To my readers!
I was surrounded—by champagne, crystal lights, and beautiful people. And I wanted to die.
Not really, but I was huddled in a corner with my back turned to the party. This was Sia’s job. She was the event coordinator at this art gallery, the Gala. I wasn’t even sure what event she was throwing, but I was here because she asked me to be. This was her thing, a typical Friday night for my best friend. The rich and gorgeous people came together to drink, socialize, throw money at some charity and mainly gossip. This was not my thing, and among all these paintings and socialites, I wanted to disappear.
I moved to Chicago two years ago, but that seemed like a lifetime now. We came for Liam’s job. He was the newest counselor at the Haven Center, but a year ago he was killed, struck by a drunk driver on his way home.
A shudder went through me as I remembered.
Liam had left a message that he was stopping to get flowers—he was a block away. The local florist had a booth in our grocery store. I’d had the genius idea to walk Frankie and meet him at the store. Our dog furry child could wait in the car while we got food together. It was silly, but grocery shopping was a favorite “date” for me. Liam thought it was ridiculous. He always laughed, but he’d humor me. And Frankie loved it. He got out of the house and could wag his tail to his heart’s content in the car. We lived in a nice neighborhood, and it wasn’t too hot, so I trusted our child would still be there when we returned.
When Frankie and I walked around the corner, Liam’s car was waiting to cross the intersection and turn in to the parking lot. He smiled when he saw Frankie and me, and he looked so happy. He’d lifted his hand to wave. So had I. When the light changed, Liam started across—I saw his smile fall away. I saw his hand grab for the steering wheel. I saw the blood drain from his face. He’d started to mouth, “I lo—“
My heart twisted. It was being yanked out, slowly, inch by inch.
As I’d watched, my husband’s car was T-boned by a truck.
I bowed my head and gripped my champagne glass now. I could still hear the sound of metal being smashed, crunching and grinding. Then the car had started in a roll.
It had rolled three times before stopping. He had rolled three times before dying.
The terror—I’ll never get that image out of my mind. His crystal blue eyes, high cheekbones, a face I’d always teased would keep the ladies hitting on him long after he passed fifty, had never looked so scared. Everything happened in slow motion. His eyes went to the truck, and then they found me. Frankie was barking. I couldn’t move. My heart slowed.
I was told later that I’d kept Frankie from running in to traffic, but I have no memory of that. All I can remember is Liam and the look in his eyes when he knew he was going to die.
My future died that day.
I had one second to ready myself, and I wiped away the tear that had leaked from my eye. Sia rushed to my side, hissing my name in an excited whisper as she grasped my arm. She moved close, turning so she could speak quietly to me but still watch her friends behind us. Her dress grazed my bare arm.
“I just got the best news ever for you! Seriously, I’m gushing like a twelve year old because it’s that damned good.” She paused, her eyes searching my face, and her head moved back an inch. “Wait. What are you doing all the way over here?” She glanced over her shoulder. “The street’s beautiful and all, but the party’s behind you.”
I had to stifle a smile. She wouldn’t understand. I was indeed facing downtown Chicago. Traffic was minimal due to the impending blizzard. Already the snow was falling, piling atop cars, sidewalks, people, and signs.
It was breathtaking. That was the art I appreciated. Sia loved people, or more specifically, she loved connections. She didn’t just see faces when she met them. She saw wealth, their friends, and potential connections. I was the opposite. I seemed to notice everything except those things—or I used to. I had during my Liam era, when my heart was full and open and welcoming. But that was then.
Now I was in the after-Liam era.
Everything was dull. Grey. Black. White.