"I am not sure how much longer I will be able to hold on for," Laura re-read the last sentence one more time before putting the worn-out piece of paper back underneath a clay pot in the corner of the room.
"It seems like it all began so long ago," she thought to herself and sighed as she stared out the window.
Laura read that note probably a few dozen times throughout the past several years. In the beginning, she could not finish reading the letter without sobbing uncontrollably. With time, however, the number of tears she shed during the reading of the note had decreased.
That day, there were none. That day, Laura read that note as if it was a random piece that she saw in the magazine, written by a stranger. But it wasn't a stranger that got raped 10 years ago. It was a girl Laura knew oh too well.
"What is for dinner, Honey?" Christopher asked as he entered the house. "It smells delicious," he added as he embraced his wife.
"Oh, just coconut chicken curry," Laura replied and turned around with a smile to face her husband.
As they sat by the kitchen table and ate, Christopher told Laura about his day, but she did not hear much of it. Instead, she was thinking of the next day - the day when she would finally be able to start her life anew.
"And how was your day?" Christopher asked between bites.
"Oh, you know. A boring day at the clinic," Laura answered dismissively.
"When is your next surgery? Is it tomorrow?" he inquired.
Laura nodded as she filled her mouth with creamy chicken and rice. Her mind was preoccupied with the events she had planned for the following day. It was going to be a busy day, and she could not afford to make any mistake. Heart surgery was often life or death, this time, not only for the patient but also for her.
Laura looked at the beating heart in her hand. All she could feel and hear was its thumping. So loud, obnoxiously full of life. Back in the day, she sobbed while holding it just like she did while reading the note from under the clay pot in the living room. At some point, anger took over, and the crying stopped. Even though Laura was a trained cardiothoracic surgeon, these extracurricular procedures were not like the others. These were personal.
Even though Laura's heart still beat, she considered herself dead for several years. She hoped that before the day was over, she would finally be able to jump-start her own heart.
"You ripped out my heart a long, long time ago. Now, it is time for me to return the favor," Laura said, clutching the man's heart tighter.
"Hands up!" an order came from behind a bright flashlight.
"Damn it!" Laura spat out. "So close," she uttered.
"Drop it. Gently!" another faceless man shouted.
Laura considered her options. If the police knew she was here, they probably already knew about all the others she operated on.
"What is one extra heart going to change?" she wondered and shrugged. With fervor, she pulled on the heart, ripping it out of its chest cavity.
"I said: 'Hands up!'" one of the officers repeated.
"Yes, sir!" Laura replied, lifting the heart up victoriously.
"I did it. I got them all," she whispered as she looked to the Heavens.
A detective that Laura has not seen before entered the interrogation room and sat down across the table from Laura.
"Please state your name," the officer asked.
"Are you not the police? You should know what my name is," Laura replied snarkily.
"Laura Fencely. Well, well, well..." the officer said after reading the name from the label on the yellow folder he brought with him into the room. "Do you remember me?" he asked.
Laura could have sworn he puffed out his chest a little bit as he asked that.
"Should I?" she asked, examining the handsome man in front of her.
He almost looked like Thomas Moore, a guy she knew in high school. He was tall and lean like the officer, had blue eyes, and blonde hair. While this guy's hair was much shorter than Thomas', there still was an odd similarity in his face to Laura's high school sweetheart.
"I'll give you a hint," the detective began as he stood up. "Saint Bernard's High School," he added.
Laura's eyes grew wide.
"Thomas?" she asked incredulously. "It cannot be," she thought to herself.
Thomas was the epitome of a bad boy. Everybody knew he was headed straight to jail once he finished school. Or maybe even sooner.
"Bingo," Thomas answered and gave her a thumbs up.
"But how?" Laura asked, remembering how vehemently Thomas hated "the pigs."
"I guess after high-school, I decided to grow up, and I started making better, wiser decisions. But we are not here to talk about me. We are here to talk about you," Thomas explained. "And, your bad decisions," he added with amusement.
"You have no idea," Laura said with disdain.
"No idea?" he asked, spreading a few photos in front of Laura on the table.
Laura could not help but smile when she saw the photos. They featured her artistic work.
"Do you know what they are?" Thomas asked and folded his arms.
"I want a lawyer," Laura said, folded her arms and looked away.
"You said I had no idea. What did you mean by that?" he asked, half as a police officer and half as an ex-boyfriend.
"Lawyer," was the only word Laura uttered.
"Fine. Have it your way. But know that once the lawyer gets here, I will be unable to help you," Thomas said, sitting back down in the chair across from Laura.
Even though Laura's face was hardened, Thomas could see the pain in Laura's eyes. He never forgot her sweet and gentle nature from when they were dating.
"You've had a tough life. I can see that. Tell me more. Let me help you," Thomas pleaded.
For a while, they sat in silence.
"Tia," Laura said so quietly that even she was not sure if she heard it.
"What?" Thomas asked, slightly leaning against the table.
"Tia," Laura repeated, her lip quivering.
"Who's that?" Thomas inquired. Is that who you want to call?" he asked, disappointed that she would not talk to him.
Laura shook her head but said nothing more.
Thomas waited patiently for a few more minutes before getting up.
"I will get you your lawyer. Just remember that I tried to help you. FOr old time's sake," he said, approaching the door.
"She was my daughter. Our daughter," Laura said quietly, but loud enough for Thomas to hear.
"Was?" Thomas asked, walking back towards Laura, processing the information. "OUR daughter?"
Laura swallowed her tears and nodded. "Ten years ago she was gang-raped at a college party," Laura said and wiped her nose with her sleeve.
She had not uttered her daughter's name out loud in forever. Christopher did not even know that Laura used to have a kid. For the past several years, Tia only existed in Laura's head. Tia was worth much more than that.
"She killed herself a couple years after," Laura announced. "I tried to get her the help she needed, but it was not enough," she added before breaking down.
Thomas froze, unsure of how to proceed. One second he finds out that he had a daughter and the next that she was dead. All he knew at that moment was that he could not put Laura away for killing all these boys... Not after what they did to his angel.