Adrian pushed the door closed with his heel. His youngest glanced up from their dining table where she was sitting with her books scattered around her dinner.
“Bad day.” It sounded more like a statement than a query. Her gaze flicked briefly past his shoulder, like she was checking the door.
“Yeah.” Adrian sighed. He tried not to bring work home with him, but some days it was hard.
She got up and headed towards the stove. “There’s stew and biscuits.”
“That sounds good.” He hung up his jacket in the hall closet and walked into the kitchen. He wanted to wrap his arms around his daughter, to hold her for a moment. But in his current mindset, half the day would leak over, so he went to the refrigerator. He started to reach for a beer and stopped. Not tonight, he thought.
“You, ah, leavin that on?” Robin cast an eye at his rig as she ladled out the stew.
He looked down at the belt that he barely noticed anymore and shrugged. “I’ll take it off when I change.” He poured a glass of ice tea and walked across the small kitchen to sit down. He took a couple of half-hearted bites and then toyed with it for a moment.
“Rhea called,” Robin told him. “Said she had a study group and would be late, probably after ten, but not later than eleven.”
“Thanks.” He stirred his stew some more before setting the spoon down. “Robin, I want you to make me a promise.”
Robin laid her pen down, shoved her glasses up and looked at him. “Yes?”
“When you, or your friends, start drinking: I want you to call me. I don’t care if it’s one drink or five, call me for a ride home or tell me you’re staying with a friend. Don’t get behind the wheel and don’t let your friends get behind the wheel. I promise, I won’t judge or lecture. I’ll come, or I’ll send someone you know.” Her gaze drifted to something just past his shoulder.
Any other teen this would be a sign of dismissal, but with Robin it frequently meant she was seeing some spirit. Of all nights, he thought bitterly and reached for his spoon. “Do I want to know?” He tried not to let his aggravation show.
“Actually, I think you do.” Robin cocked her head and listened. “She came home with you.”
Adrian set the spoon back down and stared at his daughter. In all the years that Robin had been talking to spirits, only a handful had wanted to say anything to him. And most of those few wanted to pass information about what happened to them. This time … part of him was excited at the idea of talking to a spirit while another part knew who this probably was and was dreading what she would say.
“Yes, I can.” Robin answered the obvious question. “No, I’m sorry. The gift doesn’t work like that.” A short pause as she listened more. “I can relay what you’re saying.”
“She says her name is Bridget, she’s a senior at Northview. She’s been trying to figure out how to tell you something.”
Adrian took a breath. “Okay.”
Robin gave a slight smile past at the spirit behind him. “It will feel more natural if you stand over here.” She made a ‘come here’ gesture. “Think of me like a sign language interpreter.”
I wanted to say Thank you.
I knew we’d probably had too much. I wish my father had made me promise to call him. I knew I couldn’t drive and Mitch had more than I did, but he kept insisting that he was okay. He was going too fast, missed the turn and then that barrier was there. All I remember seeing was trees and dirt. And then you were there. It could have been anyone who came, but I’m glad it was you Sergeant.
I couldn’t really see you, but I heard you at the window. You sounded so kind, and calm. I wish I could have answered you, you were so reassuring. You kept telling me that it was okay, even after … You never let on that you thought it was hopeless. I wasn’t scared, I mean I was but I wasn’t. And then I wasn’t hurting anymore.
I saw you pick up Bibbet and brush off the dirt. I loved that frog so much, I was glad to see him rescued. And when you gave him to Mom it was like you were handing her a precious gem. In a way, you did. She gave him to me when I was twelve. Then you just stood there and let her cry on your shoulder.
Thank you. And I’m sorry.
Adrian looked at a spot just above Robin’s shoulder, estimating Bridget’s location but the tilt of his daughter’s head. He took a slow breath, wondering how in the hell he was supposed to respond. It wasn’t like he could say it would be alright, the poor girl was dead. “Thank you.” He finally answered. “I’m sorry I didn’t get there sooner.”
“She says it probably wouldn’t have mattered. You’d have just had to sit there longer. Someone told her mother that something had torn and she’d bled internally.”
“Oh.” Adrian looked down, lost for words.
“You see a door?” Robin looked up and gave the spirit a warm smile. “That’s for you. It means that you have no unfinished business. You’re free to go.”
Adrian looked around feeling glad that Bridget was going and yet sad at the same time. “She’s gone?”
Robin nodded after a second and turned her attention back to Adrian. “About that promise – if I can’t confirm a designated driver, I will call.”
This was inspired by a conversation with my sister talking about teen drinking and driving. When she was a senior in High School a group of 6 students were killed in a drunk driving accident – the parents of the kids got together and had the car (well, what was left of it) placed in the school parking lot. It made an impact.
I’m fortunate that I never had to respond to a fatality while I was in uniform. I’m not sure I could have been as calm as Adrian was.