How many choices could one person have?
Usually, from a very early age, you have some idea of what you intend to do with your life.
Those early choices of fireman, policeman, doctor, fighter pilot, slowly disappear from the list as the education requirements become clearer, and their degree of impossibility.
Then you have to factor in academic achievement or failure, hone situation, what blows life has dealt you, and your financial ability to fund any it all of your hopes and dreams, especially for that all-important university education, and even then, it has to be the right one.
Then there are the family aspirations where parents really want you to follow in their footsteps, as a doctor or a lawyer or in the military.
And if you get past all that, and everything has fallen into place, and you’re ready to head out on that highway of life, you should be fully imbibed with the knowledge and the drive to make everything happen.
Now I was lying in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling wondering at what point it all went wrong.
Right on the starting line where everything I had worked for was about to come to fruition, it had all come to an abrupt halt.
My memory got as far as driving home from a work party where we had been celebrating the company’s most recent success, and my progression to the next level of management, when a car failed to stop at a stop sign and T-boned me.
The car was a write-off. I was still not sure what happened to me, but I had heard someone say, in that murky twilight of pain medication, that if I was a horse, they would have to shoot me. It was the only thing I remembered between the car hitting mine and waking up in the hospital bed.
But that was not all the story, and I had plenty of time to mull over everything that had happened in that last week. There was a certain symmetry to it all, as if one event led to the next, and then the next, and it was the last straw, on the last day, that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
And here’s the thing.
I would not have been in that accident had I not taken the car. I wasn’t going to, I had intended to take the train to a friend’s place and stay there for a few days, what the boss had told me would be a well-earned rest.
Even then, I might have not taken the car, except for a cryptic text message I received from my sister, about needing to be ‘rescued’ from a bad date.
Nothing unusual for her, she was currently on a dating site binge, and after half a dozen bad experiences, I thought she had given up.
That was the thought that ran through my head as I watched her curled up in the chair next to the bed, half asleep.
Her first words, on arrival, and when she was allowed to see me, was to apologize, believing it had been her fault. She knew I hated driving in the city, so coming to get her, as I always did, had been preying on her mind, and I could see the tangible effects of it in the worried expression, and unkempt manner which was so totally unlike her.
“It was simply an accident, and could have happened to anyone,” I told her.
“You were going to Jeremy’s, I should have sorted my own problem out for once. IT’s not as if I couldn’t just call up an Uber, and now look what’s happened. I’m so sorry.”
She wouldn’t accept that it was not her fault, nor would she leave until she knew I would be OK. I didn’t understand what she meant by that because in the three discussions I had with the head doctor, I was going to make a full recovery.
He had used the work lucky more than once, and seemingly the sequence of events, and other factors like the car safety features, the angle the car had struck, and where, the fact the other driver had to dodge a pedestrian, all of it played a part.
Had they not, quite simply I would be dead.
My sister and her dating was only one aspect of how my life was being driven.
Another memory returned, from that week, that of another text message, from a girl I used to know back at University.
She was what some might have called a free soul. She didn’t conform to what I would have called normal. Her clothes sense was somewhat odd, she always looked as though her hair needed combing, and she never had any money.
And, for a while, she lived with me, in a small, cramped room ideal for single University students on a budge, but not for two. Yet, for some strange reason, she never seemed to get in the way, or mind the closeness of our existence.
In that short period, she became my first real love, but she had said that while we were together, it was fine, but she was not seeking anything permanent. Nor, she said, did she believe in monogamy. Until she left, studies completed, I wanted to believe she would stay, but a last lingering kiss goodbye and she was gone.
Now, the message said, she wondered if I was still free, and like to meet. Of course, ten years of water had passed under that bridge, so I was not sure where it would go. I hadn’t replied, and the message was still sitting on my phone.
That invitation, however, had been n my mind moments before the crash, and I had to wonder, thinking of her, contributed to it.
Then, on top of all that, there were my parents. Married for 40 years, and the epitome of the perfect marriage.
Or so I thought.
That morning, before I went to work, I had called in to see them after my mother had called the day before saying she wanted to talk to me about something.
Before I knocked on the door, I could hear yelling from behind the door, and it seemed the perfect marriage had hit a rocky stretch.
Or simply that my father had chosen to have an affair, and had been caught out by the simplest of means, my mother answered his phone when he was out of the room thinking it was important work matters, only to discover it was his ‘floozie’.
No guessing then why my mother had called me. After hearing all I wanted to, and not wanting to face an angry couple I just headed on to work.
My mother had yet to come to the hospital to see me. My father had been, but he made no mention of her, or anything else, except to tell me if there was anything I wanted, all I had to do was ask. Then he left, and hadn’t come back.
Then, last but not least, were the rumors.
The owner of the company I worked for was getting older and didn’t have an heir. One thing or another had managed to foil his succession plans, and in the end, he did not have a son or a daughter to pass the reins to.
With the latest success, the company was about to have a bigger profile which meant more work, and plans to open branches in other cities. It was too much for one man, now in his 70s, and looking to wind down.
A rumor had started about a week before the accident that he was looking to sell, and there were at least half a dozen suitors. There was supposed to be an announcement, but it hadn’t happened while I was at work, but, considering how long I’d been in hospital, and the two weeks in an induced coma, anything could have happened.
Louisa stretched and changed positions.
“You look better,” she said.
“Relative to what, or when?”
“Half an hour ago.”
I shook my head. Sometimes Louisa was prone to saying the oddest stuff. “What’s the deal between our parents. Dad was here for all of five minutes. Where’s our mother?”
OK. Blunt, but plausible. “Why?”
“Dad was being an ass.”
“Does she know I was in an accident?”
“I told her.”
“So, you’re seeing her?”
“She calls. I don’t know where she is. I think she might have gone to stay with one of our aunt’s.”
I sighed. Louise had an awfully bad memory, and I was sure one day she was going to forget who I was.
There were four sisters, mother the youngest. She had a love-hate relationship with the middle two, so the best bet would be the eldest sister, Jane. Jane was also the crankiest because she hated children, never got married, and was set in her ways.
Then, there was something else lurking in the back of my mind. Another item I’d overheard when I suspect I was not meant to be listening.
I might not have a job to go back to if the company had been sold, I might not have a home to go back to if my parents had split up, and I might not be able to do anything for a long, long time. Recovery might be complete, but it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
I had a sister who blamed herself for my accident, and an old girlfriend who wanted to see me, though I suspect not like this, broken and useless. What else could there be?
Oh, yes. Another snipped from the shouting match behind the door. And an explanation why my father had all but abandoned me. My mother had also had an affair, and his son, well he was not his son.
No surprise then I had a father who didn’t want to know me.
What else could go wrong?
There was movement outside the room, and raised voices, one of which was saying that whoever was out there couldn’t go into the room. It didn’t have any effect as seconds later, a man and a police officer came in. The officer stood by the door.
Louisa looked surprised, but didn’t move.
The man, obviously a detective, came over. “Your name Oliver Watkins?”
It was, and hopefully still is. “Yes.”
“I need you to answer some questions.”
“About the accident?”
He looked puzzled for a moment, then realized what I was referring to. “No. Not the accident. About the embezzlement of 50 million dollars from the company you work for. It seems you didn’t cover your tracks very well.” He turned around to look at Louisa, “You need to leave now, miss.”
He nodded to the officer, “You leave now, or he will remove you.”
She looked at me, a different expression, “You didn’t tell me you were a crook, Olly.”
“Because I’m not.”
The officer escorted her from the room and shut the door.
The detective sat in the recently vacated chair. “Now, Mr Watkins. It seems there is such a thing as karma.”
© Charles Heath 2021