Tissue Warning: Apparently I’m going to end on a sad note. I had to fight tears a couple times while writing this one, so you’re warned.
Zachariah Sarrano glanced down from his position on the roof at the shouted words. One of his men held his thumb and pinky beside his head. Damn phone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone until they were done putting on this roof. “Take a message,” he shouted back.
He didn’t bother cursing again. Just part of being the boss. He hoped to pass that responsibility off to his sons as soon as they could join him full-time. They already worked for him during summer vacations, but he certainly wouldn’t let them up here until they had more training. He thought Gabriel would handle the office work well, or at least better than Chris. That wasn’t saying much, though. His second son was practically a copy of himself.
He made his way across the roof and down the ladder then unhooked his harness. None of them worked on the roof without one. He made sure of it. “Who is it?” he asked Matt as they started toward the trailer that served as a temporary office when they were on a job site.
Irritation shifted to worry when Matt didn’t answer him. Zachariah looked over at him, but Matt wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I think you’d better just take the call, boss.”
Yeah, there was nothing good about this.
He stepped into the trailer and yanked up the receiver Matt had laid on the desk. “Sarrano Construction.”
“Is this Zachariah Sarrano?”
“Yeah. What is this about?”
“There’s been an accident.”
This could not be happening. It just could not. He hadn’t been given any details over the phone. Just that Marleen and Lyndsey had been taken to the hospital after being pulled out of the car. His hands shook, and he laid on the horn again. Where the hell were those boys?
Finally they came out of the house. Not in any hurry at all. Damn it. He’d told them to be ready when he got here.
“What the hell, Dad?” Gabriel said when he opened the front door of the truck. “I was going to go pick Brittany up in a little bit. I had to call her and cancel our date. Chris rushed back from Doren’s. What was so damn important?”
“Don’t swear at me, Gabriel,” he said, pointing a shaky finger at his older son. “I don’t care if you did just turn seventeen. Your mom and sister are in the hospital, so I don’t want to hear any of it. Just buckle up.”
Both boys fell silent at that, and Zachariah pulled away from the curb. They’d barely made it out of town before Chris asked, his voice wavering, “What happened?”
Zach’s hands shook on the wheel, and he tightened his grip, wishing that would steady him. “I don’t know. Exactly. There was an accident, and they were both taken in. That is all I know.”
Neither of the boys spoke after that, but Gabriel did put a hand over his when he set it on the gear shift. They pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, but suddenly he wasn’t sure what to do. They needed to go inside, of course, but he couldn’t make himself open the door. “Come on, Dad,” Gabriel said. “I’m sure Mom’s going to want to see you.”
That kicked him back into gear. He led the way into the hospital and up to the desk. “How can I help you?” the receptionist asked.
“My wife and daughter should have been brought in. They were in an accident.”
“Marleen and Lyndsey Saranno.”
She typed the names in–he had to spell Lyndsey’s as always–and he thought something passed through her eyes. But, she looked up at him again, and her face was blank. “Have a seat, Mr. Saranno. Someone will be out to talk to you.”
There was too damn much pity in her voice for that talk to be anything he wanted. “What happened to them?”
“I can’t tell you. Just go have a seat.”
But, he couldn’t sit. So, he paced. He stood at the window and stared out. He crushed a water bottle Chris had gotten him from the vending machine. When he couldn’t handle the crinkling of the plastic, he tossed it into the trash without even opening it.
He turned to look at the weary-looking man who stood only feet away from him. Something in his eyes…Zachariah’s legs nearly went out on him. “No,” he said. “Don’t tell me that. They aren’t-”
“Dad,” Gabriel said, stepping up and taking one of his arms. “He hasn’t told us anything yet. I’m sure they’re going to be fine.”
“Your daughter is going to be fine,” the doctor assured him. “She suffered a broken arm and a few other bumps and bruises, but she’ll heal.”
Zachariah’s shoulders sagged. Maybe he’d imagined it all. His mind was playing tricks on him. They were all going to walk out of here together. As a family.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Sarrano.” He looked up at the doctor, his eyes narrowing. But, he’d just said Lyndsey would be fine. Of course, Marleen would be, too. Why was he sorry?
“Your wife. She didn’t make it here.”
He almost hit the floor, but the doctor reached out and caught him. Gabriel grabbed his other side and helped him into a chair.
The doctor was saying something else, but he didn’t hear anything else. Marleen was gone. What was he supposed to do now?
Zachariah lifted shaking hands to his face. He was sitting in his dark bedroom, not answering his son’s call. He’d done this too many times over the last couple months. He just wasn’t sure if he could handle facing them. If it wasn’t for work, he may not leave this room at all. Some days he couldn’t even manage it for that.
Gabriel wasn’t giving up this time, though. “Dad, you can’t just stay in here. Mom’s gone, but the rest of us aren’t.” He pushed the door open but thankfully didn’t switch on the light. “Lyndsey thinks you hate her because she’s the one who survived. Chris is drifting, even Doren is worried about him. I…I don’t know what to do. We need you, Dad.”
Zachariah squeezed his eyes closed even tighter. His family was breaking apart right now, and he didn’t know how to fix it. His chest ached every day, like part of him had been scooped out and thrown away.
“Where are they?” he finally asked, his voice hoarse.
“Lyndsey’s in her room, finishing her homework for tomorrow. Chris…well, he said he was going to Doren’s. But, he called me a little bit ago wondering why he never came over after church.”
Church. He hadn’t even realized it was Sunday. God, Gabriel must have been taking them, because Zachariah certainly hadn’t been doing it. Just how much had his eldest been doing for the younger two? More than was his responsibility. That was for sure.
“Call him and tell him to get back here. I’ll talk to Lyndsey. And order us some pizzas. We’re all having dinner together today.” They’d need to do more than that to keep this family together, but it would be a start at least.
Zachariah walked slowly up the stairs to his daughters room. He knocked briefly, but when she didn’t answer, he nudged the door open. “Lynds? Gabriel said you were up here.”
“Go away.” Her voice was even rougher than his and filled with tears.
It killed him. Still he was tempted to do as she asked. Most of the time he gave his children what they asked for, within reason, but he thought it would be worse to do that now. So, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. She wasn’t doing homework. She was laying on her bed, the pink of her cast laying overtop the stuffed elephant she held against her. The elephant Marleen had given her when she’d been in the hospital for meningitis a couple years earlier.
“I said to go away.”
“I’m not going to leave you, Lyndsey.”
“You don’t even want me to be here.”
He sat on the edge of her bed. “Of course, I do. I love you.”
“No, you don’t. You wish she was here. That we could have switched places.”
He’d cried at the funeral but not again since that day. Now, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “No. I mean, yes, I wish your mother was still here. I’ve loved her since I was Gabriel’s age. But, no, I don’t wish you’d died instead of her.” He moved closer to her, so he could run a hand over her hair. “I would have been heartbroken to lose you, too.”
“You won’t even look at me.”
He could hardly even look at anyone these days. “You look just like her. You know that?”
Lyndsey nodded. “That’s what everyone’s always said.”
“I haven’t handled things well. I’m sorry for that. We’re going to find our way through this, though. I had Gabriel order some pizza and go to find your other brother. We’re going to start with having dinner together.”
“He’s been doing my hair for school. Did you know that?”
“Gabriel?” He hadn’t even thought about it. Marleen had always handled that kind of stuff. It wasn’t even on his radar of wondering about.
She shook her head. “Chris. They’ve both been trying to do whatever they can to help. I know you’re sad, Dad.”
Sad didn’t even begin to cover it. But, that didn’t matter. Gabriel was right. They were still here, and he couldn’t just ignore that while he wallowed in his grief. His children still needed him, and he couldn’t let them down.
“Come on,” he said. “We’ll all eat dinner together, then I’ll see if I can help you with that homework.”
She rolled her eyes, but got up off the bed with him. “I already got it done, Dad. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Well, at least it was one thing he didn’t have to worry about it.
Note: Chris showed up in Love Who You Love, book 3 in my Kurztown series. And he told me about the family dinners his father had instituted after Chris’ mother’s death. I also just finished outlining Gabriel’s story. And even though he often comes off as the more fun-loving brother, he does step up to take responsibility when needed.