“Can you at least stay to the end of the movie?” he asked. “It’s almost over.”
She glanced at the clock on the wall.
“Well… okay,” she said. “But then I really have to run.”
She took her place beside Tommy and pulled him close. Twenty minutes later, she dropped him off at a neighbor’s house and sped off into the night. He never saw her again.
Angela looked away and let go of Tommy’s shoulders. He staggered backward, away from her and from his father. Harry seemed frozen between them.
“You blame yourself,” she said. “For your mother’s death.”
“No, I don’t,” Tommy said.
“Yes, you do,” she said. “You think it’s your fault that she was speeding that night. Because you didn’t let her leave right away when the hospital called.”
“Is… is this true, Tommy?” Harry asked.
Tommy started sobbing in great gasps.
“I just wanted her to stay. I didn’t mean to… to….”
“Oh, buddy, you didn’t do anything,” Harry said, pulling Tommy into his arms. “It was an accident.”
“But I’m the reason she was late for work,” Tommy said.
“That had nothing to do with it,” Harry said. “The car had faulty brake lines. She couldn’t stop. That’s why she crashed. Not because she was driving too fast.”
“Really?” Tommy asked, wiping at his face.
“I would have told you sooner if I knew you felt this way,” Harry said. “I was trying to spare you the details.”
“So I didn’t… I didn’t kill her?” Tommy asked.
“Of course not,” Harry replied. “God, I can’t believe you’ve been carrying that thought around all this time. Nobody holds you responsible for what happened. Your mother would say the same thing if she were here today.”
Angela sat back on her haunches and closed her eyes. Harry and Tommy kept talking but she wasn’t listening anymore. She must have drifted off at some point because when she opened her eyes again, Harry was jostling her shoulder.