Home > A Curve in the Road(5)

A Curve in the Road(5)
Author: Julianne MacLean

Other things . . .

I ask the pertinent question again: “You have to tell me . . . what was his blood alcohol level?”

Dr. Sanders hesitates, and then he bows his head and shakes it. “Honestly, Abbie, this is new territory for me, from a legal perspective. I’m not sure how to handle this.” His gaze lifts. “You’re a victim from the other car in the crash, but you’re also his next of kin, and he’s incapacitated, so I’m going to give you this information. His blood alcohol level was 0.33.”

My head draws back as if Dr. Sanders has just swung a punch at me. “No. That can’t be right.”

“I’m sorry, but there’s no mistaking it.”

I cup my forehead in a hand. “I can’t believe this is happening. Alan never drinks. At least not heavily. He was supposed to be at work all day, and then we were going to watch Zack’s hockey game.” I glance up with a new realization. “I still haven’t gotten in touch with Zack. He doesn’t know anything about this. I need to call him.”

Dr. Sanders nods, circles around the bed, and rests his hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Abbie. Please know that we’re doing everything we can.”

I nod and swallow hard over the giant lump rising in my throat, because I don’t want to cry. I need to keep it together and stay strong. There’s so much I’ll need to deal with in the next few hours.

But first, I need to call Zack and break the news to him. Then I’ll need to be on that chopper with my husband when it takes off. I want to be with him every step of the way to make sure he gets the best possible care and that we do everything we can to bring him back to us.

I thank Dr. Sanders, then limp out of the room to tell my mother what is happening and pick up my phone to call Zack.


At last, Zack answers his phone. “Mom. Where are you? You didn’t make it to the game. We won.”

I pace beside my bed in the ER and can’t keep my voice from quavering. “That’s great, honey. I’m so sorry I didn’t make it, but . . . something happened on the highway.” I wait a few seconds for him to absorb that much. “I was on my way home, but I only made it a few minutes outside of Lunenburg when I got into a . . .” I pause and clear my throat. “There was an accident.”

There’s a brief silence on the other end. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I quickly reply. “I have a few cuts and bruises but nothing serious. Nothing that won’t heal in a week or two. Gram’s here with me.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m at the Lunenburg hospital. The car’s totaled.”

I don’t know why I tell him that. I suppose I’m stalling, avoiding what must come next.

“Jeez,” he says. “What happened?”

I swallow uncomfortably because I don’t know how to explain all of this, but I do my best.

“An oncoming car crossed the center lane and clipped me in the back end,” I say. “It was enough to send me into a spin, and then I hit the shoulder and flipped and rolled into a ravine.”

“A ravine? Oh my God, Mom! Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Thank goodness for seat belts. But they had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out. It took a while.”

I feel totally incoherent as I try to describe it.

I hear Zack breathing hard. “I need to get there. I want to be with you. Where’s Dad?”

My heart pounds like a jackhammer, and I can’t find the right words. All I can think about is what if both Alan and I had been killed. Zack’s an only child. He would have been left all alone.

I swallow and take a breath.

“It’s complicated. I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to say it flat out. Dad was the driver who crossed the center line, and after he hit me, he crashed as well. He survived, but he’s unconscious, and we’re waiting for a helicopter to take him to the QEII.”

Zack shouts into the phone. “What? How could that happen? You guys collided with each other?”

I sit down on the bed, wishing there was a way for me to help my son cope with this. “I don’t know how it happened—I’m just as confused as you are—but . . . it was foggy, and there was freezing rain.”

I feel like a coward for blaming the accident on the weather when there’s no doubt that the icing didn’t begin until at least twenty minutes after the crash.

“But why was Dad driving to Lunenburg when he was supposed to come to the game?”

I have no answer to give because Alan didn’t call me, and I have no idea why he didn’t stick to the plan. I feel helpless and muddled.

“I don’t know, Zack. I’m not sure what he was doing. I’m trying to make sense of it, but I can’t worry about the why right now. I just need to stay with him and pray that the helicopter arrives soon and that he’s going to be okay. That’s what you need to do too. Say a prayer, because he’s in bad shape.”

“How bad?”

I hesitate, not knowing how much to reveal because this is my baby and I want to protect him. Then I remind myself that’s he’s seventeen years old, practically a man. I have to be honest.

“He hasn’t regained consciousness since he arrived at the hospital, so he might have a brain injury. Right now, they have him on life support—”

“No . . .”

I hold up a hand. “Please, we can’t lose hope. It could just be some swelling, and when the swelling goes down, he could come out of it. Brain injuries are difficult to predict.”

“But . . .” Zack is quiet for a moment. “Could he end up as a vegetable?”

“Let’s not use that word,” I gently say. “We need to stay positive. Let’s just take it one day at a time.”

I hear Zack crying softly, and I give him a moment.

“Are you still at the rink?” I carefully ask.

“Yes,” he replies in a low, broken voice.

“Can you get a ride home with someone?”

“Jeremy can take me.”

“Good. And keep your cell phone on. I’ll let you know when we’re getting on the helicopter.”

“Okay, Mom.”

“I love you.” I’m about to end the call when he asks one more thing.

“Wait, Mom. Where’s Winston? Wasn’t he with you?”

I close my eyes and exhale heavily. “Yes, he was in the back seat, but he got thrown, and . . . well, we’re not sure where he is right now. He must have run off.”

“He’s lost? On the highway?”

“Yes, but some men from the fire department are searching for him, and the local cops have been informed as well. They’ll find him, Zack. I promise.”

Knock on wood.

“I hope so,” Zack replies. “What if he gets hit by a car?”

I squeeze my eyes shut and shake my head. “Let’s not think those kinds of thoughts. Just say more prayers, and I’ll let you know more as soon as I hear something.”

We say goodbye, and I look up at my mother, who has just swept past the privacy curtain with two cups of coffee, one in each hand. She looks pale from all the stress. “I thought you might like one.”

“Thank you. But you should sit down, Mom.”

She moves closer and hands me the cup. I peel back the plastic lid and take a sip. The warmth feels good between my palms—a welcome comfort after so many ordeals.

Mom sits down. “How did he take it?”

I shrug with resignation. “As good as can be expected, but he’s upset and worried. I told him to go home and wait until I call.” I cup my forehead in a hand. “Where is that damn helicopter?”

Just then, the Star Wars theme begins to play at the foot of the bed, and I see Alan’s cell phone flashing. “Someone’s calling him. What am I supposed to say?”

Neither of us makes a move to reach for the phone. “You don’t have to answer it,” Mom says. “You could just let it go to voice mail.”

I consider that briefly because I’ve been through so much and I don’t feel ready to talk to anyone—especially about what happened to Alan—but what if it’s about work? I can’t just let it ring. “Could you pass it to me?”

She quickly hands me the phone, and I check the call display. “It’s a local number.”

Mom inclines her head.


There’s a long pause at the other end, and then a woman asks, “Is Alan there?”

I wet my lips and take a breath. “No, I’m sorry—he’s not. Would you like to leave a message?”

I perceive another conspicuous pause. “Um . . . I’m calling from Handy Hardware in Lunenburg. I don’t suppose this is . . . is this Abbie?”

I slowly sit up on the edge of the bed. “Yes. Who is this?”

“It’s Paula Sheridan. We went to high school together.”

I remember Paula Sheridan, though we haven’t spoken to each other since I graduated. We didn’t know each other that well because she was a year behind me, but we sometimes moved in the same circles and went to the same parties. I remember bonding with her one night at a summer campfire when her boyfriend dumped her. She cried her eyes out, and I held her hair back when she threw up in the bushes. But that was it. I went off to college in Ontario. I don’t know what she did after high school, and I have no idea why she’s calling Alan’s phone. Yet more questions to add to the growing list.

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