Volume 13
An Online Literary Magazine
February 15, 2019

 

There's Been an Accident

Nonfiction

Kelli Bynum

 


"Your husband, as you know, was riding his bike this morning and, well. Well, I am so sorry to have to tell you this..."

 

K
elli, there’s been an accident.”

 

Marci said it so slowly and with such control, I didn’t even immediately sit up.

 

“Ok, do you need me to come get you guys?” I mumbled into my cell phone, still wrapped tightly in bed sheets. “You’ll have to remind me of your route.” Cycling 100 miles is an incomprehensible distance and I had no idea where, exactly, she and my husband, Jared, were.

 

“Nocatee. We’re in Nocatee.” Nocatee, the sprawling new housing development just south of our home in Jacksonville, Florida.

 

“More details, Marci. Nocatee is huge.”

 

“Publix! We’re by the Publix!” The slightest tremble had emerged from my friend’s measured voice, finally pushing me upright into a seated position.

 

“Do I need to call 911?” Now I was starting to panic.

 

“No, they’ve been called. Just get here.”

 

It occurred to me at that moment that she had not specified who was hurt or how badly.

 

“Ok, I’m coming right now,” I said, as I leapt out of bed, rifling through dresser drawers, looking for anything I could throw on.

 

“I love you,” Marci said. “And I’m so sorry.” And there it was. She didn’t have to say “Jared” or “dead.”

 

“I love you too,” was all I could manage. Hands shaking fiercely and heart thumping wildly, I managed to fumble into shorts and a T-shirt. My Timex watch lay on the shelf next to our bed. I slowed a beat and fastened it to my wrist, taking in the date, October 7, 2012. I had to know the date before running out of the house, because I suspected it was the date that nothing would ever again be the same. I made it to the front door but, before opening it, I paused and scanned the living room. His boxers lay on the floor. He’d clearly changed outside of the bedroom so as not to wake me with his before-sunrise departure. A bottle of chamois butter sat next to the TV. Yesterday’s mail was on the dining room table. His guitar rested on the couch. A snapshot of our life as I wanted to remember it. If my nightmare was soon to be my reality, I wanted to delay it for just a few more moments. I let the silent peacefulness of our little home infiltrate my mind, taking in every detail in an effort to create a picture that would forever be imprinted on my heart. And then I took a deep breath, darted out the front door and down the front steps, jumped into my car, and sped out of the driveway.

 

Jason Mraz spilled out of my car radio as I flew down the empty highway. “And just like them old stars/ I see that you’ve come so far/ To be right where you are/ How old is your soul?”

 

That was the moment I knew my husband was dead. It was as though he, himself, was telling me. Because Marci couldn’t be brought to. He’d just sung this very song to me a few days prior. Played it for me on his guitar. As he’d done with so many of my favorite songs. But I had never once heard it on the radio. Until now.

 

“How old is your soul?” He loved that line in particular. It conjured so many images for him. He wondered if we’d actually known each other longer than the 12 years we already had. Had we loved each other longer than the 11 we’d been in love? What stars had to align for our souls to meet when they met, for them to love the way they loved? Would they meet again when this life was over?

 

The words poured out of my radio and flooded every part of my being like an Indian monsoon. Jared was telling me what my head already knew, but what my heart was not willing to accept, what my soul was not ready to believe. He was gone.

 

 


What stars had to align for our souls to meet when we met?
I wasn’t familiar with Nocatee or even how to get there. I’d seen signs for it off I-95, but was lost on how to navigate myself through the countless roads that wound themselves through the acreage like tributaries. All I knew was to go south. I hurtled my SUV onto the highway and prayed for direction.

 

My phone rang. The screen lit up with “JARED CELL.” Relief washed over me like waves along the shore. “Jared?” I yelled into the phone. Oh, thank God. Thank God I had been wrong. I had only misunderstood Marci. My intuition was wrong. He might be badly injured, but he was alive.

 

“No, ma’am. This is Sergeant Lawson with the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office. Is this Mrs. Bynum?”

 

“Yes, this is she,” I sighed, as his voice and question jerked me back into reality. “What is going on? Is everything ok? Is my husband ok?”

 

“Ma’am, are you on your way here?”

 

“Yes! I’m coming as fast as I can,” I said, my breathing now in short, rapid bursts. “I don’t know where you are. I need help finding you. Please help me!”

 

After providing me a brief description of their location, he ended the call with a final question. “Ma’am, are you alone?”

 

“Yes,” I whispered. “Yes, I am alone.”

 

As the call disconnected I was left with what I knew, but what still had not been said aloud.

 

As I followed his directions into Nocatee, red and blue lights came into focus in the distance. As I approached, I slowed, rolled down my window, and waved at the first police officer I saw, as instructed. He ushered me to the side of the road. I parked and jumped out. “I’m Kelli Bynum! I’m Mrs. Bynum!” I shouted. “What is going on? Can someone please tell me what is going on?”

 

The officer merely looked at me and pointed farther up the road. “Up there, ma’am. Please proceed up to Sergeant Lawson. He is expecting you.”

 

Shaking to the point of convulsions, I looked east into the rising sun, took a deep breath, and started walking. Still no one had said what I didn’t want to hear. I hung in the precious balance between life and death, between wife and widow. I wanted to be a wife for just a few moments more. I knew Jared was dead, but if no one spoke it, was it true? Even if he had been killed 30 minutes ago, was I still a wife if no one said it out loud? I prayed. I fought back tears. I pushed down the despair that was consuming me, crushing me, burying me where I stood. And then I began to run. I ran until I saw a uniformed officer, who I assumed to be Sergeant Lawson, walking toward me along the shoulder of the road. And I finally saw what I knew to be true before I even heard it. Tears were streaming down this grown man’s face, this stranger’s face. He was crying for Jared. He was crying for me.

 

“Mrs. Bynum?” he asked.

 

“Yes!” I screamed. “Yes! I am Kelli Bynum! I am Jared’s wife!”

 

“I am so sorry. Your husband, as you know, was riding his bike this morning and, well. Well, I am so sorry to have to tell you this. But your husband. Your husband has been hit by a car and, well, I am so sorry….”

 

Just tell me. I am ready. I am ready to hear what I already know to be true.

 

“I am so sorry, but he has died.”

 

And just like that, wife was replaced with widow. Life was now death. “Jared is” had become “Jared was.”

 

I didn’t scream or shout or cry. I didn’t clutch my chest or fall to my knees. I simply stood illuminated in that glorious sunrise and just shook my head. “No, no, no.”

 

“Yes ma’am. I am so sorry,” the sergeant whispered.

 

I looked up into his glistening eyes and tear-soaked cheeks and replied, “So am I. I know this is a hard day for you, too.”

 

I have no explanation for the detached nature of my response. I suppose I still just didn’t want this moment to be reality. I wanted this to be the worst morning of his life, not of mine.

 

He ushered me from the shoulder to the center of the closed road. It wasn’t until later I realized he was trying to distance me from the woman responsible.

 

The next 30 minutes were a blur. I looked past the officer for Jared, but could not see him. I was reeling with questions. I just didn’t understand. Marci, his riding partner that morning, and her boyfriend, Jimmy, walked over to me. Marci embraced me, repeating that she was sorry and she loved me. A victim advocate with the Saint John’s County Sheriff’s Office arrived in a van that I was told to get into. She began to explain who she was and what her role entailed, but I stopped her. “I know what you do,” I said. “I used to be a prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office and we worked with victim advocates all the time.” I just never dreamed I’d be the recipient of the service. And yet there I sat, looking through the front windshield of her van at the road stretching out before me, littered with police cars and flashing lights and bike parts.

 

“What do I do now?” I asked. As she started to explain the best way to contact loved ones, her voice trailed off and I realized that no, that wasn’t my question at all. “What do I do now,” I thought to myself, “with my life?”

 

Kelli Bynum is a recovering attorney and retired cycling guide. When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and reading. She lives in Seattle with her fiancé and their bulldog, Matilda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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