Fortunately, I have only had the experience of being in a Lawyer’s office once before. Ben had just got his drivers license and was trying to be a cautious driver. When a light turned yellow, he hesitated and slammed on his brakes as to not run a red light. An older woman rear ended him expecting him to go through the light. He had mild whiplash, so we had to fight the insurance companies to get some of his bills paid.
The officers had given the woman a ticket, but she tried to contest it, saying it was Ben’s fault. It wasn’t that big of a deal. The insurance companies settled the matter fairly quickly. How do they find anyone at guilt in this situation?
I stare at the words, Higgins, Bausch, and Schapp, on the side of a gray and white trimmed building that looks like it was once a house and has now been transformed into an office. I’m not sure if it’s Higgins, Bausch, or Schapp that we are meeting with today. It doesn’t matter to me. I feel guilt eating me alive even coming here. I don’t deserve any compensation for an accident one of my dear friends died in. Any monies should go to his mom and sister. It doesn’t feel right that he survives a deadly war … more than once, and then comes back and dies in a damn car accident. Tears sting my cheeks as I look at the building in front of us.
“Nikki.” My sister is at my door with the wheelchair. I see pity written all over her face. I haven’t talked to anyone about the details of that night, and I know she senses my hesitation.
The lobby is warm with neutral tones. Beige overstuffed couches line the wall with end tables at either end covered with magazines. A large dark brown reception desk half-mooned sits in the center. An attractive woman—probably in her thirties—stands to greet us. Her hair is pulled back in a tight chignon, and I can’t tell if her smile is sincere or so well practiced, it looks real. I don’t speak. I let Heather do all of the talking. I’m sure I will have my fill of explaining behind the doors.
“We have an appointment with Schapp.” So it will be Schapp. I wonder if I have to address him, Mr. Schapp?
“I will let him know you have arrived, and he should be with you momentarily. Please make yourselves comfortable. Would you care for anything to drink?” My mind flickers to Kahlua and cream, but I doubt that’s the kind of drink she’s offering.
Heather looks at me, and I shake my head no. “I think we are good,” she says to the receptionist. I watch as she rounds her desk and saunters with her tight black pencil skirt, high heels, and silky light pink shirt, to a door to her left. I don’t know why I am staring at the spectacle, but I watch as she knocks on the door and peeks inside to let the attorney know that we are waiting. Her heels click back to her desk, and she smiles at me when she realizes I am watching.
The door that she just had left, swings open and a gentleman with gray hair, tall and seemingly fit walks out. He smiles at Heather and me and instead of waiting for us to go to him he comes over and introduces himself. “Hello, I’m Jim Schapp.” He leans down to shake my hand.
My sister is the one to speak again. “Thank you, Mr.Schapp for meeting us. I’m Heather, we had spoken on the phone, and this is my sister, Nikki.”
“Why don’t we move this into my office, so we can discuss your situation in private?” Heather nods and proceeds to push me into his office. His office is lined with filing cabinets all along the back wall. The left wall is covered with what appears to be legal books from floor to ceiling. That has to be a boring read. His desk has a few scattered papers on top, and as Heather pushes me forward to his desk, he slides a chair to the side so I can be up closer to the desk. Heather slides in the chair next to me. “Sorry for my mess,” he says as he tries to straighten some of the stray papers into a pile.
I guess it’s a good sign that he’s busy.
“So, Nikki your sister contacted me and told me a little bit about your accident. First off, I would like to tell you how sorry I am for your loss, and I am glad that you are okay.” I just nod at him. He doesn’t even know me, so how can he tell me he’s glad that I’m okay? I think he realizes I’m not going to start this conversation, so he continues. “Well, yes. I am a personal injury attorney. I know that you have a delicate situation, but you shouldn’t have to get stuck with paying for all of the medical expenses. I think you have a pretty good case for a fair share of compensation as well.”
“I don’t think I should deserve any compensation.” Both Heather and Jim look at me like I grew horns.
“Might I ask why you feel that way?”
I try to push back the tears that threaten, but it’s useless, they drip heavy and full, streaming down weighty. Everyone sits quietly waiting for me to answer his question.
“He died, and I’m still here. I made him leave. He shouldn’t be gone.” The tears deluge down my cheeks and into my hands as I find my voice. I feel tissue being slid into my hand, and when I look up at the attorney, I see sympathy lining his face. Why can’t everyone understand how I feel?
“Nikki, I know this is hard, but you are here. Do you think your friend would want you to pick up and keep moving?” I nod yes. I know that Lance would not want me to let this accident consume me, but how can I not. He’s not here to tell me any differently. I will never hear him again. I will never get little pieces of advice, or encouragement … never. He’s gone. I sob violently, letting everything roll out all at once.
“Monetary talk aside, how about we just talk about the accident a little?”
I guess since I’m letting myself come apart anyway, I might as well get it all out. I go through all of the details, starting at finding my husband in the dark room with Sarah. I see Heather cringe on more than one occasion, but she doesn’t interrupt. This is the first time she has heard the whole story from my viewpoint. I recall the accident to the best of my ability. It’s weird how much more I remember now than when I had first woken up. My ears ring thinking about the screams coming from both Lance and me. It’s clear now … the images of metal bent in on us and Lance bleeding profusely before I finally black out.
I look up and see Jim and Heather looking at me with glazed eyes. A tear escapes down Heather’s cheek, and she wipes it away. Jim takes his dampened eyes off of me and back down to his notepad where he has been writing. “This is some story, Nikki.”
I feel exhausted relaying the nightmare that I have been holding inside. I hate to say it, but I do feel a bit lighter. At least two people know my story now. I don’t have to carry the burden all alone.
“This had to be hard for you to share, and if you don’t mind I would like to let you take a break and maybe we can get to my questions another day.”
“That would be ok. I think I need to rest a little bit. I’m feeling pretty worn out today.”
“Do you think Friday around the same time would work for you?” I look at Heather knowing it has to be her schedule that we follow. She‘s the one that has to be my chauffeur after all.
“Friday should work just fine.”
“Perfect. I shall see you ladies again on Friday.” He walks us all the way to the front door and before we leave he gives me a reassuring smile, “You are a strong woman, Nikki. Keep your head up.”