Out of the Darkness

The phone rang, jolting Dan out of sleep. His heart pounded so loudly as he answered, he barely heard Sarah’s frantic voice on the other end.
“Dad, Mom won’t get up. We’ve missed the bus and we’re going to be late for school! I have a field trip today. I can’t be late!”
Dan reassured his little girl he was on his way as he kicked his legs free of the covers, tangled from his all-night wrestling match with them. The disarray was mirrored in the rest of the room – the pad of a reluctant bachelor.
Still groggy, Dan threw on jeans and a sweatshirt, grabbed his jacket and keys and headed out the door. He jumped in the car and glanced in the mirror. Sad, hazel eyes looked back at him. He ran long fingers through the tangled mess of his sandy hair and figured that would have to do for now. As his junker spit and sputtered to life, he longed for the shiny new Benz he used to drive but could no longer afford.
Dan made it to the house in record time. The house that used to be his, theirs – now showing depressing signs of neglect and disrepair. The kids were waiting for him with their backpacks on. Ten-year-old Sarah had even made their lunches. She looked so bright-eyed and efficient; Sam just looked sleepy and a little lost.
“You kids go get in the car. I’ll be right there; I just want to check on your mom.”
If it had been a planned visit, he would have prepared himself, put up his defenses. But in the rush of the morning, he’d left his shield at home, and when he walked into the bedroom, memories assaulted his mind and pummeled his heart. Amy lay sprawled on her stomach, her head to one side; shoulder-length hair the color of dark chocolate covered half her face. As he watched her twitch in her drug-induced sleep, the familiar guilt and regret swept over him, but on its heels was a new resolve. “I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he whispered, “but this has to stop.” Sarah was honking the horn, so Dan rushed back to the kitchen and dashed off a note:
“Amy, I took the kids to school. I’ll be back tonight. We need to talk.”
He ran out the door and jumped in the car. “Okay, here we go!” he smiled with forced cheerfulness. He turned the key, but this time there was no spit, there was no sputter, there was nothing.

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