“Wake up, wake up, it’s time to play!” Theo calls out. As I slowly open my eyelids that feel like they’ve been superglued together. I motion a glance at the clock and it reads 6:20am.
“Oh, Theo, it’s too early, buddy,” then I notice the sad look on his face before he slowly says, “please?”
He’s 7 years old and he knows exactly how to work me. I’m a sucker for that face.
“Alright, I’m up, I’m up,” I call out nonchalantly as it resembles that scene from The Lion King where Simba wakes his father, Mufasa. I sit up on the bed and rest my feet on the hardwood floor as Theo rushes to the play room excitedly. Every day is the same, I wake up to Theo wanting me to play and we spend all day doing just that.
Not long after my car accident, I’ve been unable to work. The accident was my fault, I drove home drunk after I received a call from my wife telling me she was going into labour and I was out partying with colleagues over a new deal the company had made with investors. It was going to make us all filthy rich so we had no option but to celebrate.
My wife; Cassandra, was only 8 months pregnant and had no other signs of labour so it was all a big shock. Of course with it being premature there were risks involved. And Cassandra’s family and friends lived hundreds of miles away after she chose to move here so I could remain with the company I basically helped build. I rang every taxi company there was within a 20 mile radius. Not one of them had an available car as it was the weekend and some huge sporting event was on so everyone was out partying. I never cared much for sports. I spat over the phone how serious my situation was and not one of them gave a s**t. I considered walking/running home but it would take me at least a couple of hours. I needed to be home now! So I decided to drive home.
It was late I thought. No one else will be on the roads. Besides, I feel okay. I left the bar after waving bye to everyone and hopped in my car ready to leave when a police car came speeding down. The hell? I thought. Have they been watching us, waiting for one of us to try driving? Police will do anything for a bust lately. As I finished the sentence to myself the police car went speeding by. I always get paranoid when I saw police cars flashing their lights and hearing their siren. Even if I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was just natural for me to assume I’d done something wrong. As they got out of sight, I started the car and made my way home.
It only took 15 minutes from setting off in my car to realise how drunk I actually was. My blurred vision made it seem as though I was peering through a heavily condensed windscreen. I would set my wipers away hoping that it would be moisture on the outside of the windscreen but it wasn’t. I even put on the car heating to full-blast hoping it was actually condensation but to no avail. I was wasted and I knew it. My instinct told me to pull over but I couldn’t stop thinking and worrying about Cassandra and our baby. They were more important and the country road that I was driving on was empty, what could go wrong?
A lot, that’s what. I suddenly started falling asleep behind the wheel thanks to the heat from my car trying to clear the imaginative condensation on my windscreen. The next thing I remember is hearing sirens and seeing police, the fire service and paramedics surrounding my car that resembles an empty crisp packet crushed up. I look over the bit of road and see another car, a silver family car with a woman driver and two children in the back. The driver is leaning against the steering wheel, her eyes are staring blankly at the passenger seat and there’s a crimson red pouring down her face. I don’t need to be a doctor to know she’s dead.
I look into the back of the car and the paramedics have taken out a young girl by the look of her I’d say she’s 11 or 12, or at least was. The paramedics are doing chest compressions on her as she lays in the grass at the side of the road. Then there’s the boy. Sitting on the left side in the rear of the crushed silver car. He’s still alive, he has short blonde hair and light skin and his eyes, bright blue and filled with tears looking right into mine, right down into my soul with a questionable expression on his face. If he could speak he’d be saying “why?”. Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. I can just say hear what the paramedics are saying, a piece of fence that the car had crashed through has gone through the rear passenger door and pierced straight into the boys chest.
The boy shows no sign of pain, he shows no sign of fear or weakness, he just continues to look into my eyes, as if trying to send all the pain he’s feeling to me telepathically. Then after a few seconds he lays his head back into his child booster seat. He’s gone. The girl can’t be saved either, then the paramedics rush to my car and help me out of it. I manage to stand, albeit a little wobbly. I suddenly don’t feel the effects of alcohol any more but I bet they can smell it on my breath. The paramedics check me over and say I have a few cuts and scratches but I’ll be okay, they keep an eye on me so that I don’t go into shock. I can’t believe it, every member in the other car has died and I’m sat in an ambulance with a few cuts and not a single ounce of pain. Was this justice? Of course not. It was God punishing me for my stupid idea. It hurts me knowing that three people have lost their lives but if he really wanted to hurt me, why didn’t he do something to…
“Oh no!” I said out loud. The paramedics looked over to me and asked if I was okay. “My wife has gone into labour and I need to get to the hospital!” I exclaim.
“Don’t worry, sir. We’re taking you to hospital just to get you thoroughly checked over, to make sure there’s no internal damage,” the paramedic replies. There’s only one hospital at this neck of the woods so I didn’t have to worry about which one they would take me to. After I was checked over and discharged I rushed over to the maternity department to find my wife. I was obviously too late, my wife had already given birth to our beautiful son Theo. I held him in my arms and I felt okay, the accident had gone out of my mind as I looked down at this angel laying in my arms. I kissed my wife on the forehead and she slowly opened her eyes. They shot open when she realised it was me and pulled me in for a hug. The police had come and told her what had happened and said I had to get in touch with them as they’re wanting to question me about the accident. I lay Theo back into his hospital cot and kissed Cassandra before making my exit.
The police wanted me to come in the next day for questioning. I rang my work and told them what had happened and they already knew. The police ran my number plate and the car I own is a company car so managed to get all my info from my work and that’s how they found my wife. They were notified when she was admitted into hospital. My boss was supportive and even supplied the company attorney to defend me. Questioning didn’t take long at the station, they asked the general questions then said I was free to go. What? I thought. Free to go? The officer showed me out and that was it. I was drunk last night and I know the crash was my fault. Surely there would be evidence to suggest all of this.
I left the station relieved and guilty. Three people died because of me. Two innocent children and what I assume was their mother. Why were they out so late? I didn’t know what to do so I went back to the hospital and both Cassandra and Theo were ready to go home. When we got home as a family I just held Theo the rest of the night. I couldn’t put him down. He was so perfect and innocent. He already looked like Cassandra. Which is a good thing because she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Her curly, brunette hair sprouting wildly out of her head, her dark brown eyes and button nose with the most softest lips you could find. Right through her once toned body and plump backside all covered with mocha coloured skin. I wanted to make another baby every time I looked at her. But now, this bundle of joy laid happily in my arms has all of her features. Theo has my chin though.
The next day I went to work, kissing Cassandra and Theo as I left. As I was heading to my office my boss, the CEO of the company and a good friend Michael Reston or Mr. Reston to everyone else called me into his office.
“You managing okay?” he asked with a concerned expression on his face.
“I’m getting there,” I replied. We both then looked at each other for a moment but felt like years. I finally mustered up the courage to tell him.
“It was my fault. I’d been out celebrating over the new deal and Casan…” I blurted out but I was met with a hand from Michael which meant he wanted me to stop.
“I already know. The cop who was at the scene that did the statements is a close friend. He’s helped me out a few times all for just a pay-cheque. They don’t make much. He’s good at making evidence disappear and writing statements and witness accounts in your favour. We sent down our best attorney just in case a different officer wanted to give you trouble. We got lucky, Brian.”
Michael’s words hit me like a ton of bricks.
“So that’s why I was free to go? Because you paid off a cop?” I said with a little anger in my voice.
“You’ve done a lot for me, Brian. Hell, you helped build this company and even when I couldn’t pay you and other companies were offering you ridiculous amounts of money to work for them you stuck by me. I wasn’t about to lose my best asset and I knew I owed you. Consider us even,” he replied with his usual charm. I didn’t know what to think. I should be answering for my crime, I mean I killed three people and it’s my fault they’re dead. I couldn’t think of anything else to say so I nodded to Michael and left his office.
It was that night that the nightmares started. All I could see were those piercing blue eyes staring right through me and I’d bolt upright screaming. Cassandra was always there to calm me down and reassure me that everything was okay but it wasn’t. How could it be? I killed people and the police were paid to cover my tracks and make it look it I wasn’t at fault. The nightmare would happen once a month.
I’d go into work the next day exhausted and Michael would happily tell me that I looked like crap. Michael tried talking about the accident a couple of times over the next couple of months. The hospital reports that said I had more alcohol in me than a sold out football stadium were gone. The statements wrote by that officer had put the mother of the children at blame, she was speeding and collided head on into me. I didn’t believe it so why would anyone else? Then Michael told me that the woman’s husband was questioned and he said she just left with the kids while he was at work. The police found a lot of domestic disturbance reports linked to the family so Michael guessed it was an abusive relationship and the mother fled with her kids away from the animal. She must’ve thought they could finally live a full life but instead I took it away from them.
The nightmare would occur more frequently going from once a month to several times a month. Eventually they happened every night. Cassandra and I would often fall out and she’d talk away but I’d never listen because I was always seeing those eyes of the boy. I remember one day Cassandra told me I was hallucinating and talking to myself. She forced me to seek medical help. I was diagnosed with depression and I was let go from work due to being a liability. I was given medication by my doctor but they never helped. I would put on a fake smile and tell everyone I was fine. I would just spend my time playing with Theo.
The years had passed and eventually Cassandra left me. She couldn’t handle living with me any more. I don’t blame her. She said I didn’t love her and she was probably right. I didn’t know how to love any more. I couldn’t feel, I barely ate and only managed to sleep thanks to the sleeping medication I was also taking. I had no emotion but guilt and self-loathing. Cassandra moved back home with her parents and it didn’t bother me. Like I said, I spent my days playing with Theo. He was always happy to see me. We’d play with action figures and build things out of Lego then we’d sit and watch a film and it was good to see him smile. To see him live a normal life. Every day would be the same, he’d wake me up and we’d play. I lost all sense of who I was, all I knew was I was a dad. Cassandra had set up direct debits for all the bills that my benefits covered. Any spare money was spent on food that was also automatic and was delivered to the house just like my medication. I can’t remember the last time I went outside. Me and Theo would just stay in all day playing and watching films. I never opened the curtains and I’d never answer the door or telephone. I lost touch with the outside world and I didn’t want it back. I had accepted I would spend the rest of my life here playing with Theo.
This day that Theo woke me was no different. Theo acted the same and wanted to play as usual and as I left my bedroom and headed into the play room where he had begged me to come the phone rang. I recognised the number and I reluctantly answered it.
“Brian?” a familiar voice called out.
“Hi, Cassandra,” I replied.
“Brian, the reason I’m calling is because…” At this point Theo came and stood in the doorway of the play room and looked at me with a smile.
“It’s because Theo wants to see you. As much as I’ve tried to tell him you can’t he keeps asking. I was hoping you wanted to see him too,” she said. As I looked down at Theo with his light skin and blonde hair. His bright blue eyes piercing through me like they always did.
“Sorry, Cas. I’m busy playing,” I said as I hung up the phone. I walked towards Theo as he held out his hand, I took it as we headed back into the play room. I called him Theo the first day he came to me. He is my son. I took his life away from him and in return, he has done the same to me.