After an hour or so I looked back to the shore to see how far I’d gone. I saw a speck in the distance, but I had drifted so far that I couldn’t be sure what it was. It looked like the shadow of a man, only it was unmoving. Was it a tree? Suddenly the tree leaned slightly and moved in the way I’d seen Pete amble along, and I knew it was him. There he was, watching me.
I started rowing then, and my mind returned to the police report. It was the last discovery, after two pages of eyewitness accounts, that I couldn’t forgive. It was the last thing the police sergeant of 21 years had noted on that accident report that would remain transfixed in my core for ever. Forgiveness would be impossible.
Phone records from the driver report an outgoing text message from the mobile of Mrs Lacy Taylor at the time of impact, 12:01p.m.
Forgiveness would be impossible.
I rowed the canoe around the lake for two more hours and thought of nothing, feeling as hollow as before despite the beauty. In the past months I’d had seconds, not minutes or hours but seconds, of normalcy. But then I’d remember what was real again and the despair would settle back in. Nothing would be the same anymore. I’d awake in the morning from a full and rare night of sleep only to realize upon waking that I was all alone in this new life. Sometimes, five seconds can change your life for ever.
I continued to row through thick reeds at the bank of the shore on the far side of the pond and then out of them into the very heart of the pond again. I laid back in the canoe and felt the heat of the October sun on my face. The morning was chilly, but by midday it was as warm as a summer afternoon. Finally I rowed back in an even gait towards the boathouse on the other side. When I arrived Pete was waiting for me, shaking his head like my grandfather used to do decades before.
‘You look like a drowned rat,’ he said. ‘Are you crazy? Jumping in that pond with your boots on? Gonna take days now to dry them out.’ Pete limped over and tied a slipknot into the rope and secured the canoe against the dock with buoys.
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