I managed to climb out of the car, of which the front end was wrapped around the tree. Jim wasn’t so lucky. He was clearly crushed by the steering wheel column, his head snapped back and his face almost blue. He was dead; when I had somehow survived.
Other than a sprained wrist and the shock, I was unscathed by the accident. My head felt heavy and everything around me – the oak trees, the narrow road, the green classic car – all swam. I fell to my knees and blacked out.
Jim, the new owner of the cafe I liked for its cappuccinos, had taken a liking to me. That first date, he had driven up to my parents’ house, in the glossy green sportscar – that would have first turned heads in the Art Deco era.
“How old is he?” My irritated father had asked when I told him and my mother of our proposed date; a drive into the countryside and lunch in a pub there.
“36.” I knew it sounded old compared to my twenty years. However, I could never see myself interested in someone my age.
“Thirty-six? Julie, I don’t know if I can approve…”
“He’s the new owner of The Coffee Bean.” My mother interjected, throwing me a sideways’ grin.
“I hope you’re not implying that our daughter should be a golddigger.”
“It didn’t harm us. When you married me for my father’s money.” My mother said, putting her arms around him.
My father scowled. “You can stop using your womanly ways, I still think he’s too old.”
There came the rich roar of a car motor, through the closed double-glazed window.
“Now that’s a beautiful car!” My father sighed, peeking through the nets like a nosey old biddy. “The driver seems lost, he’s parked it in our drive.”
“That’ll be Jim.” I said smugly.
“What! I thought he was coming later.”
When I came to, it wasn’t by the side of the lonely country road. I was still in the countryside, but elsewhere, I knew not of: I found myself in a forest glade, with rocks covered in bright green moss, and the earthen floor covered in autumn’s leaves. The sky, ablaze with a bleeding orange sunset, peeped through the lacy, bare tree branches. The sun cast the last of the day’s golden rays along a path that soon disappeared into the trees. It was a meandering and narrow path, likely created by the rabbits, foxes and small deer that must have frequented here.
I had nothing else to do but follow it.
But I was still dizzy.
Awkwardly – wearing inappropriate heeled shoes, not purposed for hiking – I made a temporary seat on one of the mossy stones. I thought back to what had caused the accident; and afterwards, how I must have wandered aimlessly into the forest glade from the road. I still had no recollection of that.
There were parts of the accident I remembered, though: The man dressed in the fishing gear, Jim’s surprised cry of distress, and the letter I found in the glovebox.
I had an incredible thirst. I was thinking I needed to get help soon – somehow find my way back to the road, be fortunate in flagging down a passing vehicle. I scanned the immediate area from where I still sat on the moss covered stone. A thicket of oak trees, to my left and right; ahead, where the animal path led, the trees were thinner. More forgiving to a walker. Even one with heeled shoes. I swivelled around on my bottom – not caring if the green stained my new skirt – and observed what was behind me. Rainwater trickled down an enormous boulder, into a stream, edged with leafy ferns, below.
The dizziness had not yet dissipated, and so I trod a cautious path towards the stream. So thankful was I – I of no particular religion – I thanked God for the water as I scooped up handfuls of it. It wetted my grimy face and hair; my neck and jacket. I drank it then found myself crying.
I had remembered more of the accident. Jim’s look of disbelief when I read the beginning of the letter.
“Dear Mr and Mrs…”
The charming owner of The Coffee Bean where I regularly met my work colleagues for lunch, had a wife. Every time he had flirted with me whilst serving me my cappuccino, he had a wife.
He never told me he was married.
Now he was no one’s husband or boyfriend.
I had really liked him too.
The last visual I had of him was the round shape his mouth made – like a black hole – and the panic in his eyes. Then he saw the man in the road. But it was too late – the car hadn’t been built for the same high performance of today’s sleek runners; he belatedly spun the steering wheel. Crashing us into that tree.
I remembered coming to the forest glade.
I also remembered not being able to leave it. I’d tried numerous times to follow the path but I was never able to find my way back.
This week’s photo prompt is a mossy glade where the setting sun draws a pathway through the trees.
You can find all last week’s entries in the round-up. Please visit and read the stories and poems and explore the sites of their writers.
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Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork (unless mentioned otherwise) belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right