The Gates to Heaven Itself
It was 3:45 on Friday morning, and it was dark outside. Chris Benoit was almost home from work. He had been in the car for nearly five hours. The limousine pulled off the interstate, and was now just a couple of miles from Benoit’s Atlanta home. The car made a right onto Green Meadow Lane, the headlights throwing light onto a row of massive white pillars, the ghostly ribcage of a large white plantation-style mansion housing the Whitewater Country Club. The gravel road crunched under the tires and small stones kicked and rattled off the sides of the limo. Otherwise, the night was quiet.
Making another right turn, the limo pulled into the driveway of a large brown house with white trim around the windows, and the eaves. The path to the house was blocked by an enormous iron gate. If made of gold, it would look like the gates to heaven itself. Thick, black, iron bars rose into points, forming an arc in the middle of the driveway nearly eight feet above of the ground. Chris Benoit was home.
“You know what Jimmy? I think I’ve got it from here”.
He leaned forward, calling through the open divider.
Jimmy looked at him through the rearview mirror. He raised an eyebrow, “You sure? I don’t mind.”
Chris Benoit shook his head slowly. “No. No, don’t worry about it.”
Jimmy shrugged, “You’re the boss”. He threw the car in park, hopped out, and opened the door. Chris Benoit stepped out of the car. He raised his arms over his head and stretched, groaning as he leaned to his left, then his right, to his front, then finally putting his hands to his hips and stretching out his lower back. His joints and muscles were stiff from the long ride in the car. With each stretch he could feel his muscles screaming protests, the soreness radiating outwards from nearly everywhere in his body. Chris Benoit knew they would be screaming even louder tomorrow morning.
Benoit reached into the car for his bag, drawing a sharp breath through his teeth as he bent down.
Jimmy Baswell had been Chris Benoit's driver for the past year and a half. Try as he might, Chris Benoit could not hide his discomfort from his driver. Placing his hand kindly on the other man’s back, the Jimmy spoke gently,
“Buddy, please. Let me.”
Benoit, a proud man, was reluctant to back away. Jimmy did not move his hand.
Chris Benoit took a step backward. Though he would never say it, he was grateful for the help.
Jimmy grabbed the bag and handed it off. Chris Benoit took the bag, slung it over his shoulder and offered his hand.
“Thanks for the ride. I appreciate it”.
Jimmy smiled, taking his outstretched hand, “it’s my job.”
Chris Benoit nodded again, turned, and slowly made his way to the gate.
The driver paused before getting back in to the limo.
“Hey Chris, just a bit of advice,” he called, “go inside and get some sleep. It looks like you've earned it.”
For the first time since he’d left Charlotte, Benoit allowed himself a small smile,
“Thanks, I’ll try.”
Jimmy got back in the car and backed out, leaving Chris Benoit alone in the middle of his driveway. He lingered there, watching until the early morning blackness swallowed up the taillights of the limousine. Benoit sighed, and cinched his duffel bag further up his shoulder. He turned and walked toward one of the large stone pillars that framed the gate on either side of the driveway. Two antique looking lamps hung from the sides of the pillars, their light glaring off the dark pavement, slick from the damp air and the dew that had already begun to gather on the ground.