"Lily! Let's go!" I yell, running towards the front door with my car keys, pulling my heels on as I slide across the hardwood. My daughter runs down the stairs, backpack in hand, and I thrust a pop tart at her before ushering her out the front door.
This is our morning routine. We are always late, always rushing, and somehow we make it through the start of the day in one piece. My husband left earlier this morning for a meeting, or he'd be involved too, hurriedly attempting to make lunches, unsuccessfully. Why hasn't he called yet? I wonder, then push the though of my mind before walking down the front steps.
My youngest daughter, Lily, is in fifth grade, childhood innocence still wrapped around her like armor. She has strawberry blonde hair, pulled into braids, and bright, piercing blue eyes.
My older daughter, Ava, is Lily's opposite. She looks like me- emerald eyes, fire-red hair that matches her personality. When Lily and I reach the car, Ava is sitting, arms crossed, in the front passenger seat.
"Finally." I she says, glaring at me after she looks at the clock.
"You'll make it on time." I say, and she knows I really mean get over it.
I speed down the street, probably breaking speed limits, and Ava jumps out of the car before it stops, sprinting into her high school building as the bell sounds around us.
I drive the ten minutes it takes to get to Lily's elementary school, and I wave as she runs out of the car.
"See you at three, okay?" She gives a half wave and I sigh. My little girl is growing up.
A half hour later, after rush hour traffic, I finally get to my office, which looks as if a bomb exploded inside it. Post-it notes, tablets, pens, CD's, manuscript paper, and, most importantly, my computer with a piano keyboard attached are somewhere in the mess.
I work as a consultant for Musical Theater International, at their office in Hartford. Play scripts and scores get sent here, and I edit them. In my spare time, though, I write musicals and short plays myself.
My husband, David, asked me once why I don't write novels. I told him, "In books, you need to explain emotions and scenes. You need to write the imagery. And if you can't pick up on it, the novel does nothing for you. But plays…with plays, the emotion is right in front of your face."
David is a doctor at Hartford Memorial Hospital, working in pediatrics. He has long hours, and he's almost never home enough for us to even have a decent conversation. I know that he loves me- that's not the problem- but the fact that he won't spend any time with me makes me feel like my marriage is falling apart.
The phone rings, and I'm prepared to lecture David for being gone so much this week.
"Music Theater International." I say, rehearsed and falsely cheerful.
"Is this Laura Montgomery?"
"Yes, it is." I say, not recognizing the formal voice on the other end. In a second, my heart clenches. It must be about one of my daughters. Who else would call this early?
"Mrs. Montgomery, this is Daniel Malone. I'm a neurosurgeon at Hartford Memorial?"
"Oh, yes. We met at a benefit, I think. I hate to be rude, but why are you calling me?"
"Mrs. Montgomery…there was an accident."
"An…accident?" The first image that comes to mind is one of my girls in a hospital bed, with a concussion.
"Your husband got in a four car pile-up on the way to work this morning."
David. He's talking about David.
I sigh in relief knowing that Lily and Ava are alright, and immediately hate myself for it when the reality of what he's said sinks in.
"Is he…is he okay?" My voice is unusually shaky as I await his answer, silence coming from the other line.
"Mrs. Montgomery…I'm so sorry. His car was crashed into on both sides. He died immediately on the scene."
For a second, the world stops, and I realize that the last time I saw David was four AM, when he slipped out of bed to take a shower before work. Before he left, he kissed my forehead and told me he loved me. I was still half asleep, and I realize now that I never said it back.
Surgery is precise. Specific. If you mess up one fraction of an inch, someone can lose their vision or sight or worse. You are God.
Neurosurgery and Cardiothoracic are the ego fields- we have this big headed impression that the world couldn't possibly turn on it's axis without us, and that the rest of the hospital staff is simply there for good measure.
Pediatrics is less obvious and clean cut than neurosurgery. Instead of dealing with routine open brain surgeries and aneurysms on a daily basis, they have to deal with kids that have terminal diseases or broken bones, kids that are scared out of their minds.
Pediatric surgeons have more of a soul than other doctors. Next to Neonatal and Ob/GYN surgeons, they are the most selfless. They offer themselves day in and day out to make sure a child isn't scared about their surgery, and they take extra precautions to make sure that parents know their child is safe.
David Montgomery was one of the most selfless doctors I've met- every time I'd walk through the pediatric hall, he'd be sitting in a patient's room telling jokes to take their mind off their illness or reassuring parents that a procedure would end well.
And now, he's dead, and we're left with the big headed neurosurgeons.
And I, the most big headed of them all, has to call his wife and spin her world out of control.
I'm running through the hallway, almost late for second period Driver's Ed, when a burly security guard with a beard pulls me to the side.
"You need to go to the office." He says, simply, and I wonder how he even knows who I am in a school of four thousand, but I turn around, the pass he gave me in hand, and head towards the office.
When I get there, three other girls are sitting in chairs, looking bored. I sit in the only open seat, next a preppy girl with platinum blonde hair straightened to perfection. She glares at me and turns to her clone.
"How long does it take to get in to see your counselor?" She asks, and the other girl shrugs. "I mean, really, I have a problem here. Shouldn't I be able to see someone about it?"
For a split second, I think, maybe she doesn't act how she looks. Maybe these cheerleaders with perfect skin and hair and clothes are normal. Maybe they have real problems.
"Seriously, I need to get out of that class. It's torture."
Maybe she gets harassed and made fun of, too. Maybe I'm not the only outcast in this school. Maybe looks aren't everything.
"It's complete social suicide to be there. I mean, seriously, all of the science club geeks are in that class. I want to switch to first period so I can have an actual social life."
The secretary calls me in before her, and she looks even more angry. I laugh at her in my head.
"Miss. Montgomery." My principal, a bald, skinny man named Mr. Collins, motions for me to sit in a chair.
"I'm very sorry, Miss. Montgomery, but we just received a call from your mother. She's picking you up right away. There's been an accident."
"An…accident?" The first thing that comes to mind is my sister Lily, getting injured at school.
"You father was in a car accident, Miss. Montgomery."
Dad. I start to feel relieved, then stop myself. I'm a horrible person. Dad could be hurt.
"Is he…okay?" I ask.
Mr. Collins pulls at his shirt collar, looking uncomfortable.
"Miss. Montgomery…he…he didn't make it. I'm sorry."
My jaw drops and I feel numb.
"Where is my daughter?"
My mom runs into Mr. Collins' office, looking disheveled. I take one look in her eyes, frantic and scared, and I know our life is never going to be the same.