8/30

    Ida scrambled to buckle her seatbelt as Maria gunned the engine and the car leaped forward. "Did they find him?" she gasped.

    "All I know is they spotted a car. Jake's stopped it and the others are close behind."

    "Is it him? Did they say if it's him?"

    "They're a bit busy." Ida shrank back in her seat and Maria relented. "Sorry. It's all I have. We'll know more very quickly."

    "Do you think he killed him?" Ida choked on the word.

    Maria pursed her lips, thinking. "Honestly, I don't. He's much more interested in torment."

    "Oh god."

    "No, it's a good thing. A person can recover from torment."

    "Of course." Ida straightened in her chair. Let it be him they've found, she urged silently. Let him be all right.

    

    The car screamed along the empty country road. Trees flashed by in a blur. Every bump and rut jarred Ida's bones. The shoulder strap of her seat belt cut into her hands where she clutched it, her fingers tightened in a death grip around the only thing she could reach. Her eyes were dry now, tears banished, no room for anything in her heart but this terrible anticipation. She licked her lips, but her mouth was empty of saliva. The road stretched out endlessly before them.

    Maria's phone buzzed. Her hand flew to her ear. "Hillard," she barked. Ida felt her heart racing as Maria listened. "Right," said Maria at last. "Two minutes." She switched off the headset and let her foot off the gas.

    "What is it?" Ida said, her voice a thin shriek.

    "He's alive."

    "And?"

    Maria glanced at her. "That's all I have."

    Ida burst into tears.

    

    It looked like a traffic accident. Three black suvs stood at various angles across both lanes of the narrow road. Beyond them, a motorcycle lay on its side in the middle of the road. Someone was screaming. Ida vaulted from the car and ran to the circle of bulky black-clad men and women standing at the verge.

    "Will? Will?"

    Someone grabbed her shoulders. "He'll be all right, love. This way."

    She followed the gentle guidance back across the road to the car parked on the far side. Will sat in the back seat wrapped in a blanket. His bare, muddy feet dangled out the door. He stared at nothing, his eyes wide and full of pain.

    "Will?"

    Slowly, as if returning from a long distance, Will raised his head and looked at her. For a long moment he gazed, his brow gently furrowed. "Ida," he said at last.

    She choked, smiling and crying at once. Alive, her mind said, over and over again.

    

*What story does the story want to tell?

Aging actor, still loved and loving his work, beginning to fear. Fear it's not enough, fear he's done wrong. Hurt others. Hurt family by working so much; hurt other actors with his success. Received more than his fair share. Wonders if the karma bill is coming due.

Something happens.

He doesn't give up his work, something he loves and is loved for, that gives him meaning and opportunity to make a difference.

He does reach out to his family

Attempt to restore relationship with ex-wife's son - his stepson during formative years, closest to a son he has, he is closest to a father the boy has

 

    "Daniel, it's... it's Dad."

    A pause. Silence stretches, feels like years. Only a second or two

    "Hi, Dad."

    "Do you have a minute to talk?"

    "Yeah, sure."

    He licks his lips, swallows. Anxious. Shaking, heart racing, queasy.

    "I'm sorry, Danny."

    A pause. More silence.

    "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you more. I'm sorry your mum and I couldn't work it out. But I don't want you to ever, ever think I don't love you. I'll always be your dad." Closes his eyes, silent prayer. "If you want me to."

    Quiet again. Heart pounding, sweat on his brow.

    "Okay."

    A sense of relief, quickly followed by new fear. Does he mean it? Two syllables from the lips of a hurt teenager. What do they really mean?

    "I love you, Danny."

    "I love you too, Dad."

    Tears this time. Silent thanks.

    "Only, I've got class now. I've got to go."

    More tears. "All right. Thanks for - thank you. Have a good class."

    "Talk to you later, Dad."

    "Absolutely."

    The phone goes dead. He sits on the sofa, quietly, joyfully, sobbing.

    

    "Jenna, it's Will."

    Silence. He's used to it by now.

    "I'm not asking for anything. I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

    "Yes?" Her voice is sharp. Bitter, skeptical.

    "I didn't turn out to be the man you wanted. I wasn't there when you wanted me. I did love you, but I know that wasn't enough, and I'm sorry."

    "That all?"

    "That's all."

    More silence.

    "Anything you want to say to me?"

    She takes a breath, stops. Uncertain.

    "This is your chance to let me have it," he says. "I'm listening. I won't argue, I promise. I'm done with that now."

    Another breath. He realizes she's crying. "Oh, Jenna, I'm sorry."

    "Shut up! Just shut the hell up!" She sobs. "It's not your fault," she said. "I was young and stupid. I thought you'd just drop everything for me. I knew how much your work meant to you, and I thought I could prove you loved me more. It was a stupid, childish, unfair game and I'm sorry."

    His jaw drops. He can't believe what he's hearing.

    "I loved you too. But we were never right for each other, not really."

    Silence. She controls her tears. He holds the phone to his ear, speechless, at a loss.

    "Though you were an impossible ass," she adds.

    He chuckles. She chuckles. They both laugh. Laugh till they're crying again, weeping and giggling hysterically on the phone. The last ten years have vanished: she's twenty-five again and perfect, he's the man of her dreams. He wipes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

    "We could be wonderful friends," he says. "If you want to."

    "I'd like that," she says.

    "We could have coffee next week. I have Thursday morning free."

    "I have an audition."

    They start laughing again.

    "All right. Well, call me. Any time you like."

    "I will."

    More silence. A weight of sadness settles on him again.

    "How are the girls?" he asks.

    "Ugh. Twelve." She sighs. "There isn't a word comes out of their mouths that isn't boys, or makeup, or the next diet in a magazine. Me, I hated being twelve."

    "Maybe I should take them to coffee."

    "Will, they'd love it. Take them out of school for the morning, make them feel important. You don't know how happy it would make them."

    "All right, then I will."

    "Although, don't expect them to show it. It's not cool to be happy, you know."

    He laughs. "Never has been."

    Quiet again. "Thanks for calling, Will," she says.

    "Thank you."

    "We'll talk soon."

    "We will."

    "Bye."

    The phone goes dead. He wipes his eyes again, sits back on the sofa with a smile. Warm and happy and loved. Family again. He hasn't felt it in years.

    Another number. "Neil, I've an appointment Thursday morning. I'm taking the twins out of school for a few hours."

    "It's on your calendar," Neil grumbles. "What's brought this on?"

    "Never mind. I'll see you tomorrow."

    "That you will. Goodnight, boy."

    "Goodnight, old man."

    Will switches off the phone and lays down on the couch.

    Life is good.

Share this on: