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Creative Nonfiction Crime

It is said that the best place to begin is at the beginning. However, sometimes events tarnish the beginning so harshly that it becomes unrecognizable. It becomes frayed in the places where good once existed and replaced with the pain that seeps into every memory, every moment before THE moment. The moment where a new beginning was created.

Sharon

 There are pictures of them at prom, at Disneyland, camping, and one at a friend’s party where she was kissing his cheek. The news loves to feature that one. There was a time, not long ago, that she came skipping into the back door with this blissful look in her green eyes. The same eyes that had captured my heart the day she was born. He had finally asked her out. I remembered feeling conflicted, thinking she was too young to look that happy over a boy. At the same time, he wasn’t just any boy. We knew Matt. His parents had lived one street over since the kids were toddlers. I almost remembered a time where Kate and I would hope for their union, although the memory seems blurred and displaced now. Chris and I were thankful her first boyfriend was someone we knew, someone we trusted. It makes me physically sick to see how naïve we were.

Her pictures cling to every wall, every surface, in this house. But she will never walk through the door again. Yet, he is still one street down. The tears come over and over again, racing up into my throat and slowly choking me.  I keep thinking the grief cannot go on like this. It isn’t survivable. Yet, there it is, in every moment, every day. 

She loved him quickly. She was always leading with her heart like that. I was always the questioner, the pessimist. She would roll her eyes and smile when I brought up my concerns.

“Stop, mom. Everything is fine. I am just growing up and you don’t like it.”

A playful rib jab and wink later and I believed her. I believed her even when I heard her crying in her room. I believed her even when she wore long sleeves in summer. I never checked her texts, her room, her body. Guilt consumes me.

They found her on a Friday. The knock, the police officer, the disbelief. It still seems impossible. ‘Mounting evidence’, ‘the autopsy report’, ‘conflicting statements’, these words flowed through my phone lines, my living room, and the news. They pulsed within me, igniting my hatred over and over again. Chris tried to help but our divorce had left us emotionally unavailable for each other. Plus, anger consumed him too. There was nothing left but the mounting anger that forced me out of bed every morning, just to wait for the day he would pay for what he did to my beautiful baby girl. 

Kate

He sits at the kitchen table inhaling a bowl of cereal. His long, lanky frame hunches over the bowl; the spoon in continuous motion as it dips from the bowl to his mouth, leaving droplets of milk all over the counter. His left hand holds his phone as he skillfully uses his left thumb to play some game I am unfamiliar with. I long to reach over and touch him, to tussle his hair as I did when he was a boy. He would giggle and try to reach my hair, jumping up until I leaned down within his reach. But now, there is silence, a boundary I do not dare cross, even if our precious time may be cut short.

God, I can’t even think about it. This is the same boy who clutched my leg on the first day of kindergarten. His blond curls had bounced softly with his sobs, begging me not to leave him. I had picked him up and held him so close to me, assuring him he was safe and that nothing would hurt him. My sensitive boy that saved spiders and cards and pictures. He would never hurt anyone, but especially not Hannah. Sure, they had their ups and downs. Every teenage relationship is filled with drama but he loved Hannah. He wanted to build a life with her after graduation. My eyes darted to the calendar hanging on the refrigerator. May twenty-fifth. There it was – Graduation with a big red heart around it. I know I should erase it, but I was still hopeful. Maybe this nightmare would end and Bill and I would be sitting in the audience watching our boy walk across the stage to accept his diploma. If only the police would look at someone else, anyone else, they will find out that Matt would never have done this. Maybe if they had done this right away, the May twelfth entry would not read ‘First Appearance”. Maybe my house would not be mortgaged and my retirement drained for Matt’s bond. Maybe I would not be getting messages filled with hate and questioning every parenting decision I ever made. Maybe I would still have friends and family that loved me. Maybe I would be able to grieve for Hannah with Matt. I was living in the world of ‘maybes’. My reality was too difficult to comprehend. 

When I found out Matt was dating Hannah, I was over the moon. We knew Hannah and her parents well. Sharon and Chris had lived one street over since we moved in fourteen years ago. We bonded over the kids, only 20 months apart, even joking that they would marry one day. Of course, when the friendship turned romantic, Bill and I were excited. Hannah became a fixture at our home over the next few months. She would bound in with the endless energy of a teenage girl. She talked incessantly about school and friends and, of course, Matt. Her green eyes could captivate even the most reluctant soul. She was truly beautiful, inside and out. Of course, there were arguments. I would hear them occasionally, vicious whispers floating through the house, but they always made up. They loved each other. They were hopelessly in love. 

We found out on a Friday afternoon about Hannah’s passing. I was in shock. We all were. Matt retreated to his room for hours, unable to face anyone. The police came by on Saturday asking him to go to the station. He had followed them willingly, but I knew he was scared. He had  glanced back at me right before he went into the police car, his eyes pleading with me to help him. My legs ran out and begged the officer to let me sit with him but he explained that Matt was an adult. An adult? He turned 18 four months ago!  He was still in high school! I knew then that this was going to be very, very bad. 

He never came home from the station. They arrested him that day. I suppose that was the beginning of the end. 

Matt stood from the table and walked to his room, never taking his eyes off his phone. His bowl remained on the table, milk covering the space around it. I stood to clean it up, knowing how difficult all this must be on him, even if I couldn’t see it right now. 

My heart was longing for a trial in which I was sure my sweet boy would come home from. My head reminded me to enjoy the time we have now, for it may look much different very soon.

November 13, 2021 22:57

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