Nearly twenty-one at the time, Evie’s heart broke at the loss. But it was the agony it caused her parents that hurt the most. Especially when the judge, presiding over the civil case the Elliston’s brought against the driver of the car, ruled that it was exactly what the police had called it. An accident. A driver could not be held responsible for a defect in a tire. Even if a young girl had lost her life because of it.
Her parents were shattered. And angry. And in the hall outside the courtroom, even as Douglas Monroe sobbed and begged their forgiveness, her parents shouted at him that he was a monster and had murdered their precious baby. For once, Evie’s sympathy shifted to the Monroe family, standing there, presenting a rather pitiful, but united, front. Mr. Monroe, his wife and their eldest son. She could see that the tragedy had taken its toll on them, too.
And later that afternoon, after the doctor had made an uncharacteristic house call to administer mild sedatives, Evie did something that would have hurt her sleeping parents even more. She drove to the Monroe house and, after only the slightest hesitation, walked up to their front door and knocked.
It was the son who answered the door. From his stunned expression, Evie knew he recognized her. She watched as he braced himself, as though expecting her to slap him.
“I just wanted to tell you that I am so sorry for what my parents said today,” she told him softly, surprising him even more.
“You‘re sorry?” he asked, as though he couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.
“Yes. Your father didn’t do anything to cause Heidi’s death and I wanted you to know that I don’t blame him. And he shouldn’t blame himself either.”
“He wanted to kill himself the first few days after it happened,” the young man whispered.
“You have to believe me, I‘m glad he didn‘t… I’m sorry. I don’t even know your name.”
“It’s Jesse. Jess.” He blushed to his hairline. “I mean I go by Jess.”
“Jess, I promise you, my parents know that it wasn’t his fault. Deep down they do. They’re just hurting too much to admit it right now. I think it helps them to be angry at someone, and your father is the obvious target.”
“My family understands what they’re going through,” Jess had told her. He smiled a sad smile. “No, I guess we don’t really understand.” Pausing to think for a moment he admitted, “I don’t know how to say what I want to say without it sounding like an insincere platitude.”
“I know what you mean,” she assured him, smiling as best she could manage. Which wasn’t a lot. “Well. I suppose I should be going now. I just worried that your dad might- You know. Take it to heart. Can you tell him that they will be okay with it someday?”
“Sure. Thanks for telling me, Evie.” Evie remembered staring up at him in surprise. She hadn’t introduced herself. Seeming to realize that, Jess told her, “We know everyone in your family. We’ve been praying for all of you since the accident.”
“Thank you. I hope you’ll keep doing it because I think we’ll need all the help we can get for a long time.”
“We will.” As she turned to go, he said, “Evie?”
“I don’t suppose you’d like to go get a cup of coffee with me? So we can talk a little more.”