Note: This is another way to tell my story. I actually started with this and then switched to “Concentrated Breathing“-style of writing. This holds some fictionalized scenes, but overall tells the truthful story of a bad night.

As she approaches the confession booth, she questions if it matters she’s not catholic. At this point, she’ll take anyone who cares to listen for longer than five minutes. It’s been long enough – five years – she’s bursting at the seams. All this hurt and blame locked up inside her tarnished heart for all those years she finally reaches out for help.

As she turns the knob on the wooden, telephone booth-looking door to the confessional, she looks to God for the guidance she’s always ignored. The tiny chair inside invites her to sit, but she stands for a second in doubt. The darkened screened window slides open with ease and she decides to sit, not sure what to say. The words have escaped her and for once, she’s speechless.

This is all so new to her, but all of her other solutions led her to dead ends with the same blame she has felt for those five years. Attempting to open her mouth, her eyes start to water – no, wait, she’s crying – and the confident man speaks the words, “Tell me your confessions.” Those words send shivers through her shaking body as she opens her mouth to confess the one thing she’s kept bottled up inside.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

She takes a deep breath and subconsciously takes a step towards forgiveness. She grips the chair underneath her, and tries to keep it together.

“It was June 12th, 2004, and my cousin, Ben, was getting married. You see, he and my brother, Chad, were close in age and as kids always stuck together at family gatherings. Chad had an obligation to be there…”

She paused as if flash backs from the orange-shag carpet in her grandparent’s house and all those days spent playing hide-n-go-seek were alive again. She blinked once, and it was gone. Reality hit her in the face, waking her from the temporary dream. She took another hopeful breath and went on.

“The wedding was in Marshalltown and it wasn’t too far from Carroll, where my mom and I lived, but Chad traveled across the state from Omaha – he went there for college. He actually graduated in 2005 with his computer technology degree…”

She apologized and knew she was getting off track from the real reason she had come.

“Anyway, with me being 16, I was excited that I talked my mom into letting me bring a friend and drive on my own for the two-and-a-half hour trip to the wedding. Of course, I followed her; that was the stipulation. Chad and his uninvited friend, Jeremy, came later that night just in time for the rehearsal dinner. The entire time Ben, the groom, asked us, ‘Is Chad coming? Is Chad coming?’ He was his closest cousin, of course he was coming.”

Mistake number one…

She mumbled something just then but not loud enough for him to hear. She shuffled in her seat – still nervous. Her guard still stood but weakened by each minor detail of the past.

“Maybe he shouldn’t have come. Maybe then this wouldn’t have happened and he wouldn’t have had to go away…”

She drifted into thought again and the pastor sat patiently waiting for her to go on. This time the flash back was more recent, her last visit to Iowa Medical and Classification Center, Oakdale, Iowa – that’s what she always wrote on the envelopes with her meaningless letters inside to her only sibling miles away. I’m sure by now the pastor got it. But she clarified it for him, just in case.

“He’s in prison. There was an accident that night.”

He understood the gist of the story. But to her, everyone got the gist, but no one cared enough to ask for more. And even if they had, she probably would have rambled off the same rundown – wedding, reception, dancing, drinking, fight, drive, accident, hospital, fatality, waiting, trial, guilty, prison. The one part she always left out was the hardest to handle – fault.

“The wedding went beautifully, like every wedding seems to do, and nothing out of the ordinary seemed to interrupt that day. Ben and his new wife, Amy, had kissed and said ‘I do’ and we all headed to a country club at the end of a dusty gravel road surrounded by bean fields. It took forever to get from the church to the ballroom…highway, unmarked gravel roads, dozens of turns. If there wasn’t a parade of cars, we would have gotten lost.”

The gravel road and the dust from his car speeding away drifted into her heart muscles, revealing the most secretive part of the unforgettable night.

“It was my fault though…” She broke out in tears, confessing the truth behind her strong exterior she’d built up for five years. Her usual independent, confident, happy face revealed itself as the true blame-filled, regretful, sullen face that spoke the events of the night.

“If I hadn’t been stubborn, sassy, or selfish and said ‘yes’ to Chad’s carpooling idea to the reception so he could drink and have fun with his closestcousin on his wedding day…this wouldn’t have happened. I could have easily driven.”

The pastor turned his heard, probably in confusion, but she couldn’t make out his expression – it was too dark.

“I distinctively said ‘no’ just to be a mean sister. But it makes sense now…” She began to weep into her hands. “It makes sense.”

She lets herself fall apart and reaches for the tissues inside her favorite black-leather purse. She wipes away her all-too-familiar tears and begins again.

“I made the dumb decision to drink a few – I think three – Smirnoff Ices, forgive me Father, for I sinned that night. Being 16 is definitely not the same thing as my brother’s age of 21. Carpooling wasthe right decision, and by us taking two cars to the reception enhanced the night’s events. It was my fault…”

She flashed back to the deciding factor of the night that finally left Chad behind the wheel of his small, red Honda drowsy, pissed, and drunk.

“Chad had brought his friend, Jeremy, and Jeremy never knew how to control his drinking let alone his actions toward women. This usually could be handled by Chad, but that night must have been the exception – an agreement that they would behave themselves in respect for our family. Obviously, Jeremy didn’t keep up his side of the bargain by asking a member of the brides family to dance; her answer was no. Jeremy got pushy and the girl’s father stepped in. The next thing I know Jeremy began throwing words around and our uncle threw Jeremy out leaving Chad with no choice but to follow.”

She paused to gather her thoughts, nodding in agreement that what she had just said was the truth, no matter what others saidhappened. She knew this was when the night escalated. She tightened her grip around the heart necklace her mom gave her for Christmas last year. She prayed out loud for God to help her through the next part of the story. Her eyes remained closed as she spoke, her voice broke only once more. She told herself she could do it.

“As Chad and Jeremy left the building, my mom and I raced after them. I remember my mom yelled ‘Chad! Chad!’ and he turned around briefly, his face tight with anger. Mom said, “Let me drive you back to the hotel, you’ve been drinking.’ Chad shrugged it off and claimed to be fine. The next thing I heard was the revving of an engine and felt the dust in my face. Carpooling… it would have solved everything.”

You could see the guilt she felt written in the tired eyes, rosy checks, and limp face resting upon her hands as she sat there, lifeless, in the little wooden chair. She told the pastor that that was all she could handle for the day, and then she gathered her pile of crumbled up tissues and stood to leave. As she reached to push the door open, the pastor said “All sins are forgiven.” She didn’t believe him yet. He hadn’t heard the whole story.

As she walked out of the church and into the fading evening light, she glanced at the same black car her mother had driven her and her friend in that June night after the dust went flying. Her mom drove because everyone else was drunk. She decided not to get in just yet, but headed down the street looking for something…anything to clear her mind. Her shoulders still felt tense, even sore, from the stress she felt from confessing a measly fraction of the story from all those years ago.

The usual thoughts went through her mind. She tried to sort them out to make sense of reality.

Chad’s in prison. The accident happened. You didn’t carpool. You were so selfish, too stubborn – even for a sister. Everyone says it’s not your fault…but you know better. You were 16! 16! You drank and made dumb decisions the one time you shouldn’t have. Now, Chad’s in prison, a man is dead, and two others have to live with the horrible memory forever.

‘Chad’s in prison’ has echoed in her mind for the past two-odd years. Ever since October 12th, 2006…only five months after her high school graduation, he was sentenced, cuffed and given five minutes to say his goodbyes.

She stopped at her favorite get-away spot and curled into a ball. She wanted someone to be with right then but didn’t know who would have an open hand to hold. She never opens up to anybody stating nobody had the time nor cared to hear the whole exhausting story. She sat there in silence knowing she could make it, just not yet. She wasn’t ready to let it go. After all, she had an image to uphold.

At school she could smile, laugh and be her loud and sometimes overwhelming self. She could go out to the bars, dance the night away under the red, blue, and yellow disco lights with the sputtering strobes on the wall with ease. No problem. She mastered how to put on a face everyone loved, a shirt everyone drooled over and heels to make her legs and butt look better and she’d drink down a few – now that she was 21. Everyone at an eye’s glance thought she was one of the happiest people they knew. Behind the gorgeous smile, brown eyes, and big boobs stood an actress – tear-stained, red-eyed girl whose biggest regrets are only retold through her dreams and prayers at night. She blamed herself for Chad’s fate, a 25-year prison sentence.



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2 responses to “Confessions

  1. Dee Ludwig

    Jennifer, this is really good. Of course I will always remember that night and the next morning when I picked you up in Marshalltown. You wrote about that awful memory in a way that whoever chooses to read about it will be able to make a visual in their mind and feel some of the pain that you did.
    Great job.

  2. Bethany

    Goosebumps. I like this version, too. Great job!

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