Sandra was disoriented on the drive home from the hospital. Despite the pain killers, her body ached all over, especially where the doctor had stitched her up.
Her mother, hater of the highway and lover of nature, took the gravel roads home to the little blue house on Flang Drive that her daughter had fallen in love with. Large maples drifted past, their leaves abloom in reds, oranges and yellows. Sandra watched one leaf plummet towards the car and willed it to slow before it was run over.
It hit the windshield and with one swipe of the wiper blades, its mangled remains dove for the ditch. Timing, the cruel harbourer of fate.
The accident flashed into focus. The red truck, the telephone pole, the crunching sound. The sirens that took ages to creep any closer, as though they were stuck in quicksand on their way to rescue the latest victims. Then the beeps of monitors and stabs of needles. Sandra remembered the IVs most vividly, a painful prick in a sea of torment.
Now, in the bright daylight, with nature ablaze all around her, she could not place herself within the world. She lived in the nether-region of humanity, the places where time means nothing, where one minute you're in a car and the next in recovery. The territory where pain hitches a ride on a freight train and hops from car to car, looking for the best place to settle. Sandra's train neared the station, and soon pain would transfer to another destination.
Sobs waited to erupt from her lungs, but she couldn't birth them yet. Not surrounded by joyous sunshine. The world would scold her for such rudeness. She would save her collapse for the house. Or perhaps the driveway. Close enough.
Her mother kept glancing over at her, asking, "Are you okay?" How many times could Sandra say she was fine before it sank in?
"Oh, look," said her mother. She pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the engine. "Do you see her?"
She pointed to the left where a deer stood staring at the car. The women waited in silence for the doe to bolt. Yet she stood still.
Then she reached up and yanked leaves off the branch of a chestnut sapling. As she chewed her snack, she watched the car.
Sandra said, "She'll be ready for winter soon."
The tight feeling in Sandra's chest eased. The cry that had lingered for the drive home caught the current of an unseen wind and drifted away. What remained was a kinship with the doe. We're both preparing for the hardship ahead.