Kelly Chase knew there was nothing very special about herself, which is enough to make any child of thirteen resentful. In fact, she was quite sure that she was one of the worst people she knew, and she hated herself for it.
She had started her eighth grade year by being sent in to therapy. However, she refused to tell the therapist anything, including the reason why she needed therapy.
Dr. Hobbs was a calm, comfortable, middle-aged woman who dressed in simple clothing, usually a blouse and slacks. She was neither formal nor informal, but she gave the impression of simply “being there.” She was a good listener, and she dealt patiently with everyone, including Kelly.
Kelly, however, currently spent her full hour of therapy, sitting and not talking unless it was to say something sarcastic.
“If you’re not careful, Kelly, your anger will devour you,” warned Dr. Hobbs, at the end of their last session.
Kelly had silently scoffed at this comment, and she was quite sure she said that sort of thing to all of her clients.
She did not tell Dr. Hobbs why she was angry for the same reason that many children do not explain much of anything to anyone: she assumed that no one would understand.
Her mother had killed her father, or just as good as. When Mr. Chase had warned his wife that a car was coming and she ought to be careful, Mrs. Chase did what she had always done, which was not listen and do what she wanted. Unfortuntely, her mistake was fatal and final. It was fatal to Mr. Chase, and a final, horrific outcome to Kelly, who had witnessed everything in the car.
Now, her mother milked the tragedy by telling the story and garnering pity. When Kelly had tried to explain what actually happened, Mrs. Chase had said, “But I didn’t hear him warn me!” Kelly knew this was a lie because she had heard her mother say, “Be quiet, dear, I know what I’m doing.” But no one believed Kelly, and everyone told her to go easy on her mother.
Rage became difficult to control, and gradually, thoughts of a disturbing nature began to occur to her. Visions of murdering her mother intruded upon her mind, and they were hard to ignore. What sort of person, she asked herself, was she becoming?
Kelly found a vent for her rage by being rude to other girls in her class, and soon she was sent to the principal’s office.
Principal Forrest did not look like a principal. She was neither interesting, beautiful, nor imposing. She was small, thin, and drew her dull brown hair into a tight little bun. When she looked at Kelly, sulking in a chair in front of her desk, she smiled sadly.
“I’m so sorry to hear about your father passing away,” she said softly. “How difficult for a young girl to lose the firm security of having a father. I only met him once in a field trip, but you look very much like him.”
It was true. Kelly was short, like her father, and had his round face and blond hair. She had never noticed that, but now she felt that he was somehow closer, since someone recognized him in herself.
She broke down and cried as whole-heartedly as she had cried on the day he died. She also promised to never be rude to anyone again, and if Principal Forrest wanted to punish her, she would not complain at all. Principal Forrest said that if she heard about no other behaviors after today, then she would consider those issues resolved. Kelly thanked her, dried her eyes in the bathroom, and went back to class.
It was the end of the day that Kelly dreaded most. She would have to face her mother, and she could barely stand the sight of her anymore. This was the woman who had caused her father’s death.
She could not hope for justice because it had already eluded her. The courts had agreed that it was the other driver’s fault. It would be useless to try and convince them that if only Mrs. Chase had listened to Mr. Chase the accident could have been prevented.
When Kelly arrived home, she heard her mother exclaiming on her cell phone, telling the gory details of her accident to one of her many friends. She stood in the doorway, at the foot of the stairs, glaring at her mother.
Mrs. Chase was in her garishly red bathrobe, a dumpy figure with disheveled, orange hair. “I told Jake, God rest his soul, that we should’ve stayed in New York and I could’ve been a hairdresser there, getting well-paid, mind you. But he insisted on being a plumber here in this tiny town with nothing to do.”
Kelly closed the door, feeling only anger. Her mother had hated being a hairdresser, and she had complained so much that her father chose to become a plumber in a cheaper town where he had supported his family for five years. He had been unpleasantly surprised that even this solution had made his wife unhappy. Kelly always suspected that she envied her father for his success - she had never been the hard-working one between the two of them.
Kelly went into the kitchen. She was safe from her mother’s attention since Mrs. Chase had been more self-absorbed since her husband died.
In the kitchen, she could still hear her mother’s exuberant voice describing the grotesque details of her husband’s body when she saw it for the first time after the accident.
Kelly gripped a sharp kitchen knife and drew it out of the knife block, not entirely sure what she was doing or why. Then she heard her mother’s voice moving away, and knife still in hand, she left the kitchen.
“Okay, I’ll talk to you later,” said Mrs. Chase, and she slipped the cell phone in the pocket of her bathrobe.
She hurried up the stairs without noticing her daughter, who saw her disappear into the hallway upstairs.
Kelly hesitated, but before she could follow her mother, she heard her mother cry:
“No, Jake, no! What are you doing? Get away from me!”
Kelly saw her mother backing up to the edge of the staircase.
“Mom, watch out,” screamed Kelly, dropping the knife.
Mrs. Chase turned suddenly, teetered, and crashed down the stairs. Half an hour later, the paramedics arrived to pronounce her dead. She had broken her neck, and her death was ruled an accident.
Kelly, more than a little dazed, watched her mother being rolled out of the house on a stretcher. Then she looked up at the top of the stairs, and she wondered what could have made her mother scream like that. Whatever it was had saved her from being a much worse person than she was already.