Hit and Repent

 

Lindsey checked little Eve in the rear view mirror for the tenth time in as many minutes as she rattled her 1987 Jetta around the lane’s dips and bends.

“Here we go round the bendy roads on a dark and chilly evening!” she belted out, in a losing bid to keep the little girl’s eyelids from closing.

“We’re nearly home Sweetheart. Mummy’s got some yummy pasta for you!”

Lindsey was not normally in a rush to get home; since Callum her husband had died, nearly three months ago, home was somehow too quiet, too empty. Callum had fallen whilst rock climbing, and had probably died almost instantly. No goodbyes, no hugs or kisses, and now no Daddy for Eve. Lindsey knew that without Eve, she would have crawled into bed and surrendered to utter grief. Instead she had to get up in the mornings to change Eve’s nappy, get her dressed, prepare her Weetabix, build her a brick tower, and read to her their favourite Spot the Dog story. Eve had saved Lindsey, and in turn Lindsey knew she was all Eve had now.

Lindsey squinted at Eve’s reflection in the mirror, but couldn’t make out her features in the dusk.

“Eve?”

“Evie, don’t go to sleep baby!” Lindsey turned around and strained to shake the little girl’s legs in the car seat behind her.

THWACK, something smacked across the car and Lindsey was jolted sharply forwards in her seat. She grabbed at the wheel and stamped hard on the breaks. The tyres screeched as the momentum of the car swung it sideways across the road, the headlights flashing the empty lane, and hedge.

Stillness. Lindsey gasped for air, her throat constricting, her heart sprinting. She clutched the wheel, and looked out through the spider web of cracked glass at the tarmac. Nothing. Leaving the engine running, Lindsey, shakily inched the door open. Eve stirred, sensing the lack of motion, then relented.

From the dim glow of her phone Lindsey scrutinised the road. She could see her car’s skid marks, the sodden verge, and the low hedgerow. There was nothing else. She crept on, crouching close to the rough tarmac, scanning for fur, or blood.
Poor creature, she thought.

As she straightened up, a slow guttural moan emitted from the ditch beyond the verge. She held her breath, unable to move.

“Hello? Is anybody there?” she called, fumbling for the buttons to unlock her phone.

A muffled gurgle, followed by the unmistakable voice of a man, slurred, pained , broken. Her heart lurched, ice ripped through her body, she’d hit a person. She edged towards the ditch, and dropped to her hands and knees. Leaning into the black ditch Lindsey could just make out the shape of body a few feet to her left, lying on its side, face to the hedge. Instinctively she crawled forward and reached out with shaking finger tips to his shoulder.

“Don’t move, I’ll call for help…” at that moment she heard a small cry from the car. Lindsey’s thoughts were snapped back to her baby girl, alone in the car. All in a heartbeat Lindsey saw the police cars arriving, and arresting her for hitting someone; she saw them lead her away handcuffed and screaming for Eve. She saw a clueless social worker unbuckle Eve from her car seat and carry her off into the night; through the bars to her prison cell she saw Eve being handed over to a new family, and their door closing.

She had to get away. She had to protect Eve. She glanced down at the hunched body in the wet ditch. Reaching for her phone she turned and forced her legs to walk her back to the car. He’ll be OK, I’ll call an ambulance, he’ll be fine.

“Emergency services. Which services do you require?”

Numbness returned as Lindsey watched her hands move the car into gear and turn the wheel through the lanes, and into her driveway. Clutching Eve to her hip, she fumbled with the keys as she tried to open the front door. She pictured him lying there, in the ditch, so cold. Eve's screams brought her back. Her body moved to Eve’s evening routine, but her mind was now picturing him, walking down the road, with a wife holding his hand. Eve gurgled in delight as Lindsey proffered a bowlful of pasta bolognaise. Eve’s large innocent eyes looked up at her with such love and hope Lindsey had to look away. She felt disgusted with herself. She gently bathed Eve's chubby body with the sponge as the little girl splashed with relish. Lindsey pictured him at home kids running around him, laughing, wrestling him to the ground. After her bath Lindsey kissed Eve’s fluffy little head as she lay her down in the cot, breathing in her powder sweet smell
Only when Eve was asleep did Lindsey let herself feel. She waited for the anguish, the horror the remorse to hit, but instead she felt sick, she couldn’t think of anything but Eve. Eve was so perfect. At sixteen months she was becoming a real little girl, with a cheeky personality, all of her own. Yet she was still so tiny and vulnerable. Lindsey sometimes wondered how she would be able to protect Eve from the world she would one day set out in alone. There were some terrible people out there, people who hurt children, who killed, who hit and run…

Lindsey gripped the kitchen counter for support, as sweat pricked her pores and her legs slumped. She had to find him. Reaching for her keys, she ran to Mrs Saunders at 41.

“Of course I’ll sit for Eve dear. Are you sure you’re OK though, you look so worried?”

“I am fine, it’s just my friend, she’s ill. I don’t know how long I’ll be, but I’ll call you. Thanks again.”

The old car hurried along the slippery lanes, the wipers furiously slapping the rain clear. Lindsey sat hunched over the steering wheel, her nose to the windscreen, searching for skid marks. She dropped a gear as the car climbed a bank, and rounded a corner, to be met by a row of red tail lights dotted along the verge, and stabs of blue light from the top of an ambulance.

Edging along the row of cars, Lindsey watched the throng of fluorescent jackets move swiftly between the ditch and their vehicles, intermittently lifting a lapel on their jackets to make inaudible instructions to their control room. Scratchy replies crackled over the policemen’s radios, as they began to place traffic cones around the scene.

“A 313 requesting Scene of Crime Officer and Forensics attend immediately, for a 10-57 on the B224 approximately 6 miles south of Brenning. Over.”

Lindsey gasped, the words forensics and crime, came at her like punches to the stomach. She was a criminal, and they were looking for her, and if they found her, the reality was too dreadful to think of. Shivering, Lindsey moved slowly towards the back of the ambulance, until she could touch the doors. She could hear subdued conversation; the van rocked as the occupants moved about their patient.

A door swung open, and a burley paramedic hopped down “Right, we’re almost ready for the off”, he shouted across to the policemen, as he strode towards the driver’s door.

Lindsey blinked into the bright compartment; a young, lanky paramedic with a thatch errant black hair was securing a seatbelt across the bed, a bed which had a body in it. They were a someone, someone’s child, someone’s brother, maybe someone’s Callum.

“You his missus then? Come on jump in.” Not waiting for Lindsey to reply, he cupped her elbow and pulled her in, before slamming the door shut.

“He’s alright, a few possible breaks here and there, but he’ll live.” He grinned, settling himself onto a fold down chair against the cab.

Lindsey hesitantly moved along the bed. Her gaze fixed on the oxygen mask obscuring the face clamped in a bright orange head brace. She felt like she was floating, the way you do in a dream. No matter how much she wanted to turn and run she just kept moving forwards. His eyes were closed, but as Lindsey’s shadow moved across his face he looked right at her. Without a word she gently took his rough, bloodied hand. She didn’t have a plan, or clever words; but she knew she needed to be there. As the van wound its way along the back lanes, Lindsey smiled inwardly at how, once again, it was little Eve who had made her do the right thing.

 

Katrina Wareham

 

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