They sat us at the same table. Why would they do that? Is this some sort of ploy to get us talking?! I wish we could. But the silence stretches out. It’s beyond the awkward and uncomfortable stage. It’s terrifying, hanging thick around us. Even the other guests at the table notice and shift uneasily in their seats until, finally, one by one they get up and leave, finding other tables to sit at and visit with guests who are actually talking. Some join the couples on the dance floor. And there we sit, Alicia and I, silence growing agonizingly deeper by the moment. Someone needs to break it, cut through it. Who will be the first to speak.
“I’m sorry …”, I whisper.
“It’s not …”, she starts at the same time, then stops abruptly.
“Alicia, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what happened and I’m sorry that your life has been such a struggle since! I wish it had been me. I wish I could have spared you that pain! I wish things were different. But I can’t wish away my family. I love them! I’m sorry!”
She stares at me, tears glistening behind her eyes and I see the hardened mask begin to break.
“Oh, Beth”, she starts, sighing, “it’s not your fault. I know it’s not. We all do. I’ve just been … well, hurt, angry. I took it out on you. They’ve never been able to find the driver of that truck. They found his truck – abandoned a few miles from the scene … but didn’t find the driver. I hope he suffers for what he’s done. But why have I made you suffer?! Don’t be sorry for the way your life turned out – enjoy those blessings! I’m sorry I was so, well, selfish. Can we start over? I’d love to meet your family!”
My face broke into a smile. “Yes” was all I could say as relief washed over me. I leaned over and gave her a hug, holding her, trying to give her all the love and reassurance I could. We laughed tentatively. Smiled again. Silence fell upon us once more, this time peaceful, hopeful.
It was going to be ok.
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