Home > Finding Atonement

Finding Atonement
Author: Jessica Ames

Jared

 

 

Four years earlier…


“It’s coming down heavily,” Robyn says, peering through the windshield.

She’s not wrong. The rain is hammering on the glass, leaving tear trails in its wake. I can barely see a foot in front of the car. I’ve slowed to a crawl, but I’m considering pulling over. I have the two most important people in the world with me—my wife, and my newborn son, Cooper. I would never do anything to put them at risk.

“I can’t see a damned thing,” I complain, squinting to make out anything through the deluge.

It’s getting dangerous and I have precious cargo in my vehicle. I’m not willing to chance someone hitting us because they can’t see.

Decision made, I manage to find the curb through the pouring rain and stop near it. I leave the engine running, and flick my hazard lights on to make sure other vehicles can see us.

“I’ve never seen rain like it,” Robyn murmurs, squinting through the darkness to the wash of fuzzy colors beyond.

Everything looks like a melting portrait. I can’t make out any of the familiar landmarks.

I don’t stare at the rain, though. I stare at my wife, who, as usual, looks beautiful. Her hair is pulled back from her neck, exposing a kissable throat, and her dress is pulled tight over the curve of her stomach, still swollen with the extra weight from carrying our son. He’s a month old and has fast become our everything. We live and breathe for this kid. I didn’t realize how having a child would change my outlook on life so much, but it has.

It’s been three years since I married Robyn. She’s my everything, and now she’s given me a son, I couldn’t be happier.

“Do I have something on my face?” she asks, realizing I’m watching her.

“No. I was just thinking about how lucky I am.”

Pink stains her cheeks, and I love that even after all this time I can make her feel that way.

“Babe, that isn’t going to get you any.”

“I know.”

And I do know. She’s not allowed to have sex for at least another few weeks, and honestly, while I miss her that way, I’m not going to even suggest sexy time. She can tell me when she’s ready.

“Besides, I need to shift some of this baby blub before you see me naked again.”

I wave this off. “Are you crazy? You’re perfect.”

“And you’re a liar.”

I’m really not. I love her post-baby body. She’s all curves. Robyn doesn’t believe me, though.

“Sweetheart, I love you—not how you look.”

She ducks her head, but I see her pleasure at my statement clearly on her face. I love making her happy like this. One smile from her is enough to make my whole damned day.

“We shouldn’t have come out in this,” she murmurs, her attention moving back to the window.

“It wasn’t raining when we left.” It wasn’t. It started about halfway home from my mom’s house and it hasn’t shown any sign of letting up. I feel terrible for dragging my wife and kid out in this, though. I should have told Mom to wait until the weekend for our visit. “Just give it a minute and it’ll stop.”

She snorts at me. “You’re always the optimist.”

“Someone has to be.” I reach over the center console and take her hand in mine, running my thumb over the back of her hand, needing to feel her. I always need to have her close.

Robyn and I met in high school and she was my world from the moment I laid eyes on her. After graduation, I went straight into the Army and she went to nursing school. I don’t know why I waited so long to give her my name, but it didn’t seem right to make her mine when I was on deployments in every backwater nation. I waited until I got home and then I made an honest woman of her. Three years later, our son made his way into the world, completing our little family.

“I’m plenty optimistic.”

She’s not, so I laugh at this statement.

“Babe, you’re about as optimistic as—”

Headlights dazzle me through the side window and then there’s an ungodly screech of metal as the car flips and rolls. My brain rattles in my skull and pain lances through my torso as the seat belt pulls tight across my chest.

For a moment, I’m transported back to the other side of the world, to a time when danger was always looming close. For a moment, I’m in some sandbox on the other side of the world and facing an IED or an RPG attack. For a moment, I’m trapped in the memory of the day my buddy, Luke, was hurt.

My heart is pounding so hard it hurts and flashes of memories assault me. I blink rapidly, trying to lockdown my past, trying to lockdown a time that is nothing more than a memory in my world now.

I’m jolted out of my past as the car comes to rest on its side. My teeth jar against each other as it slams down. Then there’s silence. Deafening silence.

When my surroundings come back into focus, the picture I’m met with is confusing. Everything looks weird, and it takes me a moment to figure out why. The car is on its side.

My head is throbbing in time to the racing beat of my heart as my brain catches up with what happened. Something hit us. We’re no longer the right way up, and I can’t hear my son or wife making any noises.

Panic like I’ve never experienced swamps me and I twist my head to see Robyn. I’ve seen so many men and women die over the years—too many to count—so I know from the awkward angle she’s at and from the amount of blood streaming down her face that she’s in trouble.

I try to twist to see my son, but I can’t move my neck without crushing pain, so I raise my eyes to the rear-view mirror and seek him out. He’s in the carrier seat, so I can’t see anything past the hood of it, but the carrier is still in place, which makes some of the tension around my heart ease a little.

I can feel my vision tunneling, even though I will myself to stay awake. I know there’s no chance it’s going to happen. I can barely focus on anything but the dimming lights in my eyes. I’m going to pass out.

I hear noises and voices, and I know someone is trying to rescue us. I attempt to stay awake.

“My son…” I murmur. “He’s in the back. Please, help my son.”

“Help’s coming, buddy,” a male voice says to me. “Just try to keep still.”

“The baby…”

“I see him. He’s moving. The fire department’s on its way.”

Relief floods me at this and I let myself drift. The next thing I know there’s someone prodding at me. I want to push them away, but my body feels leaden, so I can do nothing.

“The baby’s free,” a voice says, and relief fills me.

“And the woman?”

“Gone, man. We need to get this guy out.”

Gone? Robyn’s gone?

I want to demand answers. I want to know what the hell they’re talking about, but the darkness swamps me and I’m pulled into the abyss.

 

 

Nia

 

 

Present…


“This place is amazing, Nia.”

I glance up from the shelf I’m organizing to look at Simone. She’s twirling on the spot to take everything in and beaming. She’s not wrong, this place is everything I could have dreamt and more. And it’s mine—my own little slice of heaven.

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