Authors: Colleen Hoover
“They can’t both be hurt,” I whisper. “They can’t.”
“They’re not,” Jonah says. His voice is so full of confidence I almost believe him. But then he rubs his forehead and leans against the wall for support. “Who called you? What did they say?”
“The hospital. About twenty minutes ago. They specifically said Chris. There was no mention of Jenny.”
“Same, but they told me Jenny.”
Just then, Sierra reappears, this time through the doors. “You guys can come with me.”
She doesn’t take us to a hospital room. She takes us to another waiting room, farther inside the ER.
Jonah is holding Elijah now. I didn’t even notice he took him from me. Sierra tells us to have a seat, but neither of us does.
“I don’t have news on their conditions yet.”
both of them?” Jonah asks. “Jenny
“Oh my God,” I whisper. I drop my head in my hands. Two huge tears slide down my cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, Morgan,” she says. “You guys can wait in here, and as soon as I know something, I’ll be back.” Sierra leaves the room and closes the door.
Jonah sits next to me.
We’ve been in the emergency room less than ten minutes, but the fact that we still don’t know anything makes it seem like hours have gone by.
“Maybe one of their cars broke down,” Jonah mutters. “That’s probably why they were together.”
I nod, but my mind can’t even process that sentence right now. I don’t know why they were together, in the same car. I don’t know why Jenny lied to us and said she was working today. I don’t even care. I just need to know that they’re okay.
Jonah straps a sleeping Elijah into his car seat, then stands and begins pacing the room. I look at the time on my cell phone. I should call someone to pick up Clara. A friend of mine. Or Lexie. I want someone to get to Clara before she finds out about the wreck from someone else.
I should call Chris’s parents.
No, I’ll wait. Make sure he’s okay first. They live in Florida. Not much they can do from there but worry unnecessarily.
Jonah calls his mother and asks if she can come pick up Elijah. Before he hangs up, I get his attention. “Would she mind going to get Clara?”
Jonah nods in understanding, then asks his mother to pick up Clara from school. He then calls the school and hands me his phone. I let them know his mom will be picking her up.
Clara has met Jonah’s mother a couple of times, but she’s going to be confused, and Jonah’s mother isn’t anyone on the pickup list for Clara. I just don’t want Clara driving up here alone. She’ll be full of worry and panic, and she hasn’t had her license all that long.
A few more minutes pass. Jonah spends it calling the police station, trying to get information about the wreck. They won’t tell him much. He asks what the model of the vehicle is that was involved. It was Jenny’s car. A Toyota Highlander. A male was driving. But that’s all they’ll tell him.
“Why was Chris driving her car?” Jonah asks. I treat it as a rhetorical question, but he mutters another. “Why did she lie about working today?”
I keep watching my phone as if Jenny or Chris is going to call me and tell me they’re fine.
“Morgan,” Jonah says.
I don’t look at him.
“Do you think . . . are they having an—”
“Don’t say it,” I spit out.
I don’t want to hear it. Or think it. It’s absurd. It’s incomprehensible.
I stand up and start to pace the portion of the room Jonah hasn’t paced yet. I’ve never been so irritated by sounds before. The beeping coming from the hallway, the tapping of Jonah’s fingers against his phone screen as he shoots off texts to Jenny’s and Chris’s phones, the paging system overhead calling doctors and nurses from one place to another, the squeaking of my shoes against the hardwood floor of this room. I’m so incredibly annoyed by every single thing, but the cacophony of sounds is the only thing I want in my head right now. I don’t want to think about why Chris and Jenny were together.
“Clara will be here soon. And my mother,” Jonah says. “We need to come up with a reason why Chris and Jenny were together.”
“Why lie to them? I’m sure it was a work-related thing.”
Jonah is staring at the floor, but I can see that his expression is full of doubt. Concern.
I swipe tears away, and I nod, because he could be right. I choose to believe he’s wrong, but his mother and Clara might begin to ask us questions. They’ll want specifics, or they’ll start having the same thoughts Jonah and I are having. We can’t tell them we don’t know why they were together. It could cause unnecessary suspicion in Clara.
“We can tell them Chris had a flat and Jenny gave him a ride to work,” I suggest. “At least until Jenny and Chris can explain it themselves.”
We make eye contact . . . something we’ve barely done since he walked into the emergency room. Jonah nods while pressing his lips together, and something about the look in his eyes breaks me.
As if Jonah can sense I’m beginning to crack . . . to fade . . . he walks over to me and pulls me in for a comforting hug. I’m clinging to him in fear, my eyes squeezed shut, when the door finally opens.
We separate. Jonah steps forward, but when I see the look on the doctor’s face, I step back.
He begins to speak, but I don’t know exactly what he says because his words mean nothing to me. I can see our answer in his apologetic eyes. In the way his lips turn down at the corners. In his remorseful stance.
When the doctor tells us there was nothing they could do, Jonah falls into a chair.
I just . . .
I used to collect snow globes when I was younger. They lined a shelf in my bedroom, and sometimes I would shake them up, one after the other, then sit on my bed and watch as the flurries and the glitter swirled around inside the glass.
Eventually, the contents inside the globe would begin to settle. All would grow still, and then the globes on my shelf would return to their quiet, peaceful states.
I liked them because they reminded me of life. How sometimes, it feels like someone is shaking the world around you, and things are flying at you from every direction, but if you wait long enough, everything will start to calm. I liked that feeling of knowing that the storm inside always eventually settles.
This week proved to me that sometimes the storm doesn’t settle. Sometimes the damage is too catastrophic to be repaired.
For the past five days since Jonah’s mother showed up at my school to take me to the hospital, it feels like I’ve been inside a snow globe that someone shook up, then dropped. I feel like the contents of my life have shattered, and fragments of me have spilled out all over someone’s dusty hardwood floor.
I feel irreparably broken.
And I can’t even blame what happened to them on anyone but myself.
It’s unfair how one event . . . one second . . . can shake the world around you. Toss everything on its head. Ruin every happy moment that led up to that earth-shattering second.
We’re all walking around like lava coats our throats. Painfully silent.
My mother keeps asking if I’m okay, but all I can do is nod. Other than those words, she’s been just as quiet as I have. It’s like we’re living in a nightmare—one where we don’t want to eat or drink or speak. A nightmare where all we want to do is scream, but nothing comes out of our hollow throats.
I’m not a crier. I guess I get that from my mother. We cried together at the hospital. So did Jonah and his mother. But as soon as we left the hospital and went to the funeral home, my mother became as poised and put together as people expect her to be. She’s good at putting on a brave face in public, but she saves the tears for her bedroom. I know because I do the same thing.
My father’s parents flew in from Florida three days ago. They’ve been staying with us. My grandmother has been helping out around the house, and I’m sure it’s been good for my mother. She’s had to deal with funeral planning for not only her husband but also her sister.
Aunt Jenny’s funeral was yesterday. My father’s is right now.
My mother insisted they be separate, which made me angry. No one wants to sit through this two days in a row. Not even the dead.
I’m not sure what’s more exhausting. The days or the nights. During the days since the accident, our house has had a revolving front door. People bringing food, offering their condolences, stopping by to check in. Mostly people who worked at the hospital with my father and aunt Jenny.
The nights are spent with my face buried into my soaking wet pillow.
I know my mother wants it to be over. She’s ready for her in-laws to go home.
ready to go home.
I’ve been holding Elijah through most of the service. I don’t know why I’ve been wanting to hold him so much since it happened. Maybe I find his newness kind of comforting amid all this death.
He begins to grow restless in my arms. He’s not hungry—Jonah’s mom just fed him. I changed him right before the service started. Maybe he doesn’t like the noise. The preacher my mother selected to conduct the service doesn’t seem to know how to hold a microphone. His lips keep brushing across it. Every time he takes a step toward the speakers, they screech.
When Elijah begins to full-on cry, I first look at the end of the aisle for Jonah, but his previously occupied seat is now empty. Luckily, I’m sitting on the edge of the pew, closest to the wall. I quietly leave the room without having to walk down the middle of the aisle. The service is beginning to wind down, anyway. They’ll have the prayer, and then everyone will walk past the casket and hug us, and then it’ll be over.
I hugged most of these same people at Aunt Jenny’s funeral yesterday. I don’t really feel like doing it all over again. It’s part of the reason I’ve been insistent on holding Elijah. I can’t really hug people when my arms are occupied with my baby cousin.
When I’m outside the chapel and back in the foyer, I put Elijah in his stroller and take him outside. Ironically, it’s a beautiful day. The sun warms my skin, but it doesn’t feel good. It feels unfair. My father loved days like this. One time, he called in sick and took me fishing, simply because the weather was so nice.
I glance to my left, and Jonah is leaning against the building in the shade. He pushes off the brick and walks toward us. I find it odd that he isn’t inside right now. My father and Jonah were supposedly best friends, and he’s skipping his service?
I guess I don’t have room to talk. I’m out here too.
“He was getting restless, so I brought him outside.”
Jonah places his palm on the top of Elijah’s head, brushing his thumb over his forehead. “You can go back in. I’ll probably just take him home now.”
I’m jealous he gets to leave.
want to leave.
I don’t go back inside. I take a seat on a bench right outside the front door to the chapel and watch Jonah push the stroller across the parking lot. After strapping Elijah into his car seat and loading the stroller into his trunk, Jonah gives me a small wave as he climbs into the car.
I wave back, unable to mask the empathy in my expression. Elijah isn’t even two months old yet, and Jonah will be raising him alone now.
Elijah will never know what Aunt Jenny was like.
Maybe I should write down some of my favorite memories of her before I start to forget.
That thought breathes new life into my grief. I’m going to start forgetting them. I’m sure it won’t happen at first, but it will, after time. I’m going to forget how my father sounded off key when he sang John Denver songs at the top of his lungs every time he mowed the yard. I’m going to forget how Aunt Jenny used to wink at me whenever my mother would say something that exposed her overbearing side. I’ll start to forget how my father always used to smell like coffee or fresh grass and how Aunt Jenny used to smell like honey, and before I know it, I’ll forget how their voices sounded and what their faces looked like in person.
A tear falls down my cheek, and then another. I lie down on the bench and curl up my legs. I close my eyes and try not to get swallowed up in more guilt. But the guilt wraps its arms around me, squeezing the breath out of my lungs. Since the moment I found out they had the wreck, I knew in my gut what caused it.
I was texting Aunt Jenny.
She was responding to my texts at first . . . and then she wasn’t. I never heard back from her, and then two hours later, I found out about the wreck.
I’d like to believe it wasn’t my fault, but Aunt Jenny said she was on her way to work when I texted her. I should have been more concerned about her reading my texts while driving, but I was only concerned about myself and my issues.
I wonder if Mom knows my conversation with Jenny is what caused them to crash. Had I not been texting her in that moment—had I just waited until she was at work—my mother wouldn’t have lost both her sister and her husband. She wouldn’t be struggling right now with being forced to bury two of the most important people in her life.
Jonah wouldn’t have lost Jenny. Elijah wouldn’t have lost his mother.
I wouldn’t have lost my father—the only man I’ve ever loved.
Did they look at Aunt Jenny’s phone? Could they determine she was texting and driving?
If my mother does find out it was because I wanted Aunt Jenny to read my texts and respond to me when I knew she was driving, that will only add to her heartache.
That knowledge makes me not want to be here at a funeral where every single tear being shed inside is all because of me.
My eyes pop open at the sound of his voice. Miller is standing over me, his hands in the pockets of his pants. I sit up on the bench, straightening out my dress so that it covers my thighs. I’m surprised to see him. He’s wearing a suit. Black on black. I feel terrible that my body can somehow feel this much grief, yet be sparked with a twinge of attraction as soon as Miller is in my presence. I use my palms to wipe tears from my face. “Hi.”
He presses his lips together and looks around, like this is as uncomfortable as I fear it is. “I wanted to stop by. See how you were doing.”