“This is Virginia Highway Patrolman, Bill Jenkins. There has been an accident.”
My hands immediately turn clammy and white, barely able to grip the phone. My throat gets so chalky and dry that I don’t think that I could speak if I had any words to say. It couldn’t be Jim. He was in Puerto Rico for business. Charlie should be asleep by this hour; he has a baseball game tomorrow night.
“Maim?” I can tell by his direct tone that he must do this a lot.
“Maim, I’m so sorry. Your son is Charles Higgins, right?”
Charlie? No, no it can’t be. It must be another Charlie. The phone slips through my sweaty hands on to the green carpet and I run to his room with sweat forming from every pore. He’s there. Sound asleep. My loud stomps did not wake him. His covers are completely over his head, I can’t see him at all, but he’s there. I want so badly to pull back the covers and touch his face now lightly traced with peach fuzz. My shaking hands reach toward him and I want to hold him close to my heart and rock him back and forth in my arms like when he was a baby, but I restrain myself. He needs his sleep.
Adrenaline still pulses through my body as I make my way to the living room where I had dropped the phone. My breath comes back, but my throat is still dry.
My breath is coming back, “Officer, I believe that you have the wrong boy. My son is home.”
“His driver’s license says he lives on 305 Elderberry Court. Charles E. Higgins, is that his name?”
“Yes sir.” My heart begins to accelerate. I feel as though it is about to pump right through my chest, “I need to go, officer.”
I am terrified to check on him the second time, worried that I will feel trapped in an awful teen movie where the mother goes to check on her child to find nothing but a lump of pillows beneath the sheets. It’s not like Charlie, but I didn’t couldn’t see him when I checked before. I stand in the doorway of his room for a long time. Just staring. It is hard to tell if he’s moving under the heavy duvets. Once I find the courage to call his name, my throat is so dry no words come out.
I inch toward his bed and gently sit on the corner. I lay my hand on what I hope aren’t pillows. He moves. I breathe. Tears fall.
“Mom?” He groans and turns over on his back, “Mom, what are you doing?”
I don’t say anything, I just stare at him through my murky eyes.
He sits up as though he had been awake all along. “Mom? Mom, what’s going on?”
“The officer said that there had been an accident. He…he… had you name, I just don’t know what…”
“What?!” Charlie gets out of bed, his face white. He shoves his feet into his sneakers without changing into any real clothes. “What?! What- where? When did he call?”
“Charlie? What is going on?” My heart will never beat normally again.
“Mom, Dave- He- David had my wallet! I just- where is he? Call the officer!” Panicked tears well in his eyes and his white face is blotched with red.
“He and his mom got in a fight and he wanted to go to his Dad’s house for the night. I didn’t want to drive him all the way there, so I just let him take the car. I realized when I got home that my wallet was still in it. And—Jess was going to just take me to school tomorrow and get the car after but it doesn’t matter. I just- I just, Mom we have to see him.”
They thought that David was him. The only way that David even slightly resembles Charlie is their brown hair. They thought David could be Charlie. I think again and again about what this must mean. They thought it was him- that means they couldn’t have asked him of his name, they couldn’t have even compared the driver’s license to his face. Since Charlie and David were five years old, people had always confused one for the other. Not because they looked anything alike, but because they were always together. He can’t see him like this. He will fight me, he will cry, he will scream, but he can’t see him.
“Charlie, I want you to stay here.”
Prompt: You come home late at night, after a hard day. The message light on the answering machine is blinking. You press play and listen. Choose one of the following messages as your starting point: e. This is Virginia Highway Patrolman Bill Jenkins. There has been an accident.