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Future Lost

Beth Townsend | Myfanwy Kinder

Jennifer is sitting behind the wheel of her three year old Toyota Camry at a red light. The windows are down so she can enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air. The breeze blows her auburn hair into her face. She takes a spare hair elastic from the gear changer and ties her unruly locks into a ponytail with the aid of the rearview mirror. The traffic is light. No one is behind her at the light and there are only two cars in the lane to her right. She smoothes a few flyaways and her phone beeps. She glances up at the light to see if it is still red and then down to her cell phone lying in the passenger seat.

Without warning, her car is rammed from behind so hard it pushes her into the intersection. She clips the tail end of a white car and she spins slightly before sliding to a stop.

She sits dazed for a minute before reality returns. Her breathing quickens and heart rate skyrockets before she forces both back under control.

“You okay?” a man asks her through the window. She vaguely recognizes him as the driver of the car that had been next to her at the light.

“I think so,” Jennifer replies as she looks around for the first time. The man’s passenger approaches the driver’s side window of the white car she hit. She can’t hear their conversation but she knows it is similar.

“Does it run?” the man asks nodding to the hood of her Camry pulling her back.

Jennifer tries the key. The car sputters but won’t turn over. In front of her, the white car has no such problem and the driver easily moves it to the side of the road. The other bystander runs back to her car and the two men push her car out of the way while she steers.

“What about the person who hit me?” Jennifer asks climbing out of her car.

Their faces change instantly.

She looks back to where she had been less than 5 minutes ago and her heart plummets. She rushes across the street, almost tripping on glass and debris, before coming to a halt at the driver’s door of a crumpled red truck. The driver’s face is covered in blood from hitting his head on something, his neck is twisted at an awkward angle, and his eyes are unseeing. Her eyes widen in horror before she collapses heavily against the side of the truck in devastation.

The two bystanders come up behind her and somewhere in the back of her mind she knows they are talking to her.

“I called in the accident,” a weird, far away voice says.

“The other driver wants to exchange insurance information,” another far away voice adds.

“I think she’s in shock,” the first says quietly to the second.

“Is there someone we can call for you?” one of them asks.

Jennifer sobs uncontrollably at the question.

The bystanders exchange worried looks.

She pulls herself together enough to stop crying, after what seems like an eternity, and returns to her car.

The other driver asks about her insurance info and she automatically reaches for the handle to the glove box. She spots her phone on the floor and picks it up from where it has fallen during the accident. She hands the insurance card to the other driver and looks at the display of her phone. The small envelope at the top, and years of habit, make her check her text messages. Only the text sent to her seconds before the accident is unread.

Sender: Dan
Sorry running late see you soon < 3

Her eyes well with tears again but now there is anger mixed in.

Her mind flashes to the speeding tickets she once saw on Dan’s kitchen counter.

She throws the phone into the passenger seat with disgust. It lands with a soft crinkle on top of a legal contract that has spilled out of her purse. “Lease Agreement” is emblazoned clearly across the top of the page in black type. “Jennifer Walters” and “Daniel Byrd” are handwritten in blue ink on the line for new tenants.

Her eyes unconsciously look back at the familiar red truck now beyond recognition. But her mind wanders to the life she’ll never have: the apartment that will never be theirs, the clumsy attempt at a marriage proposal he will never make, the son they will never have and his little league team Dan will never coach. All lost because he is…was an idiot.

She blinks back her tears and tries to summon some of the righteous indignation of a woman scorned. Their future is gone and it is all his fault. The fury won’t coalesce. Heartbreak stands in its way.

Jennifer lets out another gut wrenching sob.

About Beth Townsend

Beth Townsend is an aspiring writer at the beginning of her career. Find her on Twitter.

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