Everyone always wants to change their circumstances, particularly if you are among those who are not so well off.
My father always said, whenever we complained about not having enough money to go on holiday, or buy something we needed, that there was always someone worse off than we were.
As a child, I could hardly believe that was true when it looked like everyone else had everything they wanted.
As an adult, I promised myself that I would never be in those circumstances, that I would always have enough money.
And, of course, what you want, what you would like, and what really happens are very different outcomes, and no matter how much planning, or how many contingencies plans you have in place, a single event can wreck everything.
When you open the front door and see policemen, two thoughts cross your mind. The first, they’re at the wrong place, the second, that something awful has just happened.
It was the second.
“May we come inside?”
As I stood to one side, a thousand thoughts went through my mind until it settled on one, something had happened to Jane.
As she did on every Wednesday morning, she got up early, I made her breakfast, she kissed the tones and told them she would be back the next day, then headed for the airport for her weekly visit to hear office.
When we had to move, her company agreed to let her work from home, and it was an arrangement that worked well, she was only missing for two days a week, and a week when the annual accounting was done.
She was due back this morning.
Instead, I had to police officers in my lounge room, looking very somber.
“Something has happened to Jane, hasn’t it.” I almost couldn’t bring myself to say it.
The policewoman spoke. It was like they had drawn straws and she got the short one.
“I’m very sorry to say your wife was involved in an accident this morning, on her way to the Atlanta airport. We have just been informed she passed away.”
It was one of those moments when there were no words. In fact, I was not sure what I felt in that moment other than a great sadness.
“We understand a car ran a red light, hit the limousine. Had she been on the other side…”
Not much consolation in speculation.
“Do you have someone you can call; do you need us to arrange for support…”
“I have a sister, I’ll call her. Thank you for coming and telling me, I guess this is not what you want to be doing at this time of the morning.”
“Part of the job, sir.”
I ushered them to the door and after reassuring them I would be OK, and getting out the phone to call my sister, they left.
The shock of it hadn’t set in. As I closed the door, my thoughts turned to the twins, now at school. They adored their mother and would be expecting her to pick them up from school.
I would have to get them before news of her death reached them. These days, with the internet, someone would find out and it would be better to hear it from me.
My sister, Eileen. She had been amazed that I would find a girl like Jane let alone marry her. She had always expected me to be the philandering bachelor.
“Something very bad has happened?”
“Killed in a car crash this morning in Atlanta. The police were just here.”
“Oh my God, George. The girls.”
“I know. I have to get to them. Can you be here when I get home? They’ll need you.”
“Sure. On my way.”
Next call, the girl’s school. I called the head Master and explained the situation, and he immediately had them brought to his office.
When I arrived, I put on my best ‘this is a happy day’ face and went in, mustering all of the courage I had to not look like something bad had happened.
The girls, of course, thought that their mother had arrived home early and come to get them. She had done it before.
They were only mildly disappointed to see me.
“Mommy not here?”
“Sorry, you have to tolerate me for a while. We have to go home and you’ve been given a day pass.”
Knowing how much they preferred not to be at school, the diversion worked.
The headmaster gave me a wan look as we left.
I fielded a hundred questions on the way home, all of which centered around what surprise Mom had in store for them, and the fact it had to be monumental since they had to go home early.
All the tome I was trying to think of a way to let them down gently, but there wasn’t one. Being blunt wasn’t the way either, they deserved the truth.
As soon as they saw Eileen, I could see the hesitation and a note of trepidation. Usually, Eileen came over when Jane was going to have an extended stay away.
“I need you two to go into the lounge and sit down. I’ll be then in a minute.”
“Is mommy’s not coming home today?”
They knew something was wrong.
“I’ll be in in a minute and will explain everything.”
At least Eileen had to foresight not to show any sign of the distress I knew she must be feeling.
When the girls had gone into the room she gave me the teary-eyed look, and a hug.
“You must be devastated.”
“It hasn’t sunk in. I’m still expecting her to walk in the door, and this is all a bad mistake.”
“This is one time I hate the idea of being a father.”
“Then I’m glad you called me. You could not break this alone. They are going to be devastated.”
Everyone who knew her would be.
Once again I had to find the courage to keep it together, but at least I had support.
It went better than I expected. At first, they thought it was an elaborate prank, though I was not sure how they could think that.
Then, when they realized it was true, they, like I was when I first heard the news, were in shock, and barely able to comprehend the reality of it.
I did remember saying at one point, “I wish she was still alive, and that she would walk back through that door…” but not able to finish.
So, we just sat there, in silence, the rest of the world passing by, going about its business.
Until there was another knock on the door.
I was going to ignore it, but a nod from Eileen got me off the seat.
Perhaps the police were back to tell me it was all a big mistake, and it was someone else who’d died.
I opened the door…
…and neatly had a heart attack.
A wish come true? Standing before me was a woman who looked exactly like Jane, down to the last detail, including the unmanageable whisp of hair.
“You must be George. No, not Jane, Jill, the banished evil twin. Now, where is she?”
© Charles Heath 2022