I used two prompts this time. "We need to talk" and "The huge lump in my throat made it hard to swallow."
"We need to talk," she said.
My heart skipped a beat or two. Those four words are every guy's nightmare. It could mean anything from "Honey, I bounced a check." to "I think I'm pregnant."
"Emma, you're my wife, I love you. No matter what it is, I'll understand." I said. That seemed like a safe response.
Her chin quivered and tears welled up in her eyes.
I gambled on my next move and stepped forward to take her in my arms. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't. You could never tell with Emma. If the something she needed to talk about was something I'd done wrong, the hugging move could just make her more angry, but if she was sad, it was usually a good move.
She didn't pull away.
"It's okay, honey," I said, patting her on the back, "just tell me what's wrong."
"I…I…um…put a dent in the car today," she said, eyes pleading with me not to be angry.
I managed a smile. "Oh, hon, don't worry about it," I said, relieved that it wasn't something worse, "That old Taurus has seen better days."
I felt her tremble.
"It wasn't the Taurus." she whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear.
Not the Taurus? Then, what….oh, no…not-not the Vette. She never drove the Vette. Dear God, not the Vette! Six years and nearly $10,000 in restoration work. Please, not the Vette.
The huge lump in my throat made it hard to swallow. "Not the Taurus?" I repeated, hoping against hope that I was wrong about the Vette.
She shook her head, then her words tumbled out one on top of the other. "Janet wanted to go for a ride down the coast this morning. It was such a beautiful day and…well, I've been cooped up in the house for the past couple of days…and she said she would love to ride in the Vette with the top down and well, we stopped for an ice cream at the Ice Cream Palace and these guys were looking the car over and Janet was flirting with them and I told her we should leave. I started backing out and didn't see the pole behind me…and…"
Please God, please, help me to handle this right, I prayed.
I swallowed hard, "It's only a car, honey. Let's go take a look."
"It's not in the garage," she said.
I kept my voice steady. "Where is it, dear?"
"It burnt up," she said.
An insidious gray cloud began to fog my brain. "B-burnt up?"
"Well, the fireman explained it all, but I didn't understand it," she said, handing me two business cards.
"What's this?" I croaked, barely able to speak.
"One is the Ice Cream Palace owner's card and one is his lawyer's card."
My head was spinning. "Owner? Lawyer?"
"Yeah, he gave them to me before they took him away in the ambulance. I don't think he was seriously hurt, just his legs, but we'll probably have to pay for the front of the building and his hospital bills." Tears streaming down her face, now.
"Building? Hospital?" I knew I was babbling, but I couldn't think straight.
"Yeah," she said, nodding her head slowly, "After I hit the pole, I put it in drive and ran through the front of the Ice Cream Palace."
It was at this point that everything went black and I hit the floor, with those four words echoing in my head, We need to talk…we need to talk …we need to talk …
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)