He Called Her Dearest. (My First Attempt at Flash Fiction)

I started going to a writers workshop on Monday. One of our first assignments was to write a description, etc. about this picture. I wrote my description – was critiqued on it – and this was my finished story. Go ahead and critique it. I need all the help I can get. Let me know how you like it…(UPDATE: I have been asked to put a Kleenex disclaimer- may cause feeling of sadness)

He Called Her Dearest

Who knew how his life might have turned out if he had not met his high-school sweetheart? All he knew was that he might have turned into a hermit – tucked away into the backwoods, in a tiny cabin, out in the boondocks, where nobody was around who knew his name. Then in his junior year, he met Agnes and she became his life, his all, his friend, lover and eventually his wife. He would do anything for her. His love for her was like a fairy tale coming true for the woodsmen or one of the dwarves, instead of the handsome prince. He knew he was not handsome and definitely no Prince Charming. He was rugged and somewhat of a redneck. When Agnes said “I do”, he knew that life would be totally different than the one he had imagined.

Agnes loved her man. She thought of him as her gentle bear. They married soon after graduation. Two children followed within the first five years of being married. Tabitha – age eight – with her long, beautiful blonde hair, looked just like her mom. Agnes often joked that Tabitha had her daddy’s looks because she still had hers. Tanner – age 6 – was the spittin’ image of his father. Both Agnes and Carl thought that God must’ve spared the mold when he made Carl, because Tanner, exhibited so many traits and behaviors of his father. Agnes life was her children.

The two of them decided, after the kids were old enough and they had more money in the bank, that they would buy a cabin. Agnes really didn’t like camping, since campfire smoke made her sneeze and her eyes tear up. The smoke smell permeated everything, skin pores and fibers of blanket and clothing. When she finally got the smell removed from the blankets and clothing, it was time to pack up and go camping again. She knew though that a vacation cabin would make Carl happy. She eventually relented and Carl was ecstatic. Every year, wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the suburban, corporate, yuppie life he had carved a niche in, he took his family on a camping trip. A few brief weeks out of the year, he lived the life he had dreamed about – only now he had Agnes by his side.

Every year – during the mid summer season, Carl would drive to the farthest, southeast border of Virginia Beach, along a twisted, winding two lane highway, right before the North Carolina border. Here he would make a left turn and travel about twenty miles down a rugged dirt path. They would bump, bump, bump their way to the place that he called heaven on earth. Agnes tried not to complain about the mosquitos and other flying insects, the heat and humidity which made her hair hang like limp angel hair pasta plastered to her scalp, or the long distance from any civilization. She wanted Carl and the kids to feel relaxed. They swam, fished, hiked and ate smore’s every evening, under the night sky, where all the stars could be seen for miles and miles. Even though Agnes hated the setting – she still loved these moments, stretched out beside Carl, with him gently snoring in her ear.

This year though, two days into their camping trip, Agnes started complaining of not feeling well. She had a fever, a headache and ear aches in both ears. Carl knowing her propensity for often getting sick told her, “Dearest, maybe it’s just your allergies acting up or maybe the atmospheric pressure is building up and a storm is coming. You know that a drop in the atmospheric pressure always makes you feel worse.”

“Your’re probably right, Carl,” Agnes agreed. “I’m just going to go take a nap for awhile though, maybe I just need to rest.”

“That’s fine dearest. I’ll take the kids canoeing for a few hours so you can get some rest.”

“That’s why I love you Carl,” she said giving him a hug, “You always take care of me.”
All was not well. The rest did not do any good for Agnes. Agnes woke, crying, in the wee hours of the morning, when the owls are most restless and the rest of life has fallen into a deep slumber, with a major headache and pain radiating down her neck and back. Carl became extremely worried. He knew that he needed to take action and get her to a hospital – never had she acted this way before. Picking up each child, Carl carried them one by one to the car and grabbed a few of their belongings – telling himself that that they would soon be back, Agnes was probably suffering from one her many sinus infections – she got them quite often. When Carl had to carry the limp form of his weakened wife to the car, wrapping her in a sleeping bag, his worry intensified even greater. “It will be okay, dearest,” he told her, “with a shot of penicillin you will be like new.” As he drove away he was hating himself for wanting to buy a cabin so far from civilization.

“I’m sorry, my love,” Agnes murmured to Carl as he made his way to the highway, “I didn’t mean to get so sick.”

“Sorry? Dearest, it’s okay. I just want you to feel better. I’ll get you to the hospital as soon as I can.”

“The children?” Agnes mumbled

“Safely tucked away in the backseat, sound asleep and yes, they have their seatbelts on.” Carl answered. Try to rest too” Carl knew the trip would take at least three hours, but maybe, with any luck he could shave off some time if traffic wasn’t too bad. A few times, Agnes had to have Carl stop driving so she could bring up the contents of her stomach. “I don’t feel so good. So cold” she muttered, shivering under the thermal sleeping bag that was tucked around her, and promptly went back to sleeping. The second time they stopped he had to reassure the children that Mommy would feel better after they got her to the hospital.

The police officer happened to notice the speeding car cruise on by. Clocking the car at driving twenty miles over the speed limit and out on a country highway with nothing better to do, the officer set out in pursuit. If Carl had not had to spend so much time getting the children back to sleep the second time they stopped, he might have paid attention to the flashing red light. Looking over at Agnes and noticing how she was drifting in and out of consciousness, Carl lost all sense of right and justice, he just knew that time was of the essence and he put the pedal to the metal.

However, Carl’s actions were seen as reckless and endangered driving by the officer in pursuit and since Carl was not slowing down but speeding up the officer decided that this had now become an official high speed car chase and called in back-up. Agnes was faintly aware of the flashing light behind her and faintly asked, “Shouldn’t you stop?” But even the slightest movement of her head caused so much pain she blacked out again.

The next time awareness came to Agnes, the car was surrounded by six police cars with their lights flashing. The children had awaken and were sitting up in the backseat crying and she weakly called out to Carl, “It’s okay, Carl. You need to stop.”

“Stop dearest? Not now. I’m almost there. We have about thirty-five miles left to the hospital. I can make it.”

“Carl,” she rasped, I’m not. It’s okay to stop.”

Looking sharply, at his wife, Carl listened to her one last time. She was his dearest. He would do as she requested. As he began to slow the car down to pull over onto the shoulder. He heard his wife whisper, “I love you.” Carl took his wife in his arms as she took her last shuddering breath of life and slowly opened the passenger door. The woman whom he loved more than life itself had died in his arms. Looking at the officers, with their weapons drawn, he felt his heart slowly shrink ten sizes that day.

The newspaper report that ran a few months after the incident, along with a photo of the family taken by the journalist, who was on a ride along that early morning, stated that the police department expressed their deepest apologies for the tragedy that happened to this family and offered a settlement of $500,000. Carl divided the money into a trust fund for his two children. He knew Agnes would want her children to have college money. Leaving the kids with their grandparents, Carl returned to the cabin and the backwoods life he always imagined he would have. Every year on the anniversary of Agnes passing, he drives back to the same stretch of highway, between the same two mile markers. He hears the same three words he heard before she died. “I love you.”

And he whispers her name, “Dearest.”

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