by Steven Dexheimer
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Chris stared out across the grassy field, lost in his thoughts. During unpleasant times like these, he preferred to escape reality and enter into his own safe, private world. No one could hurt him there. A slight breeze cascaded down throughout the park, causing a few strands of Chris’ long wheat-colored hair to jump and dance, and finally coming to rest in front of his face. Absently, he brushed the carefree strands back into place and continued in his silent meditation on a weather-worn bench. He imagined that he was happy again, and that he could hear Karen’s distinct laughter when he cracked a joke or when he was just being silly.
It had been over two months since the car accident, and a month since Karen’s final losing battle to the injuries she sustained. Chris hadn’t been drinking that night, nor was he having sleep trouble. He just simply zoned out; day-dreamed while behind the wheel. It happened all the time. The painful memories that he tried to avoid flooded over him now, drowning his idle thoughts. He was in the hospital room once again, holding Karen’s limp hand, tears streaming down his stubble-filled cheeks, pleading for her to wake up. He knew that she was going to die, but he wanted to talk to her just one more time and to beg for forgiveness...Chris covered his face and like so many times before, began to heave in sobs. He killed his best friend. There was no way to live it down. The hole in his existence that her absence left made it all the worse. Whenever he was depressed, he always had Karen to pick him up. She always had the right words to say and a smile that would lift his spirits. He couldn’t remember a time when he did not know her. She meant so much to him, and he needed her now...but she was gone, she wasn’t coming back, and it was his fault. What had Karen’s mother called him at the funeral-a murderer? The word pierced him like a knife, and as if he was truly struck, he doubled over in agony, his sobbing increasing with every breath he took. Karen’s family blamed him for the accident, for taking away their precious daughter. He had virtually been driven away from the funeral home; he wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye...
Chris didn’t hear the footsteps and the rustle of grass behind him. He looked up through watery eyes to see the blurred vision of a girl sitting beside him on the bench. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand to clear his vision and recognized the girl as Samantha, Karen’s younger sister.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Samantha said, “but no one knew where to find you.”
“There’s a reason for that...” Chris spoke in quiet bitterness.
“Look Chris, I know this might not make much of a difference to you...” She placed a thin hand on top his own thicker one, “...but I forgive you. I know it was an accident...” Chris withdrew his hand and looked away. “Karen’s in heaven now...” Samantha began, but he snapped around with a glare.
“Don’t start that Jesus junk with me! You think I‘m in the mood to hear a sermon?” He looked down at his scuffed up hiking boots. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, Samantha began again.
“Karen prayed for you every night for as long as I can remember. She wanted you to know Christ...”
“Is this the same Christ that the rest of your family follows?” Chris broke in sarcastically.
“We were hurt, Chris. We were in shock...we’re human. What my family did was wrong. Don’t let this color your views...”
“Hypocrites!” Chris shouted, his face flushing with rage, “Hypocrites!”
“And do you consider my sister one too? She believed what we believed...”
“She was different...”
“How was she different?”
“Because...” he stammered, “I...I don’t know...”
Samantha rose to go.
“You do know,” she said evenly. She began to walk away, then stopped and turned to face Chris. “If you loved Karen as much as I know you did, then you should think about what she was trying to tell you. She loved you...” With that, Samantha walked off, leaving Chris in the aftermath of silence.
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