Steve Williams was looking forward to the trip home. It had been a very successful business trip, and he had landed the new advertising account he had worked so hard on. Now it was finally time to head home and treat his family to a well-deserved vacation. He knew that the past few months had been hard on the whole family, he had been working late and had hardly been able to see his two kids at all. But the hard work had paid off big and with this multi-million dollar account locked in, his boss had not only given him the time off, but also agreed to foot the hotel and travel expenses for his family's vacation as his way of showing his appreciation.
The sun was shining with just a few white puffy clouds as he headed out of Chicago, on his way to Sioux Falls, and home. It was about a nine hour drive and although he had the option of flying home, his meeting ended later than he had anticipated and the next flight would have been the following afternoon. So he decided he would just enjoy the ride home - after all, the company had provided him with a very nice rental car! So he checked out of his hotel room and headed towards I-90. The first hurdle to overcome would be to navigate through Chicago's city streets to get to the interstate. That would be a feat in itself, except that it was almost the end of Chicago's infamous "rush hour" traffic and the congestion on most of the streets was easing up. What great timing! It took him about 20 minutes before he began to see the signs for the Kennedy Expressway - the lead-in to I-90.
Once on the Expressway, he settled in for the long drive. He found a radio station to his liking and set the cruise control on the Lincoln Town Car. Traffic on the Expressway was a bit heavy as he had expected, but it was moving along well and it wasn't anything he couldn't handle. Besides, it would drop off even more the farther he got from the city. Meanwhile he began taking in some of the sights as the city slowly slipped away and more suburban settings took over.
Chicago was a big change from his home on the outskirts of Sioux Falls. He had seen pictures of Chicago and had flown into O'Hare en route to other places, but this was the first time he had been able to spend any time in the city itself. He had marveled at the tall buildings and all the people. And he had found out why it was known as The Windy City too - one of the days he was there he got to experience Chicago's famous winds firsthand! But for the most part the weather was cooperative and during the four days he was there, he got a chance to get out of the hotel and see some of the sights.
Naturally he had picked up some souvenirs for everyone while he was in The Big City. He had been able to Skype with the family using his laptop and all had put in their requests for what he was to bring home. Michael, the oldest, wanted a special ship model that he had found in a catalog, while Cindy, the younger of the two kids, wanted a baby doll that cried and drank a bottle. He had been able to find both of these "treasures" and when he asked his wife, Linda, what she wanted, she merely replied "You"! But Steve was no dummy - he knew there had better be something in the car for her besides himself, so he stopped off at a jewelers and had picked up a very nice topaz heart necklace, topaz being her birthstone. He figured that giving her the necklace and giving the kids a trip to Disneyland should square him up with all that he put them through trying to land this account!
An hour's drive had put Chicago behind him and he found himself passing through more rural countryside. Traffic was much lighter and he would go several minutes before passing another car. He was getting kind of hungry by now and decided that he would stop soon and grab a bite to eat and fill his thermos with coffee. He began looking for a place to eat that wasn't too far off his route, but he was in between towns and there wasn't much around at the moment. So he kept driving and kept an eye out for a decent stop. Another hour went by before he spotted a respectable looking truck stop. And it was a good thing too, since he was in need of gas as well. So he pulled into the parking lot to fill both his tank and his belly. As he pulled in, he was surprised with the amount of "big rigs" parked in the lot. "This must be a heck of a truck stop!" he thought to himself as he walked past the rows of trucks. He entered the restaurant and found it crowded, so he paused at the door until he found a seat at the counter. He set his thermos on the counter and motioned for the waitress.
"Yeah, it's quite a mess - it's gonna take a while to clear up all those vehicles and get the highway moving again." Steve overheard a couple of truckers talking.
"Excuse me, what are you talking about?" he asked one of them.
"Haven't you heard? There's a big wreck up the road about 30 miles or so. A whole bunch of cars and a couple big rigs got tangled up. The cops are there now trying to sort it all out. Highways' gonna be blocked for at least two, maybe three hours." the trucker informed Steve.
"Oh no!" Steve said, "I'm trying to get home to Sioux Falls!"
"Well, you aren't going to get there on the 90 anytime soon!" the trucker said.
"Isn't there any way around it?" Steve asked.
"Well you could take the off-ramp at Irene Road, jump onto Route 20 and take it west till you get to I-39, take that north a few miles and get back on I-90 again. That would route you around the accident." the trucker said.
"Isn't that going way out of my way?" Steve asked.
"Well it's a little out of the way, but it beats sitting here waiting around - especially if you have that far to go and you're headed home." the trucker said.
"Ok, how far is this off-ramp?"
"Oh about 10 miles or so. Not far."
Ok, thanks." Steve said.
Steve ordered his dinner and ate it while he wrote down the directions the trucker had given him. He looked at the map he had picked up before leaving Chicago and saw what the trucker was talking about. It was a bit out of his way, but it was fairly straightforward and it did get him back on track again. Once he was finished eating and he had filled his thermos with coffee, he paid his bill and went out to his car. He pulled into the gas station next to the restaurant and filled his tank so he could continue his trip. Paying for the gas, he left the parking lot and headed down the highway, looking for the exit his trucker friend had told him about. Sure enough, about 11 miles down the highway, he saw the exit sign and took the exit onto Irene Road. Five minutes north and he came to the intersection with U.S. Route 20. He took a left and headed west just as the trucker had told him. Everything seemed to be working out...but that's when it happened.
U.S. Route 20 was a two lane divided highway through Illinois farm country. A left-over since the interstate was put in, it had been relegated to a rural back road with little traffic except for the locals. The road wasn't in bad shape, although it did have a few potholes and a lot of cracks from the years of baking in the sun. Steve was doing good on the all but empty road until he spotted a farm tractor headed towards him in the other lane. It was in the far lane, the slow lane, headed east, and would have passed him easily had it not been for the convertible full of teenage youths coming up fast behind the tractor. The driver of the convertible was busy cutting up with his fellow passengers and apparently didn't see the tractor until he was almost upon it. A quick panic swerve and he lost control of the car. It dived into the meridian and came back up on the westbound side headed right for Steve's car. Steve had no time to do anything but try to cover his face as the car plowed headlong into the front drivers side of his car. The Lincoln bounced off the convertible and crossed the other westbound lane and crashed into a drainage ditch, flipping forward onto its roof before coming to a stop finally.
Steve woke up to strange surroundings. The room was white with harsh fluorescent lights. There were strange machines surrounding him and wires and tubes connecting him to them. He tried to speak, but there was a large tube stuck down his throat. And he hurt. He hurt all over, like he'd been beaten with a ball bat. He moaned his complaint and a woman came to him.
"Steve! Oh thank God! We were so worried!" she said tears streaming down her face.
Steve thought this rather curious. Who was she and who was this Steve guy she was talking about? That's when it hit him - he didn't remember anything! He didn't know who he was, where he was at, how he got there or anything else about himself! And what's more, with this tube down his throat, he couldn't even ask questions! A real sense of panic came over him. What is going on? he thought. He tried pulling the tube out of his throat but the strange woman stopped him.
"Steve you can't take that out! You have to leave the tube in till the doctor takes it out!" She struggled with him some more as she called for the nurse.
Another woman came in dressed in white. "Ah, I see sleeping beauty is awake finally!" she said smiling. "Now you just lay back and relax...you've had yourself quite an accident and you need to mend awhile."
"Ok so there's one piece of the puzzle." Steve thought to himself "Apparently I've been in some kind of an accident. But what happened and why can't I remember anything?"
"We're going to give you something to make you a little more comfortable. I'm sure you feel like 40 miles of bad road right about now!" the nurse said with a smile as she injected a pain reliever into Steve's IV solution. Once she had finished the nurse said "I'll be back to check on you in a little while and left the room. As the sedative began to take effect, Steve could feel the woman's hand on his forehead, stroking him tenderly and he gave himself over to the feeling as the room faded to blackness.
The next day, Steve woke to the same strange surroundings, still not knowing what had happened or how he had gotten there. His female companion was still there with him, sleeping in a chair next to his bed. Whoever she was, she must be important to him, he thought. As he stirred, she woke.
"Hi Honey, how are you feeling today?" she asked. Steve still had the tube in his throat so he couldn't answer, but he nodded that he was feeling better.
"I'm glad. The doctor will be in this morning to check on you." she told him. "I'm going to wash my face and then go downstairs to get a bite to eat before the doctor comes in. Do you need anything before I go?" Steve shook his head.
"Ok then, I won't be gone more than a couple minutes . The cafeteria closes in about an hour to get ready for the lunch crowd so I have to move if I want breakfast."
She went into the bathroom and he heard the water running. Then she came back out, rubbing her face with a towel and stopped in front of the mirror to brush her long blonde hair. He watched her as she got ready and vainly tried to find something familiar in her actions. He knew that he knew her somehow but for the life of him, he didn't know how. She finished her primping and picked up her pocketbook. "I'll be right back." she said smiling and left the room.
Steve lay in his bed trying to put together what he knew. He knew there was this woman who had been by his side for the some time apparently. She must mean something to him. He knew that he had been in some kind of an accident, although he still didn't know what happened or the extent of his injuries. He knew he must have broken both of his legs since they were both in casts and he knew his ribs hurt and that he must have banged his head good because he couldn't remember anything. That was the most maddening thing about all this - not being able to remember anything. It was as if everything that happened prior to yesterday just ceased to exist. Somehow he had magically appeared here in this hospital room from thin air. It was aggravating to the extreme!
Steve was trying to piece together his mysterious life when his female companion returned, this time with a doctor next to her.
"So how are we feeling today, Steve? I must say, you gave us all quite a scare!" the doctor said.
Steve looked at him quizzically. He didn't know the doctor either - just one more missing piece of the puzzle that was his life.
"Why don't we see about taking out that tube so you can talk, shall we?" he said, approaching him. "Now I'm going to do this quick so you won't gag as it comes out, ok?". the doctor said. "Once it's out, drink a little water and try out your voice. Don't try to talk a lot at first - that tube has been in there for a while and your throat needs time to adjust." The doctor then pulled the tube out quickly and Steve could feel a bit of a gag reflex, but it passed as soon as the tube was out. He took a few sips of water and then tried speaking.
"What happened?" he croaked as his vocal cords straightened out and resumed their proper location in his throat.
"You don't remember the accident?" the doctor asked.
"I don't remember any accident, I don't know where I am or how I got here, and I don't know any of you people!" he said as his voice returned.
"Even me, Steve?" the woman asked.
"I don't know you, this doctor, or even who I am. You keep calling me Steve so I assume that's my name, but I don't know for sure. Everything is completely blank since before I woke up yesterday." he said.
"Oh dear, I was afraid this was going to happen." the doctor said. "That concussion must have been worse than we thought."
"Would somebody please tell me what is going on?" he said getting more and more frustrated.
"Ok, calm down, Steve. We'll explain everything." he said. Steve sat up expectantly as he listened to their story.
"First off, some introductions." the doctor began. "My name is Dr. Kensington. This is your wife Linda. And you are Steve Williams. You came to this hospital, Loyola University Medical Center here in Chicago, in pretty bad shape. You were involved in a car accident just outside a little town called Cherry Valley, Illinois. You were on your way home from a business trip in Chicago, from what your wife has told me. What you were doing on Route 20 instead of the 90 interstate, we don't know, but you must have had a reason. Anyway, you were in such bad shape that you had to be flown here by helicopter. You were unconscious with your left leg broken in three places - the femur, your upper leg bone, was broken up close to your hip and your lower leg bones - the tibula and fibula, were both broken. Your right tibula or shinbone was also broken while your ankle had a couple tendons partially detached - probably because your foot was trapped in the pedals. That's why both your legs are in casts now. You also had a dislocated shoulder, which we think happened because of the seatbelt, and a ruptured spleen and a bruised liver. But your most serious injury, of course, was your head injury. You have been unconscious for almost 2 weeks. And now you are telling me that you don't remember anything. Well, while it is very bewildering for you, I'm sure, it isn't unexpected for someone who has been through what you have. I wouldn't worry about it too much right now. Your memory will probably come back soon, a little at a time, and then everything will make more sense. We can just be thankful that you are still with us and that you are in the best care you can get. We have some of the top neurologists in the country here and our orthopedic specialists are just as good. You are in very good hands and your prognosis is that you will make a complete recovery."
"How did I get in the accident? What happened?" Steve asked. Dr Kensington shot a quick glance over to Linda and she spoke up.
"The police are still trying to piece together what happened. I guess there was a witness and the local police are questioning him to see what he knows. Right now we just need to concentrate on getting you well and getting back home. The kids have been asking about you."
"The kids?" Steve asked.
"Oh, yeah, we have two children - Michael and Cindy." Linda showed him the pictures of their kids that she had in her pocketbook. Steve didn't recognize either of them.
"No." he sighed. "I don't recognize them either. I wish something would click. I feel so stupid!"
"Don't worry about it too much, Steve. These things take some time and they are usually self-correcting. One day you'll be doing something routine and all of a sudden it will all fit together." Dr Kensington said patting him on his good shoulder. "I've got to do my rounds now, but I'll be back to check on you later, ok? Oh and Linda, can you stop by the nurses station - I think they have a paper you need to sign."
"Sure." she said and she followed Dr Kensington out the door, blowing a kiss to her husband in bed.
As soon as the door closed, they walked a little way down the hall. "Linda, I didn't want to say anything in the room, but we need to be very careful how we tell Steve about his accident. If he finds out too much too quickly, he may relapse. Also we got the word today that all three of the kids in the other car died on scene. There was alcohol in their blood and the police found empty beer bottles all over the area where the accident happened. Evidently, the kids weren't wearing their seat belts, the driver was drunk, and when the convertible came out of the median onto Steve's side of the road, it got airborne, landing just as the two cars came together. That caused the convertible to flip over Steve's car and all three kids were thrown out of the car. The police estimate the convertible was doing at least 80 mph when it hit Steve, and the kids were killed when they hit the ground. If Steve finds out that three kids were killed in an accident he was involved in, he could blame himself and really go into a deep depression - something he certainly doesn't need right now."
"I understand, Doctor. But what do I tell him if he asked about the accident?" Linda asked.
"Just tell him it's still under investigation for now. We'll see how things go and let him know when the time is right." Dr Kensington said.
"Ok, doctor. But tell me - is there ever really a 'right time' to tell someone that the accident you were involved in resulted in the death of three teenage boys?" Linda said, lowering her eyes.
"No, I suppose not. It's a shame." he said sadly. AUTHOR'S NOTE:
The following story was written a long time ago, before I joined Lush. But because of the coaxing of others, I have decided to put it up here for you to read. I hope you enjoy this first attempt at My writing! The above story is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and events in it are products of the author’s imagination and are used as fantasy. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com
with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/a-stranger-in-my-house-chapter-1.aspx">A Stranger In My House, Chapter 1</a>