But nothing could stop the flurry of memories and emotions. In her mind she was no longer behind the wheel, but once again sitting beside her father in the front row of the funeral parlor, staring at her mother's simple pine casket. Beside them was Isaac, old and frail, his familiar hands—fingers still long and strangely youthful—gripping the carved handle of his cane. She felt his eyes on her, but she could barely look at him. Forget making amends. She'd had no sympathy, just a bottomless well of anger. It didn't sink in that time was slipping away.
I guess I never really believed you would die. Death was a sad but inevitable part of Val's professional landscape; as a doctor she had learned to cope. But in her private life all bets were off. Even now, several years after her mother's death, Val still expected to hear Kitty's concerned voice on the phone every Sunday night. When Val visited her father's house, she still looked for her mother at the kitchen table.
And then there was Lilly. Lilly. Always Lilly in the shadows of Val's unspoken thoughts and dreams. As if Lilly, too, were a ghost.
I should call her.
The thought of contacting Lilly made Val's heart race. She pressed harder on the gas pedal. Eighty-five miles an hour and counting. The snowy fields became a blur.
More than anything Val wanted to break through her self-imposed wall of silence…more than anything she feared doing just that. She began composing a letter to Lilly in her mind. She wanted to say something kind and generous. And real.
Lilly, I'm so sad for you. But I know even in your grief you must see the gift youand Isaac ultimately gave each other: you allowed your love to bring you together, rather than letting your anger keep you apart. At the end, your father knew he had a caring, loyal, beautiful daughter. He knew you loved him.
That felt right. At least so far. But Valerie worried about what to say next.
How to reach out and keep her distance at the same time.
I hope these thoughts bring you peace.
Lilly, I also hope you'll receive this in the manner in which it is intended: not as an overture to renew our friendship, but simply to say how truly sorry I am for your loss.
Deep in her reverie, Val didn't hear the siren or see the flashing lights. It wasn't until the trooper had pulled up beside her car that she realized he was signaling for her to stop. As she slowed, her car skidded onto the icy shoulder.
The trooper stood beside her door, motioning for her to roll down the window. It took Val a moment to shake off the fog. To realize he was asking for her license and registration.
"What's your hurry, ma'am? There's black ice on the road. Do you realize you were going almost 90 miles an hour?" He stared coolly into her eyes.
"I'm sorry…really, so sorry…." Valerie looked down, surprised to see herself clutching the steering wheel so hard her hands were shaking. "I just…."There were no more words. No explanations. Nothing to hold back the torrent of uncontrollable tears.
The wind was whipping snow into the car. But the trooper wasn't done with his scolding.
"Sorry doesn't cut it, ma'am," he said sternly, handing her a ticket. "You could have killed someone. Then what good would sorry do you?"