Chapter 5Aubrey hit the End button on the phone, thus ending her conversation with Brooke. She chewed on her lower lip, wondering if Thomas would be up for a trip to the university campus. Brooke mentioned that she would love a visit but didn’t feel like she could drive home because she had several papers to write and a few mid-term tests to study for. The thought of the two-hour drive appealed to Aubrey, not to mention the joy of an afternoon with her youngest girl. She hadn’t seen Brooke since Easter Sunday almost three weeks ago, and even though they’d had numerous phone conversations, it just wasn’t the same as sitting in each other’s company.
Aubrey bounded down the stairs and out the back door. She paused as the sunlight of early morning filtered through the trees lining her sidewalk. She breathed in the smell of early spring, the smell of rebirth and new growth; the smell of dirt and fresh air. Far off she could hear the sound of a mower going, apparently one of her neighbors felt the urge to dig their heels into spring too. She loved this time of year, the time when everything was eager for revival.
She continued along the brick path to the unattached garage that sat to the back and the side of their sprawling home. She knew that Thomas was tinkering around in the garage; Thomas enjoyed any morning that allowed him time with his tools. Unfortunately, mechanics was not one of his strong suits. While he enjoyed the look and feel of his tools, they were rarely put to use. Often Rob or Kyle would come over to lend a “helping hand” only to take over and complete the repairs themselves. It was a familial joke that Thomas wouldn’t be able to find the gas tank if it wasn’t clearly marked in the owner’s manual, but it never stopped him from trying.
Aubrey opened the garage door and came up short at the sight of the beloved convertible with its hood opened. She stepped to the side of the car to see Thomas hovered over the engine, wrenches and screwdrivers lying helter-skelter on the engine. “Tommy,” she asked cautiously. “What are you doing?” He lifted his head and flashed a boyish smile; dirt or grease smeared across his cheek and forehead. She chuckled; her husband was the very image of a young boy playing with his toys.
“You mentioned that it was making a funny knocking noise last week, so I thought I’d check it out.” He grinned impishly; it was the grin that always managed to keep him out of trouble. Aubrey groaned inwardly as she took in the sight of disconnected parts and hoses; there was no chance she’d be able to take the convertible today.
“And did you find the problem?” she asked, knowing full well that Thomas could take things apart but rarely put them back together.
He shook his head slowly, and with all seriousness said, “No, but I’m sure it’s this part right here, behind the engine block.” He urged Aubrey closer, wanting to show off his knowledge of the various car parts. She nodded her head as he rambled on, wondering who she was going to have to call this time to help fix the mess that Thomas had made. She loved her husband but fixing cars was definitely not one of his strong suits.
As he wound down from his explanations, he reached for a towel sitting on the bench behind Aubrey. Once his hands were cleans, he leaned against the hood of the car and pulled her into his arms until she was resting comfortably against his hips. He nuzzled the skin behind her ear, “What’s up Aubrey-girl? What’s the plan for today?”
She snuggled in closer, content to stay in his arms a while longer. “I just got off the phone with Brooke,” she answered.
Thomas lifted an eyebrow, “And…”
“And we thought it would be fun for me to run up there for the afternoon,” she said. “Want to come?”
He laughed the deep, rumbling laugh of a man who knew that the afternoon would likely involve shopping, girl talk, and giggles, an afternoon that would probably be a little stilted if Dad came along. “No thanks, love.” He gestured to the car with its various parts spilling out over the top. “I have plenty to do here, but go, have a wonderful time.”
She smiled in response; it was the answer she’d expected from the moment she’d walked into the garage. She bumped his hips with her own, “All right then, I’m outta here.” She pulled his head down for a passionate, theatrical kiss and ended it with a smack. When she would have pulled out of his arms to make her way to the Honda, Thomas tightened his grip. She looked up in surprise, a little alarmed at the serious look on his face.
Thomas couldn’t explain it, something within him was refusing to let go. Suddenly everything within his body was hesitant about letting her drive the two hours to see Brooke. When he felt her tense at his uncertainty, he pulled her even closer. And there they stood for about five minutes, locked in a tight embrace, her head cupped against his chest, the smell of her perfume drifting up and clouding his senses. He relished each curve that fit so perfectly against his own hard angles; he cherished each contented sigh as she allowed herself to relax against him. And finally, after all his senses had been filled, he released her with a kiss to her temple.
Aubrey flashed him a grin, tossed the keys in the air, and made her way to the sedan. She climbed in and started the car; she adjusted the mirrors and found her sunglasses; she fiddled with the radio, searching for the light-rock station she loved; and blew Thomas a kiss as she made her way out of the driveway. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stood up, he was uneasy with his wife making the trip but he couldn’t understand why. He wanted to run after her, to beg her to stay with him for the day. Unused to these feelings, he shook them off, returned to the garage, and reassured himself that they’d go on a date when she returned.
Jessica answered on the third ring; Aubrey could hear the kids playing in the background and the sound brought a smile to her face. “Hello?” Jessica answered in a tired voice.
“Oh, Jessie, honey, you sound terrible!” Aubrey tried to keep her tone light and carefree, but a bit of worry managed to sneak its way into her voice.
Jessica sighed an audibly deep sigh, the sigh of a woman who was both physically and emotionally exhausted. “Thanks,” she answered sarcastically. She cringed, sarcasm was coming too easily nowadays; it seemed to be the only way she could communicate with anyone. “Things are a little crazy around here; I can’t find anything in these packed boxes, not to mention it’s so chaotic that I can barely think!”
Aubrey clucked her tongue, remembering the trying and tiring times of parenting toddlers and trying to maintain a household as though they were yesterday. “Hang in there, honey!” she encouraged. “How did the showing go yesterday?”
“We got an offer on the house but the couple wanted us to pay all closing costs, their down payment, and throw in the washer and dryer! We’ve counter-offered.” Jessica rubbed the bridge of her nose, remembering the knock-down, drag-out fight she and Rob had over the offer and whether or not they should take it. He felt that they should have taken it without any qualms; accusing her of sabotaging their move. She thought they should hold out for more and accused him of uprooting their family at any cost. The fight had ended with Rob yelling at her to do whatever she wanted and slamming the door shut on his way out to the garage.
Audrey tried to sound as positive as possible, even though her heart fell to the bottom of her stomach. She just couldn’t imagine living that far away from her grandbabies and eldest daughter. Please, Lord, give me your peace and strength during this change. “Well, that’s promising. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be moving with Rob, instead of waiting here.”
There was another deep sigh, “Yea, I guess its good news.” Just then the sound of breaking glass reverberated through the receivers.
“What was that?” Aubrey asked alarmingly. She swerved into the left lane; the traffic was finally starting to move forward.
“That,” Jessica explained, “was the sound of Wyatt knocking a lamp onto the wood floor.” Jessica was already holding the phone between her shoulder and ear and with her free hands was cleaning up the broken pieces of glass.
“Well, it sounds as though you’ve got your hands full, so I’ll hurry up. Do you think Rob would be willing to stop by our place this afternoon? Dad decided to open up the convertible and I fear it may never be back in once piece if Rob doesn’t get over there.” She heard the slight pause on Jessica’s end and hurried on, “Please Jess? I’d call Kyle but he and Abby are still in Mexico until Monday.”
“I don’t know Mom; we aren’t exactly talking to each other right now. In fact, to be honest, I don’t have a clue what his plans are for the day.”
“Oh Jessie,” Aubrey breathed, her heart sinking at the news that they were still struggling. “Things aren’t getting better, huh? Is there anything your father and I can do?”
In a barely audible whisper, Jessica responded, “Pray.” She paused, feeling the ache deep within her soul. She continued, “For the first time in our marriage, I see cracks and I don’t know how to fix them.”
Aubrey tapped on her horn as a driver cut her off to pass the same semi; she turned her attention back to Jessica. “Jessica, get out my letter. Please. I’m sure there’s advice in there you can use, scriptures to rely on. Reread it, pray on it, and listen to God.”
Jessica knew an order when she heard one, “Yes ma’am.” Just then, she heard the garage door open and knew that Rob had returned home, from wherever he had been. “Well, Mom, Rob’s home now and I’ll make sure he gets over to help Dad.”
“Thanks honey, tell Rob we owe him a dinner if he can undo whatever your father did.” The stop-and-go traffic was driving Aubrey a little crazy; she didn’t mind going slow as long as it remained consistent. Again the traffic picked up and the Honda responded to the pressure on the gas. “Well, I’d better go; I need to concentrate on driving. At this rate, I won’t get to Brooke’s until after lunch.”
Jessica laughed and longingly wished for the days when her mother would come visit her at school. In moments like these, those days seemed so carefree and easy. “Have fun! Give Brooke a kiss from me.” And the two hung up.
The station was now playing Jack Johnson and Aubrey sang along with the mellow voice, trying to relish her alone time in the car. Her foot was itching to go faster, the slow pace killing her, but she knew that once they passed this last exit, traffic would be sparse enough to allow Aubrey the speed she craved.
Just then, Aubrey looked up as she noticed the semi starting to come into her lane. She could see the blinking lights on the side of the semi out of the corner of her eye, further proof that the driver intended to switch lanes. She could hear horns blasting behind her and a quick glance in the rearview mirror showed the horror on the other drivers’ faces. As Aubrey laid on her own horn, she sped up, trying desperately to get out of the way. She watched in dismay as the semi crept closer and closer to her car. The fear rose in her throat, almost choking her. A million thoughts and memories raced through her mind; facing Thomas on her wedding day, barely making his face through the cloud of the veil; the red, squalling face of each newborn daughter as they came out of her womb; the hope and optimism evident on each daughter’s face on their wedding day. Aubrey looked around her wildly, wondering where to go or what to do; racking her brain for any possible solution to avert the crash that was sure to happen. Seconds before impact Aubrey sent up one anguished plea, “Dear Father, no!”
The semi completed the lane change, bringing the inevitable collision. It tore off the top of the Honda and sent it end-over-end down the embankment, on the side of the highway. Other drivers watched in dismay as the car came to a rest on its hood, or what was left of the hood. Some of the other drivers on the highway pulled out cell phones and immediately dialed for help; others quickly pulled to the side of the road, anxious to assist in any way they could.
Once the crash had registered in his mind, the semi-driver shook in fear and regret as he pulled the semi to a stop. Hopping down from his seat, he ran back to where the Honda had been knocked off the road and the crowd that gathered there. He watched in disbelief as two men made their way down the embankment, trying to get to the wreckage as fast as possible. In the distance the sound of wailing sirens could be heard and grew louder with each passing second. Shaking uncontrollably, the driver sank to his knees. He’d never been a praying man but he prayed now, hoping against hope that the other driver would show some kind of life, some indication that they were all right. He buried his face in his hands and wept like a baby.