Penelope rushed into the street, ignoring the screeching car tires. “Leigh!” the woman sobbed. “Leigh oh Leigh why did you?” Penelope held tightly to her daughter’s hand. As long as it was warm she had hope. Sirens screamed through the air as the paramedics and police arrived on the scene.
Smooth and efficient, the rescue workers extracted Leigh and her mother from the road. Leigh was placed on a stretcher, soon covered in her blood. Her mother, still clutching the hand of her dying daughter, followed the stretcher into the ambulance. There she gave the police officer a tearful description of her husband and where he could be found. The doors shut as they were raced to the hospital.
At the airport, Herbert walked out onto the sidewalk a gigantic smile on his face. In his second hand briefcase was the signed job offer. The annual salary they had offered would double his income. Not to mention the benefits package well surpassed his current one. At last they would be able to get Leigh what she needed. His smile only widened as he thought of exactly what could be done for her; oral surgery, maybe even Lasik, once she was old enough.
“Herbert Baker?” a uniformed officer stepped up to him.
Herbert turned his smile on the solemn looking man. “Yes Officer?” he asked brightly.
The officer looked quite uncomfortable. “Um, well sir,” the officer stumbled, “It’s about your wife and daughter sir, they were, um, taken to the hospital.”
“Hospital?” Herbert’s smile faded quickly.
“If you’ll let me take you there sir,” the man stuttered.
“Yes of course, but please are they okay?”
The officer didn’t answer until they had left the airport. “Well, you see, sir, it seems your daughter was hit by a bus.”
“A Bus!” Herbert began to curse at busses and bus drivers as the Police Officer became more and more uncomfortable. At last he stopped and asked, “and my wife?” There was trepidation and hope in his voice.
“She was on the curb when it happened.”
Herbert nodded and remain silent. He began to worry. Would this be covered by his health insurance? He knew his new insurance wouldn’t start until a month after he’d been working at the big airline. What would this do for Leigh’s schooling? He had no idea who her friends were, or if any of them would be able to bring her course work by.
The officer escorted him into the hospital. There he was lead, not to the surgery ward, but to the morgue. Yet the fact that his daughter was dead didn’t dawn on him until he saw his wife. Penelope turned to him as he came near. The makeup she had put on so carefully that morning was smeared over her face. Tears continued to streak down her cheeks as sobs tried to escape.
Herbert took his wife in his arms. He looked into the viewing room where a mortician stood by the covered body. His wife buried her head in his shoulders, letting all the sobs out. He nodded to the man, who pulled back the sheet. Herbert gasped. Only by the buck teeth, glasses and clothing could he tell it was his baby girl. He looked away before he too began to bawl and led his wife to the waiting room.
“She jumped,” his wife choked. “She just walked on the curb and then jumped in front of the bus.”
“Impossible,” Herbert cried. He couldn’t believe it. “Not our daughter, why would she do such a thing?” Yet a nagging voice told him his wife spoke the truth.
“I should have known. Oh why hadn’t I know. I can see it so clearly now, why couldn’t I then?” Penelope grabbed her husband’s shoulders. “WHY!” her voice became hysterical.
Herbert pulled his wife into a tight embrace. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” He sobbed.
They had wanted a child so badly. But they had both been over thirty-five. Putting themselves into lifelong debt, they’d gone the rout of in vitro fertilization. It had also put Penelope at risk. She’d been in and out of the hospital the entire length of the pregnancy. Then Leigh had to be born via an emergency C-section, the umbilical having wrapped itself around her neck. It had been antagonizing for Herbert as he paced between the NICU and his wife’s recovery room, waiting for his daughter to appear. And at last she had. His wife had even been able to nurse her. For the first time their family had felt complete.
Now, oblivious to the watchful eyes of two strangers, Herbert and Penelope felt their family falling apart. The child they had worked so hard to get, had been ripped from them at the start of her life. She could have been anyone, she could have done anything. And now they would never know, they would never see Leigh reach her full potential.