sleeping so peacefully tore at her heart. She loved her daughter so much. Lisa recalled Paxton asking them when she would have a little sister or brother. She remembered the tears when she told her only child that she wasn’t having any more children. Paxton had cried. Cole had cried. She wanted a little sister or brother. Lisa had always dreamed of one child, one child that she could devote her whole life to. She had never wished for more, after that one special night. While in bed, Cole had asked Lisa for a baby sister or brother for Paxton. Lisa had told Cole that Paxton was too young to understand the responsibilities of having a sibling. He cried on Lisa’s stomach telling her how much he wanted to have another baby with her. He said that another baby would make the family complete, something was missing and he truly believed that having a baby, would complete them. Lisa finally agreed because she saw how important it was to him and if he was happy then she could be happy, especially since all she had ever wanted in life was to marry Cole and have his baby.
Since she was a little girl, playing Barbie Dolls, Lisa had longed for a family of her own. She wanted it all, the American Dream, a good marriage, children, a house, a dog, and the white picket fence. She never had much of a family of her own growing up and had wondered what it would be like to have a large family. Cole seemed so happy that perhaps, Lisa thought, he would devote more time to her and the family if she were pregnant. Having two children would occupy Paxton’s time and keep Lisa busy while Cole was away from the home.
Lisa hadn’t told Cole that she was pregnant with his baby. She was going to tell him, but she didn’t want him to convince her to come back to him because she was carrying his child. She had found out from the doctor the day before that she was almost five months pregnant. Her sister was amazed how little she showed, but then again Lisa hadn’t shown until six months pregnant with Paxton as well. She wanted to try to make it on her own without him. She was angry with him for not keeping his promises to her. He had promised to love her with all his heart for ever and now it seemed to her that he was getting more and more distant and had let her down. The last couple of months had proven to be a tremendous challenge for the couple. They couldn’t even be in the same room with each other without getting into a heated argument that turned into something so ugly, that Lisa was ashamed and amazed that they had once loved each other more than life itself. Her stupid idea that a baby would make their marriage better seemed ridiculous to her now that the fighting had escalated.
Had she made the wrong decision not to tell Cole about the baby? Was she wrong to have asked him for a divorce? What about Paxton and her needs, had Lisa considered them to the fullest extent? Why was she falling to her death, alone, when she could be at home with the people who loved her most? Her greatest fear in life was to die alone. Had she subconsciously created her own fear to come true? It made her sad that she had been willing to tear them apart by neglecting to consider their strong love for each other. They had made Paxton together. They had survived so many hardships. So much more than a couple should have to face in one lifetime.
Paxton was the glue that bonded them as a family. Sure Cole had his problems, but so did Lisa. Isn’t that what a relationship is about, working together to fix the problems. So many people are constantly searching for true love and she had found it in Cole. Life could be so simple, but somehow humans chose to complicate it beyond recognition. She loved Cole with all her heart, yet she had ignored what her heart wanted. Instead she had listened to the outside temptations; you can do better, he doesn’t make enough money, he doesn’t love you. She realized now that he did love her. He was the person that dried her tears when she cried, encouraged her to keep trying when she wanted to just give up, and held her hand when she was scared. Where was everyone else during these intimate moments when she was scared and needed someone? Cole was there by her side always, he hadn’t left her behind as so many others had. He hadn’t abandoned her as she had thought. He always came back for her.
Lisa heard the sound of crushing metal while her body went numb all over. Gasoline was suffocating her. Her head was throbbing as she realized that her head had slammed into the steering wheel upon impact. Glass shards shattered all around her leaving her unprotected from the harsh winter winds, entering the BMW through the vacant windows. Touching the side of her head, feeling a thick wetness on her hands, she felt as if she would vomit. She smelled a sickly metallic odor all around her as she became dizzier and dizzier. She knew she was losing consciousness. The end was coming soon. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t scream. She had no struggle left in her. She was tired. The steering wheel was crushed up against her body. Spontaneously, she willed herself to feel the baby move inside her belly, realizing the steering wheel was now crushed up against her abdomen. Her mind was playing tricks on here as she felt herself start to hallucinate, hearing voices. She could hear Cole speaking to her,
“Baby, be strong. Paxton and I will be waiting for you to return.”
Immediately, her life flashed before her. She smiled to herself, realizing that she wasn’t alone, before everything went black.
Copyright 2002 J.M Fowler