Fiction Friday: [The Trouble With Caring]

Lights from street lamps sparkle and spread into abstract shapes as the rain pours down on the windshield. The urgent squeak of the wipers echo through the car, but do little to help Oliver see the road ahead. It hadn’t rained in weeks and the roads were slick, but he had no time to think about it.

Time was ticking, of the essence and every other cliché related to life or death situations. Slick roads were the least of his concerns.

The message was clear and if he was late, she would die.

He pulls himself closer to the steering wheel and scrunches his neck, hoping to see how far he’s gotten. A beam of light penetrates the curtain of rain and travels across the windshield. The lighthouse.

He’s close.

Vivian had gotten dressed and left for work, as usual, without a word. Their marriage had been slowly disintegrating for years now. And as the kids grew older and left home, it had become a competition of who cared less.

He no longer hid the affair he’d been having with their former nanny—and Vivian invited her for dinner. She started stepping out with the tennis instructor at the clubhouse—and Oliver signed up for lessons with him. The volleying, he knew, had gone on for too long. He’d grown tired of the antics and was ready to file for divorce.

He was surprised when she’d called him that evening, and even more so when she’d left a voicemail, after it had gone unanswered.

She'd had enough and decided to take her life. At 5 ‘clock she was going to jump from the lighthouse. The lighthouse that had once been their special place. She’d only given him the details because she knew he wouldn’t care enough to stop her—their love too far gone.

Oliver had reached the elevator before the message ended, his secretary calling behind him about a meeting in ten.

The message.

Sitting in its cradle, he reaches over to his phone and hits the voicemail button. As Vivian’s voice fills the car, he realizes she’d left a new one.

“Oh, Oliver. I can’t believe you were foolish enough to think I’d let you file for divorce. I haven’t suffered these last years of our marriage to be dragged through the mud and come out with nothing in the end. Now, I don’t want you to worry. I will wear the mask of the grieving widow for the sake of our children. I do need to thank you for them. And the weatherman for an accurate forecast. I can only imagine how recklessly you’re driving through this downpour. Oh…and I also have to thank the makers of the hedge trimmers I used to cut your brakes.”

Before he can react, the car hits a watery patch and hydroplanes. For the briefest of moments, he gets lost in the feeling of weightlessness before trying to right the vehicle. Jerking the wheel back and forth, the car doesn’t respond and his hands grip tighter as it slides across the road until it ends. Tumbling over the embankment, Oliver feels light as a feather.

A revelation fills his mind before he has a chance to truly grasp that these are his last moments.

Vivian has won.

Not only had she led him to his death, she proved that he had, in fact, cared more.