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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1845075-Volunteer
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Relationship · #1845075
A volunteer's wife doesn't understand his motives.
Volunteer

         Tony moved slowly; the phone could wait for him. He paused and looked back to his bed.
  Warm. Soft. Sleep. Wife.
  He looked away and yawned. Across the hall was the spare room, as dark as the cold night outside. He pushed off the wall and began to walk.
  The phone was still ringing.
  Tony blinked and trudged up the hall. He paused, though, at the topmost room of the passage. He couldn’t see anything, but he knew who lay there. He loved his children too.
  The ringing wouldn’t leave him be.
  As he moved through the living room, his hand traced the edge of the table. He passed out of reach and his arm dropped heavily to his side. He had to stop for a moment. His eyes were adjusting to the dark, but he didn’t much like being woken at this time. He reached the phone and picked it up.
  ‘Gillingham house,’ he said, ‘Tony speaking.’
  ‘I’m sorry to wake you, Tony, but we need you here; there’s been another accident.’
  ‘Okay, be there soon.’
  Tony put the phone down. He hated this part. He ran his fingers through his untidy hair and rubbed his eyes. Quickly dressing, he marched out to the frosted red sedan.

  He was away only for an hour, but it was enough. He was cold. Cold and wet. He stood in the bedroom doorway for a few moments, but he didn’t warm up. He looked down at his watch. The kids would be up in a few hours, and work started soon after that. He stripped down and fell into bed.
  He couldn’t stop thinking. No matter what he tried, he couldn’t sleep. He looked over at Melissa and wasn’t surprised to see the moon glint off her open eyes. She rolled so she faced him and kissed his neck. He tried to kiss her back, but he had lost all enthusiasm.

  The kids woke him up. They ran around, making noise, making mess. Their laughter cheered him, usually made him smile. Not today. Last night’s crash had been horrible. He hated these mornings. The kids would be so happy until he appeared. They would see his face, sombre, sunken and pale. They used to ask why he was so quiet. Their mother would usually just say that he didn’t sleep well, and not to bother him.
  ‘It’s getting worse.’ She said quietly after the kids had gone.
  ‘I’m fine.’
  ‘No, Tony, you’re not. You can’t keep this up.’
  ‘What? Saving people? If I don't do it-’
  ‘Tony, please. I’m scared for you. Paul and Tyler are scared of you. Please…’
  A moment of exasperated silence. Tony felt like a husk, empty of feelings.
  ‘I have to go into the office.’
  ‘Don’t… I don’t like what this does to you.’
  ‘And you think I do? Do you really think I enjoy being woken in the middle of the freezing cold night just for the bloody kudos?’
  A horn honked outside. Tony stood up; his ride to work had arrived. After a moment, he spoke again without meeting her eyes.
  ‘What if it were you? One day I hope you’ll understand.’
  He left Melissa sitting at the table and made his way out to the car.

    By the time he got home, Melissa was at work for her the night shift. Tony lay awake for hours. His thoughts wandered unconsciously. He couldn’t sleep, his eyes just wouldn’t close. He looked to the curtains over the windows. A crack of silver light was the only illumination. He missed her.
  He wished it would rain. Rain soothed him and made him sleep easier. The phone began ringing.
  His bedroom was cold and empty. The hallway was equally ominous.
  ‘Another wreck?’ He answered.
  ‘Yeah Tony, I’m sorry. Blankley Street.’
  ‘See you soon.’
  A sudden thought stopped him at the door. No, the children would be okay.

  Flashing lights drew Tony like a mosquito. He could not smile, he could hardly think. He was tired, his head hurt and he hadn’t left his wife on good terms. He pulled up in his truck and stepped onto the road. He regretted his wish for rain; this night didn’t need to be any worse.
  A circle of faces looked towards him as he approached. He only recognised one.
  He nodded, the others nodded back. He felt like he was being judged, scrutinised. He looked away.
  ‘What can I do?’
  ‘There’s a woman in the car.’
  Tony’s gaze followed the man’s arm, and he saw that a dark coloured car had been crushed by a lumber truck.
  ‘She could still make it, just keep her awake.’
  Tony nodded again, and so did the others. He left the circle and moved towards the collision. The red and blue lights flashed across his eyes, lit the road in the cold and dark. Logs had come loose and rolled off the truck. The road had been scarred by fire and metal. He heard whimpering coming from under the truck.
  ‘Can you hear me in there?’
  The woman coughed, maybe in acknowledgement. Tony strained to see her.
  The lights dulled. The cold seeped further.
  ‘Tony?’
  He saw the moon glint off familiar eyes. ‘Melissa?’
  ‘I understand now Tony.’
  It began to rain.

© Copyright 2012 Benjamin Cain (armeda at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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