Octavia Middleton squinted at the speedometer that hovered around seventy miles per hour, and she had no doubt that she was going to get a ticket. She could barely see her hands gripping the steering wheel as her tears fell fast and furious—the late May sun further prohibiting her vision.
Normally, she would listen to her logical side as it screamed for her to slow down. But a millisecond later, she floored the pedal. Screw logic. Today was anything but normal. The needle jumped to eighty, then eighty-five. If she was going to get caught for speeding, it might as well be worth it.
She blinked several times, holding back tears that made it difficult to think. The dried streaks on the side of her mocha face felt tight, and ashy. She didn’t have time to fumble through her purse for a clean tissue.
This could not be happening to her family. Her fingers tighten around the steering wheel, trying to find comfort in the coolness of the leather.
She hadn’t seen the warning amber light. And when she slammed on the brake, she sent the car skidding past the intersection and toward the shoulder of the road. The sound of gravel and glass pinched against her new tires. Her chest tightened as she gasped for air through the smoke and scent of burning rubber. The worst smells ever. No longer able to hold her head upright, she collapsed onto the steering wheel and let out a sob.
Their bickering seemed so senseless now. God knows she could have handled it better. Sinking deeper into misery, she closed her eyes. More tears. Everyone fought with their mother. Right?
“Tavia, what are you doing in there, child? Is the cake ready yet?”
Wiping her eyes, Octavia called out, “Just about Momma.” She hurried to light the seven, strategically placed blue birthday candles around Spiderman’s image centered atop a sheet cake with rich whipped cream and lush strawberries. It was her baby’s favorite. His father’s favorite.
She made her way to the dining room holding the cake with steady hands despite the agony twisting at her heart. Placing the cake on the table, she watched as her son stepped forward with puckered lips, ready to blow out his candles. Octavia scampered to the middle of the table, out of the way, and held her breath.
On his birthday, more than any other day, Octavia wanted to tell her son where his father was, and more importantly, why he was not with them. But terror was a relentless captor, and not even Spiderman could rescue her from this sinking feeling. God help her, on each of her son’s birthdays, she died a little more.
Her eyes began to swell with tears—not only of pride, but of muddled regrets and mistakes—mistakes she should have given more thought to, regrets for not having the courage to stand up to what was wrong, and for letting things go unsaid and undone.
Regrets for letting her superhero slip away.