Cover to Be Revealed Monday!
“Now, are you sure you have everything?” Carter asked me as we shoved the last box into the trunk of my car.
“Pretty sure,” I said, bouncing up on my toes to kiss him on the cheek.
“Okay, then. Please be careful driving home,” he warned me as he bent down and wrapped his arms around my waist. His blue eyes shone down on me as a lock of blond hair fell into his eyes.
“Yes, sir. Good luck tomorrow, babe,” I said, smiling up at him and brushing the stray hair out of his face.
“Thank you, baby. I love you,” he smiled, kissing the tip of my nose. His gentle smile always set my heart at ease.
“I love you, too. Now, you better get out of here and get packing if you plan on leaving after the interview,” I teased and smacked his chest, feeling the muscles flex under my hand.
Carter laughed and leaned down to give me one last kiss. He got into his car next to mine and started to pull away. I waved to him as he pulled out, then turned to my roommate, Chloe. She gave me an exaggerated frown and pulled me in for a tight hug. We pulled away, showing tears forming in both our eyes.
We lived together for all four years of college and I would miss her immensely. This was her last year at Georgetown, so I wouldn’t being seeing her in the fall when I returned for my masters degree. Her dark eyes were glistening as she tucked long, black hair behind her ear.
“Call me,” she demanded.
“Of course. We will have to get together. I’ll drive to Kentucky and get you if I have to,” I promised, squeezing her hand.
“Of course, darling. I’ll be there for your grad party,” she said, brightening up.
“Great, I can’t wait. Love you, girlie,” I told her one last time before I got into the driver’s side of my loaded car.
As I pulled out of the parking lot and drove through campus, I felt relief wash over me. The stresses of finals and graduation were finally behind me and I had an entire summer to look forward to. No more cramming, classes and schedules. I smiled and turned the radio up as I made my way onto the interstate. On the long drive home, my mind wandered
I wondered what I would do if Carter got the internship he was interviewing for in the morning. I had planned on coming back next year to get my masters, so I would still be with him. A bigger part of me wanted to be done with school and never return to Washington, D.C. again. But, if Carter would be here next year, then I would come too. I worried how much time we would actually have together when he was going to school and completing his internship in the city. It was safe to assume he would be kept very busy.
We talked about finding a place to rent together off of campus. With Chloe gone, I didn’t want to live with anyone else. Living with Carter would give us more time together. I could move down here with him and not attend school. My parents would have a heart attack if I didn’t pursue my masters, so that wasn’t exactly an option. Pushing all the worries out of mind, I let the wind blow through my hair. I had all summer to figure out what would happen in the fall.
After six hours, I finally pulled into my driveway and parked in front of the house. I got out and stretched my legs, yawning before grabbing my purse from the front seat and running up the steps to the front door. The scent of cooking food insulted me as I walked in. I inhaled deeply and made my way to the kitchen. My mother was chopping potatoes at the large counter island in the center of the kitchen.
“I’m home,” I sang as I threw my bag on the counter.
“Hey, honey,” my mother said as she wrapped her arms around me in a hug. “Glad to see you made it safely. Especially while driving that car of yours. I don’t know why you won’t let us get you a new one,”
I sighed and sat on the barstool as my mother went back to work on the potatoes. “I don’t need a new car, mother. We walk everywhere anyway,” I told her, for probably the hundredth time.
“Well, it’s a long drive home. I will talk to your father and see about finding you a more suitable car,” she said, as if I never have spoken.
Giving up, I gave her a kiss on the cheek and went out to unload my car. After several trips up the stairs with boxes and bags, my car was finally empty. I piled all my things up in the corner of my bedroom and promised myself I would deal with it in the morning. I threw my hair up in a ponytail and ran downstairs. My mother was still cooking the roast, so I went out the glass doors to the back yard.
My parents already had the pool cleaned and ready for summer, even though it wouldn’t be warm enough to swim for several weeks. The patio furniture was out and neatly placed around the brick patio. The grass was lush and green, and I wondered how much it cost my parents. The back garden was perfectly pruned and manicured. My father probably had crews here at first thaw to prepare for the party that would take place in two weeks.
I plopped down in a lounge chair near the pool and leaned back. The evening was warm, and the air smelled fresh and clean. Living in a large city made me appreciate my time home more. My eyes closed and my body relaxed into the chair. After several minutes, I heard the clanging of dishes from the house. My mother would be setting the table, so I ventured back inside for dinner.
After helping set the table, my family sat down at the table at exactly six o’clock. Dinner was at the same time every night, never late and never early. If you were not at the table at six, you didn’t eat. My father gave me a kiss on the top of my head before taking his seat. My parents sipped on their wine and asked me the usual questions about school.
“What is your schedule like next semester, Kallie?” my father asked as he cut the meat on his plate.
“I’m not sure yet,” I answered, praying he would drop the topic.
“What do you mean you don’t know? You should have gotten your schedule when you enrolled before you left, right?” my father asked, dropping his fork to the plate, making me cringe.
I sighed and looked down at my plate. “I didn’t enroll for classes before leaving,” I reluctantly admitted.
“What? Why?” my father asked, anger laced in his tone.
“I will before it’s too late. I just didn’t have time before I left,” I told him.
“You will call in the morning,” he said with finality. There was no more to discuss.
After dinner, I helped clear the table and do the dishes before escaping to my room to call Carter. After a short chat and ensuring he was packed and ready to leave tomorrow, I told him I loved him and hung up the phone. Looking at the stack of my things in the corner, I sighed. Rummaging through the bags, I finally found my clothes and took a hot shower. The hot water washed away the exhaustion from the day. I changed into sweatpants and a tank top and crawled into my bed. Sleep quickly came.
The house was quiet as I wandered around looking for my mother. It was Friday morning and my father would be at work. I wondered if it was this quiet when I was away at school. Why did my parents still live in such a large house, when it was just the two of them? I looked at the family portraits lining the hallways. My mother’s face always looked young and fresh. The things money could buy.
I grabbed an apple and took a bite while looking out the sliding door to the back yard. Landscapers were pouring fresh mulch in the garden bed far in the back. I watched the men work in the sun, cleaning up the yard and clearing out leaves and debris. A man was pouring chemicals into a pond with a waterfall that wasn’t here last summer when I was home.
“I need you to double check the guest list,” my mother said, startling me.
“I am sure it’s fine,” I told her without turning around to look at her.
“Kallie,” she warned.
I sighed and followed her down the hall to the office. She handed me a long list typed on red paper. There were probably over a hundred names on the list. I pretended to look over each name, only recognizing a few. I saw many of my close friends from high school and Chloe’s name. I found my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles on the list. The rest were unfamiliar to me. I assumed they were friends of my parent’s.
“Looks great,” I said, handing my mother the paper and turning to leave.
“Wait. The menu.”
“Menu?” I asked, just wanting to get away from all the planning. She nodded and stared at me expectantly.
We spent the afternoon going over the rest of the details for the graduation party. We planned a menu for the catering and the song list for the band. My mother was planning around a black and white theme. We chose the plates and silverware, the uniform the caters would wear and the centerpieces. It all screamed elegance and wealth. When it finally came time for dinner, my head was aching.
I flung myself on my bed and checked the text messages from Carter. He let me know the interview went great and he was on his way home. I texted him back to call me when he gets in late tonight. I looked at the stack of boxes in the corner of the room again. Taking a deep breath, I started to put away my belongings.
After lining all my clothes in the closet arranged by season and color, I decided to skip dinner. I didn’t want to explain that I didn’t call the university today. I unloaded all my makeup and beauty supplies and arranged them alphabetically in my bathroom. I lined the photo frames on the wall and put my books and notebooks on the bookshelf. It was dark when I finished unpacking and I collapsed on the bed.
The sunlight filtering in the windows woke me in the morning. I checked my phone and frowned when I didn’t see a call or text from Carter. He must have gotten in very late. I took a quick shower and dried my hair before making my way downstairs, heading straight for the kitchen. Skipping dinner last night had me starving already.
I froze in my tracks when I took in my mother’s face. She held a tissue in her hand and her eyes were red and puffy. She sniffled and stood up when she saw me in the doorway.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked, starting to panic.
“Kallie, Carter was in an accident last night,” she told me and pulled me in her arms.
“Oh, no! Is he okay?” I asked, trying to spin away and leave to go see him.
“Kallie,” she said, tightening her grip on my arm. I stopped and turned to look at her. Tears started running down her face as she shook her head. “I’m sorry. He’s gone, Kallie,” she cried. “He ran off the road and crashed into a tree. He didn’t make it.”
The world around me went silent. I didn’t breath, I didn’t blink. I felt every fiber inside me crumble and break into tiny pieces. As my insides collapsed and broke down, so did my body. I sat on the floor and heard the loud cries coming from deep inside of me. My mother knelt on the floor beside me and held my hand as I fell apart. After what could have been hours, my father helped me to my room, where I stayed all night.
Staring at the ceiling late at night, I tried to process what I was told. Carter couldn’t be gone. He was an amazing person with a future ahead of him. It wasn’t possible that there was a world without Carter Walsh. I couldn’t imagine a Kallie Adams without Carter Walsh. I curled into a tight ball and sobbed my eyes out until sunrise.
The next week went by a blur. Friends and family came to tell me how sorry they were. I would nod and thank them, feeling numb and dead inside. Carter’s brother, Josh, came to see me. He told me the plans for the funeral and asked if I would speak at the service. Josh looked at me with pity as he told me about the accident. He gave me hug before leaving and promised to check up on me.
The funeral was a little over a week after the accident. There was an investigation at the crash scene and my parents kept me updated, although I barely listened. Skid marks at the scene suggested Carter was doing the speed limit. Toxicology reports showed Carter wasn’t under the influence of any drugs. I could have told anyone that. Carter never has, and never would, do any drugs of any kind.
As more details started to filtering in, I completely blocked them out. I couldn’t hear about how he died almost instantly. My mother seemed to think that it made me feel better that he didn’t suffer. My father thought it made me feel better that the accident wasn’t Carter’s fault. They talked about the weather and maybe a drunk driver, or an animal in the road, caused him to run off the road. I should feel better it wasn’t Carter’s fault.
Nothing made me feel better.
Friends tried to get me out of the house, to get my mind off it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would think I could forget. All I could think about was that whatever I was doing, I should be doing it with Carter. After six years of being together, I wasn’t sure how to be without him. I couldn’t get out of the habit of checking my phone for his messages, or calling him every morning.
The morning of the funeral, I woke up feeling more empty inside. I dressed in an all black tea length dress. I put on a pearl necklace and pulled my blond hair into a neat tight bun on the top of my head. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes were red from the nights of crying and my lips were chapped. I sighed and sulked downstairs to my parents’ waiting car.
I was surrounded with friends and pulled into hugs as soon as I entered the funeral home. My eyes stayed locked on the closed casket on the platform in the front of the room. Carter’s mother and father stood near the front, greeting guests. My own parents mingled and chatted with people, like it was just another social event. I took a seat alone in the middle of the room and waited for the service to begin.
I started to cry and a stranger handed me a tissue at some point during the surface. I recognized the woman as Carter’s aunt from New York that I met at Christmas dinner a few years ago. The preacher spoke of heaven and God. Carter’s mother told stories of her youngest son growing up. The words were muffled in my ears as I tried to keep myself from melting to the ground.
“Now, Kallie Adams has a few words to say. She was Carter’s girlfriend of six years and our family is grateful to have known such a wonderful woman. We are sorry she never became a part of our family officially,” Carter’s mother cried from the podium.
Josh helped his mom down the steps and back into the front row. He grabbed my hand and gave a gentle squeeze as I passed on my way to the podium. Standing before Carter’s friends and family, I played with the charms on my bracelet. My hands shook and my eyes burned from the tears. I took the tear-stained paper from my pocket purse and laid it out on the podium. Taking a deep breath, I started the only speech I ever made without his help.
“When we were in high school, Carter and I competed over being top of the class. We pushed each other. We were both named Valedictorian of our class our senior year. That meant we were to give speeches at our graduation ceremony. Carter stayed up all night with me the night before to help me with my speech. The next day, at graduation, I gave my speech before he did. When Carter came forward and gave his speech, he left the auditorium in tears. Every single last one of us. His speech blew me out of the water,” I sniffled and some people chuckled softly.
“But, that was how he was. Carter was great at everything he tried to do. He was brilliant and focused. Carter possessed a drive and motivation that I have never seen in anyone before. He gave his best effort in every single thing he did. He excelled in school and work. He loved fiercely and deeply. He laughed with such happiness, you couldn’t help but laugh too. He smiled with such brightness, it would warm the coldest hearts,” I paused as I wiped away tears.
“Carter would have been amazing in anything he did in his future. He would have changed the world when he started his career in politics. He would have made an amazing husband and father. He would have been the best friend to anyone lucky enough to know him. The world is missing out on something great and spectacular. I’m lucky to have known him and to have loved him,” I ended, breaking down and letting the tears flow as I made my way back to the seat.