“Did you have fun today Riley?” Sammy glanced in the rear view mirror at her two-and-a-half-year-old son and chuckled, as she watched him frantically nodding his little blonde head.
Riley had the looks of his father, but had somehow managed to inherit her curls too, which looked much better on him than they did on her. It was a wonder that no one ever questioned whether or not he was her son, his hair was as light as hers was dark.
Sammy half listened to her son recounting his day, as she clicked on the indicator and changed lanes. The drive back from her friend Elisha’s place was a long one, which seemed all the worse when she had spent all day running after a bunch of sugar filled preschoolers.
She pulled up at the traffic lights, leaned back into the driver’s seat and closed her eyes, before taking three deep breaths and focusing on the red light before her.
The sudden sound of melodic ringing made her jump. It took a few moments for her to realize what it was. Looking down at her handbag, she saw the screen on her mobile lit up. She told Riley to be quiet as she pressed the button on her mobile and the hands free spurted to life.
“Hey Honey, how was the party?” Her husband’s echo filled the car and Riley squealed with delight at the sound of his father’s voice.
“Hectic.” She sighed. “The kids were all full of energy and the mothers were all too tired to care, so I hope you’re ready for us when we get home.” Sammy smiled as she pictured her husband’s raised eyebrows directed at the receiver.
“No worries Hun, so how far out are you?”
“We’ll be home in about fifteen minutes.” Sammy slowed the car down for the next set of traffic lights.
“Okay Honey, I’ll see you then, drive safely.”
“Don’t I always?” Sammy chuckled and glanced back at Riley, who was excitedly bouncing his body weight from one side of his booster seat to the other. She accelerated forward as the light changed to green.
“I know Sweetheart, I’ll see you soon, love you.”
“Love you too Honey. Bye.” Sammy waited to hear the click of the phone before she pressed the ‘end’ button on the hands free and sighed as they approached yet another red light.
She marveled at how the long stretch just before their home always happened to have a run of red lights for her. If she caught the first red light, she always managed to catch all of them. She couldn’t wait for the new freeway to be built; it would halve her travel time to and from Elisha’s, making it possible for her to visit more often.
The excitement of the birthday party had started wearing off and Riley began to grizzle in the back seat. “It’s okay sweetie.” Sammy comforted. “Not too much longer, we’re nearly home.” She looked back at Riley, noticing his increasing agitation, then added “Daddy’s at home, do you want to see Daddy?” She smiled as some of Riley’s enthusiasm returned.
Devon seemed to work so much these days that her and Riley often missed out on spending any quality time with him. She had broached the subject with Devon a couple of times, but when it came down to it, the only way they could spend more time together as a family would be if they sold the house. Devon’s wage only just covered their repayments as it was. Selling the house was pretty much out of the question anyway; they had both worked too hard to get it, even if they had borrowed more than what they could comfortably afford. Other than Riley, the house was their greatest achievement together.
Sammy’s thoughts turned to her friend Elisha; she was a single mum with two boys. One had just turned four, the other was Riley’s age. Sammy had often tried to offer Elisha cheap babysitting so she wouldn’t have to pay so much for daycare, but now she was wondering if it would be worth placing Riley into daycare and going back to work herself.
But someone needed to spend time with Riley and Sammy knew that if she went back to work, Devon’s hours wouldn’t change. Then they’d both end up being too busy to spend any time with Riley and she wouldn’t allow that to happen.
She glanced up and noticed the light had changed to green and eased the car forward. Her body stiffened at the sight of the other car. Her feet slammed down on the brakes. She twisted around and made a desperate attempt to protect her son.
Glass showered over her and she raised her arm to shield her face. Riley’s high pitched scream echoed in the confines of the car. Her heart pounded and she silently prayed for her son’s life. Riley’s scream was cut short and Sammy let out a helpless, whispered cry. Then she saw and heard nothing.