Day 352 – The Way Home – Part 6

Word count: 858

Debbie Stephenson woke up sharply. Her bed sheets were soaking wet and the duvet was wrapped suffocatingly around her like a python catching its prey. As daylight lit up her retinas, flashes of a nightmare spread across her vision. Though she could not remember the detail much, the gut-wrenching feeling in her stomach told her that something bad had happened in the dream and that it was to do with a terrible fatal accident.

Debbie shook off the initial desire to call everyone she loved to make sure they were all okay and got out of bed to get ready for work. Making herself double strength coffee, she sat back in her living room to watch a bit of morning television and put on her make up. The news was all relatively normal – no big issues, not that she was expecting to hear about an accident… but the dream’s grip was hard to lose.

Debbie was a primary school teacher and had been for a few years now. She was only about thirty, but looked much younger. She had a pretty face, innocent eyes and cheeks that blushed at the sound of her name. She lived alone in an old terraced house her parents had left her before they emigrated to America. Her sister, Anna, lived with her when she was in the country but being a foreign diplomat that was a very rare occasion. As a consequence, Debbie made sure to have photographs of her family hanging in every room.

Traffic wasn’t bad that morning on her way to school. There was a minor delay caused by the new road works just off the high street, but aside from that it was relatively easy. She arrived in time to get herself a cup of tea and to start a little marking before registration. As her class lined up inside she smiled to herself. This is what she loved about her job – all the cute eager little faces awaiting her every word.
That morning she taught the class their eight times table and went over the book they were reading as a class. It was a good day and there were no particular issues with the children. Debbie liked these days. Sometimes it could be a nightmare when the children didn’t want to listen or were distracted by something else.
At half two in the afternoon, though, something happened to put a stop to everything good that had already happened that day. The head teacher, Mrs Donovan, knocked on the door and immediately walked in, interrupting Debbie’s attempt to explain some local history to the children.
“Miss Stephenson, could I have a word with you? Outside?” Mrs Donovan asked.
“Of course,” and turning to the class, “Could you please keep quiet whilst I’m outside?”
Debbie left the room and walked a little way down the corridor with Mrs Donovan.
“What’s the matter, Hilary?”
Hilary Donovan looked sternly serious, “It’s one of your pupil’s mum… Maria? Her mum was killed in a car crash this afternoon.”
Debbie reeled in shock, “What? Oh Jesus…”
Hilary took the reins, “I know. The police are suggesting we tell Maria…”
Debbie’s first reaction was an outright no. She couldn’t tell a poor child that their mother had just died – she didn’t want any part of that. Then the second reaction kicked in – but who else was going to tell her? The police were strangers; her father, if he was not involved in the crash, was likely to be in too much of a state to tell her.
“Alright, okay, but, oh god…” Debbie was nervous. How do you tell a child it was never going to see its mum again?

Twenty minutes later they were in the head teacher’s office. Hilary was sitting down behind her desk. Debbie was sitting on the other side with Maria. They had just explained what had happened. Maria was in tears and dove into Debbie’s arms. Debbie did not know what to do: what was the proper reaction to this? Debbie had never experienced death in her life before. Were the protocols around how to behave? However Debbie did the only thing that Debbie could and held on tightly to Maria.
“Your dad’s going to be here soon, Maria, don’t worry.”
After another half an hour Maria had stopped crying and had gone into a state of denial. Debbie sat with her right up until her father arrived. Hilary escorted him to his daughter. When they saw each other, they ran into each other and he picked her up. Debbie had never met Maria’s father before, but upon seeing his face, she was struck by how much she recognised him though she could not put the time and place she remembered him from.
Putting his daughter down, he turned towards Debbie, “My name is Sam. Thank you for looking after my daughter.”
“It’s, it’s no problem,” Debbie said automatically, staring at him strangely. But odd though she may be looking at him, he seemed to be doing almost exactly the same. It was if they were both trying to pretend that they did not know each other.

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~ by S.G. Mark on September 22, 2012.

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