The ominous black smoke billowed above the crystal green corn fields on the long country road. Only the sound of screeching tires on the tarred black road and the sickening clash of metal could disturb such a beautiful early summer day. Seven teenagers on their way to high school graduation practice had suddenly met an unexpectedly horrible turn of fate. For four of them it was a mistake that would haunt them the rest of their lives. For the other three, they would not even be that lucky.
The dream was always the same for Benny Herald. The accident replayed in agonizing slow motion. Always trying to remember the actual sequence of events in those critical few moments before the horrific crash. Always frustration set in as he manufactured likely occurrences during the precious split seconds as the cars slid into each other. A game of chicken his two friends Jace Ryder and Doug Gloman had played many times before. Only this time something had gone terribly wrong. Someone had gone too far this time, but in a flash no one remembered quite how it had. Only fragments of memory. Snapshots in his mind that could not be trusted to be accurate in a moment of fear and shock. But the reality was a finality. Jace and Doug died that fateful day. Along with Benny’s high school girlfriend Billie Weatherton.
Benny Herald was a thirty eight year old successful trader on Wall Street. He lived in a luxurious townhouse on the East Side of Manhattan. Once married to a rising print magazine model named Amanda, Benny thought he had the perfect life. The couple had cream cheese good looks, were invited to all the elite parties in town through Amanda’s modeling agency connections, and Benny was a rising stock trader at Goldman Sachs. They literally had it all. All except a true connection. Amanda was extremely superficial and although Benny had once been a romantic idealist in his younger days growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, New York life had hardened him somewhat little by little without him even him realizing it. The market crash of ’08 a few years before had stripped away the golden cocoon of financial security of Benny and Amanda’s relationship to reveal what it actually was, which was no real love between the two at all. Rather a convenient alliance of two ambitious people playing a game that had no substance and that had run its course. Divorced now for 18 months, Benny’s recurring dream of that dreadful day twenty years ago, which had been dormant for some time now, was very much alive again. Partly, Benny surmised, because of his pending twenty year high school reunion and partly because he was taking stock in his life as he approached forty years old.
Even before his relationship with Amanda he had gone through a series of girlfriends along with a multitude of girls that would not be considered even that. No one really could compare to Billie. When Billie died that day a piece of Benny died with her. His future, or the future he longed for and thought was destined, was buried along with Billie too. He was positive Billie would have been his wife, they would have had the kids that Benny never wanted with any other woman, and his life would have been fulfilling in a way it never had been. At the time people said what people always say, ” you must move on” or ” time will heal your broken heart.” This seemed just empty words to Benny. He moved on because life’s harsh progress makes you but he never really healed. Never really would he thought to himself.
Billie was a beautiful white blonde bubbly girl that made Benny’s heart leap the first time he laid eyes on her at his 8th grade year end summer party at a friends house. Although both were too shy to talk to each other that day both were smitten with each other at first glance. Their chemistry was undeniable and being a first love for each of them made it magical. Such loves often die out but a few years later Benny and Billie became inseparable, not only romantically but Billie was truly his confidant and best friend. They were made for each other and everyone around them knew it. His family became like her family and hers was the same for him. When the accident happened the school, the whole community was devastated by the loss of three so promising teenagers. Jace was a star baseball player with a possible professional future and Billie was one of the most beloved people at Eastern Island High. After the funeral Benny lost touch with her family. It was just too painful for everyone. Three others survived the crash along with Benny, Billie’s sister Sal and another friend Bobby Tining, along with Ellie Sanders, a close friend of Sal’s. But Benny always thought that the best of them died that day. And their was no rhyme or reason why the four of them survived the crash while the other three did not. A random lottery of the universal events it seems. None of the survivors ever spoke to each other again after the parade of funerals. It was just too painful and left them all helpless and alone in dealing with their loss and emptiness. It seems like they should but never did.
On his gleaming ivory kitchen counter island lays a green and gold lettered invitation that says ” Eastern Island Class of 1990, 20th Reunion. Please RSVP.” The words cut through his soul. So many memories, so much pain. Did he want to go back? Could he even handle the nostalgia of the place that shaped him, held his best memories and his worst nightmare. He really did not know. All Benny knew is the best of what he had, what he was, what he thought was his still laid out on that long country road twenty years in the past and it never was coming back.
Culled from blog.reedsy.com by Troy Lowman