Guilt

It was a purple mask with crystal embellishments. 

The kind one wears at masquerade parties. It lay there on the side of the dirt-road. A pair of footsteps approached it. A pair of shaky hands picked it up, trembling fingers running over the warm, crimson fluid on its velvety surface.  

*******

Clara sat up in bed, looking out the window. She looked haggard.

“It’s your appointment-day, dear.” Peter reminded his wife, gently.

“And I made pancakes for breakfast, your favorite.”

Clara looked at him with an empty expression then turned back to the window, lost to her husband. You see, grief does that to people; isolating them. 

Peter sat by the side of the bed.

Her therapy doesn’t seem to be working, dear Lord! Oh, how much longer…?

He caught a lump in his throat.

******

The day of the trial arrived.

It was a no-brainer; a ‘Hit and Run’. Indeed, it took a few months to nab the absconding driver. And then he came in surrendering to the crime, much to everyone’s surprise. The session was brisk with the sentencing.

On his way out, the culprit stalled as he was being led away. Clara watched him with a heavy heart. He seemed to be in an animated conversation with one of the police officers.  Then he made his way towards them. Her heart sank.

“Mr and Mrs Wilkins. I need to tell you something. Not a day goes by, I don’t regret it.” Then he looked directly at Clara.
“The truth is, I stopped when your car turned over. I saw you and your daughter lying helpless. I checked for both your pulses. Your girl didn’t have one. I ran to save my own life. Now, I know this punishment isn’t harsh enough for both of us. If it’s any comfort to you, know that I am a man accountable to God and He is a better Judge. But even if he fails to condemn me, I will never forget. And when our memories hold us guilty, God have mercy!”

Then he reached for something inside a bag. Out came the mask.

“I picked this up from the night of the accident. I don’t know why. Maybe a part of me wanted to bring her to justice… a part of me wanted to be reminded that I did her wrong. I did you wrong.” He choked up.

Clara reached out her hand and felt the mask. It broke something inside her.
She pulled it to her chest and let out a wail. She cried until she could cry no more.

******

She had played the scene over and over again, in her head.

“Mom, lemme drive!” Her daughter had yelled.

“Please Mom, you’re nuts speedin’ like that! I can almost see a Police car pullin’ us over, any minute now!”

Clara had laughed hysterically. They had been returning from a Girl’s Night Out.

That’s when they had slammed head-on, onto the oncoming headlights of a tow-truck.

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