By: Becky Fine-Firesheets
Emma writhes in my lap. I hold her against my chest, one hand on her head, the other across her back. The sweat from her forehead soaks my t-shirt.
“We have to go back,” my wife says. She hits the brakes, stopping the car in front of a Welcome to Springton sign.
Emma gasps. Her legs jerk against my stomach. “Just keep going!” I shout. “For Emma.”
Shea looks at our daughter then up at the rearview mirror. Her teeth clench so tightly her head shakes. She takes a deep breath, shifts her eyes to the road and slams on the gas pedal. Our rundown Corolla tears wildly through the night, squealing around the country road curves, past the trees and farms toward the city lights in the distance. Emma’s breaths become shallower, more painful. Her fingernails cut into my skin as she squeezes her tiny hand tighter and tighter around my arm.
Fifteen Years Later
“Do you have siblings?” Shea asks.
Greg nods as he chews his bite of spaghetti. “I used to have an older brother,” he says after he swallows.
Emma smiles supportively at him. I like them together.
“What happened?” I ask.
“A wreck,” Greg replies. “He was hit by a car when I was a kid.”
“Oh,” Shea says. “That’s terrible.” She glances at me then back to her salad.
“Truly an awful thing,” I add. Greg shifts in his seat. Emma reaches out and squeezes his knee with her delicate hand.
“Where do you live?” I ask, to change the subject.
“In Ossipee now. I grew up in Springton, but we moved after my brother died.”
Shea drops her fork. It clangs loudly against the plate. “I’m sorry. Excuse me,” she mumbles as she wipes her lips with her napkin. She stands and walks toward the bathroom, her usual confident stride replaced with hurried, shaky steps.
“Springton,” I repeat. “We’ve passed through there before. Beautiful farmland.” I pick up the breadbasket. “Anybody need another roll?”