The microwave beeped. Jade pulled out a mug of warm tea. She stirred it, pressed the tea bag with her spoon, and added sugar. It fizzed and bubbled like a sixth grade volcano, creating a thin, frothy film on top. She sat for a minute admiring it, and then carefully stirred the remaining granules into the spicy concoction. She raised a spoonful of the dark, red liquid to her lips, blew on it for a moment, and slowly sipped it away. Content with its sweet to spice ratio, she leaned against the counter to finish it off.
Her long, sinewy form was glistening with sweat, as she had just finished a morning jog. She wore Nike track shoes, black yoga pants, and a snug t-shirt. Her long, brown hair was pulled back in a harsh bun – not a wisp was out of place. She was thirty-five, and still had the glow of youth. Her bright green eyes opened to a slit as she heard her four-year-old son’s footsteps come through the foyer, but closed just as suddenly. The steps slowed as they approached her, and stopped a few feet away.
“Mommy?” little Richard asked.
“What?” Jade answered.
“Do you have practice today?” Richard said.
“No,” Jade opened her eyes and said, “Why?”
“Because you only go out in the morning when you don’t have dance, and today’s Saturday, and I wanna go on a date,” he said.
“Alright,” Jade answered, interested now, “Where do you want to go?”
“Ruby Tuesdays,” Richard said with expectation.
“Ruby Tuesdays it is,” she said, “Be ready in one hour.”
“One hour?” Richard cried dismally, “How about two?”
“One and a half,” Jade insisted, “And I’ll throw in an extra pancake.”
“Alright!” Richard agreed and bounded up the stairs.
By this time, Jade’s live-in boyfriend of fourteen years, Dave, had woken up. He came down the stairs in a purple terry robe with disheveled, brown hair.
“So, no rehearsal today?” he asked Jade as he made a cup of coffee.
“Nope, only the leads had to show up today,” Jade said with a smile. “I’m leaving in an hour and a half for a date with Richard.”
“Oh. Another man?” Dave chided, “Well, at least you’re telling me. I guess that makes it okay.”
“Thanks, hon,” Jade said with a kiss. “You know I’m only with you for the money.”
“That much is obvious,” Dave said, as Jade left, “I just can’t remember why I’m with you.”
Jade reentered the room and whispered in his ear, “For the kids.”
“Mmm, oh yeah,” he joked.
They kissed, and Jade was off again. She quickly stripped off her clothes, and ran a damp washcloth over herself to wipe away the sweat. Her bun was taken out, which fell into long curls of shining brunette. Another t-shirt was pulled over her head, and she slipped on a pair of white jeans. Jade was sparing with make-up; but since it was a date, she decided to put on some mascara and eyeliner in addition to the usual blush and eye shadow. She slid a pair of diamond studs into her ears and went to help Richard. He was in a pair of khaki shorts and a dinosaur print t-shirt.
Finally, they were both ready to go. Dave was still in his bathrobe, reading a newspaper at the table. Jade stepped into a pair of clogs and yelled a farewell to him as she guided Richard out the door. The mother-son pair climbed into a Range Rover and quickly pulled out. Jade didn’t speed any more than she normally did, and she only did seventy on the highway. Richard was sitting up straight, kicking his feet and looking eagerly around.
There was a semi in front of them, in the lane to their left, who was swerving on the road. Jade decided that she would rather be in front of it, if it caused an accident, than behind it, so she sped up to pass it. She was just clearing the trailer when the monstrous wheels veered towards her. She tried to evade them, but they collided with the Rover. Her door crumpled, and the steering wheel pulled out of her hands. Richard was screaming as the concrete barrier began closing in on him. Jade closed her eyes, and it reminded her of the time she jumped off the high diving board. She was expecting the impact and crush, but it didn’t come when she expected. She didn’t dare open her eyes, but she did. The barrier collided with her son’s door and smashed it like play dough. She screamed, but the semi’s wheels quickly cut her off. They smashed the glass and bent the steel. She blacked out for a moment.
When she woke up, she heard someone outside her windshield. Why would they be at her windshield? Why didn’t they just come to her door? Then she opened her eyes. She saw that her windshield had been blown out, and glass was all over her. She felt it in her face, her chest, her arms, and her hands. Immediately she thought to look over at Richard. His eyes were open, but they weren’t looking at anything. At first, Jade couldn’t understand why that would be happening. Then she saw exactly what the concrete barrier had done to the car door, and realized that her son had died on impact. All the emotions she felt at that moment are impossible to describe. Even she couldn’t feel them all at once. But Jade felt a grief deeper than anything imaginable, more disturbed because of the open eyes. They had tricked her, made her think that he was awake when he wasn’t.
She was going to scream. She tried to take a deep lungful of air, but couldn’t. She looked down at her chest in confusion, and saw her steering wheel jammed against it. She began panicking. She made frantic, staccato attempts to free herself, but couldn’t get out. The voice on the hood of her car was saying something, but she couldn’t understand it. She knew the person was speaking English, but she couldn’t understand a word of it. As she struggled, she felt lactic acid build up too quickly. She saw black spots dance in her vision. No, no, no. She had to get out. She had to get this seat belt off. She had to do it. She had to do it. But oxygen is a necessity, and even adrenaline can’t satisfy that.