The hardest thing about being a mother is acting like one. Never mind the fact that everyone expects you to be the adult. More often than not, I wanted to be the one who simply gave in and cried out for mercy. I think in some way, at this point, that was exactly what I was doing.
Reaching my car, I fumbled with the keys, wanting to scream, wanting to make sense of a world I had once been totally in control of. I opened the car door and slid in, feeling around inside myself for the capacity to drive, to move. So move.
“Move, damn it!” I said, to the four corners of absolutely nowhere.
Yanking back on the shift, I slammed the car into reverse and pushed down hard on the pedal, smashing the parked vehicle to my left, and headed toward the school.
Once I arrived, I parked the car half way in and out of some random parking space, throwing the car door open in a panic. A group of slackers were hanging out behind an old bus that had been there since I could remember. They were smoking pot, and judging me; yes judging me. Bastards!
I crossed the parking lot with long, deliberate strides, counting cars as I went. That voice, that sinister voice rang dull in my head like a bell that was cracked and hollow.
Then, as if the sky fell dark in an instant, the cracked and hollow voice addressed me from behind. I froze.
“Please Dr. Davis, do us both a favor and refrain from turning around. I wouldn’t want to upset the balance of our relationship?”
Struggling for words, I finally responded. “If you lay one god damn hand on my daughter I’ll…”
“What, Dr. Davis, you’ll punish me?” He paused for a moment, leaving me feeling helpless. “I’ve been punished before, oh yes. I’ve been punished in ways you can’t possibly imagine. It’s my guess you’ve been punishing me ever since we last spoke. Thinking of vile ways of establishing your wrath on my insinuations. Such assumptions from a woman of your background… I am appalled. How do you think little Paige would react if she were alive to see this.”
“You’re a **** liar,” I hissed. A sick, demented freak who preys on the innocent.”
“I resent being called a liar, Dr. Davis.” He clicked his tongue a few times, as if scolding me for being a bad person.
I started to cry, my own self pity made me feel nauseous and ineffective. I tried to stop my mind from imagining the horrible things this man was capable of. The photograph of poor Nona Flores stained my thoughts with images that were broken and agonizing.
“Children are so trusting, wouldn’t you say? Offer them a piece of your world and they take it, no questions asked.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I found pretty, little Paige responds nicely to a man’s needs… his desires”
“Why are you doing this to me?” I pleaded. “Paige means the world to me.” I began sobbing uncontrollably, I didn’t care any longer about what that meant. The words were like ice, frozen and resolute.
“Why? Hmm. That is probably the first good question you’ve asked in your meaningless lifetime, Dr. Davis. I’m beaming,” he chuckled, sarcastically.
“Do you remember many years ago, when you first started out in your profession? You periodically worked for the district attorney as a case advisor, psych evaluation, it was.”
“What the hell does that have to do with me?” I asked, lying to myself, struggling hard to create a mental image of possible cases that would have fit this monster.
“You’ll have to think harder than that.”
I could hear him shuffling around with something, perhaps something in a bag. In the distance sirens were calling, getting closer by the minute. I cringed at the thought as to why. Were they coming here to discover the body of my dead daughter? The thought was absurd. It was, after all, a very large city, emergencies happened all day.
“I have to leave you now, Dr. Davis. But I do have a rather personal gift I wish to give you. It’s actually very pretty, something I’m sure Paige would’ve appreciated as well.” He sighed a heavy sigh, possibly waiting for me to react. Then he continued, “I’ll leave your gift here on the pavement. All that I want from you is to remain still for the next thirty seconds. But don’t worry about a thing, I’m absolutely positive we’ll see each other again, very soon.”
I listened to his feet hit the ground, receding as they went, cursing myself for not turning around. When I finally did he was gone. I picked up a small, black velvet box. Did I want to know? I opened the box and immediately felt a scream of fear and of anger well up inside of me. It was one of my daughters fingers, pink and black nail polish perfectly applied.
My hysterical screaming was only matched by the encroaching sirens and the insane echo’s in my head.