Authors: Jessica Gaffney
“Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”
To Navi, whose spirit and love lives on!
I’m not the only wife who’s fantasized about killing her husband. In fact I can’t even recall the first time the thought wandered across my mind. The notion was just there like presents nestled under a sparkling Christmas tree. At first, I’m sure the idea only fluttered through my head, it may have even startled me. But then the thoughts became pleasant and I grew comfortable with them.
I can’t say I planned on it happening, it sort of just did. I played out scenarios in my head and dreamt of a life without him; a life that was peaceful.
The idea of freedom was full of promise, hope and freedom. It stayed there; dormant for years. But during every fight, during every reign of silence, during my silent footsteps, it would surface. When the opportunity finally came, I did what any mother would do.
I don’t fantasize anymore. Why am I saying all this? It’s because there are times in life when you want to forget, but you can’t. And I have to tell someone; I have to admit that I wanted Jack to die.
Maggie heard the shot before she saw the gunman. The blow of the firearm forced her to the ground. With her eyes squeezed shut she listened for his whereabouts, but there was nothing but silence and thick fog.
The sharp snap of a branch sent her into a panic. “Maagggie.” He taunted, inching closer with every call. She cupped her hands over her ears and began to rock in place. With her muddy hands she hid her face and cuddled her bruised body.
Then she heard a faint whimper. With her heart racing she pushed herself up, the shroud of tears blinding her steps. A second shot ricocheted off the pines, but she kept moving. The cries became louder until she screamed out, “Vala.”
Maggie gasped for air as she jolted awake. Her senses were on high alert and her heart pounded. Tossing back the covers, she reached for her cell phone and glasses. The time was 4:12 am— just like the other nights.
“Vala,” She whispered. The dog put her head on her master’s leg. “Good girl.”
Maggie kept a glass of water by her bed for nights like this. Getting a good night sleep was becoming too far and few between. She had to rest. The nightmares were supposed to subside with time but instead they only grew stronger. Maggie drank the water in one giant slurp and rose from bed to check on Eli.
She shuffled across the worn carpet toward his room. The soft hue of his night light penetrated the dark hall. He’d been sleeping with the door open and light on, ever since the move. In fact, that’s when the nightmares started.
Maggie stood in the doorway, staring at her precious jewel. Eli was all she had now. And that was how she needed it to be. She knew he was fine; he didn’t wrestle with how they left home. It was just one night, and then they were gone. Claire told her she was too worried about Eli, and needed to stop checking on him while he slept. It was unhealthy for her to pamper him like she did. Still she couldn’t resist. Her anxiety would not allow it.
She crept inside the dimly lit room and placed her hand on his silky curls. Right now she was just thankful they were both safe. She wasn’t always able to say that. No matter how restless she grew, Eli was comfortable and that’s all that mattered. He had heard her scream in the middle of the night, just the day before last. When he ran into her room, Maggie steadied her voice and he told him it was nothing.
Peeling back his curtain she glanced outside. The motion lights in the yard flashed on and a fresh dusting of snow coated the ground. She looked for footprints, human or animal, anything that would alert her to as to why she should be afraid, but nothing was there. She took her pulse and did her breathing. “Relax. There is nothing to fear.”
She looked back at Eli nestled in his flannel moose sheets. The day was coming when he’d lose his blonde curls and little boy charms. But that was the future. For now he was still her little prince.
Maggie closed his door. As a chill hit her she realized her chest was soaked in sweat. She grabbed her robe and headed to the kitchen to make some tea, that always warmed her and helped her sleep— that, and a Gaba supplement that eased her anxiety. She used it on and off, though recently she ordered a higher dosage. Something about the holidays approaching seemed to have her on guard again.
This was her third Christmas without Jack, and she was doing fine. Eli was only two when daddy disappeared, and that’s all she told him. Their new house was void of his picture. She went to great lengths to try and sear his conscious from even having a father.
People out west were independent people, but in a small town they also talk. And it’s not often a mother and young child show up in the middle of the night, and rent a home up in the secluded woods. Yet it suited Maggie just perfect. Vala liked it too.
It was a mere Godsend that this rental was furnished and in good taste. She knew the place would be perfect the second she laid eyes on it. Maggie had stopped in town to get a cup of coffee when a flier caught her attention. It read, mountain cabin in need of quiet tenants, some pets welcome. The home was too small for a medium size family, but it was perfect for a family of two.
Eli had plenty of space to run and play; the neighbors were spread out enough that she had her privacy but with only one road in and out of the community, she was easily protected from those who didn’t belong.
Maggie spread out her journal as she sipped her warm tea. The house was warm and quiet, the sun wouldn’t be up for two more hours. Hopefully she could fall back to sleep. She ran through her gratitude list to calm her fears and steady her breathing.
The warm soothing tea made Maggie relax. She flipped through her prior entries, scanning the improvements she had made. When she found an empty page, Maggie scribbled the date, time and any details her therapist may need. The tattered composition book was showing its wear.
At some point, she hoped her heart would heal and life would return to normal. Eventually she would forget what happened and it would fade into the abyss. Maybe then she would sleep through the night. So far, it had been two months and she had nothing more than a few solid hours here and there. Her journal entries proved that.
Secretly she wished she could be more like her clients, they actually had the courage to write something and send it out there hoping someone would read it— anyone. Journaling was not writing. It involved no thought, no order, and no editing. It was an act, like cleaning. A purging of the mind, Maggie paused. Would her mind ever be clear enough to write? While she promised herself not to write about her past life and all that happened, she needed to write. But, fear. Fear said she just couldn’t take that risk.
Claire was the closest thing Maggie had to a sister. She was faithful, trustworthy and had become a great babysitter who had all the time in the world to spend with Eli.
Eli bounced his way through the busy parking lot before letting go of her hand. She smiled as the boy rushed into the giant playland, eager to climb and play before eating his lunch.
Claire held the door open, as Eli rushed past her waving as he unzipped his coat.
“Thanks for meeting me up here.”
“It’s no problem. Joe has the kids. I swear the only reason they see their father is because he isn’t a good father.”
“Where’s he taking them this weekend?”
“Who knows. Probably, wherever Shellie wants to go.”
“Didn’t they go skiing last week?”
“They went skiing, she went shopping.”
Maggie removed her coat. “She married him for his wallet, what can I say? Must be nice.”
“Never mind me, how are you, how’s work?”
“It’s good. A little lonely, but I’m enjoying it.”
Claire studied her. “I don’t know why you don’t just open your own agency. There are dozens of publisher’s right in the Springs. You’d probably make a fortune.”
“I’d be bored. Most of them take inspirational titles where the writing is mediocre at best. I need a big hit, before the royalty dwindles down on my only client.”
“ You have credentials Maggie. You should get your name out there.”
Maggie smiled. “I’ll think about it,” She lied. She didn’t want her name publicly listed. That was the end of it.
Someday she would have to tell Claire the whole truth.
“How are you sleeping? I haven’t had any irrational phone calls at 3am.”
“I’m sorry about that. I am getting better at how I handle them.”
“Vala still coming in to keep you safe?”
Maggie could talk all day about Vala, but she didn’t. She was not their pet and she needed to remember that.
“A young girl came into the shelter this week. None of the advocates have been able to reach her. Do you think you are ready?”
Maggie froze. She was absolutely not ready. She may never be.
Claire studied her. “Will you at least think about it?”
“There’s nothing to think about. I can’t move ahead if I look back.”
“Move on?” Claire reached across the table. “Maggie the only way you can move on is not by running but by helping someone else.”
She cupped her hand over face and looked for Eli. She watched at the energetic boy climbed through the tunnels, laughing and playing with other kids. “Does she have kids?”
She told herself she’d think about it.
Eli followed his mother into the post office. “Momma, why do we get our mail here, instead of at the house?”
“I like this better. It’s warm in here and the box doesn’t fill up as fast.”
Eli was a curious kindergartener. He questioned everything, which is a double edged sword.
Maggie sorted through the junk mail. She handed Eli a pile of advertisements, catalogs and credit card offers, most of them addressed to the boxes previous recipient. She peeked at the manila envelope with her name and address written out in longhand. The return post mark was from her attorney. In her opinion, big envelopes were never good news. She stuffed the mail in her purse and shut the box. Hopefully she’d make time to go through the pile later.
Eli tossed his book bag in his bedroom and ran toward the TV. “Mom, can I watch my show?”
“First, come walk Vala with me and then we can turn on the TV.”
Eli bobbled across the kitchen as he retrieved her leash. They had a collection of four but the red one was his favorite. Maggie always laughed when he dragged his stuffed animals around the house with the same leash. She wished she could post a picture of it online, like a normal parent, but that was not an option.
Vala got up from her bed and walked to Eli. She knew the drill. He clipped on her lead and headed into the garage. Maggie smiled, the dog never pulled Eli or attempted to runoff. She was a protector; their protector. Maggie opened the garage door even though they had just shut it. She learned two things living in the mountains: one, wild animals wandered wherever they wanted, including garages and homes and two, it was best to close the door as soon as you could to keep the wildlife away from the garbage and the smell of fresh cooked food. All of the neighbors who grilled kept the barbeque on the second floor deck rather than ground level. She understood why when she saw bear prints by her front door. Eli rounded the corner of the house which sloped downhill. She smiled as he trekked past the towering mound of firewood, “We got wood mom,” he hollered.
The Cord piled up over her head. She counted the logs to make sure they hadn’t short changed her. It is known that mechanics were known to hike up the price on females, well in Colorado it was no different they just tried it with oil, wood and hunting gear.
A sense of pride washed over Maggie as she watched her boy and his dog. She had moved on and built a safe place for she and Eli. She needed to be proud of that, even if it was the only thing she had.
Maggie stayed at the top of the hill while Vala walked around. She gave Eli some space, knowing it built his self-esteem, something that was hard to do without a father. The older he got, the less she would be able to say that. Jack however, was never a father at all.