Note to Readers: A few fans have noticed that each chapter in this story has been told by a different character.
- Chapter One was written from the perspective of Crash, the dad.
- Chapter Two was told by Scarlet, the mom.
- Chapter Three was simpler in language because it was told by Mia, who was then nine years old.
- Chapter Four comes to you through the words of Ian, who was then ten years old.
- This chapter is told by Crash’s father’s wife — the step-grandmother of Ian, Mia, Maddie, and Liam.
I invite you to go back and scan the chapters, both to appreciate these different characters’ points of view and to refresh your memory about some details that will come into play in the next few chapters before the story wraps up.
I sighed and put the phone in my pocket.
Wow. That wonderful call could not have come at a more inconvenient time!
Crash and Scarlet and the kids had finally arrived for their visit with us, and we’d spent only two days with them. The first day we just relaxed around our house and had a backyard barbecue.
My husband — whom they had REALLY come to see — didn’t have time available to take off work. So I became the “cruise director” for most of their stay.
The second day we went to a local waterpark while my husband worked.
Today, I’d planned to take Crash and Scarlet and the kids into the city to do some sightseeing.
But then this call came.
I walked back into the house and found Scarlet sitting on the loveseat giving Liam a bottle.
“Hey…” I began, already feeling guilty.
She looked up and smiled. Liam stopped drinking, and he looked at me and smiled, too.
“Ummmm… that call just now… It was the superintendent of a local school district, where I have applied for a job. She wants me to come in this morning for an interview.”
“Oh. OK. No problem.” She looked confused. “I mean, that’s great! Congratulations!”
“Thanks. Yeah, it’s an administrative position — a good step up from my last job as a technology facilitator.”
“That’s great! How weird, though, that she gave you such little notice.”
“Yeah. She’s apparently heading to Washington D.C. for a few weeks. She’s very active politically. But she wanted to get the hiring done for this job before she leaves, so she asked if I could accommodate her tight schedule.”
“Oh, OK. Sure… Well, Crash and I can just take the kids back to the hotel…” Scarlet offered.
“No, no, no… You can all just hang out here. The kids can play on the trampoline and the swings. And there’s the sandbox under the tower and slide. I can get out the sprinkler and kiddie pool if you want. And I have plenty of craft supplies… and lots of food! I’ll show you where all of that is.”
She nodded. Liam stopped drinking again and smiled at me as milk ran down his cheek.
“Hopefully, I won’t be gone long. But we’ll have to put off the trip into the city…”
“No problem!” Her dark eyes sparkle when she smiles. I was relieved that she was on board.
“OK. Well, I actually have to check on a couple of things for a few minutes. I think my suit that I wear for interviews is at the dry cleaners. I’m not sure what else I have to wear that’s appropriate…” I trailed off.
“Oh, sure! Let me know if you need help figuring out other options,” she offered.
“Thanks! I’ll go pull some things out of my closet. Having a second opinion would be great!”
I found Crash and Scarlet relaxing at the patio table, watching the kids play in the yard.
“How did it go?” they asked in unison, and then laughed at each other.
“It went really, really well. I kind of expected her to hire me on the spot, the way she was talking. But you know, I’m sure she’s doing the proper thing with background checks and references. But she kept pushing me about how soon I could start, so that’s kind of promising.”
“That’s awesome!” they both said, again in unison, but this time they rolled their eyes at each other.
“Yeah! So… Liam’s napping in the master bedroom?”
“OK. Let me get changed out of this, and we can talk about what you want to do with the rest of the day. There are some really pretty parks around here with some cool playgrounds. Or there’s an ice cream place near a pond, and it has a splash pad that the two little ones might like. Or we could do one of the other waterparks nearby.”
Crash and Scarlet looked at each other.
“Think about it. I’ll go change.”
We had an early dinner and piled in the vans to go to the ice cream place.
It was ironic that we had the same make and model — Honda Odyssey. But theirs was newer, with a nicer interior and a fancier dashboard.
“Mom, can I ride with them?” my youngest son asked. “I want to sit by Mia and Ian.”
“No, Honey. Their van is full. You and your brother can ride with me. It’s only five minutes to the ice cream place. You’ll live.”
He pouted and crossed his arms.
I was embarrassed. In the past couple of days, my own children had demonstrated this kind of behavior far more than usual. Yet Crash and Scarlet’s kids had been angelic.
“Better get in our van. No ice cream for you?”
He stomped to the van and buckled himself into the middle row. He turned around and glared at his older brother, who was in his usual spot in the back of the van. They did better when they each had their own row.
I slid into the driver’s seat and closed my door.
“Really? We’re going out for ice cream, and this is how you’re going to behave? I don’t think so… Uncross those arms and change that face, Mister.”
He uncrossed his arms and looked out the window. Apparently, changing the expression was going to take him a minute.
We headed off through our little suburban neighborhood. I prefer the backstreets to the main roads, and our destination was only a few blocks away.
“I still think it’s hilarious,” said my oldest son, “that we’re Ian’s uncles.”
“Right?” I looked at them in the rearview mirror. “Well, you ARE Crash’s brothers. So that makes you uncles to all of their kids.”
“Instant uncles! It’s just weird that we don’t see them very much.”
I glanced in the rearview mirror. Crash and his crew were right behind us, as I expected.
“Well, Maddie visited us here before, a long time ago. And we saw them all of them — except for Liam, who wasn’t born yet — a couple of times when we went to California.”
“Yeah, I just don’t remember some of that. I was a lot younger.”
I glanced in the mirror again, and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Out of nowhere… A huge moving truck hit them, a hard and fast T-bone, sending their van up into someone’s yard.
It almost seemed like it had been slow motion. My brain couldn’t process what I had just seen.
I pulled over and opened my door.
There was no movement from the van.
“Stay here. I have to go help.”
“I want to help, too!” they both exclaimed, craning their necks around to see.
“No. I need you to stay right here. I’ll be right back. Don’t move!”
People started coming out of their houses.
As I got closer, I saw that the passenger side sliding door was crumpled completely, and the rear window behind it was shattered.
The front of the van was mere inches from the house.
And still, there was no movement from the van or the occupants.
WHO’S UP NEXT?
Except for the names of the characters, nothing in this story has been altered. The sequence of events is (fairly) accurate.
The next chapter will also be completely true, although it will leave you somewhat incredulous.
As I explained at the top of this post, every chapter has been narrated by a different character.
My friends, I invite you to GUESS at who narrates the next chapter.
- One of the children
- The grandfather
- The driver of the moving truck
- The owner of the house and yard where the van came to a stop
- A police officer that responded
- A hospital staff member
Please use the Comment section to make your guess!
Hint: If you don’t see a place to vote or comment, scroll ALLLLL the way down to the bottom of this page, past other people’s comments. There it is!
Thank you for reading!
Chapter Six will be posted — when I have 20 readers’ guesses!