OCFW Christmas serial story
this chapter by Bill Garrison
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers
The sound of metal twisting and crumpling reverberated through the car.
Tad reached out for her, but the car’s momentum pushed him forward instead. His head whipped to the side, then back again.
What had just happened?
Shaking, adrenaline pumping, Tad fumbled with his seat belt.
He hadn’t been going that fast. How had he lost control?
Thankfully, the Cadillac was big and solid, built like a tank, and they hadn’t hit the tree that hard.
That’s when he noticed the icy wind gusting through the shattered passenger window.
On Ellie’s side.
“Ellie, are you okay?”
Eleanor lifted her head toward him. Blood trickled from a cut on her forehead.
“You’re bleeding!” Frantic, he twisted in his seat, scooting toward her.
“I think I’m all right.”
Her voice shook though, and Tad hated that he was responsible for her fear. He carefully brushed shards of glass from her hair and coat while studying her wound. “It doesn’t look that bad. Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“I don’t think so.” She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes with shaking hands. “My head hurts.”
He cradled her face in both hands, thumbs brushing the soft skin of her jaw. “Don’t move. I’ll call for help.”
Letting her go, Tad reached for his cell phone, but couldn’t find it. It must have fallen out of his pocket. Not seeing it in his seat, he opened his door and looked down just in time to watch the silver device fall into a six-inch deep puddle of slush.
He thrust his hand in to the icy water, but not soon enough. The phone was soaked. He tried to power it back on while looking at Ellie.
She stared back at him, one hand on her head, eyebrows furrowed. “Are they answering?”
Tad glanced at the phone display. “It’s not working. I can enter the number, but it doesn’t dial.”
She frowned, then shivered as another gust of wind rushed through the broken window.
“Try your phone,” he suggested gently, aware that she probably wasn’t thinking clearly if she had a head injury.
Her eyes widened. “I left my phone in my car. I knew I’d forgotten something.”
“Okay. I guess we’ll have to walk. Can you do that?”
Eleanor sighed. “Of course I can. Let’s go. I’m getting cold.”
She undid her seatbelt and started sliding across the front seat. Tad didn’t move, and suddenly she sat right next to him, their legs touching beneath the center console.
Eleanor exhaled, her breath misting in the icy air. Tired?
Tad had had a few concussions during the years he’d played sports. He knew fatigue was one of the signs.
“Are you sure you’re okay? Not dizzy? Nauseous?” he asked, ducking his chin until she met his eyes. Hers were clear and a relief spiked through him.
“Just a headache.”
Tad reached up and thumbed a drop of blood from her forehead, hating that he’d caused this mess. He should’ve insisted they skip the mall. “Your cut doesn’t look that bad. It’s already stopped bleeding.”
She brushed his hand away. “Get out of the car before we freeze to death.”
Tad hurried out of the car, and Eleanor followed. She stepped in the same puddle that had claimed Tad’s phone, and the cold water instantly soaked through her Nikes and chilled her feet.
Great. Now her feet were freezing, but her cheeks and her forehead sizzled.
Because Tad had touched her.
First, her knee. Now, her forehead. Did his touch really affect her that much?
No, it didn’t!
“It’s not getting any warmer.” Frustrated that she couldn’t control her feelings any better, she stomped past Tad and stepped off the road and onto the snow-covered grass, where the footing would be a little less treacherous.
She didn’t look back, but she knew Tad followed.
She had to step high, almost march, to lift her feet out of the deep snow. Flakes drifted down at a steady pace and whipped into her face.
Her parents’ secluded house offered lots of land and few neighbors, but there was no chance a car would come by to give them a ride.
“Your phone work yet?”
“I’ll try it again,” Tad said.
Why was Tad here? Sure, he’d come to honor Robbie, but was that really necessary?
She snuck a quick glance behind her. Tad’s blonde hair was wet and matted to his head. He feverishly worked the buttons on his phone. Worried about her?
He looked up and their gazes locked. “No luck. We’re almost halfway. We can make it. Do you need me to help you?”
She shook her head. The last thing she needed was him touching her again. Unfortunately, the more she tried to ignore it, the more the throb in her left leg increased. Not much further. She could make it.
Her leg always hurt, but she’d learned to deal with it. As the approached the spot where it had happened, the pain grew stronger.
Did Tad know? Did Tad remember? He should have. He was there.
Oh, God. I miss Robbie. I wish he were here.
Her foot clipped something below the snow and she tumbled forward. She braced her fall with her arms, but her face still ended up planted in the snow. Aargh!
Before she could push herself up, Tad pulled her to her feet as easy as if she were a rag doll. She gritted her teeth against the pain in both her leg and her head.
“What?” he asked. “Did I hurt you? I was just trying to help...”
“Would you quit acting nice? I know you don’t even want to be here!”
“What?” Boy he sounded innocent for someone who wasn’t.
“I heard you. Eight o’clock emergency phone call. Is it really that bad to be around me?”
Her question hung in the air between them. She hadn’t meant to sound so… hurt, but there was no taking back her question now. Her cheeks burned with both anger and embarrassment. She whirled around and took off in a huff.
She didn’t turn around. Couldn’t.
Tad jogged through the snowdrifts to catch up to Ellie. She wouldn’t look at him.
Okay, the phone call to his secretary had been a stupid idea. He hadn’t counted on Ellie hearing what he’d said. But everything else they talked about tonight had been real, and he hadn’t meant to hurt her. The fact that he had tugged at his heart.
Tad did blame God for what happened to Robbie. Ellie didn’t, and if anyone had the right to, it would be her. He’d lost a best friend, but she’d lost a soul mate. Still, her faith in God remained.
“Ellie, I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
They crested the final hill before the Clarks’ home. The echo of tragedy swept through the tall thick trees. He remembered it like it was yesterday. The warning, the scream, the crash.
An accident that was entirely his fault.
Check back on Monday for the the second-to-last chapter. Have a great weekend!