Kate locked the door to the counseling office and juggled her purse, lunch bag and files as she made her way to her car. The school was quiet now with the children having been dismissed early due to the incoming storm. She had stayed behind in her office entering reports into her computer. She entered progress notes on the students. Then accounted for the time, much like an attorney does, so many minutes for one thing and a certain amount for another. All this recorded time went to balance out the government grant for that particular school. She clocked more hours than any other counselor and had the biggest caseload. Her students weren’t the good kids of the school. Kate barely saw those kids. Her students were all children with problems. There were a big variety of problems from emotional problems, home issues, ADHD, alcohol syndrome, drugs, and sexual acting out. In the mornings she would go to her job with great expectations for the day. She liked helping others and thought over time maybe she could help the students make it through this time in their lives. But at the end of the day, she was usually down and discouraged. She felt the burden of it all and remember too many days just like the one she had just been through. She thought of changing her career path. Maybe she could find one of those jobs that didn’t take so much from her.
Reaching her car, she opened the back door and put her things on the floor and picked up a toy that had fallen there. She placed the toy next to the car seat and her whole demeanor changed. Just the thought of little Alex made her forget all the events of the day. She would be seeing him in just a few minutes when she picked him up at her best friend’s house. It was great having a friend to do childcare because she knew that Alex was getting the type of care that she herself would have given him. Sometimes Alex got confused and called her friend, Sarah, mommy. It worried her at first but then she realized it was okay…he was just a little guy and didn’t know what he was saying.
Kate drove to Sarah’s with the radio on. The announcer was talking about the weather and warning everyone that a terrible storm had just passed through Tampa and would be in the area in 30 to 40 minutes. Kate knew that she would have time to get Alex and drive to her house right away.
Pulling into her friend’s driveway, Kate could see Sarah holding Alex and watching for her. Kate quickly parked and ran to the door. “Hi Kate,” said Sarah, “a bad storm is coming. Do you want to wait it out here?”
“Oh Sarah, thanks, but I think I can make it home. Alex will be calmer at home and Josh is waiting there for us. We’ll be okay.”
She grabbed the diaper bag and Alex and headed to the car. Alex was smiling and just at the age where children begin putting words together. “Home mommy,” he said, “play with trains.”
“Yes honey,” she murmured, as she buckled him into the car seat. “We’ll be home soon.”
As she slide into the front seat, her phone chimed a text message through. It was fron Josh. WHERE R U – GET HOME QUICK. TORNADO WARNING.
She quickly texted back, OK ON THE WAY.
It was only five miles to get home and Kate had no doubts in her mind that she would be all right. It was Florida. It was flat here and you could see for miles. If she saw the storm coming she could always outrun it. It wasn’t like Michigan where you had large areas of trees and hills to block your view of the sky. This was warm, sunny, flat Florida.
It was then she remembered that she needed to stop at the bank’s ATM machine to get some cash. Should she? It would be difficult later to run back out and do it and in the opposite direction of where she usually shopped. Besides it was right here in the next block. So she moved over to the right lane and told Alex, “Mommy is going to stop here for money.”
“Trains, mommy,” was his reaction to that idea.
There was one car was in front of her’s at the ATM drive up. She waited a few minutes and listened once again for news of the storm. The sky was dark now and street lights had already come on. Cars were becoming scarcer on the street.
Kate moved her car forward, entered her card and pin number and pulled the money and receipt from the machine.
Now to get home.
The sky was so dark and threatening. Big droplets of rain hit the windshield. The phone text chime came on. Kate glanced at it before pulling out onto the main highway. Josh again. WHERE R U
Not bothering to answer, she drove on. One mile to go.
Now it was raining so hard she could barely see. What she could see was the palm trees off to the side whipping in the wind. Should she stop and wait for a few minutes for it to let up?
Just then through the foggy glass Kate saw a tree right in the road. She swerved to miss it. The car whined as she tried to right its course. She pumped the brake, and realized she had no choice but to pull over and stop. She could no longer see ahead of her…maybe there were power lines in the way. Alex stared to scream . As she looked back in the special baby mirror and he was sideways in his car seat. She reached over the seat to straighten and comfort him. The storm was all around them. Then she saw some lightning, heard a crack…was it another tree? Lights lit the interior of the car….A car coming behind them. Fast. Kate screamed….Oh, God…
Kate’s sat straight up in bed. She was shaking all over. Fear in every part of her being. It took her a few moments to shake herself out of the dream. Even as she got out of bed she was unsure of what had happened and what didn’t. First, she went into Alex’s room. He still slept soundly in his bed. Next she peered out the window. No storm in sight, but no sun either.
She pulled on her robe and went into the kitchen, turning on the television that sat on the granite countertop. The announcer was saying, “Storms are moving in from Mississippi and should be reaching our area by afternoon. Be prepared to have shelter plans. Circumstances will be right for a tornado.”
Kate remembered the dream.
Then Kate did something unusual for her. She picked up the phone. She made one call to the school and another to Sarah. Today would be a good day to just stay home, and that is what she did.