The First Lights

 

Cheers erupted around the locker room as Coach Marsden spoke about our playoff win today against the Patriots. The city of Indianapolis would be rocking an all-night party, and not by setting things on fire, turning over cars, or destroying businesses on Mass Ave. No, this was a civilized Midwestern city. The fans were the best, and we were on our way to giving the people of Indianapolis a long overdue second Super Bowl win.

After Coach was finished the room thinned. Reporters wrapped up their interviews. The coaching staff congratulated me as they walked out. My teammates continued celebrating as they packed up. My mind was focused on our next game: the AFC championship.

“Come on, Wyatt, victory celebration at Taylor’s house,” my teammate, Theo, called out across the locker room. We broke more passing records today, and Theo scored four of our seven touchdowns of the game.

“Nah,” I replied, pulling my black t-shirt down over my chest. “Gotta get home, Kate and Sydney are coming back from California. Next time.”

I hadn’t seen my wife, Kate, and our daughter, Sydney, in two weeks. Kate’s mom had just moved into a new place in Palm Springs and Kate was helping her get settled.

“Ah, well, I can’t blame ya,” he said, slinging his gym bag over his left shoulder. “Tell Kate and Sydney I said hello.”

“Will do.”

I made it out of the stadium and the lingering press line in less than thirty minutes. As I climbed into my silver Audi, I swiped my phone to life. No messages from my wife, yet. I double checked her flight schedule again before pulling out of the parking lot.

Traffic was fairly light on my way home which was unusual for game day, but I’d take it as another win. I didn’t like the idea of Kate flying commercial. I told her that I’d charter a private plane, but Kate insisted on keeping our lives as normal as possible for Sydney’s sake.

“Wyatt, our daughter will appreciate things more if we don’t spoil her with endless luxuries.”

I couldn’t argue with my wife’s logic. At least Kate allowed me to arrange for a car service to pick them up since I could not. Snowflakes danced across my windshield, as I maneuvered the car onto the exit ramp. My phone pinged as I flipped my turn signal. When I reached the stoplight, I checked my messages.

Kate: Congrats on the win today. I’m watching the highlight reel on ESPN now.

Kate: Collinsworth has such a hard-on for Branson, just like he did with Brady.

Kate: We’re on our way! We’ll be home in less than an hour.

When I finally made it home, I swiped my phone open to reply to Kate’s messages. I took stock of the wine selection opting for a bottle of Italian Chianti, Kate’s favorite. I poured myself a glass of whiskey and then settled into my chair flipping the TV to our local ABC station.

“Snow is moving into the Indy metro area. You can expect a steady wintry mix over the next few hours.”

I didn’t remember falling asleep, but when woke up my house was shrouded in darkness except for the light from the television screen. It was just after eight when I checked the time. Can that be right?

“Kate,” I called out. “Kate, are you here?” My eyes flicked to the unopened wine bottle as I trekked through the kitchen towards the front door. Peering out the window, the snow was heavy—a whiteout. My heart hammered in my chest as I fumbled with my phone and hit Kate’s name on the screen. As I turned to walk back towards the living room, lights splashed across the wall drawing my focus back outside.

“Thank fuck, they made it home.”

I pulled open the front door and walked outside to find a police car parked in my driveway instead of a town car. Two officers stepped out of the vehicle. Words spun around me like the mostly inaudible cheers from the stadium crowd. At that moment, my knees gave out, and I fell to the ground. The news hit my heart with a gut-wrenching blow. Voices carried the words I dreaded hearing. I closed my eyes hoping the earth would open up and swallow me.