“Yes. I’m Amy Elliott…” A thousand thoughts swam through my mind, none of them good. I tried, unsuccessfully, to push them away.
“I’m Officer Donovan, this is my partner Officer Harris. Could we come in?”
“Of course.” I was shaky. I had to sit down. I gestured to the officers to do the same but they didn’t.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Elliott. Your husband was in an auto accident early this morning. When the paramedics arrived, he was already dead.”
I said nothing. I didn’t move. I don’t even remember breathing. Dead. My husband is dead. Oh my God.
I rested my elbows on the table and my head in my hands. I took a few deep breaths and watched my tears drop like rain onto the table. Dan is… dead. God, is it my fault? Is it because I left last night? No. It can’t be. He didn’t even care that I caught him! Fuck. He probably went out and got drunk. Hell, I wanted him gone but I never imagined this. Never.
I was in a trance as I walked through the house. Shower. I needed a shower. I had to go see Dan. Oh, I wasn’t sure I wanted to, but I had to. “We’re going to need you to formally identify the body,” the officer told me. I didn’t have to do it alone. Logically, I knew that, but my head disagreed.
My mom? My sister? They knew things were not good between Dan and me. But they knew nothing more. And the thought of reliving everything that had happened in the past eighteen hours was too much for me. I didn’t want to go through that. And only one person already knew everything – the divorce, the cheating – one person knew all of it. Greg.
But I couldn’t call him. The guilt inside me was overwhelming. I was divorcing Dan. I wished I didn’t have to go through all of it. And now I don’t. I wanted to skip to the end. And now I can. No divorce. I don’t need one. What is wrong with me thinking about the ‘benefits’ of his death? God, I am a horrible person.
Before I could torture myself further, my ringing phone jolted me out of my thoughts. Do Moms always know when their children need them? I wasn’t going to see Dan alone.
As soon as I heard Mom’s voice, my tears returned. I told her, as coherently as I could, about the accident. And I said there was more. And she immediately told me to stay put until she arrived.
I explained everything to Mom. All of it. The divorce, the cheating. And I told her about Greg. Dying to block out everything about Dan, my thoughts lingered on Greg while Mom took everything in. And finally, she spoke.
“Well, sweetheart, you can skip the divorce now.”
“Oh, Mom, I love you.” I should have known Mom would be able to make me laugh. She always could… no matter what. Even through my tears. “I thought I was a bitch jumping to that thought. What kind of person thinks about that when her husband just died?”
“Oh, Amy, I understand. You already wanted to be away from Dan… far away. And he checked out of your marriage a long time ago. And he cheated! I think it’s only natural that you’d try to find the light in all of this.”
“But God, I feel guilty. Would this have happened if I didn’t run away last night?”
“Don’t even say that. You had every right to leave! And you didn’t force him to drive off the road. It’s not your fault.”
“I don’t feel… sad enough. I mean, I’m not happy… but I’m relieved. To me, Dan’s already been gone for months. I know this is different but I feel like the end came a long time ago.”
“Because it did. Don’t feel guilty for what happened to Dan. And don’t feel guilty for how you feel. You mourned him a long time ago.”
“I think my feelings for Greg are piling onto my guilt.” I stared at my own hands in my lap, involuntarily smiling at the mention of Greg’s name.
“Hey.” Mom paused until I looked at her. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“No, sweetheart… there’s no wrong here. You deserve to be happy.” She smiled to me before continuing. “Amy, I’ve been here for twenty minutes and it’s already clear to me that Greg makes you happy. Your entire face lights up at the mention of his name.”
I said nothing. But I couldn’t help smiling.
“Sweetheart, you’ve got to take care of yourself. You’ve got to make yourself happy.” She hugged me again. “I’m going to take you to see Dan. And then we’re going to have a drink… and then…”
“Mom… it’s noon.” I smiled at her.
“So what?” She smiled, too. “Listen to me, Amy… you were leaving Dan. He was cold and dishonest and he never deserved you. Maybe you’ve found someone who does.”
I was about to speak when my phone rang. Before I could grab it, Mom snatched it away.
“Mom! Give me that.” She slowly handed it to me.
“It’s Greg…” She teased me like I was back in high school. “I’ll just go outside on the deck while you talk to him.” And she disappeared.
“Amy. Are you okay? You were going to call me… let me know everything was alright when you got home…”
“I’m sorry. I was distracted when I got here.” I could feel my tears building again. “I forgot to call…”
“It’s okay. But I know something’s wrong. I can hear it in your voice. What is it? Was Dan there? Is he there now?”
“No.” My emotions were a mess. “He’s not here.”
“Honey, tell me what’s wrong…”
“Dan is… gone. An accident… the police came and…” I had to concentrate to take a breath. “He’s dead.”
“Oh God, honey… are you okay?”
“I shouldn’t be. And I’m not. Not really. But I’m kind of… relieved. And I feel so guilty.”
“No… why? You didn’t do anything.” Silence for a moment.
“Greg… I didn’t want to go through a divorce. I just wanted it to be over. Now it is. And I’m relieved.”
“Amy, you did not make this happen. It’s not your fault.” I knew he could hear me crying. “I don’t want you to be alone. Will you let me come over there?”
“I have to go out.”
“Now? Why? Where?”
“I have to go identify the body.”
“Oh God, Amy… you’re not going alone, are you?
“I was going to go alone… but Mom is here.”
“Good.” After a quiet moment, he spoke again. “Are you going to be alright?”
“I think so.”
“I think you need a hug.”
He was so sweet. But still, I teased him. “Mom gave me a hug.”
“That’s not what I had in mind.”
“I know. And I want a hug… from you.”
“You will definitely have it. And… please… tell me if there’s anything I can do… anything. I’ll call you later… is that okay…?”
“Of course it’s okay, Greg.”
I sat with Mom, taking slow, deep breaths to calm myself. This was an entirely new experience that I never thought I’d be living. Not that anyone would ever get used to such a thing. While we waited anxiously, Mom and I heard the medical examiner speaking to a couple as they were leaving.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure she was a wonderful woman.”
I watched the couple walking toward me, toward the door, as they wiped their tears. They were quite shaken, and I didn’t think the woman realized she dropped something. When I saw it fall, I lifted it to return it to her. As I did, I caught sight of what I’d retrieved. A photograph. Of the woman for whom, clearly, they were there. And I recognized her. Because she was on her knees in my kitchen less than 24 hours ago.
To be continued…