10 Nanoseconds in the Past

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I'd just picked Charlotte up from school. She was going to spend the weekend with me, then I'd be taking her back to Lilley on Sunday evening. As I lie here, making eyes at the cobweb clinging to the ceiling, I tell myself it's okay. Lilley had seen her recently. And it wasn't my fault.

I know, rationally, that I did nothing wrong. In some quiet moments I can almost believe myself when I whisper "it's okay". I was waiting for a break in the traffic at a junction, handbrake pulled and indicator on. I know it wasn't my fault.

The radio was playing. If I think too carefully, I can remember the song. I've tried to forget the exact time, and the exact position of the sun in the sky, but it's burned into me like scar tissue. We were happy, excited for our weekend together, and ten nanoseconds ago Charlotte was telling me about her week at school. Her happy babbling about her friends and the daisy chains they'd made is still echoing—

I know it wasn't my fault.

I was indicating right. I can see the car and the road perfectly, even with my eyes closed four months later. Has it really been that long? My empty house still feels like at any moment Charlotte's voice is going to sing through the air, continuing her story about playtime.

I was waiting for a lorry to pass us from the left. In no rush, I glanced in the rear-view mirror and flashed a grin at my daughter. Her glossy hair was pulled back in a ponytail, loosened by a whole day playing at school, and I thought I could see some blades of glass tangled in her chestnut curls.

Behind us, a tight bend concealed the road we'd just driven along.

Even now, after watching this scene countless times each night for months, I can't see them coming. I don't know what the car looked like, or who the driver was, and I never will. I know they survived, and I know they were facing charges for causing—for causing—

Their car slammed into the back of mine, bumping us through the junction and into the path of the lorry. I know it wasn't my fault. Something in the universe broke and it sounded like shattering glass and folding metal.

It wasn't my fault. The entire back and left of the car was crushed. I can hear the screaming of metal echoing through my bones, even with my hands over my ears. The screaming has been going on for weeks without a break.

Either the impact or the horror of the moment knocked me out, and I was bruised by the airbag but saved. My legs were fractured but I woke in hospital, less than a second after looking in the mirror to smile at my daughter.

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