The needle stabbed the skin deep until a red drop soaked the metal. I didn’t feel pain anymore. The bloody needle scratched the one hundred and fifty eight mark on the formerly white wall. I dabbed an alcohol soaked cotton ball over the newly punctured skin in my left inner arm.

The newly punctured skin was located at the end of series of fading marks surrounding my body.

I stood few paces back watching the whole picture, the tally marks, that started one day on a whim, the day I was released from the hospital, in a desperate attempt to cope with the grief, with the guilt, until now the wall was overwhelmed by the bloody marks drawn every day. The memorized pain in my flesh was the reminder of the mistakes I could never forget or forgive.

My mind, always protective of me, was in a haste to let go of the memories which threatened the calm and peace. Brutally every detail about her was fading. Hardly, I could picture her; her face in my mind felt unfamiliar, as if belonged to a stranger that never existed. I tried to imagine her melodic voice, to recall her familiar scent, nothing came forth. I loathed myself for letting it all slip away.

True, I survived, but sometimes it felt I died along with my family that night. The tally marks were the string connecting me to them. I felt as long as I kept track there was still a chance to get my family back.

To say our marriage was a happy one would have been an understatement, we were deeply in love. I would not claim we hadn’t small and trifle disagreements, but never anything serious. How I wished to hear her carefree laughter that had the magical ability to rid me of any distress and angst.

I met Anna almost five years ago, right out of college. We started dating, two years later we married. On our second anniversary we decided to try for a baby. Few months later Anna crying gave me the news. I was happier than ever I was in my life.

Tomorrow was the due date, our child were to be born if that night would have turned another way. We would have been a happy family; I would have run around the hospital delivering the news to our friends and family with tears in my eyes: ‘it’s a boy,’ or ‘it’s a girl’. I would have held Anna and the baby in my arms and never let go. Unfortunately it was thwarted by my own foolish negligence.

My phone vibrated. It was Richard, a colleague; perhaps the only person remaining that could be called my friend.  I had cut off my relations with anyone I knew from before the accident. I let it go to voicemail. He was a good person, and had tried to coax me for a guy’s weekend, fishing or something, getting me out of my own solitude. Richard knew about the accident like everyone else in the office, but he was smart enough to understand I did not welcome talking about it.


The next day, as soon as I woke up, even before I had my eyes completely opened I knew something was amiss. I sat baffled watching the wall, white as snow, not a mark, not one tally mark of the days gone by was left.

Panic raising, my heart racing, I jumped out the bed. For seconds a futile hope sparkled in my heart, maybe all of that was only a nightmare, maybe in the next room, in the kitchen, I would find Anna, cooking breakfast, or frivolously thumbing her phone, paging through a book. But room after room it was deserted, nothing else beside the marks was different. There was no trace of her in the house.

It had not been a dream, or if it was, I was still living it. I run my hands over the white wall, touching, to feel my blood still under the perfect white paint, but it was intact. A tear trickled down my eye. I slid down onto the floor leaning against the wall. I took off all my clothes inspecting my body, trailing the fading puncture marks, from the first mark on my right hand near my wrist, which I had made the day I was released from the hospital and came back to the empty home. I recall resisting the urge to cut the blue vein. The trail went from the wrist to my upper arm, to chest, down to my right leg and from left leg, to my abdomen and to left arm, which the last mark still shined red.

My eyes got blurry, an unsettling feeling spreading through my body, I let myself float.

When I became aware once more, I was standing in front of the white door, which had been locked in the past one hundred fifty nine days. I pushed the key in my hand, and turned. The nursery still beautiful and perfect remained untouched as if trapped in that time. Not knowing the babies gender, Anna and I agreed on a neutral color. Frosty aqua walls, with white crib, and chairs, the small red pillows and carpet with pictures of little elephant holding heart shaped balloons.

I could see Anna and me painting and furnishing the room, getting everything ready in the first three months. We were overly excited, fantasizing about our future, the three of us.

In the corner of the room, in the little white bookshelf with animal dolls hanging off from it, was the stack of photo albums that Anna got printed, from our wedding, the first sonogram of the baby.

I grabbed one album and paged through. Watching our life in pictures, I stopped on the wedding photo, Anna looking stunning in her strapless white dress, and I in a black tuxedo with a bowtie. My hands trembling touched the picture; an urge filled with pain and love came over me to melt into that picture to live it once more. Tears dripping onto the album, I could hear Anna laughing, teasing me as I played James Bond.

The air became suffocating. I left the nursery with haste, locking the door.

I took the car keys, and left the house. I figured a little open air would do me good, but it was as stifling outside.

An hour later, I was not sure why I had driven to that place. But the tree that changed the course of my life was standing in front of me. No sign of damage, it stood tall and strong. I was half hoping to detect a sign of evil on the tree, something that differentiated it, but it looked lively as others.

“Why are you so sad?” a voice said. I turned and a small girl, perhaps about six, was watching me.

“What did you say?”

The little girl repeated. “Why are you sad?”

She was alone, no adult around that I could see. “Where are you parents?”

“I don’t know,” The girl standing still gaping at me shook her head, sending her pony tails bouncing around, and then added “are you lost too?”

I was indeed; at least it felt like it. I looked around, there was not one car parked beside mine. Where had the girl come from? “Where are your parents?” I repeated.

She shook her head again. “I know my house,” she said getting into my car.

I hesitated a moment, looking around, and got in my car drove as she, a six year old, said. On the way she inquired question after another. I started telling her everything about the accident, the tree, Anna, and our unborn child. She was not like normal children; she listened with eyes that seemed to understand.

I told her what I could not tell anyone. How it has been my fault, how I had neglected to checkup the car, and the tires which were old and worn out. If I had been careful perhaps my family would have been alive today. The tire blew, and the car derailed from the road, overturned and skidded off into the tree. The passenger-side received a significant part of the impact. Anna had died in the hospital along with our unborn child.

I was not sure why I was telling a six year old but there I was, hardly able to control, words poured out. “I wish I had died right there instead of them.”

“I don’t think it was your fault,” the little girl said. “You couldn’t have known this would happen.”

How I wished I could believe that. It would have been much relief.

I pulled over by a street as she said. I got out the car, and opened the backdoor, but the girl was gone. No trace of her. I looked around, nothing on the street as well. Looking around I realized across the street was the cemetery. Not far Anna was buried.

I was not sure then if there ever was a girl, maybe I was going mad. I crossed the street toward Anna’s stone.

Beside the gravestone I saw few figures standing. Closer I saw, Julie and Scott, Anna’s parents standing now noticed my presence. I had not seen them ever since the funeral. Across from them two more figures, Richard, my colleague, and by him stood Eddie, my father.

We nodded to each other. In silence they retreated few paces giving me space.

I knelt down by Anna’s gravestone. I started telling her how I had been since the accident, how guilty I felt. Sometime past, I felt lighter, and stood, turning I saw they still waiting for me.

Richard and I in my car were following Anna’s parent’s car, they had insisted for me to join them for dinner, all of us, even father and Richard. Pulling out from the cemetery I half expected to see the little girl again, but nothing. I wondered if that girl could have been my baby if things would have turned another way.

January 01, 2021 11:14

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Kristin Neubauer
00:59 Jan 07, 2021

What a tragic story - the poor protagonist! You’ve constructed such an emotional plot with a very sympathetic character. And maybe a whisper of hope at the end. Great job!


06:04 Jan 07, 2021

Thank you so much Kristin for the kind words.


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