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Letters to Lincoln
Author:Tracie Podger

Letters to Lincoln

Tracie Podger

Chapter One

I heard noises: beeping, whispered voices. It was the clinical smell assaulting my nose that had me realise I wasn’t at home. I tried to open my eyes, but the light, such a bright light above me, burned my retinas. My body ached, my arm felt heavy as if weighed down.

I drifted back into sleep.

“Dani, can you hear me?”

“Dani, we need you to open your eyes, honey.”


I felt a hand on my shoulder, it gently squeezed. Why couldn’t they leave me be? Did they not understand? The minute I opened my eyes, the minute I heard their words, I’d have to remember. I didn’t want to remember.

“Baby girl, it’s time to wake up now.” Not even my dad’s voice could chase the fear of waking up away.

The hand squeezed and eventually, fingertips pried one eyelid open. I moved my head away; it was an invasion. An assault on my desired numbness. I had no choice. I opened my eyes, squinting against the harsh lights above me and turned my head.

My dad sat on a chair beside me. He leant forwards, reached out, and smoothed the hair from my forehead. I winced at the sting as his fingers brushed over the stitches.

“Hey,” he said, gently.

A nurse stood beside him, busying herself with a clipboard and notes. She looked up and smiled softly at me. I didn’t return the smile.

I looked down at the arm that felt heavy and saw the white plaster cast, stretching from hand to elbow. Using my other hand, I placed it on my stomach. I knew.

“They…” I heard my dad say. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I knew. I didn’t need his words.

It was why I hadn’t wanted to wake up. It was why I’d wanted to keep my eyes closed, my ears shut off from sound. It was why I wanted to pretend I hadn’t been in a car accident, I hadn’t watched my husband tumble inside the car, being smashed from window to door as he tried to protect me and… I didn’t want to remember! I shook my head from side to side; I tried hard not to let the tears fall. I clamped my mouth closed, so hard that my teeth hurt, to stop the scream that wanted to erupt.

I breathed hard in and out through my nose, anything to quell the nausea, the panic. But I couldn’t stop it. I opened my mouth and I screamed.

I wailed until I had no air in my lungs. I screeched until my throat was raw. Tears poured down my cheeks, snot ran from my nose. I heard running feet, I felt my hand being lifted, and I felt the warmth as something soothing flowed through my veins until it reached my brain and shut off the pain, closed down the images, and the memories.

I drifted back into sleep.

I had no concept of time, what day of the week it was, even. I had no idea how long I’d been in the hospital. I did know my husband was dead. I felt it. I also knew my baby was gone. The daughter Trey and I had tried for three years to conceive; the daughter so precious that had come along just at the point we’d decided to stop trying. The daughter that caused my husband to fall to his knees, to sob tears when I’d told him I was pregnant. I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I was hollow; my heart physically ached in my chest.

For the first time in my life; I had no purpose. There was no point to me or my existence.

I lay looking at fluorescent lighting in a stained, dirty, panelled ceiling. I turned my head slightly to look at the blue plastic curtains separating my bed from the next and wondered what poor soul was on the other side.

“Good morning, Dani,” I heard.

A nurse circled the bed, looking at things, checking things. I tried to shuffle up the bed; my back was sore. I winced at the pull on the stitches across my stomach.

“Let me help you,” she said, picking up a remote and raising the back of the bed.

“Are you comfortable?” she asked, placing her hand on my arm.

“Where are they?” I whispered.

She sat on the edge of the bed. “Your dad will be here shortly, he arrives bang on eight o’clock every morning.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do, but I’d rather your dad was here first.”

An orderly pushed a trolley with breakfast into the twin occupancy room. She poured a cup of tea and placed it on the tray connected to the bed. She asked if I wanted sugar, I shook my head. She inquired what I’d like to eat; I shook my head again. No amount of food would fill the emptiness I felt inside.

“Hey,” a familiar voice came from the doorway.

Dad pulled the chair up to the side of my bed. “It’s good to see you fully awake.”

“How long have I been here?”

“Just over two weeks now,” he said.

His reply surprised me. It felt like only yesterday that I’d been brought in. Tears pricked at my eyes and I had to will my hand to stay on the bed and not cover my stomach.

I watched him close his eyes, taking a deep breath in, before opening them and exhaling.

“I know, Dad.”

I wanted to spare him the awfulness of having to tell me. Those tears gently rolled down my cheeks.

“I don’t know what to say to you,” he said, his voice cracking on every word.

“I need to see them.”

He gently nodded. “I’m not sure how…”

“Honey, you’re awake,” an American voice sounded from the doorway.

Patricia, my mother-in-law, strode in. I saw her once, twice a year, but seeing her just then, she looked as if she’d aged twenty years.

She smiled at my dad who, ever the gentleman, vacated his chair for her. She took hold of my hand. I gave it a squeeze when I saw the tears in her eyes.

“I…” she started to speak. I shook my head.

“She knows,” Dad said. “She wants to see them.”

For a little while, we sat in silence. What could any of us say?

“The truck driver fell asleep, I think,” I whispered. “We were laughing, Trey was singing to…to Hannah; we called her Hannah.”

Patricia smiled, that had been her mother’s name.

I swallowed hard and closed my eyes. “He ploughed straight into us. The car rolled down the bank, Trey unclipped his belt. He threw himself over my lap, I screamed at him not to. I screamed…”

The image of his body being thrown around like a rag doll hit me hard. The sight of his head hitting the windshield, of an arc of red covering the glass as it shattered, was all I could see. I blinked rapidly, trying to rid my mind of the image.

“He was trying to protect you and the…Hannah. He was trying to protect Hannah.”

“And he died because of it.”

My statement pulled us all up short. I frowned, not sure of the feelings coursing through my body. Had Trey stayed buckled in his seat, he might have lived, and I wasn’t sure if it was anger or the unbelievable sadness I felt that coursed through me.

Or was it guilt?

Trey hadn’t wanted to take a drive that day. He’d wanted for us to stay indoors. He had a cot to build; he had work to do. I’d been on bed rest because of high blood pressure and was bored. I’d nagged until he gave in. Just an hour, let’s go for a drive, just for an hour, I’d pleaded.

That hour had devastated, destroyed, ended, not just mine, but his and my baby’s lives.

That hour had made a mother childless, and a wife, alone. That hour had changed my father’s, my mother-in-law’s and my life, forever.

“I think the police want to speak to you, when you’re ready for that,” Dad said.

I nodded my head. I wanted to speak to the police; I wanted that driver prosecuted. He was responsible for two deaths, and my broken heart.