Survivor: another story for Mothers Day

Rachael Ikins copyright 2013

On a warm spring evening in our small New England town, two boys inhaled or swallowed some combination of drugs and decided to rob the home of the highschool’s most popular teacher. She was home alone with her 3 year old daughter, her husband away on business that night.
The leader of the deadly duo had grown up with my son. I remember him all the way back to preschool when I met him and his own mother at school functions, brought cupcakes for birthdays, carpooled to sports events and scout meetings.
The town was in shock because the killer had broken into a garden shed behind the teacher’s house, grabbed a machete normally used for brush clearing, and when they rang the door bell and she opened her front door, under the white glare of the porch light, he swung the weapon at her over and over, slaughter in her foyer. Blood scent and the red of it painting neutral walls, spilling out of her neck. The viciousness of it. 
The 16 year old boys had tracked through it in search of something valuable to steal, besides the woman’s life. Red Nike prints.
At first, nobody suspected two boys from school. Classes were cancelled, grief counsellors made available to student and faculty alike, and the police worked hard with evidence. The boys felt invincible and had left plenty of forensic clues.
This isn’t about that hunt, arrest and trial though. Or the teacher’s funeral or the return of a stricken husband and father, pale, close to fainting at the wake.
There is another mother. A survivor. These days, she keeps herself medicated and locked behind doors and shuttered windows. Graffiti expresses hatred on the garage door and siding of her house. I think about her, shuffle through mental images and memories, laughing at the beach with our little boys, chatting after a school function, a play or game. I stare out my kitchen window where I stand at the sink. Pasture spreads down to lake shore like an unrolling rug. The lake itself gleams once in a while, a firefly barely glimpsed through dense trees at the field’s edge. My horses amble from the barn. They pause to sniff the morning air, lip interesting weeds at their feet, to stamp a hoof and tail-switch each other’s faces to keep flies away from their vulnerable eyes. I can’t stop thinking about her. 
Every time one of us turns on TV or opens the newspaper, hatred blasts her again. I wonder, ” Did she plan to give birth to a murderer?” 
When he was a tiny baby clutching her hair in his sweet fists’ flail, did she think, “One day my son will murder his teacher with a garden tool.”?
My train of thought leads me to my fridge and pantry. A plan forms. Soon I fill the air with the simple smell of peeled apples and cinnamon. I roll pastry on my butcher block and clap pie plates on to the counter. Lay one crust gently as a baby blanket into the dish, pour apple mixture from my favorite crockery mixing bowl, and tuck it all in with the second crust. I crimp the edges, thinking a thought for each of the 16 years my son and her son have lived as my circle of the pie completes. Nothing smells quite as normal as baking pie. 
Weeks have passed, the earth turns, the dead teacher’s toddler goes to live with grandparents, the husband starts to travel again. The fresh earth of the grave sinks beneath the weight of fading floral good- byes, and the house with the graffiti remains silent and dark.
As soon as the pies have cooled, I set one gently in my willow carry basket, the one I used to carry treats to classroom functions. I place it on the floor of the passenger side of my old Honda. I fasten my seatbelt. The drive across town is short, takes me through town center where people go in and out of the drugstore and the hardware, and the post office sends mail. I arrive at the leaf strewn driveway of the murderer’s parents’ house. His stoned laughter was horrible during the arraignment.
I close my car door quietly and reach down to loop the basket with the pie over my other arm. I shove my keys into my jacket. Hate mail litters the door mat. I gather what I can and shove those into my jacket, too. I press the doorbell. Turn my back to the house. Is anyone here? I turn back and knock this time, on the outside of the locked storm door. Somebody must be home or that door would not be locked. How does a person manage after their child has killed someone? Minutes pass. I feel reluctant to leave, try the bell once more. I imagine how many prank knocks this door has had. Finally I hear several locks click, disengage. The door opens a sliver. Her puffy white face looks out at me, her hair, limp, greasy.
” Can I come in?” I ask my friend. ” I ‘ve baked you an apple pie. Maybe we can have some with coffee?”
Eyes downcast, she decides to give me a chance and unlocks the outer door. My heart trills harder in the back of my throat. It is very dark in this house. Smells stale and uncared for. My eyes have trouble adjusting to the darkness. She re- locks everything. I set the pie on a chair in the foyer to take off my coat. And then we are holding each other and she is sobbing like a small child in my arms and I stroke her hair and I cry, too and I rock her and hold her, and I whisper into her hair, ” I am so sorry for your loss.”


2 Responses to “Survivor: another story for Mothers Day”

  1. clover58 Says:

    This is a very difficult subject, treated with respect and love.

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