Walked The Line

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt


Crime Drama Mystery

(TW-Sad, Disturbing)


The darkness does not overwhelm my mind. Righteousness overtakes fear. Questions confound thoughts. Allowing my mind to enter this space creates a deep sense of completion within the soul. I am ready to test yet another life, in whatever form it should take. Staring up. Just up. My arms in full reach, my fingers flirting with the line.

Mary and Joanna

“Mary, Mary,” Joanna implored, did you not see that train coming? “I saw it, I just wanted to beat him out. I didn’t want to have to wait for 150 freight cars to pass. We are in a hurry.” “Not that much of a hurry,” protested Joanna. “Next time we go to one of these meeting, I drive!”

“Why are we doing this anyway?” Joanna said begrudgingly. “When it was just the original core group of six, it was manageable but now that we have grown to 15, there’s no time to get a word in. Plus, these people say the same thing each month. I feel like this has become a waste of time.” “Whoa, Joanna, you are crabby tonight, what’s eating you?”

“I suppose I need to tell you something that I’ve tried to keep to myself but holding it back is triggering feelings of impatience causing me to lash out over every little thing. I’m going to burst if I don’t share this with you but please, please, I beg of you, don’t hate me.” ”Okay, Joanna, now you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

“Remember last week when Jim and I went out to dinner at La Park? Well, we had a sort of unexpected sighting of Joe. “Okay,” said, Mary. “Go on.”

“He didn’t see us because we left immediately. I couldn’t stay once I saw him and, um, well, um, Joe was at the restaurant with Justine.” Processing this news, Mary, just sat and thought expressionless for a few minutes before commenting, “Why, are you viewing this in the worst possible way?” “They are just old friends. He married Chelsea not Justine, so perhaps it was just a chance run in, like you had?” Joanna pleaded “Oh, my dear friend, for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for, how I wish that were the truth, please don’t make his harder. I love Chels as if she were my own daughter, you know that, and I don’t really want to elaborate, take my word, it was not kosher.” “Okay, then you must tell me exactly what you saw, pressed Mary.” Joanna hesitates, “All I am willing to say is that I saw them in very intimate positions, and I know the difference between platonic friends and sexual partners. This the latter.”

Mary lowered her eyes and sat pensively for 5 full minutes. Joanna waited for the awkward quiet to be broken but she wanted to give Mary time to process this news. Finally, she broke the silence with, “What am I to do with this?”

“How am I to tell my daughter?” Thinking aloud she rolled out her initial thoughts… “Maybe approach Joe and tell him the jig is up and he must come clean to her, or is it better coming from me as I can tell her gently, or will she feel humiliated that it came from me via you?” “I’m at a total loss. Let’s go home and call it a night.” “Good night, Joanna and thanks. I know this must have been very difficult for you to live with and then share. I do appreciate your friendship, always.” “I’m upset, but not with you.”

Joanna had a sleepless night. Her heart so heavy that she had to be the one to deliver this news, but she also feared what could be coming next.

Back Story

Justine and Chelsea were best of friends as they grew up together and were inseparable until their college, years after a major falling out over Joe.

Justine and Joe dated throughout high school, they were prom king and queen, captain of the football team and head cheerleader respectively. You know, the quintessential perfect couple that everyone loves to hate. 

Justine chose to attend college on the west coast where she received an exceptional scholarship offer, while Joe and Chelsea remained local. Always good friends, they consoled each other when Justine left as she was equally significant to them both. One thing led to another, and Chelsea and Joe fell in love and married before Justine returned home from college as there was a baby involved. It appeared that Joe really adored Chels and was curious about her all the while and wanted to date her, but he just didn’t know how to make that happen with Justine in the picture, so once she left, the opportunity presented itself.

The trauma of a lifetime was to enter their lives. The baby born premature at 3 pounds, had to remain at the hospital until she gained 2 more pounds and was considered functionally sufficient to live at home. Three weeks into Baby Olivia Wright’s birth, she passed away from SIDS. She was progressing so beautifully; this was terribly unexpected. Chelsea severely depressed and paralyzed with sorrow had been inconsolable. Perhaps that’s the whole story. Joe experiencing heavy sadness at home trying to continue his life and his work all the while cheerleading for Chelsea. Maybe it all became too much to live with? Then, returns a refreshed and new Justine. She makes partner at a local law firm, comes home with her Botox face and chiseled body, and has found her way back to Joe.

Chelsea and Joe have been through so much that it’s tragic for Mary to have the job of telling her daughter. She dreaded thinking, what will this do to Chelsea?

Justine and Joe

Joe, it’s time to tell Chelsea how we feel about each other, and that your marriage was a rebound mistake. Having a baby disguised your real feelings. I beg you Joe, “Don’t make a fool out of her. The longer this goes on, the worse it will be for her.” “And for you?” says Joe, sarcastically. “What is this attitude about? I thought this is what we both wanted, not just me.” “Damn it, Justine, I don’t know what I want. You keep telling me how I feel but I just don’t know. I must go home. I told Chels that I have been working late the last few weeks and I’m not sure if this cover will suffice much longer.” “Okay”, she replied, “do what you must.” Justine turns her back in anger. Joe exits quickly as he fears his loss of control.

Mary and Joanna at the Diner

Mary, unable to sleep, texted Joanna to see if she was awake at 3:00 am? Joanna answers immediately and says, I’m up. Want to meet for coffee at the Diner?” A very quick and definite “yes, be there in 10.”

Mary- I just can’t break her heart again.

Joanna – I know, this will be brutal on her.

Mary – I will go see her first thing in the morning. I can’t let this continue.

Joanna – So you decided? You will talk to Chels first and not Joe?

Mary – Yes, the best way I can break this down in my mind is to rationalize that my first loyalty is to my daughter. I need to tell her. Then she can deal with this as best as she can. She’s an adult and I can’t coddle her. She must figure this out and as hard as it is to dump this on her, she will feel less humiliated if she can take this on directly with Joe. Manipulating the situation behind her back could further the devastation.

Joanna – Agreed – 100 percent. You’re a smart mom.

Chelsea and Joe

Joe – Are you sure you want me to continue seeing Justine? I’m finding it so disagreeable. I’m snapping at her in anger frequently. I don’t know how much longer I can do this especially with these suspicions in my head. I’m choking on this.

Chels – Yes, just a little bit longer. I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you, but if we are right, it becomes the smallest sacrifice you can make and the most heroic thing you can do. I am closing in on the details now and I am almost certain, I have all that I need for a solid case.

Joe- I trust you Chels, I really do, but I hope you are right about all this.

Chels – I’m right.

Joe – When do you think you will be ready? Next steps?

Chels- I will keep you informed of every detail. Promise. I am not loving you being with her either. There’s an emotional risk here for all of us. What if you fall for her again?

Joe- Not a chance.

Mary and Chelsea

Chelsea – Good morning, Mom. What a nice surprise. I wasn’t expecting you.

Mary – You seem bright and happy this morning.

Chels – I am Mom. I’m getting all my shit together.

Mary – So happy to hear. Really. But I’ve come this morning to have a very troubling conversation with you. I feel horrible having to tell you this, but I love you more than anything in this world and your best interests are foremost on my mind.

Chels – What is it, Mom. My stomach is twisting. What do you have to tell me? Are you okay? Is it Dad?

Mary – NO, No nothing like that. We are fine, honey.

Chels – then what?

Mary – (Eyes closed, takes a slow deep breath and exhales loudly) I believe that Joe may be having an affair. I’m so sorry. I hate this so much. Please don’t blame me for telling you.

Mary notices an odd expression on Chelsea’s face. It was not the expression of shock or concern or wonder.

Mary- Chelsea, why are you looking at me like that? I just dropped a bomb on you.

Chelsea- It’s okay mother. I know about it.

Mary – What!!!!

Chelsea- I didn’t want to say anything until I was certain but there’s quite a story behind all this intrigue.

Mary – (her voice deepens) I’m listening….

Chelsea- I’m not sure where to begin.…Okay, here goes…

(Deep Breath)

When I went to the bereavement group after Olivia’s passing, I met an elderly lady who told me the story of her young niece and nephew. They had lost their newborn suddenly from SIDS and the niece was depressed to the point of suicide. She attempted it 3 times but didn’t succeed.

Three weeks later, a distant cousin from the other side of the family, amazingly was able to offer the couple an opportunity for an infant baby girl. It seems that the parents were in a car accident and the baby survived. There was no immediate family capable of adopting the baby and she was going to be placed in foster care. This cousin heard about the recent loss from her father’s side of the family. She went to a judge that she knew personally and explained the situation and pleaded with him to consider letting this young couple that lost their baby to SIDS, adopt her.

 This was as close to family as one can get, continuing her argument, and they really need one another. The judge listened carefully and agreed this was very unusual circumstances and believed placing her into an extended family is far better than placing her into a foster family with no familial connection.

The couple was thrilled. They could all heal each other.

Finding the story, a bit curious, I decided to dig into it.

I learned that the lawyer for the baby was none other than Justine Blankenship. That triggered lots of thoughts and suspicions, motivating me to put this to a test. I shared my hunch with Joe and asked him reach out to Justine to see if she was still interested in him. He protested on all accounts and accused me of all sorts of unrealistic fantasies. I knew I had to prove it to him, before he would support this theory, so I searched the hospital birth records on the day Olivia was born and found another baby girl, Baby Owen.

I was able to locate the couple’s address and parked outside their home day and night. I learned their routine and followed them to the daycare center. I saw Olivia. Older and bigger but it was her. I then brought Joe to sit outside the daycare center with me to observe the couple bringing in the baby. She was covered except for a visible birthmark on her right hand. Same as Olivia. Containing Joe once he saw her little hand was devastatingly horrible. She is alive and this was all a master plan to win Joe back. According to her made up story, we were the supposed parents killed in the car accident.

Mary- (Raising her voice) Did you go to the police? This story is too delusional to be real. I’m sorry, honey but I think you must be imagining this because you can’t accept the truth. You sent your husband away. What are you doing? Mary sobs.

Don’t fool with emotions like this. I can’t go through losing her again and neither can you!

Chels- (Very excitedly) Mom, Mom, Mom, it’s not what you think. See your reaction, that’s what happened when I went to the police. They barely believed me. They interviewed Justine at her law office, and she laughed it off, saying she would be disbarred and imprisoned for such criminal behavior. The police believed her, and I realized that my only choice before this couple learns the truth and possibly takes her away is to get the baby’s DNA. Not so easy. I need proof that is impervious to objection.

My self-control is stemming from my end game. We will have our daughter back if we do this properly. It’s too risky to go off without a guarded and foolproof plan.

Joe has been on this mission with me, and I believe we have enough proof to present to the district attorney. The DA is friendly with the partners in her law firm, so I need this to be concrete.

Mary hugged her daughter while sobbing uncontrollably as she fell to the floor once the realization hit, that her precious granddaughter might still be alive.

Chelsea and Joe’s visit to the District Attorney

We feel that there is a possibility that our daughter who was pronounced dead at Straths General Hospital, from SIDS, may still be alive. We have come to believe that an attorney for an unsuspecting couple whose baby did pass, arranged a switch with someone on the inside of the hospital. It actually was the Owen Baby that passed away, not our baby. We believe that records were doctored enabling our baby to be kidnapped. We are only asking for a DNA sample from the baby to prove that she is our child. She would be approximately a year old, born on the same day as the Owen baby.

Justine to Court Appointed Psychiatrist

My heart was shredded when I returned home from college and learned of this betrayal. My 2 best friends married to one another. I always believed that Joe was my soul mate and when I heard that he married Chelsea, I was sure it was because of the baby. He was in love with me from the time we were 14. All I had to do was get rid of the baby and he would come back to me. When I learned of the death of a cousins baby, I thought problem solved. Now, I can devise a plan to have the baby removed from their lives without physical harm. I couldn’t have planned this better. Chelsea is young and could have more children. She would get past the loss. Joe was rightfully mine all these years. She had no right to take him from me. There would be no reason to stay with Chelsea once the baby was gone from their lives. I took a job in this community instead of moving to a big city firm where I could have been financially set, to win back the love of my life. I’m not sorry. I didn’t bring harm to anyone. Chelsea took from me, and I took back what was rightfully mine. 

That’s all I have to say.

A Resolute Justine

Dispassionately, I feel forced to exit. Knowing with each breath I move closer to my end. The end. The end of my time or the end of my resurgence. Either is welcome. With my told senses passing and my new senses emerging, I feel the state of flux but in a resurrection sort of way. Everything smells a little different with all my senses masked in this smell. It’s almost pleasant. I cannot see, I cannot hear, this darkness brings peace as my head swirls, flushing away the injustice. Letting go. Just letting go.

 My thoughts rhythmic, transfixed, yet departing. A sensation of warmth envelops me as my arms are pulled. I sense relief. I will be cleansed. My pain no longer can exceed my happiness. I will no longer walk the line. I will cross into the annals of vindication.

October 28, 2021 17:14

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