Category Archives: fiction

The last of the best of the Sepviva Street Moms.

Dedicated to Edie and all the moms who had to go it alone.

Edie was only 23 when she moved on Sepviva.Street.  Like most of the girls of her generation, she dropped out of school to work, got married and had children. Edie married when she was 18. By the time, she was 23 she had 3 little girls with a 4th on the way. It was during the last pregnancy that Edie’s husband told her that he had met someone else, and wanted a divorce.

Edith thought he was kidding, but when she saw he had packed his clothes and was putting on the suit he usually wore to church she knew he wasn’t.  Edie was frantic. “What did I do?” She asked. “Nothing,” Bernie said. He kept his head down. He would not look her in the eyes. “Bernie, please don’t do this. You have 3 kids who love you. You have a wife who adores you.  Please don’t,” Edie touched his hand. But Bernie jerked away, “Don’t touch me.”

Without another word, he picked up his bag and walked out. It was just as simple as that. At least for Bernie, it was. But not for Edie. But, there was no time to nurse her broken heart. She had children to care for. She had to find work fast and an affordable place to live.

By the end of the month, Edie had found a one bed apartment. It was above a bar. It was nasty and run down but it was all Edie could afford. She had no choice. She had no skills, and she was pregnant. She begged for work at a box factory and was lucky to be hired.

It was on her walk home that the woman she had seen on the factory pranced up behind her. Edie didn’t know they were there until she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Hey there young lady. You’re certainly a fast walker.” The voice was heavy and strong. It reminded Edie of Lauran Bacall. Edie slowed her pace. The woman was big boned, mannish yet pleasant to look at. Edie smiled and extended her hand. The woman took it. Edie was surprised at how gentle her handshake was. “Let me introduce you to the moms of Sepviva street. This here is Gail, and this here is Lori, and this here is Marie. The other ones are home. They don’t work. I’ll introduce you to them later” Edie looked at the women who were grinning at her with big, toothy grins. Edie returned the  smiles with her own. The big woman continued on, “We saw you when you first moved in and we’re going to stop by this Saturday but then we saw you at the factory, and figured after work would be a good a time as any.” Edie laughed. She immediately liked them “And who are you?” Edie asked the leader. The big woman’s cheeks reddened slightly, “oh, silly me. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Dorothy but you can call me Dot. Everyone else does.” 

They walked on giggling at silly jokes and bits of mindless gossip. Edie felt the weight of loneliness slowly lift. She hadn’t realized how much she missed the company of women. “So,” Dot asked during a brief interlude of silence. “How old are you, young lady?”

Edie gulped and murmured, “I just turned 23.”

 Dot’s face flushed with amazement, “Oh my God, you look like a baby.”

Edie blushed and thought, “Not anymore.”

Dot continued to smile as she asked, “Are your parents in the area?”

Edie shook her head, “No, my parents passed when I was little.”

“Oh, terrible,” Dot gasped and quickly changed the subject. She lightly tapped Edie’s tummy, “I see you got one in the oven. When are you expecting?”

Edie tried to keep her voice calm as the enormity of what she was facing grew heavy in her chest, “April, I think.”

“Have you been seen by a doctor?”

Edie shook her head.  The women exchanged worried looks then they did what any decent women would do. They offered to help. Edie was just a girl, they reasoned, and was in need of motherly guidance. “You have to see a doctor.”
Edie hung her head down. “I can’t afford a doctor.”

Dot’s maternal instinct took over and she grasped the young mother’s hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

Marie wasn’t about to be left out of this one and grunted, “Oh no you don’t, Dot. That’s too much of a burden for one person. All of us can chip in.”

The others agreed. Dot invited Edie to sit with them after dinner, “It’s too hot to sit alone in that little apartment of yours. You come over and I’ll introduce to the rest of the moms. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

Edie was glad to accept. After she washed up and fed the girls, she walked down the street to the block where the older women sat on their newly washed white marble steps. Dot saw her and stood up. She gave Edie a cheerful grin as she patted Edie on the back. She introduced Edie to the others. They liked Edie right from the start, and Edie liked them, too. She sat next to them enjoying the waning evening and the warm summer breeze. It become a routine for her. Whenever the weather was nice, and her girls were attended to, Edie would sit with the moms of Sepviva street. It would be a routine that would last for decades.

After a few weeks, Edie began to relax. She wasn’t as jumpy as she once was and she didn’t cry as easily. The older women helped her. She didn’t even have to ask. They watched her children, and more than once a week they made her dinner. When they went shopping on the avenue, they would pick up stuff that was on sale- socks or pajamas or blouses for her girls, and sometimes for Edie herself.

Edie had done good with her daughters. People told Edie what good girls they were- so sweet and polite. Their adorable faces attracted a lot of attention. So did Edie. The Moms of Sepviva Street would tell her to the point it was annoying how good looking she was. Everywhere Edie went, she got admiring glances.  The women were subtle, but the men were not.

“Where’s her husband?’ the younger ones wanted to know. “Her husband walked out on her for another woman,” Lori told whoever asked. She wanted everyone to know what a prick Edie’s husband was. “He walked out on her? Hell,” bachelor men would shake their heads, “something’s wrong with that guy.”

Edie was pregnant but that didn’t stop men from asking her out. There was particular guy who followed Edie around like a puppy hungry for a treat. Whenever Edie left work for the day, there he was. Whenever she went shopping, there he was. Whenever she mistakenly made eye contact he winked at her. Edie was not only annoyed but awed by the young man’s belligerence. She asked Dot who he was. “His name is Larry. I hear he’s got a thing for you,” Dot chuckled. She found the whole situation amusing. But Edie wasn’t amused. The last thing she wanted was another man in her life.

Edie was now visibly pregnant. She had been to the doctor, and as far as he was concerned she and the baby were healthy. One evening as she headed toward the market, she almost colluded into Larry. “Hey Edie, you busy?” Before she had a chance to respond, he said, “I figured we could catch a movie tonight and maybe get a bite to eat afterwards.” Edie put her hand on her protruding belly. How could Larry miss this? “Are you kidding me?” Larry saw her hand on her belly and took a step forward. “Don’t worry about the baby,” he spoke reassuringly, “I have a simple solution.” Edie was too stunned to reply. All she could do was blink. Larry took it as a sign she was interested. He took a step closer and announced, “I’ll tell everyone he’s mine,” His eyes twinkled impressed at his cleverness. Edie reminded silent. “Well?’ he asked. Edie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It took a second for it to seep it. Then she exploded, but Larry was so young and adorable it was hard to be mad at him too long. Still Larry’s adorability didn’t change facts, and the facts were Edie didn’t want another man. There was only one man and he no longer loved her. “You’re nuts!” she couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all, “You don’t look like you can take care of yourself let alone a family. Now go away. Shoo and don’t bother me again.”

Edie was thrilled when she felt the baby move and he moved almost hourly. She knew in her heart the baby was boy. She told the Moms of Sepviva street she suspected she was having a boy and they agreed because she was carrying so high. “But,” Dot shook a worried finger at her, “you need to put on some weight. If you breast fed that little baby isn’t going to get any nourishment from that skinny body of yours.” Edie didn’t argue. Dot was right. She did need to gain more weight. Dot noticed the look of dismay on her face and abruptly announced, “I’m going to the market. Come with me, Edie. I want to get a Turkey. I’m going to cook it up and give you half.”

Edie had lots of things to do but she could never find it in her heart to turn Dot down. “Ok, Dot,” she smiled, “but let’s not stay there all day. I have lots of chores to do around the apartment.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll help you. I won’t be too long, promise.” Dot replied. She gathered her purse and headed toward the market. Edie followed behind wondering where all her friend’s energy came from. Just like Edie predicted, the shopping took longer than Dot said it would. After nearly an hour of picking up stuff that Dot didn’t need, they finally got the spinach and turnips for the stew Dot intended to make. They got into line surprised at how crowded the market was on a Saturday morning. Edie reached over to the magazine stand and picked out the National Enquirer when she felt eyes on her. She glanced up and saw a women staring at her full of disgust. “oh, so we finally meet,” she spat. Edie was baffled. The woman realized that Edie had no clue who she was. “I’m Julie.” Edie continued to look baffled.  The woman smirked. “I’m Bernie’s new wife.” She patted her belly. The mischievous look in her eyes deepened, “His pregnant wife.” She looked Edie over. “Oh, it looks like Bernie left you with a little something to remember him by.”

Edie hadn’t intended to cry but she did. She put her hands to her face to cover her tears. “You can cry all you want. He’s mine now,” Julie grew bold. She stepped closer toward Edie. She didn’t notice a large woman rushing toward until it was too late. Dot grabbed her by her arm and pushed her into the magazine rack. “Get away from Edie, you damn whore. It’s only because you’re expecting that I don’t beat you to a pulp.” Julie gasped too frightened to struggle. A crowd had gathered. They watched but didn’t dare say a word.  Dot clutched Julie’s arm more firmly. Her nose practically touched Julie’s, “don’t come back around here again if you know what’s good for you. You understand me?”  Dot released her and Julie pushed her way through the crowd. Dot beamed triumphantly as she slid her arm behind Edie’s back. Edie brushed away her tears and watched until she could no longer saw Julie. It would be years before she would see her again.

Edie gathered up a bag of groceries. She and Dot headed out of the store toward home. She was on the avenue when she adjusted the bag. It was then a sharp stabbing pain erupted in her belly caused her to suck in air. Dot had a concerned look. “Nothing to worry about,” Edie smiled weakly, “just my nerves, I guess.”  Dot patted her shoulder, “Now, don’t you pay her no mind, Edie. She’s no good.”

When Edie got back to the apartment, another sharp pain came on causing her to double over. She went into the bathroom, and sat on the toilet. She breathed in slowly until the pain lessened. In her underwear, she noticed a thick green stain, and wondered what it was. “I’ll ask Dot. She’ll know,” Edie said out loud.  There was a loud racket coming from the stairwell. Edie sat up straight listening. It was the girls. They had come home. They were hungry and letting Edie know about it. “Mommy, fed us. When’s lunch?” The girls were like little homing pigeons. They rushed to the bathroom door before Edie had a chance to announce where she was. They banged hard with their little hands. “Mommy, mommy!” they cried in unison. “I’m coming. Hold on a second.” Slowly Edie got to her feet, and pulled up her pants.

The pain was now gone.  As soon as she opened the bathroom door she was swarmed. All three girls jumped around her jostling for her attention. Edie listened to their stories. She was careful to fuss over each one as she made her way to the kitchen to make sandwiches. Edie had been so distracted throughout the day that she didn’t notice the baby had not moved. Dot came over with the half of turkey she promised. She stayed and the other moms of Sepviva Street showed up. They sat at Edie’s small kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. Finally, it was dinner time. Each mom excused herself. They asked Edie to sit with them later, and Edie said she would. “I’m going to feed the girls and take a nap. I’ve feel so tired.” The moms blew kisses and left.

Edie fed the girls and lay down. When she stretched out on the mattress, she realized how exhausted she was. Her eyes fluttered as she ran her hands over her taut belly. As sleep forced its way on her, Edie thought dimly that her belly seemed much bigger than it had earlier.

It was dark when Edie woke up. Sharp pains radiated across her belly. There was a pain sharper than the others and Edie felt a burst of fluid. Her water had broke. But it was much too early. She was only 6 months pregnant. And the water wasn’t normal. It was dark green. Another sharp pain convulsed in her belly. This time she screamed. Her daughters rushed into the bedroom and immediately began to weep. As young as they were, they knew something was terribly wrong. “Get Miss Dot and the other moms, please. The baby’s coming.”

Edie withered on the bed trying to control her breathing. Beads of sweat went into her eyes and mouth. Her clothes were saturated. “Mommy,” she cried out for a woman who had died long ago. Suddenly, her tiny room was filled with women she loved like family. “We’re here, sweetheart,” a large hand touched her cheek. Edie recognized the voice instantly. There were other voices that pierced through Edie’s agony. “I called her doctor but he’s not picking up,” one anxious voice whispered.

“I called the operator. They’re sending an ambulance.”

“Oh, thank God.”  

Another contraction seized Edie. Her hands were caressed. Her face and arms were wiped down. Water was brought to her chaffed lips. There were more sharp pains and another gush of fluid.

“The baby is coming. Oh, dear God, it’s too soon,” Edie cried out as another urge to push on her.

Her heart fluttered hard as she struggled to catch her breath. She bore down hard, sucking in quick breaths in between her teeth. The baby’s head emerged and Gail helped to ease the rest of body out. There was no cry from the tiny baby.

All sound had ceased. Gail held the still form as Dot wrapped a towel around him, “Edie, the cord is wrapped around the baby’s leg.” She quickly unraveled it and went through the motions to stimulate the baby knowing it was much too late. She rubbed the baby’s feet. She breathed on his little face. There was no response. Cries of grief filled the room. “A boy or girl,” Edie asked, her voice barely a whisper. “A boy, Edie. A perfectly formed beautiful boy,”

Edie sobbed as she extended her arms. She was so weak but she had to hold her baby boy. “Of course, my dear,” Gail whispered. The baby was placed on Edie’s chest. Edie stroked the baby’s plump cheek, “I’m so sorry, son. I love you. I’ll always love you.”

In the distance, there was the shrill sound of sirens. “They’re finally coming,” Dot complained. “There’s nothing they could have done, Dot. The baby was too early,” Gail said sadly. She turned to Edie, “the ambulance is coming. Let me wash him.” Edie let Gail take her baby. Gail walked toward the kitchen, and suddenly stopped. A thought came to her, “Edie, please let me baptize him.”

Edie’s eyes were as round as an owl’s, “But only the priest can do that.”

“Not if it’s an emergency,” Dot interjected.

Gail took the infant to the sink. She washed the form so tiny it fit along the length of her forearm. She gently dried him and swaddled him in a towel. Dot brought a bowel and cup of water. As the moms of Sepviva Street crowded around the bed, Gail poured water on the infant’s forehead and whispered, “I baptize thee in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Dot stayed with Edie for days. She washed Edie and fed her. She took care of the girls. Her husband made the baby’s coffin. The neighbors chipped in and bought a site at the church graveyard. It was a site that sat a good distacne away from the other graves. Edie was grateful of that. She wanted privacy when she visited her baby. Every morning, as she walked to work, Edie would stop by her son’s grave and prayer. In her mind, prayer gave her strength, and courage. One morning, about a month after her miscarriage, Edie was surprised to see a dogwood sapling- her favorite tree- planted by the grave. Edie found out later that Gail had bought it.

Bernie knew about the baby’s death but never said a word. Edie was devastated but mentioned it to no one. It was in December that Julie gave birth to twin boys. Edie wept bitterly when the girls told her. How ironic was it that Bernie’s wife should give birth to two sons while her son born too soon lay in a cold grave? Edie went to work. She took care of her girls. She put on a good show but the Moms of Sepviva street saw through it and were concerned.

It was late at night when the enormity of her son’s death would sneak up on her. She was too numb with grief to do anything except stare at the ceiling unblinking for long moments. Months ago, she asked why Bernie did what he did. Now she asked why her son had died. Was there something she could have done? She would have done anything even sacrificed her own life for her son. Now, he was dead. He would never know how much his mother loved him.

After the miscarriage, Edie withdrew into herself. She went straight home after work. She didn’t sit with the moms anymore. She preferred to lay in bed and watch re runs on TV. The Moms of Sepviva Street knew they had to do something. Edie was melting away right before their eyes. It was a Friday and the beginning of Spring, and the Moms decided to take Edie to Greenwood dairy for their monster scoop special. Edie loved ice cream but when her friends offered she declined. Dot took Edie by the arm and directed her toward her car. “Edie, stop this. We know you’re suffering. And we know Bernie didn’t get in touch with you. Let him go. He’s not worth it, sweetheart. Don’t waste your energy on people who don’t love you. Concentrate on people who do. We all love you, Edie. You know that. Don’t shut us out.”

Edie folded her arms across her chest and stared blankly at the pavement then it was as if a light turned on. Dot was right, and Edie told her so. “The hell with him. The hell with her, too. Now, let’s get my ice cream.”  A cheer rose up, and off they went to Greenwood Diary.

But the depression was deep and despite the support the Moms offered, it was taking Edie down further and further. People told her with time the pain would go away. But Edie knew that was not true. The pain of losing a baby never goes away. Still she didnt want to stress out the Moms of Sepviva Street anymore than she had so she learned how to hide it with bright smiles and silly gossip and playtime with the girls. Edie’s sudden change in affect made everyone happy. They honestly believed Edie had beaten back her depression.

One morning as the sun peaked over the row homes that lined the street across from the apartment, Edie went to her son’s grave. “he’s alone.” She knelt and as her tears dripped down her face, she pressed her hand into the grave. “You’ll never know how much I love you.” There was no one in the graveyard so there was no need to hide her grief. Edie put her hands to her face and moaned as she rocked back and forth. Suddenly, a sensation pressed against her cheek then slid down her neck. It was silky and soft and smelled of the sweetness that only babies possess. Edie sat completely still as the sensation increased in warmth, and lingered. Edie could almost hear the words, “It’s Ok, mom. It’s OK.” Slowly it faded.
It was her son. He had known her love. He felt it as he grew in her belly taking from her nutrients and oxygen. It was only by a cruel mistake of nature that the very thing that gave him sustenance took his life, and there was nothing Edie could have done. This was not her imagination. She believed in the other side, of life after death. Her son had reached out to comfort her, and Edie felt comforted. She wiped the tears off her face as she rose to her feet. She saw the imprint of her hand in the soft dirt and smiled.

The girls were now in middle school and growing a little too fast for Edie’s taste. Sometimes they would disappear for hours. Edie would ask where they had been and always the reply was a shrug of their shoulders. One day, the factory’s boiler broke down and the workers were sent home. It was incredibly hot and no one complained especially Edie who wanted more than anything to take a cold shower. School had been out for over two weeks. The girls were home by themselves. They were told not to wander off. Edie figured they were old enough to be alone besides most of her neighbors were around in case something happened.

Edie took her time walking home thinking about what she was going to make for dinner then decided against cooking. “It’s too damn hot out. I’m going to make sandwiches and be done with it.”  Finally she reached her apartment. She unlocked the door and walked in. As she ascended the stairwell, she heard voices – voices that were distinctly little boys.

Edie listened curiously as she slowly took the steps. The last two steps creaked as she put pressure on them and the voices ceased. Edie stepped into the kitchen, and her eldest daughter, Lucy jumped out, “Hi Mom. You’re home early.” Lucy was cheery and spry, and that was unusual. She was up to something. “Who’s here?” Edie asked as she stepped furtively into the kitchen. “No one, Mom.” Her daughter was following too close. Edie could feel the tension in the air. She turned to Lucy with a knowing smile, “Sounded like you all were having a good time while I was at work. So who’s here?”  

Her daughter’s eyes moistened with anxiety, and she hung her head in shame. “Oh, mom. Please don’t be mad.” Edie felt anger tighten in her throat, “you better start talking real fast.”

Lucy gulped, “Sage and Sebastian are here.”

Edie was startled. “Sage and Sebastian?”

“Yeah, mom. Our brothers. Dad’s boys.”

Edie’s head instantly throbbed. Lucy had betrayed her. Didn’t Lucy understand the pain her father had caused? Didn’t she care? Edie wanted to scream. She wanted to slap Lucy. Instead she closed her eyes and took deep breathes as a little voice inside her head urged her to think rationally. She could not let anger get the best of her. She had to play it smart and act cool. Besides she had never seen Bernie’s sons, and despite everything, she did want to see them.

“Mom?” Lucy broke into Edie’s thoughts. “It’s ok,” Edie murmured as she patted her daughter’s hand, “you can tell your sisters and brothers to come out.”

“Really, Mom? You’re not upset?” Lucy asked surprised and elated all at once. Everyone knew Edie had a wicked temper, but not today. Edie shook her head, “Your brothers are welcome anytime, sweetheart.” Lucy stared at Edie. At first, she couldn’t believe it but quickly realized her mother was serious. She let loose a great whoop. “Come on out!” She only had to say it once. Lydia and Lynette burst out from the closet. Two little boys followed close behind. They were replicas of their father. The fear and tension Edie felt quickly evaporated. “Hello Miss Edie,” the twins chirped together as they stood shoulder to shoulder like miniature soldiers. Edie was charmed by their adorableness. She couldn’t act disinterested even if she wanted to. “Come here, you two,” she laughed and held out her arms. They hurried to her squealing like they had known her all their lives.

Edie made lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids. They played hide and seek. They wrestled. They played tag. When they got tired, Edie read to them. The boys sat close to her. Sage lay his blonde head against her chest and fell asleep for a few moments then perked up instantly when Lucy told him it was time to go. “Oh, do we have to?” he complained. He gazed up at Edie hoping she would intervene.

“I don’t want to go either,” Sebastian whined, too. Staying with Edie and his sisters was more fun than being at home. “But you have to,” Lucy interjected glumly, “We have to or else your mom won’t let you over here anymore.”

 “Aww, man,” Sage pouted and folded his arms across his chest, “I wish you were our mother.” His plump face was full of all the sincerity of a five year old. Edie’s heart swelled. She had fallen in love. She touched Sage’s cheek, “I’m not your mother but I promise I’ll love you like I am.”

Lynette and Lydia took the boys by their hands. It was time to go. “Bye mom! I mean Miss Edie,” Sage waved as he went down the stairwell. “When can we come back, mom?” Sebastian put special emphasis on mom. “Anytime, boys. Just come over,” Edie’s smile was ear to ear.

They came every day. And, every day, they hid in the closet when they saw Edie coming home from work. As hard as the boys tried they could not remain still for more than a few seconds and gave themselves away. Still, Edie pretended to be horrified when out they sprang growling like little monsters. They rushed toward Edie with their little fingers stretched out like claws. Edie begged for mercy then without warning, she lifted them in her arms, nibbling on their exposed tummies as they shrieked with joy.

Over the years, they wrote letters to Edie, telling her of their adventures and ending with promises of their devotion that would last till the day they died. They would compete against each other as they vied for her attention. At least twice a week they invited themselves for dinner. On friday and Saturday nights, they would beg Edie to let them sleep over. How could Edie have the heart to say no? She never could. If she had allowed it they would have moved in. That wouldn’t have bothered Edie in the least.

One day, Bernie and Julie came to Edie’s apartment looking for Sage and Sebastian. Julie yelled to them from the street but they pretended not to hear and hid under Lydia’s bed. Finally Bernie had to come upstairs and force them out. Edie stood in her tiny living room. She was not going to hide in her own apartment. Bernie saw her. He looked at her a little too long. Four pregnancies had not thickened her waist. She was as pretty as she had been when he had first laid eyes on her all those years ago. He opened his mouth to say something then Julie screamed for him, and he turned away. He pulled the boys out from under the bed and rushed them down the stairs. Edie laughed as she listened to them plead and beg to stay until they were outside. She went to the window. She saw Julie and was shocked at how heavy she was. Julie saw Edie, too and mouthed something terrible. Edie was too far away to hear but she understood.

The twins were ordered into the back seat. They quickly rolled down the window as Bernie started the car. Sage leaned out the window. There was a look of firm resolution on his creamy white face. He saw Edie at the window, and yelled up to her loud and clear, “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll be back.”

Edie turned 30 and she still turned heads. But she never noticed, too caught up in her dream world as she walked to and from work or to the market. The Moms of Sepviva Street tried to get her interested in one young man then another but Edie politely declined. The man she loved no longer loved her and he was the only one she had ever wanted.

Edie’s daughters grew lovelier with each passing season but it was her eldest who attracted the most attention. Lucy had grown tall and shapely. Her hair hung like black satin down her back. Strangers gaped at her. Neighbors amired her.

Edie was nervous. She was fearful that Lucy would attract the wrong attention. She warned Lucy about boys and she knew Lucy listened. “I don’t want you getting yourself in trouble and ruining your life, you hear?” Edie warned. Lucy reassured her. As far as Edie knew, Lucy did not have a boyfriend. But, she knew it was only a matter of time before she did. “You know it would break my heart if you couldn’t go to college and make good on your life,” Edie told Lucy one afternoon as they walked to the market. “Oh, mom. Don’t worry. I’m as pure as the Virgin mother,” Lucy laughed as she hugged her mother. Still, Edie knew how girls got when they got caught up with guys. She knew she had to be extra attentive.

Trouble didn’t come with Lucy chasing boys or vice versa. It came one night when Edie had to work overtime. Lucy met her at the factory after her shift was over. It was almost 8:30 pm and the sun had gone down. The air was thick with humidity. Edie enjoyed walking on nights like this and she was glad Lucy was there to enjoy it with her.

They came to the tunnel that Edie walked through going to and from work over the years. But it was always during the day. Now, the tunnel looked sinister and threatening. Edie hesitated and Lucy took her hand something she had not done since she was a little girl. Edie smiled at her daughter. There was nothing to be afraid of.

They were half way through the tunnel when they heard the roar of motorcycles. There were quite a few of them. Edie could hear their engines reeving as they sped in their direction. Edie nudged her daughter closer to the wall. The cyclists were now in view. Edie thought they would go right past them but they didn’t. There were four of them. The leader saw Edie and Lucy. He raised his hand and the others pulled to a stop while gunning their motors. Edie clutched Lucy’s hand to her side and increased her pace. “Hey, ladies. What’s the hurry?” Edie and Lucy put their heads down and made no reply.

“Yo, I’m talking to you. I don’t like being ignored.” Fear almost paralyzed Edie. She forced herself to push forward holding her daughter close. The leader was practically shoulder to shoulder with them. Lucy began to weep. The other cyclists sped onto the pavement and blocked their way. The leader grabbed Lucy and pulled her from Edie. “Wow. We hit the jackpot. Take a look at this beauty,” he exclaimed as he grabbed Lucy’s chin, and thrust it upward. “Mom!” Lucy screamed. “Get away from my daughter, you creep!” Edie shoved the leader with every ounce of her strength. He didn’t budge. The cyclists burst out laughing.
Edie had to do something. She would die before she would let them hurt Lucy. And that’s exactly what would happen or worse if she fought them. Every nerve in her body quivered, but she knew she could not panic. Think. think.

She was just a little woman. She was no match. She had to formulate a plan and fast. The leader pulled Lucy to his chest and Lucy screamed for her mother once more. “Get off her, you son of a bitch,” Edie screamed. Then it came to her without thinking. The ruse just tumbled out of her mouth before it fully formed in her brain. She remembered hearing the name of a notorious motorcycle gang leader on TV a few months back. Now the mention of this gang leader might save her and her daughter. “Do you know who I am, you bastards? Do you?” The cyclists looked at her with wide round eyes. “Who?” the leader inquired suspiciously. There was a bit of fright in his voice, too.  Edie widened her eyes and took a step forward, “I’m Crazy Wolf’s girl. Did you know that? No, you didn’t. And wait till I tell him how me and my daughter was rough housed by you ruthless shits. He’ll make you disappear. You hear me? They’ll never find your bodies.”

There was a silence. The men stared at her. They beleived her. “Look, lady, we were only messing with you. You didn’t take us seriously did you? The leader coughed uneasily. Edie knew she had them. “What’s your name, little lady?” another asked, anxious to soothe things over. “My name’s Edie,” her voice shrill with anger.

“Well, Miss Edie, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” a particularly brutish cyclist said with a nervous laugh, “Can we escort you and your daughter home?”

“Thanks but no thanks,” Edie snapped. She wanted to maintain the upper hand despite feeling faint, “We’re fine. Now, good night.” With that, Edie grasped her daughter’s wrist. “Keep walking,” she murmured as she led the way.

When Edie and Lucy got to Sepviva Street, the moms were still outside. They saw the looks of horror on their ashen faces and jumped to their feet. “Edie, what happened?” Dot rushed toward them. Edie and Lucy wept as they told their tale. All the moms were horrified. No one said it but all were thinking it. Edie and Lucy could have been raped or worse.

That night, Dot stayed over. She slept in the same bed with Edie. Once during the night, Edie whimpered to Dot, “They almost got my girl.” Dot brushed Edie’s hair from her pale face. “But they didn’t, Edie. You were there. You saved your girl.”

That night had been the worst of her life and she did not sleep well. Edie had hoped to sleep in. But Lydia put an end to that when she came screaming into the bedroom, “Mom, Mom!”

“Lydia, please.”

“Mom, there’s a bunch of guys on motorcycles outside. They want to see you.”

Edie’s eyes flashed open wide. She sat up. Dot sat up.

Edie quickly dressed. She washed her face. She brushed her teeth. She combed her hair. Her mind was reeling. Who were they? What did they want? Her legs trembled convulsively as she inched her way down the steps. She opened the door. Dot was close behind ready for action. She would never let anything happen to Edie.

There was a man about Edie’s age sitting on a Harley. He was scruffy looking but not unclean. He grinned at Edie. “You just as pretty as the boys said you were.” Bile ran up Edie’s esophagus and she coughed. “The boys said you told them you were my girl. Is that true, Edie?” Edie looked at him and nearly burst into tears. But the man on the cycle didn’t notice. He continued to talk. His voice was young and sweet. “You want to be my girl, Edie? If I took you home to my mom she would be so proud of me. Maybe for the first time in her life.”

Edie stammered. The bile was at the back of her throat. She had to think fast again. Maybe it would be better to tell the truth or at least part of the truth. She stepped toward him tentatively. “You’re Crazy Wolf?’ she said desperate to keep her voice steady. “The one and only,” the man on the cycle announced. “Well, Crazy Wolf, I’d love to be your girl. But another man has my heart and he’s had my heart since I was 17.” Crazy Wolf’s eyes widened. He was impressed.

Edie went on, ” But I want to thank you.”

“For what?”
“You saved me and my daughter.”

Crazy wolf was confused, “I did?”

“Yeah. Your boys threatened me and my daughter. I said I was your girl to make them go away and it worked.” Edie gave Crazy Wolf her best smile. He gleamed like a proud peacock. “Well, Edie. For a beautiful woman like yourself, I’m proud to be of service. I’m sorry you don’t want to be my girl but if you change your mind, you just let my boys know.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that,” Edie said as sweetly as she could as her stomach churned sour, and her legs trembled almost buckling at the knees.

Crazy Wolf grinned. For a second Edie glimpsed the darling boy he must have been before crime and drugs ruined him. With a nod to Edie, he reeved his Harley and sped away. 

Edie watched till the gang was no longer in sight. She went to take a step but her legs give out. Dot got to her just in time. She steadied Edie and led her back inside. “Edie, I’ll handle the girls today. You rest. You’ve had enough excitement to last a life.”

The men who would have loved Edie and could have given her a decent life, gave up and moved on. Edie didn’t notice. She worked like she always had. She took care of her children. Every Friday and Saturday when the weather was nice, she sat with the Moms of Sepviva Street and talked about politics or the soap operas she never saw.

A house that needed fixing was for sale and Edie bought it. It was small but it was good enough for her and her kids. She did most of the work. She tarred her own roof, and did her own plumbing, and bragged about her talents to her neighbors who told her they wouldn’t be caught dead tarring a roof. “That’s a man’s job,” they teased. “Well, I ain’t got no man,” Edie huffed, “So I guess I’m stuck.”

It been a long time since Edie had seen Bernie. Still she dreamt of him when sleeping and awake. It was those dreams, her children and the Moms of Sepviva Street that got her through the days. The twins told Edie that Bernie was sick but Edie thought nothing of it. How serious could it be? Bernie was a young man. Weeks later, Edie immediately sensed something was wrong as soon as she walked through the door. She called for her daughters. At the top of the stairwell, they appeared along with the twins. They’re faces were swollen and tear stained. Edie knew before they uttered a word. “Oh, no, no!” she moaned and staggered back. Lucy ran to her, “Mom. Oh, Mom. Daddy’s dead.”

“What happened?’ Edie could barely get the words out. Sebastian’s voice trembled as he spoke, “He told me he wasn’t feeling good. I made him breakfast but he said he wasn’t hungry and he was going back to bed. When I came home from school, I found him on the floor.” Sebastian sobbed and went to Edie. She held him and motioned to others. She held them and they wept together.

A week later, Bernie was buried. The kids went back to their normal routines. Neighbors offered condolences on the day of the funeral and never mentioned it thinking Edie had forgotten Bernie a long time ago. Julie grieved then stopped. Later, she remarried and moved away. But for Edie, grief never left. She grieved in the darkness of the night as her children slept. She grieved in the coolness of the church before the mass at dawn commenced. How does one mend their broken heart? For some, there is no healing. When Bernie left, Edie held onto to a precious hope that he would come back. Years and years went by but that hope never died until Bernie died. Now there was nothing for Edie.

The girls finished high school and moved away. the time came when the twins graduated and moved out of the city, too. Edie wasn’t upset. They had to find their way in the world, and live their own lives. Besides she had the Moms of Sepviva Street to keep her company. Edie never imaged anything happening to the women she loved like family but things did happen. The Moms grew old and died-one by one. Within five years, they were gone. Then Dot died, and Edie was inconsolable. Dot had been her anchor, her rock. Now, she was gone, too. Edie was alone.

Time moved on. The neighborhood changed. Others moved into the homes that her dear neighbors once lived in. The factory that Edie labored in for years closed and was ruined by kids who smashed its windows and tore off its doors. The Church, Edie had prayed in for so long closed, too. The neighborhood that had pulsated with generation after generation of close knit families and neighbors was now broken. Those who could get out got out. Many sold their homes for the fraction of their cost. But not, Edie. She refused to budge.

Many nights, Edie would hear screaming and cursing. On the weekends, the music blasted so loud her windows shook. Sometimes, she heard gun fire. Her girls begged her to move in with them. They told Edie she could take turns staying with each daughter. But, Edie wasn’t hearing any of it. “This house is my house. I’ll leave when I’m carry me out.”

No one bothered her. The new neighbors liked Edie. And, why not? Edie got along with everybody. Edie would wave hi and engage in small talk. “Well, I guess you’re the last of them, then.” Edie’s eyes traveled over to the steps now stained and chipped where the moms of Sepviva street sat for years. “yeah, I’m the last of the Moms,” she said sadly almost dreamily. She would talk further about inconsequential things like property taxes or the crime on the avenue then excuse herself to go back home and either read or watch TV. Just before bed, she would stare at the ceiling and imagine Bernie. Always, he was young and he was in love with her like he had been when they were first married. Sometimes during the day when she was doing her chores, he would appear, too. He was so real- he was real even though Edie knew he wasn’t. She would talk to him and he would answer back. She knew if anyone knew they would think she was crazy. But Edie didn’t care. Her imaginings made her happy. What was the harm in that?

One day, as she returned home from shopping, her new neighbors- really they weren’t her new neighbors. They had been Edie’s neighbors for years but that’s how Edie referred to them- stood by the corner chatting. It had been months since they had seen Edie, and eyed her anxiously. “What’s wrong?” Edie was surprised to be an object of such intense interest. “Edie, if you turned sideways, we won’t be able to find you.” They laughed nervously. “I don’t understand,” Edie was baffled. “Edie, you have lost so much weight. How you going to catch a man without meat on you”. Edie laughed, “ I forgot about men a long time ago.” That was true. Edie had forgotten about men. That is except one, but the neighbors knew nothing of him.

Edie put her groceries away. She felt dusty and decided to take a bath. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her new neighbors were right. She was too thin. She touched her belly. She was proud of the fact that her stomach was as flat as it had been when she was a young girl. Now it was caved in. She took a closer look at her face. She had always looked young but now she looked pale and worn.

She lay down in the tub and closed her eyes wondering what the problem could be. She did have a chronic moist cough that hurt. Sometimes she brought up spots of blood but she thought it was because of a virus going around. Lydia burst into the house. “Mom! Mom!” she yelled as she ran up the steps. Edie got up as quickly as she could. She pulled a towel toward just as Lydia pushed open the door. “Mom, I..” Lydia stopped mid-sentence. She stared her mother’s naked body and burst into tears.

Edie’s daughters took her to the doctor. Blood test were done then an Xray followed up by a biopsy. Edie knew before the doctor said it- Lung Cancer. He referred Edie to an oncologist who wanted to do chemotherapy, and radiation but Edie refused. She had no desire to go on. For what? The people she loved were dead. Her girls and the twins were grown and on their own. There were no grandbabies from her girls nor would there ever be.  For Edie, life had run its course.

The pain came on suddenly and it stayed. Toward the end, only Morphine worked. Her daughters and the twins who loved her more than their own mother took turns caring of her. Sometimes, Edie was alert and knew what was going on, but as the cancer advanced further and further, her eyes dimmed and her memory faltered. Once, she mistook Lynette for Dot who had washed her and fed her after her baby boy died.

“Did he breathe?” Edie asked.

“What, mom?”

Then Edie remembered. Dot was gone and so was her baby boy. “It doesn’t matter now,” she grimaced. Her daughter thought she was in pain and gave her another dose.

One day, as Sebastian spoon fed her oatmeal, Edie smiled happily. “You came back.” There was a look of love in her eyes. “Who, mom?” Edie’s eyes refocused. Sebastian looked so much like his father. But he wasn’t his father. Bernie had died years ago. She murmured embarrassed, “I thought you were Bernie. I thought you came back. I thought you changed your mind.” Sebastian could not hold his tears as he took Edie’s thin hands into his and kissed them over and over. 

Morphine was given every four hours, but it wasn’t good enough. She needed more and more to calm the pain. Her disorientation deepened. She called for her mother and father, for Dot and the other Moms of Sepviva Street. She wept when she got no answer.

The weather turned ugly. The temperature dropped. Snow and sleet fell as the winds stronger and stronger with each passing hour. The force of the winds buffeted against the windows making them quiver. The cold crept through the seams of the old house. But, the cold didn’t bother Edie. It was the pain that got her. It caused her to cry out and arch her back. Within weeks, she was emaciated unable to keep any food down. Her daughters and the twins took turns cajoling her teasing her lecturing her anything to make her eat. But Edie told them truthfully- it hurt to eat. One day, Sage got three tablespoons of oatmeal into her mouth, one after the other. Edie swallowed. Everyone was jubliant. Edie smiled then leaned over the bed and threw up the oatmeal. Edie retched again. Blood poured out of her mouth like someone had turned on a faucet. Sage grabbed a bucket and put it under her chin. Her children watched in horror wondering how a being so wasted could bring up so much blood. Finally, Edie stopped. Her mouth was rinsed with water. Her face was wiped down and dried. Her head was lowered onto the pillow. Edie fell fast asleep as another dose of morphine was administered.

The hospice nurse told her family that Edie’s time was coming to a close.

The hospice nurse predicated Edie would not last more than a week.
Her children wept. Despite her confusion, Edie knew , too. There was nothing that could be done. The priest gave last rites. Those who knew Edie filed in to say their last goodbyes. Edie recognized most of them. She was too weak to hold a conversation. All she could do was give each visitor a light smile and a nod of the head. For a brief moment, the pain stopped, Edie asked if someone could open the window. Lydia did. As the cold air hit her face, Edie sighed deeply. It felt so good.

Sometime in the night, Edie opened her eyes. She looked up at the IV bag and noticed it had stopped dripping. She looked at the clotted blood in her IV line. She slipped her fingers under the catheter and pulled it from her arm.  No blood oozed from the site. She took a deep breath and then another. The congestion was gone. Her lungs were clear. It no longer hurt to breathe. She pulled her legs up under her bottom and with a great heave catapulted herself upright on the mattress then unto to the floor without a creak from the wooden floor boards.
Edie took another deep breath. Still there was no pain. This is wonderful, she cried out. She had to celebrate. She twirled on her bare feet and leapt into the air pretending to be a ballerina like she did when she was a little girl.

Her daughters were on the couch. On a pile of blankets assembled on the floor were her daughters’ closet friends

The boys’- Bernie’s boys- were stretched out on the chairs. She had loved them like they were her own sons. She leapt out of the bed graceful and quiet like a cat. She went to Lucy, and kissed her on the forehead. She was the child she had loved the most although she would never admit to anyone including herself. Lucy opened her eyes and looked deep into Edie’s. She murmured, “Oh mom,” then fell back into a sound asleep. Edie caressed Lucy’s cheek like she had done when Lucy was a little girl then she went to the others. She kissed her two younger daughters and the sons who should have been hers. “Love you,” She whispered gaily as she tiptoed to the front door.

She stepped out. The sky was brighter than she had ever seen as if a painter had painted the sky a luminous gold. It was no longer cold. It was warm not the sticky humid warmth of the summer but a thick fluid warmth that soothed and energized. Edie felt she could dive right into it and swim till she couldn’t go on.

Edie shielded her eyes as she walked down her steps. She looked up and down Sepviva Street and blinked in amazement at how clean it was, “It’s like it’s brand new.” The cherry trees that had been set on fire summers ago were full and blooming. Edie thought, “They came back to my dreams.” She had missed them so. She took a blossom and marveled at how sweet its scent was.

She looked across the street and was startled to see the Moms of Sepviva Street. Edie frowned. Maybe it’s the Morphine making her dream of ghosts. Then she saw Lori holding her granddaughter who had died when she was only two. Edie sucked in her breath as reality sank in. She was not in a dream or a drugged haze. She was dead.

With a jolt, she glanced back at her house. Fright took hold of her but it quickly dissipated. Her children were all grown and settled in their lives. They would be OK. Soon, they wake to check on her, and would weep when they saw she died during the night. Edie felt tears drip down her throat. She hated to leave them. She wished she could go back to when she was young and they were little but that life was gone forever. Edie looked at her house for a long time. She had loved her house, and took good care of it. She knew it would not be long before the laughter of another young family would echo through its rooms. Life will go on as it always has. “Whoever you are, I hope you’ll be happy,” she whispered.

Edie went to the Moms of Sepviva Street. “You don’t know how much I missed you,” she wept as she held each and every one. Dot had an infant in her arms. Edie knew who the baby belonged to. She took him and him close, “My sweet baby.” He cooed as he lay against her neck.
A favorite song, Light my fire began to play high above and then all around her. Edie had loved that song when she was young, but never listened to it again after Bernie walked out on her. She closed her eyes as she sang the song. She held her son as the others pressed gently against her. Slowly, they faded away. There was nothing Edie could do but let them go. The sounds of their breathing was the last to fade.

In the distance, a figure approached. Edie recognized the walk. She knew who it was. She let out a cry of joy as she ran. It was Bernie. She giggled like she did when she was young and full of hope. She wrapped her arms around him and felt a wonder that only a living being could feel.

All the sorrow or loneliness she had experienced throughout her life was swept away. She felt cleansed. Bernie lifted her up high and swung her around like he had when they were first married. He kissed her and she returned his kisses. Time stopped so she could enjoy all that she had missed while living. He held her face and stared into her eyes with a love she had never seen. She could have stayed there with him for eternity. But without warning, he took a step back although the look of love did not diminish. Edie knew something was coming for her, and she was not afraid. The golden sky intensified. Bernie held her once last time then slowly with regret in his eyes, faded away. An orb full of thick golden lava appeared in the sky. It moved toward her lowering itself until it stopped in front of her as if waiting to be inspected. Edie didn’t flinch as her eyes locked on it’s immense brilliance blending and swirling unto itself. Edie could see that it was a living thing. It moved forward then back then forward again inches from her face. Edie knew what was expected of her.

Without hesitation, she stepped in and moved forward into its liquid unencumbered. Memories of her life flashed before her. In those memories, Edie saw the love she wasn’t fully aware of when she was alive- the love of her parents, her children, the twins, the moms of Sepviva street and Bernie, yes even Bernie. Edie choked on tears happy to have been blessed with such love.

As she merged into the liquid light of the orb, Edie felt love again as it soaked into every pore of her body, and flooded her soul, her very essence. She became one with love itself. She was love. She had returned from where she had started. Where, she knew, all of humanity started and eventually returned – a place where love formed.

At that very moment before all consciousness ceased, Edith understood – Love had never abandoned her. It had always been there for it was as much a part of her as it was with all the living things of the universe.

That cat, Blue. A horror story

That cat, Blue
A horror story.

So you want to hear my story? Well, I guess I can tell you. Why not? I have plenty of time on my hands. Most prisoners do especially the ones waiting for their trial to get underway. You know what I’m accused of – murdering my dear wife, Mattie. You know some of the details but not all. The details I’m going to give are much more gruesome than what lawyers know.
You want to know how I was discovered? Hah. I’m here because of a cat. You look surprised. You’re probably thinking I’m playing with you but believe me I’m not. It’s all because of Blue that I’m here. Blue was my wife’s cat. Oh, I’m so angry for being done in by a little cat. I should have been more thorough. But that cat was on to me. She was much more intelligent than what I gave cats credit for. You want to know what happened to that cat? Let me tell my story first then I’ll tell you.
My wife had a thing for animals. Every Monday and Tuesday, after she finished work, she volunteered at the SPCA. Wednesdays and Thursdays, she volunteered at the wildlife center. When she wasn’t doing her volunteer work she was with her dog. She took her dog everywhere when it was ok for her to bring him- hiking, biking, trips to the beach- you name it. She named her mutt who was more pit-bull than anything- Dave. You know, Dave was the one the cops found with my wife, right? Dave loved my wife. He died protecting her. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. He was the last dog. Mattie had two other dogs before she saved Dave. Her other dogs had run away- at least that’s what she thought. She was so heartbroken. I was the one who put into her head that they probably ran away. Dogs do that a lot, I consoled her. Still she couldn’t understand when she had loved them so much and they had loved her. It took so much discipline not to burst out laughing whenever I saw her eyes reddened and swollen. I tried hard not to snicker when she took her leash and went out into the streets calling out for Ben and later George. You see, my dear, her dogs had not run away. I killed them. Oh, stop looking shocked. You should know by now what I am. And just so you know, I laughed as I killed them. I love torturing creatures. Its something I loved to do since I was a kid. First it started with flies. I loved pulling off their wings and drowning them. Then I moved onto birds, mostly sparrows. I loved to drown them, too. I loved to listen them chirp crazily as they struggled in my clinched hand, pleading for their insignificant lives. It didn’t take long before I grew bored with birds and flies. Killing them didn’t give me the thrill I craved. I think I was about 13 when I moved onto dogs and cats. Nobody noticed. Who cares about strays? Oh, come on now. Spare me your tears.
You ask me why I’m so evil? Was I abused? Was I neglected? No. No. I was born evil!
Mattie and our children had absolutely no clue. Neither did our family or our neighbors. As far as everyone was concerned, I was the model husband. I was the model neighbor. If there was handy work to be done, I offered. If there was a lawn to be tended for a sick neighbor, I did it. Our neighbors adored us. They invited Mattie and I into their homes for bonfires, dinner parties, birthday parties and trips to the shore.
For a long time, my wife and I got along so well. Mattie fussed over the kids. She fussed over me. If I felt a cold coming on, Mattie jumped to action-making homemade chicken soup, cooing over me like I was a helpless child. If I felt fatigued, she rubbed my shoulders or my feet without hesitation. Every morning without fail, my clothes were set out and my shower started. When the kids and I came downstairs, breakfast was ready. Every evening, she had supper on the table. Our house was always clean. She worked but she made sure she was home before the kids got off the bus. She was what you would call a super mom, a super wife.
Then things changed. The kids grew up. Our two sons married and bought homes close by. Our two daughters went to college. They stayed local but lived at the dorms. Suddenly, we were alone. We were still young though with lots of years ahead. It was my hope now that we were empty-nesters, Mattie would settle down I like I had. But she didn’t, and that’s when our troubles started.
She joined a hiking club. She joined a biking club. On weekends, she hiked or biked or did both. She joined a gym and worked out during the week. She left early in the morning and was back in the house before I was out of bed. She was like an electrical charge that never lost its power. So it was that I aged but not Mattie. She grew more youthful, more vibrant.
Mattie begged me to work out with her, to go hiking and biking but I blew her off. I said I was too tired. Actually I wasn’t really tired. I just wasn’t interested in the gym or the outdoors. What I wanted was to play on my computer. I love computer games. Everyday like clockwork, after I ate dinner, I headed straight for my computer. It was my addiction. Everyone has an addiction. Don’t you agree?
After awhile, Mattie stopped asking. She had new friends now- much younger friends. Quite a few times, her cycling buddies came to our door for her. When they showed up, Mattie’s demeanor suddenly changed. She no longer walked but pranced. Her voice was no longer monotone. Her eyes shone with joy. She was a young girl again. She never acted like that when she was alone with me. I think that’s when I began to hate her.
On the weekends, she was gone for hours. I hated when she went out, and I hated that she had friends. She left me alone and I hated being alone. I wanted her home with me. Early one morning, she left with a promise to be back by the late afternoon. She left Ben home. That was a bad mistake. I told you that I killed strays when I was a young man. Well, I never stopped. I enjoyed killing too much although I never killed an animal that I knew. But Mattie leaving me alone to hang changed all that.
Ben was a big German Shepard, a beautiful dog. I know Mattie adored him. What better way to get back at her then through Ben? He was outside in the yard barking. He was too involved with the cat that was taunting him to notice me. I walked up to him from behind and stabbed him into his ribs over and over. He gave a startled whelp then crumbled to the ground. I don’t think he knew what hit him. Months later, Mattie brought home a Doberman Pinscher that had been dumped off at the SPCA. Mattie claimed the dog was too old to be adopted so she decided to take him. She named him, George. She loved him, and he loved her too. George’s eyes would actually sparkle when Mattie came home. And when she took out the leash he would go absolutely nuts. He loved going on day hikes with Mattie and practically became Mattie’s hiking group’s mascot.
Mattie had signed up for a hiking trip. It was an overnighter. She asked me if it was OK if she went. I told her to go and enjoy herself but inside I was fuming.
No dogs were allowed so George stayed home. As soon as he saw Mattie getting her hiking boots and hiking stick, he jumped for joy. But when he realized he wasn’t going, he whined and carried on. Mattie felt bad so she brushed him, and gave him a treat. But George was desolate when Mattie gathered her stuff and walked out to the car. He ran back and forth from window to window whining as he watched to Mattie pull out of the driveway. Despite being upset at leaving George, Mattie was excited. I was excited too. This was my opportunity.
There are those that say dogs don’t shed tears. But they do. Believe me, they do. George did.
Mattie cried. Oh, how she cried for her handsome dog. She looked for George. Her friends helped but George had disappeared. I comforted her, of course. I played the role of the supportive husband.
Not too long after George’s disappearance or so Mattie honestly believed, she showed up with Dave, more pit bull than anything. Dave was rescued from a kill shelter, and Dave seemed to understand it was Mattie who had saved him. Everywhere, Mattie, he followed gazing at her with that same adoring eyes of Ben and George
I’m no fan of dogs. I tolerated them until I killed them. Haha. You don’t appreciate my humor, do you? You hate me. I can tell. But that’s OK. You can hate me all you want. Let me continue- the one animal I truly hate is a cat. Mattie knew it. So on the day she showed up with a stray kitten, insisting it was not a big deal because the kitten was hers to take care of, I went berserk. We fought. I swung at her. I would have hit her in the face, but Dave rushed at me and caught my fist in his mouth. There was no adoration in his brown eyes only a warning. He growled softly as he held my fist firmly in his mouth. Mattie stroked his big head and murmured, “its Ok, boy. Let him go.” Dave opened his mouth slightly and I yanked my fist out with a terrified squeal, but Dave was unmoved. His eyes never left mine.
So the kitten stayed. I will admit she was a beauty. Her body was typical of a tabby cat. Her forearms all the way down to her paws were charcoal black and downright dainty. And, those eyes! It was her eyes that caught everyone’s attention-so big and blue- all the more big and blue against her black chocolate face. It was no surprise to anyone that Mattie named her – Blue.
Mattie made a fuss over that kitten who went from an adorable little kitten to an adorable little cat in a very short time. Her looks were striking and she seemed to know it. Whenever anyone made a remark about her she tilted her head upwards, softly narrowed her eyes and mewed in agreement. Mattie bought her toys and played with her for hours. Even Dave played with her. Sometimes, in the early morning I would hear Mattie singing songs to that cat with Dave howling softly like a backup singer. Who ever heard of people singing songs to a cat? Well, Mattie did and it annoyed the hell out of me. Blue enjoyed the songs and the fuss. She loved Mattie. That was obvious. But she didn’t like me. Quite a few times, she would follow me from one room to the next like a spy gathering information. She kept her distance staring at me so intently it made the hairs on my arms stick me. I knew she knew about me. She knew all my secrets. She knew all about my obsessions, my misdeeds and my crimes. That cat with her enormous blue eyes that I hated was always watching me. Once, I reached my hand out and called to her. But she sprang backward and scampered away in fright. She knew I wanted to hurt her. Ha-ha. Imagine that? That cat knew.
I knew it was only a matter of time before Blue had to disappear just like Ben and George had. It was time for that cat to go where the dogs had gone – an abandoned shed in the woods not too far from our property. It was the perfect spot. No one ever checked there because no one ever suspected.
Saturday came, and Mattie was preparing to go out despite the bitter cold. I was in the living room watching TV. I had downed my third can of beer, and it was still early morning. I saw Mattie getting her coat out from the closet. “Rushing out to meet your boyfriend? Huh?” I tried to sound jovial. Mattie glanced at my empty beer can then at my belly hanging over my belt. I saw the look of disgust in her eyes and laughed. I grabbed my belly and shook it at her. “You like it, huh? You like the big belly? “ Mattie wasn’t amused. “You have no shame. And no, I don’t have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t go near another man if you paid me.’ Dave walked slowly to her side and nudged her hand. She patted him, “its alright, boy.” Dave looked at me. He was not amused either. Mattie was silent as she took out the leash and put it on him. Dave didn’t wag his tail. He stared at me as he walked with Mattie toward the door. “When are you coming back, my dear?” I called after her sarcastically. “What do you care?” she answered. I could barely hear her.
I went to the frig and took out another beer. I looked out the window and watched until Mattie and Dave walked out of view. I popped open the beer and guzzled it down.
In the dining room, I heard the jiggle of little bells. I went to investigate. Blue was so engrossed with playing she didn’t see me. She eyed the jingle ball tenderly then pounced on it then lightly tapped at it with her soft paws only to whack it hard and send it spinning across the floor.
Blue was adorable to watch as she played and played. She was so soft and fragile and beautiful. Suddenly, I felt that urge to destroy that beauty. I could not control that urge and didn’t want to. I reached down and grabbed her. She looked up at me with wide eyes, her body rigid with horror. She struggled against me. She bit my thumb and clawed against my arms. But there was no escape. “You stupid cat,” I screamed, “ I got you, and now you’re going to die.” I laughed. I grasped her throat and pushed down hard. Her blue eyes bulged in absolute terror. “See, you were right about me the whole time. I’m evil, and you knew it. Shame you can’t talk. You could have told someone. But you can’t. You’re just a cat.” Blue withered in my grasp too exhausted to fight. I took her to the kitchen and put her on the table. I loosened my grip slightly as I pulled a butcher knife from the kitchen drawer. She mewed softly, weakly, and pathetically as if begging for mercy. But there was no mercy in me when it comes to killing. “You love those big blue eyes, don’t you ? But I want them and I’m going to take them.” I held her head tightly and brought up the knife. Blue knew what was coming. Now she was in an absolute frenzy. I angled the tip of the knife perfectly and pressed hard. Her eye popped out just as easily as George’s had. Blue screamed and it gave me such a delight. I brought the knife up again and angled it toward her other eye. Blue cried out agonized, and bite my thumb hard. I yelled in pain. That would be the first and last time that cat would bite me. I lifted her up and slammed her hard into the table. I heard a crack. Behind me, there was another scream. It was Mattie. I was confused. I thought she had gone hiking then I remembered there was no hike today because of the cold. She stared at me then at Blue. “What have you done to my cat? You bastard. You rotten bastard.” She screamed and then she was rushing at me. I was waiting for this confrontation. She hit me with every bit of her strength but she was no match. I grabbed her and slammed her against the wall. She was unfazed, and continued to claw at me. Her adrenaline had kicked in, and so had mine. I hit her in then Dave was on me. He tore open my leg and bit hard into my arm. I grabbed the butcher knife and stabbed that worthless mutt repeatedly. I have to give it to that dog. He fought hard. He loved Mattie so much that he was willing to die for her and that’s exactly what he did. Mattie was in shock, sobbing for Blue and now Dave. “You killed my killed my dog. You killed Dave.” I couldn’t help myself . Now was the chance to tell her what I wanted so badly to tell her before,, “Fuck Dave. I killed him, and just so you know I killed your other dogs. They never ran away.“ It took a moment for this to register in her mind. Her mouth fell open then closed as shock morphed into explosive rage. “You’re going to burn in hell!” She lunged at me. I knocked her to the floor, and hit her in the face until it was a bloody pulp. I felt her teeth crack with each pummel, and it felt good. There was no stopping me now. I never had the urge to kill a human but I did then. I cannot describe the thrill I gave me. And I hated her. I realize that now. I hated her for being popular and loved. I hated her perfect skin. I hated her perfect body. Well, she wasn’t so perfect now.
She continued to struggle. I stabbed her in the chest. How many times? I forget. Yet she still continued to fight. I grabbed her throat. and pressed down. She grabbed my wrists in an effort to free herself but it was hopeless. She sucked in one little breath then struggled to get another. “Mommy,” she moaned as her tears mixed with her blood. I was annoyed she would call for a woman who had died when she was just a little girl. Yet the moan had been so perfect, so melodic, I became aroused. I wanted to hear more. I relaxed my grip slightly but there was no more from Mattie. She was dead. In her last moments of life, I noticed, she had clutched Dave’s ear.
Blood was everywhere- on the floor, the cabinets, the walls. Pools of bright red blood, thick and gelatinous – had formed around Mattie and Dave. The floor was so slippery I had to use the table to keep falling flat on my face. I laughed as I looked over the fallen dead- the dog, the cat and my bride of twenty-three years. I looked down at her. She was barely recognizable as the woman I had shared my life with. I know at one point she had loved me, and I must have loved her but now I felt nothing. I put Blue’s limp body on Mattie’s serrated chest, and pulled them close to Dave. There was no movement. I unfolded a blanket and rolled the three of them unto it. I used the rest of the rope to tie the blanket at the top and bottom then I put them on a tarp making it easier for me to drag. Mattie had loved her pets so much, I thought. Well, now she would spend eternity with them.
The moon was full and I was able to see where I going without the aid of a flashlight. It was really bitter out but I was sweating profusely by the time I got to the shed. I opened it and dragged the dead in. The shed was built with cinder block years ago and was still in great condition. The far corner was where I buried Ben and George. I thought the least I could do was bury all of them together. Mattie would have liked that. The grave was a shallow grave and I was grateful for that because the ground had frozen and it was hard to shovel. I dug until I saw the remains of the dogs and dragged the bodies next to them. The blanket had torn, and Mattie and her pets were exposed but I didn’t care. I covered them as best as I could. I figured when the weather warmed I would come back and bury them properly. There was no hurry. No one knew about this place.
I went back to the house. I spent hours cleaning up the blood. When I finished, I was so exhausted. I fell immediately asleep as soon as I got into bed.
Voices woke me up. They were coming from the kitchen. I got up. I walked down the steps and saw my daughters, Melissa, and Claire, home for the weekend from college, in the kitchen drinking coffee. They saw me and got to their feet. “Where’s mom, “Claire, inquired. I played dumb, “I don’t know. Maybe she went out. “ Both my daughters looked out the window. “But her car is here, and she knew we were coming this morning. “
“We spoke to her early yesterday. She asked us to hike with her,” Melissa added. I shrugged my shoulders, “she’ll show up,” and went back upstairs. I wasn’t concerned. Nobody had a clue.
Hours passed. The girls were frantic. They called their brothers, Bruce and Brian. They were at the house within the hour. The police were notified. Word went around the community. The phone rang non stop. Mattie’s hiking and biking buddies called for updates. Her co-workers called then stopped by. “Our mother would never go anywhere with telling one of us. This isn’t like her. I know she’s in trouble,” my son Brian could not hide the fright in his voice.
Harry, the guy Mattie usually hiked with came by. I didn’t like him. If people didn’t know Mattie and I were married they would think this creep was her husband. He grilled me worse than the police. “So you saw her leave?” He asked a little too aggressively. “No, I didn’t.” He stepped close to me and whispered, “I don’t believe you, and neither does anyone else.” He left me standing on the porch and went into my yard. I should have thrown him off the property but I was too stunned to do much of anything except watch him. Did he suspect anything? Even if he did what proof did he have? I took a deep breath and calmed myself. Harry walked slowly over the grass as if he were looking for clues. But even if he were, he wouldn’t find any. You see, I am very meticulous in covering my tracks. My children followed behind him like he was some kind of guru. He suddenly stopped and looked back at me, “So where’s Dave?”
“I’m sure Dave is with my mom,” Bruce replied. I smirked when I heard that, “He’s with your mother all right.”
Harry moved on deep in thought. “So Dave is with your mother. So where is her cat, Blue?’
Melissa and Claire began to stutter. “Where is Blue? She’s not here either. Oh my God, something is wrong, terribly wrong!” Clair wept. “Mommy’s dead. I know it. I feel it in my heart.”
Neighbors, friends and family did their best to comfort my children but They were distraught, too. They knew just as Claire knew- Mattie was dead. Harry tried to give them hope although I could tell he was struggling to stay composed. “We don’t know that, Claire. Please, we have to be optimistic. Can we pray? I think we should do that for your mother.” Everyone gathered together and Harry lead them in prayer. I hated Mattie even more then. Even in death, she got all the attention. The prayers seemed to have a soothing effect on the crowd but suddenly Claire broke down weeping uncontrollably then collapsed. I watched in disgust as Bruce carried her into the house.
Not only did my kids and family spend the night but that creep, Harry did, too. They stayed up late talking. No one bothered me. They assumed I was distraught with worry and wanted to be alone. Finally exhaustion overtook them and they fell asleep. It was after 3 am, when the howling began. Melissa and Claire were on their feet seconds after the howling started. “Did you hear that?” I heard Melissa ask. “it sounds like a cat,” I heard Brian say. Then Claire said with a bit of hope in her voice, “ Maybe it is Blue.” The howling was pitiful. I could barely stand it. Claire spoke again. I could hear the panic in her voice. She was so young, only 18 and sensitive-the apple of her mother’s eye. “Maybe it is Blue. Suppose she’s hurt and she’s calling to us to save her or maybe she wants to take us to mommy?”
“You might be right,” I heard Harry interject.
That got my attention. I sat up in bed. The howling was louder, more desperate. There was a rushing of feet toward the door. I heard Bruce say, “its right by the door. Open it.” Someone opened the door. “oh my God,” I heard Melissa gasp, “it is Blue.” I was on my feet. I ran to the steps and saw what they saw. How was it possible? Blue was dead. I knew that for a fact.
Melissa and Claire advanced to Blue slowly and carefully so not to startle her, talking sweetly. “Someone hurt Blue. Her eye is missing,” Claire held her tears in. They were close enough to grab her but suddenly Blue bolted. My kids ran after her but she disappeared.
The next day the police were back. It was apparent now that a crime had been committed. Mattie had not run away. Her credit cards and debit cards were untouched. Her car remained in the driveway. No one had seen or heard from her. They began to ask more in depth questions but I answered them without hesitation. My voice was firm, and confident.
I’m proud to tell you that I played the part of the grieving husband perfectly. I think I missed my calling as an actor. I had posters made of Mattie and put them up in the supermarkets and malls. I told my story to anyone who wanted to hear it, and most did. I poured on the tears when I was interviewed by the news. What a show I put on. And to tell you the truth- I loved the attention. It made me feel special. No one suspected a thing.
The next night, the howling returned. Once more, Blue made her appearance only to bolt away and disappear. My kids were beside themselves. They refused to eat claiming they had no appetite. I was the only one who had an appetite. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. My kids watched in sad amazement but said nothing. “I guess that’s his way of coping, “ I heard Melissa console them and they believed her. They waited. What else was there for them to do? If only they knew. But I would never divulge my dirty secret.
The police continued to grill me relentlessly but I never faltered. They would never break me. They would never find Mattie. My crime was too well hidden. Nearly a week had passed since Mattie’s disappearance. The police called again to inform me the FBI was involved now and they would be making a visit tomorrow evening. It was obvious to me they were trying to scare me. But I wasn’t scared. I sniffed at the idea of the FBI coming to interview me all because of Mattie. Ha. She was just an ordinary person. Why did they care?

I told my kids and they said they already knew. They wanted to be there. That was fine with me.
The sun had already set when two FBI agents arrived along with two police officers. I was annoyed that the cops came. Did they suspect something? My kids sat with in the living room. They asked me the same questions the police asked. They were hoping to catch me at something that would lead them to arrest me but it didn’t happen. After an hour of basically interrogating me, they realized they were getting nowhere. They wrote what they had to write and were packing up to leave when the howling started. The agents and the police stopped what they were doing and listened. My kids listened, too entranced. The anguished howls were like a call to prayer. They sounded almost human. “What is that?” a woman FBI agent asked.
“My mom’s cat. She howls at our door but runs when we try to get her,” Brian offered. The howls grew closer. “Its outside the door,” a cop said. “Open it,” the lady agent requested. The cop opened the door and there sat Blue. The agent carefully approached Blue and knelt in front of her. She choked. “She reeks. She smells like decomposed flesh. Her right eye is missing. She’s in really bad shape. She has to be in pain.“ She looked at Blue tenderly. “Oh my God, you poor thing. Who did this to you?” she reached out to touch Blue but Blue backed away then stopped and looked at the agent imploringly with her remaining eye. She mewed then walked toward the agent only to walk away again. “I think she wants me to follow her,” the agent said to the cop.
Now, I had had enough. I rushed toward that cat and tried to kick her. But the agent and the police office with hands on their guns shoved me out of the way. “Stop where you are,” the cop commanded. I stopped. He motioned to the others. “We’re going to follow the cat. This is too creepy to pass up. And you’re coming with us,” the cop leveled his blue eyes at me almost daring me to resist. The other cop and agent took me by my elbows and led me out of the house. I didn’t give them a hard time. I thought then what could they possibly find?
My kids were more intrigued than frightened. They followed close behind.
The odor that emanated from Blue’s body was nauseating. I gagged and so did everyone else. She staggered as she walked. It was obvious she was in great pain and that made me glad. It was comical to watch as she weaved lopsided like a drunken sailor through the yard. It was when she went into the woods that I began to worry.
Blue led us down one path and then another. She mewed frequently as if to signal to us. Finally, she reached the shed. She stopped and looked slowly at the agents, the cops, and my kids then accusingly at me. I lost my temper then. I screamed. “you damn cat. I killed you. I know I did. “ I jerked away from the cops and lunged at Blue. I was fast but the cops were faster. They threw me to the ground. They pulled my arms back and put plastic ties around my wrists.
“The door is locked,” a cop announced. “Break the door down,” the other commanded. With a kick to the center of the door, it broke open. Blue stepped in. it was dark. Flashlights were turned on. Blue howled like a grief stricken child. She staggered over to the burial site. The bodies were exposed. Blue must have dug them up. Ben, and George were decomposed but still recognizable as dogs. Dave was still intact, the cold weather certainly helped. Beside him, lay Mattie. Blue went to her. She touched Mattie with her paw. She purred with a great love as she licked Mattie’s grey disfigured cheek. The cops and the agents stood transfixed. Tears slid down their cheeks. My kids came in fearfully, tentatively knowing what they would see but knowing that had to see. What they saw they should not have seen, and they would never had seen if it weren’t for that cat. They looked over the bodies. They saw their mother. They wept hysterically and clung to each other for support. They did not look at me as I was led away. That was the last time I ever saw them.
So, that’s it, my dear girl. The End. You know the rest.”
“So, what happened to that cat, Blue? You said you were going to tell me?” the young reporter inquired. She re-positioned herself in her chair and waited.
“Hah, you’re going to think I’m crazy. Wait, I’m already crazy. But, not in regards to Blue. I wasn’t the only one who saw. But why would I waste your time? You not going to believe me.”
The young woman cleared her throat and replied, “Try me.”
“Ok, I will. I was already in the custody, sitting in the back of the cop car so I’m telling this story second hand from the cops. The lady FBI agent asked where Blue was. She was told Blue was still next to Mattie. I got the impression the agent wanted to adopt Blue and take care of her. She went back into the shed to collect Blue. She found Blue laying on Mattie’s chest. She called to Blue but Blue didn’t respond. At first, the agent thought Blue was sleeping. She lifted Blue up and was startled to find Blue frozen, desiccated, stiff as a board. You see, Rigor mortis had set into her tiny body. She had been dead for over a week.

Gossip whores (its not nice to gossip)


Gossiping is bad. I know that and so do you. It ruins reputations. It destroys families and friendships. It breaks hearts. Sometimes, it does even worse. I know. I saw what gossip does up front and personal. I let girls tear apart a friend with their gossip. I was too afraid to do anything to stop it. So I guess I’m just as guilty.

My friends were just kids who should have known better but didn’t. But their mothers were another story. They knew better but that didn’t stop them. And, their gossiping didn’t seem to bother their friends and neighbors either because they were the most popular women in our area.They were invited to all the parties, and were involved in all the community events. They were the ladies all the other ladies wanted to be seen with and because of who they were, people listened to their gossip and believed whatever they were told. Their daughters followed their example and did what their mothers did. You can’t blame them though cause most girls adore their moms and want to be just like them no matter how bad they are.

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
Call me this. Call me that…

You know the lines but they’re all wrong. Names do hurt. They hurt real bad but gossip hurts even worse. Christine, Betsy and Jennifer should have known it’s not nice to gossip.

Two years have gone by, and now I finally got the guts to set the story straight about the triple murder that happened right in my neighborhood. I knew the women. I saw them practically everyday. Their murders were in the news for weeks so there is no way anyone could have missed it. People are killed all the time but this story was so gruesome the media wouldn’t let it go. For weeks, they blasted detail after detail. The victims were wonderful community leaders. They were involved with the PTA and the Girls Volleyball team. They were successful fundraisers. They sponsored numerous 5K runs for Breast cancer and MS. The media repeatedly showed pictures of the women at the beach, at parties and community picnics. They were the best of friends smiling smiles of shiny white teeth; their hair and makeup perfect.

Then there was Paula- Paula the killer. The media tore her apart. On the streets, in the malls, at the school, people who knew nothing about her cursed her over and over. They never bothered to ask why Paula did what she did.

Let me tell you this- Paula wasn’t evil. She was a good person. I know that for a fact. And, I’m sick of the news making heroes out of the murdered moms. They weren’t angels – I know that for a fact, too. And Paula? Was she really the demon the media made her out to be? You read my story and tell me what you think. It’s taken me some time to get up the courage to write my story. It’s going to piss a lot of people off but I don’t care. My neighbors still refuse to admit that they had a hand in what happened. My story is going to remind them that they did.

I’m only 15 and I’m not sure where to begin so I guess I’ll just start at the very beginning.

Paula’s house is gone. The community bought it and had it torn down. I can’t blame them for that. Terrible things happened in that house and I guess they wanted to keep weirdoes and gawkers away. So the house is gone but not the memories. I go there a lot, and just stare. Sometimes, if I stare hard enough I can conjure Paula’s house up in seconds. I can see Paula pruning her rose bushes and Abby jumping her rope. I stand there for as long as I can stand it then I say a prayer because praying makes me feel better. Sometimes when I’m praying, Abby’s face flashes before me. Abby crying. No, not crying but sobbing. She’s alone and she’s in pain. Not physical pain but a heartache kind of pain and that’s the worst pain of all.
And I helped to cause it. I dumped her, and I was supposed to be her friend.
I wish I could go back in time. I would make everything all right. But it’s too late. Nobody can go back in time not even God.

I try to block out Abby so I try to focus on the good times but its no use. The ugly times push their way through and they engulf my mind. I cry, then I run till my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. Running feels good because it makes the bad memories recede till I cant see them anymore.
I swear I’ll never go back but the next day comes and there I am again.

My neighborhood is what you would call upscale- beautiful houses, beautiful cars and beautiful families. My school is beautiful, too. It’s a blue ribbon school, one of the best in the state. The school is what attracted my mom and dad and I guess that attracted Paula here, too.

I lived here since I can remember. I know everybody- the adults and kids- at least by name. I was pretty popular in the neighborhood. I had friends but there was trio of girls that I couldn’t stay away from. As soon as they stepped foot outside, I dumped the kids I was playing with and rushed to be with them. They were the cool kids in our community. That’s no exaggeration- they were cool. So many girls wanted to hang out with them; to be included in their little group but they were rebuffed. They didn’t make the cut but I did. Being part of the cool girl gang made me feel special. We called our little group, the T’s. There was Tabitha, Tamara, Theresa, and me- Tracy. The T’s – I had the same first initial as they did! How often do you see that?

I knew we were meant to be together as best buddies. The T’s -now that was very cool. The girls were a year older than me. I adored them like a little girl full of adoration for her older sister. I loved the way they walked. I loved the clothes they wore and the way they styled their hair. I loved the way they talked and the music they listened to. Whatever they told me to do I did. That’s right- I was like their little puppy dog- that’s how much I admired them. I was so wrapped up with the T’s that I lost my awareness of my own self. My life back then was consumed with being a part of them. Oh, I loved them so much it blinded me to how mean they were. Man, I wish now I didn’t love them the way I did. But it’s too late for that- way too late

Unless there was practice after school, we would get together. After we finished our chores and homework, we took walks in the neighborhood. Sometimes, we would go to the playground to sneak a few puffs of a cigarette Theresa stole from her dad or go to the stream and catch frogs.
There was a house for sale on the other side of our community playground. It had been empty for months. We never paid attention to the house until the day we spotted a large truck and a group of men moving furniture through the front door. We stopped to watch; eager to see who was moving in. The newcomers finally made their appearance and they immediately got our attention. The woman was black, tall and heavy set. The girl who ran in front of her was white with long blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. She was muscular and long legged. All four of us squinted as we watched the woman talking to the men and the girl dashing through the front yard and then into the house and then back outside again. She looked excited and so did the lady. We’ve seen mixed race couples before but this was the first time, we saw a black woman with a white child who was obviously no relation to her.

Theresa took a step forward. “I’m going to see who these people are.” She was in a huff, but then Theresa was always in a huff. Why? I don’t know. I’m sure the other girls noticed too but they never said anything. None of us had the guts to ask Theresa what her problem was. We would never admit it but we were a little afraid of her. Theresa had a mean streak like her mother, a tongue and an attitude that could reduce the toughest girl to tears. We watched as Theresa crossed the street with her hand on her hip just like her mom. We followed behind.
The girl was jumping rope in the front yard that was full of rose bushes smothered under the weight of heavy vines. Her long hair had fallen out and hung luxurious down her back. She saw us and put her rope down. She went to the gate and opened it. “Hi, my name is Abigail but you can call me Abby, that’s what my mom calls me.” She excitedly extended her hand to us. Theresa shook it and then introduced herself with her usual arrogance. Tabitha and Tamara weren’t much better. Everything Theresa did they did.
“What’s your mom’s name?”
“Paula,” Abby chirped, oblivious to Theresa’s attitude.
Theresa frowned. “and who’s the black woman?”
“Oh, that’s my mom.” Abby said as if Paula being her mother was the most natural thing in the world.
“She’s your mom?” Theresa was incredulous.
“She’s not my birth mother. She’s my foster mom but not for long,” Abigail replied in a singsong voice. “What do you mean- not for long?” Theresa grilled Abby like she was on trial. “Oh, she’s going to be my real mom soon after the adoption goes through. “ Abby beamed. She looked at me and I smiled at her. It wasn’t hard for me to smile at Abby. She was adorable. “That’s great,” I said.
Abby leaned toward me as if I was the only person there. “ I love my mom. She saved me. If it wasn’t for her, I’d be dead.”
My eyes widened. The other T’s were silent. They were as interested as I was. “My mom’s a prosecutor in Philadelphia family court. I was in foster care for years and when I finally came up for adoption, she decided to be my mom.” Abby gushed all full of pride.
There was such a twinkling in her eyes. I had to fight the urge to hug her and kiss her like I did to my little sisters.
“Wow, Paula sounds like such a wonderful person.”
“She is. She’s the best mom in the world,” Abby was practically humming.
“So, don’t you think about your real mom? Theresa jumped into the conversation. I shot a look at Tamara and Tabitha. Why was Theresa being a jerk? “Nope, Paula is my forever mom. I love her and she loves me, “ Abby replied without missing a beat. I was amazed.
“Abby, come on. Time for lunch.” The woman who was going to be Abby’s forever mom appeared at the door. She smiled a charming smile at us. “Oh, hello, ladies. Would you like to have a bit to eat?”
We said nothing, feeling a little shy.
“Abby, can you please introduce me to your new friends.”
Abby was bouncing up and down like she was on a trampoline; all full of energy. She named each of us then introduced us to her mother.
“Well, ladies you’re welcome to join us.” Paula smiled. I couldn’t take my eyes off her long neck and her full lips. They reminded me of the models I saw in the Vogue magazines I browsed through at the library.
We stepped forward.
Paula held the door open and mentioned for us to come in, “Come on, ladies. Don’t be shy. I know you must be hungry.”
We were hungry. We walked in. We had never been in this house before. It was beautiful. Bright, shiny hardwood flooring went the front door to the back door. I could smell fresh paint. Large porcelain ceiling fans buzzed above. In the living room was a large stone fireplace; above the mantle was rifle that looked to me to be pretty old. I was impressed but not Theresa. When she stepped into the living room, she froze. “I think I need to go home,” she said suddenly all jittery.
I was surprised. “I thought you said you were starving. What’s wrong?”
“I have to do something. I just remembered.”
I was totally baffled. I should have known it was nothing but a lie. Silly me. I fell for it.
The other girls were nervous, too but that was only because Theresa was nervous. “I got to go,” she insisted. “So do I ,” Tamara jumped in. Tabitha said the same.
“Oh OK then go, “ I shrugged my shoulders. I wasn’t about to leave.
“You’re not coming?” Theresa gave me a dirty look.
“No, I’m staying,” I replied. It was the first time, I didn’t let Theresa tell me what to do.
Unfortunately it was my last time, too.

Abby was surprised but not upset when the girls decided to leave. We walked them to the front yard. Abby waved goodbye then she turned her full attention to me. I was the one she was interested in. Now, that should have made me feel special.

Paula was sweet but not an overly phony sweet like the three T’s moms. Paula made me feel comfortable as soon as I walked in. It was like I had known them all my life. Abigail was smiling ear to ear. It was obvious that she adored Paula and I could tell Paula adored sweet Abigail, too. Abby showed me her room. Boxes were everywhere. Her bedroom set was light cherry wood and brand new. “ I love it,” I said as I slide my hand along the Chest of drawers top. “I love it, too” Abby squealed as she jumped on top of her mattress, “ but this is what I love the most.” She bounced up and down and smacked her palm against the ceiling. “Come on, Tracy.”
I didn’t hesitate. I jumped up and down on the mattress, too. We held hands and giggled like best forever friends until Paula yelled at Abby to get off the mattress. “That mattress is brand new, Abby. Now I told you.”
“Ok, mom. “ Abby moaned then grinned at me.
“Come on, you two. Your sandwiches are ready.” We rushed out her bedroom door but I saw something that caught my attention. On the wall was a painting of a baby. I stopped. “oh, she’s beautiful.”
“That’s me,” Abby announced beaming. “I never had any pictures of me when I was a baby so my mom hired an artist who was able to imagine how I looked as a baby.” I stared at the painting. It was incredible. No question in my mind that was how Abby looked when she was a baby. “You’re so lucky to have Paula as mother. She loves you so much.”
Abby grew thoughtful, “ I know. I love her, too.” We gazed at the portrait in silence.
Paula yelled again. “Girls, please.” The spell was broken. We raced down the stairs and into the kitchen. Paula laughed as we slid on the newly polished wood and into our seats.
“My mom makes the best sandwiches” Abigail bragged. She was right. They were the best I ever ate.
I stayed until the sun set. I promised Abby I would come for in the morning. The look of glee on her face would stay with me forever. Dear Abby. Sweet Abby.

Theresa was right. She did have something to do. As soon as she left Paula’s house, she rushed home to tell her mother, Jennifer what she had seen. Jennifer was incredulous. Tamara and Tabitha confirmed what Theresa has seen. Jennifer wasted no time in alerting Tabitha and Tamara’s mothers then they called my mother. By the time I left Abby’s, the news was all over the neighborhood.
When I walked through the door, I was shocked to see my mother waiting for me.
“Where were you?’ she demanded.
I was dumbfounded. What was the attitude for? “I was with our new neighbors. Paula and Abby.”
My mother glared at me, “ I don’t want you in their house again. As a matter of fact, just stay away.”
“You heard me, young lady.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Mom, you don’t even know them. Why are you acting like this?”
Mom walked briskly into the kitchen and I followed after her.
“Listen to me,” she thundered as she put the dishes into the dishwasher.
“I need an explanation. I just can’t stop being friends with Abby when I just met her.” My mother straightened herself. She towered over me. I gulped as she stared straight into my eyes. “I just got off the phone with Jennifer. She said Theresa was scared too death.”
“What?” I thought. Was this is some kind of joke?
My mother was getting more annoyed by the minute and so was I.
“Mom, you’re talking in riddles. What is going on?” Now it was me who raised my voice.
My mother took a step closer to me. I shut up. “Theresa said she saw a gun in that woman’s house.”
“Oh that. It wasn’t a gun. It was a rifle. It was hanging over their fireplace.”
My mother let out a groan. I looked at her baffled. “Whats the big deal, Mom? Its not like she was pointing it at us?”
My mother looked like I had slapped her. “Oh my God. So Theresa wasn’t exaggerating. There is a gun in that woman’s house.”
“Mom, please. You’re blowing this all of proportion.” So that’s why Theresa left in such a hurry. I shook my head in disbelief.
“I mean it, Tracy. Don’t go in that house again. I don’t want you around people who have guns.” My mother snapped.
“Mom, please.”
But she didn’t want to hear anymore. She raised her finger to her lips. That was her way of shutting me up.
“Fine.” was all I could say.

So Theresa was the one who started the trouble. I should’ve known. The little bee ran home to her Queen bee who alerted the other Queen bees. Before the night was out the swarm had gathered. But this swarm wasn’t a swarm of honey bees. It was a swarm of killer bees readying their stingers to strike at an unsuspecting woman and child.

My mom told me to stay out of Abby’s house but not out of her yard. So in the morning I went over to Abby’s and walked with her to the bus stop. Paula was with us, too. She wanted to be there for Abby’s first day going to school. She took at least a dozen pictures of the both of us smiling like models for a Teen magazine. I have two of the pictures. I keep them on my dresser mirror.

After soccer practice, instead of waiting for the T’s, I headed straight for Abby’s house. We played ball in the front yard as Paula put her green thumb to work. Right before my eyes, she transformed a dilapidated front yard into an English garden. I loved to watch her pruning away at her roses. Once, she saw me watching her. She giggled embarrassed, “ Oh, don’t mind me. I just love Roses.” I told her I loved them, too. The next time I stopped over, she gave a large bouquet wrapped in a red silk ribbon.

I took the bouquet to my room and put it in a vase. The roses filled my room with their sweet smell. I kept them for as long as I could. Just before I tossed the roses I managed to save one for me and one for Abby. I dried them out and put them inside my bible. I still have them.

At school, I introduced Abby to all my buddies. I brought her to eat lunch at our table. I saw Theresa exchange looks with the other girls but decided to ignore it. Throughout the week, I took walks with Abby. We played basketball and soccer together. She was an athlete and so was I. She liked the same music I liked. She liked to read and so did I. She loved the same sports that I did. I knew we were going to be great friends.

I hoped that Theresa, Tabitha and Tamara would make Abby feel welcome, but they never did. When Abby tried to talk to them they would walk away leaving Abby dumbfounded. At first, I thought they were just being snobby and they would get over it. But they didn’t. Whenever the five of us got together, you could cut the tension with a knife. Theresa would roll her eyes but I ignored her.

I was stupid back then. I thought the girls would eventually warm up to Abby despite their initial scare over the rifle. Besides, what did having a rifle in her house have to do with Abby as a person? Nothing. At least that’s what I thought. But the girls had a different opinion.
One day, they walked past my house. They didn’t stop. I was surprised. I called to them. They stopped. I rushed up to them. “What’s going on?” Theresa rolled her eyes but said nothing. I got in her face. “What’s going, Theresa!” She looked at Tabitha and Tamara. They burst out laughing. I wasn’t laughing. I was fuming. “What’s the problem? You walk past my house and you don’t knock for me?”

Theresa grinned a nasty grin. I wish I had the courage to slap that grin off her face. But I didn’t. My anger turned into fear.
Finally, Theresa put her hand on her hip. “OK. I’m going to tell you. If you want to hang out with us then get rid of Abigail. We don’t want her around us.”
“Because we don’t like her. So make your choice -us or her,” she snapped. I was shocked. All I could do was stare with my mouth hanging open like a fish gasping for air. I hated Theresa then and there but belonging to the T’s was the most important thing in the world to me. “and Tracy, if we stop hanging out with you then our mothers will stop hanging out with your mother and your mother wont have anyone to talk, too. Our moms are the most popular in the whole area. You don’t want your mother to be an outcast, do you?”
“No,” I whispered.
“Well, there you go then. Make your choice.”
I felt like a child being reprimanded by her mother. I made my choice. I had to be the Cool kids. Theresa won. Abby lost.

Gossip is ugly and the T’s were the biggest gossips in our school. They gossiped all the time but I just ignored it because it had nothing to do with me or anybody I cared about. Mostly it was just stupid gossip. But with Abby, they took their gossiping to a more terrible level. I never imagined how much pain it would cause.
I had no idea what the mothers of the T’s were up to either. Their gossiping was the worst because others believed everything they said. But, I didn’t pay attention to them. They were adults and adults didn’t interest me. Besides, I had problems of my own. I decided that being with the T’s was more important than Abby. But I didn’t have the nerve to tell her to her face that I didn’t want to be friends with her anymore.

I did what I thought I would never do. I dumped Abby and she was the one who loved me like a sister.

The day after I made my choice, I simply stopped talking to Abby. I stopped going to her yard. I simply stopped being her friend. She was astonished at first. I don’t blame her for that. I would have been, too. She called my house but I never answered her calls. She knocked for me but I told her I was busy. She chased after me in school and I ran away from her with the T’s egging me on not to look at her. It was mean. I was a mean.

A few weeks went by and Abby continued to follow us home from school. “Just tell me, Tracy. What I did I do wrong?” she would cry after me. I never said anything because there was nothing to say.
One day, Abby got too close. She got so close her school bag knocked against mine. “Get away from us, Abby. We don’t like you, even Tracy doesn’t like you,” Theresa hissed. That was a lie but I said nothing.
Abby stopped in mid step. Her eyes welled up with tears. She began to shudder. “Why?”
“Look she’s crying,” Theresa sneered. Tamara and Tabitha sneered, too. “No one likes you.” Theresa hissed, “You’re a friggen weirdo so stop creeping on us.” With that the T’s turned away. Abby had been dismissed. I followed. Abby followed too, keeping her distance. She pleaded after me, “Tracy, I thought you were my friend. Please don’t do this.”
I never answered. Gradually her pleas were reduced to whimpers that turned into echos caught along the curbs and up into the trees resounding around me long after she had stopped following.
I looked back when I knew the three T’s weren’t looking. I caught a glimpse of Abby as she headed toward her home- stricken; limp and broken.
I wanted so badly to run back to her and tell her what was going on and ask for forgiveness. But I made my choice. I choose mean girls over a sweet girl. Why did I do that?

Every year, our community had a picnic. Flyers went out. Paula bought tickets for herself and Abby. I know that because I overheard Theresa’s mother, Jennifer tell my mother. Jennifer didn’t want Paula and Abby to come to the picnic. She didn’t like Paula even though she never spoke to Paula. She laughed as she told my mother she was going to do whatever she could to make sure Paula and her foster child – she emphasized foster child like it was a venereal disease- didn’t come.
I felt sick to my stomach. But the problem was the community couldn’t disinvite Paula and Abby. This was a paid event and tickets were already purchased. But Jennifer had other plans. She, Bessie and Christine had volunteered to grill the hamburgers and hot dogs. Jennifer vowed she was going to make it hell for Paula and her daughter. She snickered again and my mother laughed.

There was a huge crowd at the picnic. Jennifer, Betsy and Christine were kept busy most of the afternoon. The men were drinking beer and telling jokes. The women were sipping wine and gossiping about Paula and Abby. It was late in the afternoon, and Jennifer remarked that maybe Paula and her daughter weren’t going to show after all. Everyone laughed.
“Oops, Jen. You spoke too soon.” Betsy laughed then pointed, “Look who’s coming to dinner.” Christie roared but Jennifer made an ugly face. “Damn it.” She hissed. Paula and Abby walked up to the crowed smiling. Immediately, the picnic went from happy to tense.

I know Paula sensed the change in mood. She tried her best to chat with the women but was rebuffed. Abby was devastated. She watched as her mother tried so hard to be accepted. She tugged at her mother’s arm. “Mom please lets go. They don’t want us at their party.” Her voice cracked as she looked anxiously around. She caught my eye but I looked away.
Paula had had enough. She stormed over to Jennifer, “What is your problem?” Jennifer smirked. “Why are you giving my daughter and me such an attitude?” Jennifer rolled her eyes at Bessie and Christine. Men walked over. They stood next to the grill, and put their hands on their chest like they were the ladies’ bodyguards. Paula glared at them. She was not frightened but Abby was. She clung to Paula. “Why don’t you want us here?” Paula demanded. She really had no idea why the community would hate her so much. Nobody invited her to their houses for coffee or to their parties. No one ever had a conversation with her.
Jennifer was exultant, “because nobody likes you.”
“What?” Paula was surprised.
Jennifer decided now was the time to drive the stake in Paula’s heart. “ You and your daughter are weirdos. Stay away from us.”
A crowd had gathered. Paula looked at the smug faces of Betsy and Christie. “Wierdos? What the hell are you talking about?”
It was Christie’s turn to speak up, “We know all about you.”
Paula was baffled. “What do you know about me that I deserve to be treated like this?”
She looked at the women who were standing shoulder to shoulder. Abby clutched her mother’s arm, “Mom, they don’t want us here. They don’t like us. Please let’s go, mom.” But Paula wouldn’t budge. She glared at the crowd. She was controlling herself for Abby’s sake. I could tell. I watched as they walked away. I heard Abby beg, “ Mommy please lets get out of here.” Then I heard Paula, “The hell with them. We have the right to be here as much as they do.”
They walked away stiff legged like they were waiting for someone to plunge them in their backs. And that’s exactly what happened. I don’t mean a physical punch but a punch that hurts just the same.
Paula and Abby were almost out of earshot when Betsy announced, “There they go – mother and daughter walking off into the sunset.” The crowd snickered at the words.
“Hah,” Christine laughed, “the little girl isn’t her daughter. She’s her foster child.”
Jennifer chimed in, “Yep, that’s her foster child. The only reason why she has Abby is to get money from the state. Right, Paula?”
That line got Paula’s attention. She stormed over to the there women. The muscles in her face were twitching. Abby wept as she tried to pull her mother back. “Mommy, please. They’re not worth it.”
“I will not, “ Paula said firmly.
She went up to Jennifer. “She is my daughter and I am her mother. Don’t you dare ever call her my foster child. She’s my daughter.”
Jennifer mocked her with her evil little giggles but Paula wasn’t intimidated- not one bit. “Go away,” Jennifer flicked her hand into Paula’s face like she was flicking away an annoying fly. She smirked at Betsy and Christine. Then Paula grabbed Jennifer’s wrist and jerked her forward. She was a big woman who could have easily broke Jennifer’s wrist. Jennifer laughed nervously as she struggled against Paula. The men pressed closer with their arms across their chests ready to attack. Paula simply looked at them as if daring them to do something then she turned her attention to Jennifer. She stared hard into Jennifer’s eyes. “Look everyone, she’s nuts. I told you she was nuts. She wants to kill me,” Jennifer squealed, her voice higher than usual.
“If I didn’t have to worry about going to jail and leaving Abby, I would kill you.” Paula hissed so low I could barely hear her word the she released Jennifer’s wrist and walked away with her head held high and her shoulders straight.
“Did you hear that everyone? She’s threatening to kill me.” Jennifer laughed nervously.
The crowd glared at Paula as she took Abby’s hand. “Stop crying, Abby. They’re nothing but gossip whores just ignore them.They’re not worth our time.”

Paula should have known that ignoring gossip whores is easier said than done. Gossip can break the strongest of women. Imagine what it does to girls. It can do more than just break hearts.
Some men were impressed with Paula though despite what the women thought. One said, “You can tell she really loves her daughter.”
“She’s not her daughter.” Jennifer retorted.

Halloween came. Our community was bursting with kids and teenagers dressed in every custom imaginable. But only a hand full of kids came to Paula’s door and they were from outside the community. Paula gave out full size Hershey bars. Theresa’s brother, Harry wanted one. He told Theresa to walk with him to the crazy lady’s house but Theresa refused. You won’t catch me on that freaks’ property. Harry asked me but I refused, afraid that Theresa would get mad and that would be it for me. I couldn’t chance it. “Come on, “ he begged. I shook my head at first then I finally gave in. “I’ll wait by the curb.” I walked over and watched as he rang the bell. Paula looked surprised, “come in.” But Harry said no.
“Why not?” Paula asked.
“Because my mom said we’re not allowed in your house.” Harry replied.
“Can I ask why?” Paula asked with a controlled voice.
Harry was all mouth, “ My mom said its because my sister said you have guns and she’s afraid that you may try to kill us.”
“What?’ Paula gasped. Her face crumbled.
Harry shrugged his shoulders, “ Can I have a candy bar?” Without a word, Paula gave Harry his candy bar and shut the door.

Theresa told me the next day that Paula called her mother. She was full of glee as she told me how her mother screamed at Paula about how dangerous guns were and that she never wanted her daughter exposed to them. Guns had no place in society- at least that’s what Theresa and her mother thought, and if they thought that then it must be right. Theresa told me that her mother told her that Paula said her rifle was for show not use. Paula had never fired a gun in her life but it didn’t matter, the damage was already done. Paula and Abby’s reputations had been ruined months ago.
Jennifer, Bessie and Christine were on a roll. They took pleasure in spreading more gossip about Paula and her daughter. Paula and Amy shot cats. Paula had an arsenal of loaded guns that she left lying around her house. Most of the gossip was nonsense. I’m ashamed to write my mother was part of the network. She participated in the gossip and I never said a single word to stop it.

Then, Abby did something she would immediately regret doing. It wasn’t her fault. She meant no harm. Its just that she was so desperate for friends, she would go out of her way to say something nice or do something nice just to get a bit of attention. One day at lunch, a girl named Michelle was showing off her pendant that hung low on her chest. She was a big girl and had developed a lot earlier than most of the other girls. Abby watched as the girls hovered around Michelle making remarks about how beautiful the pendant was. Abby made her way through the group. She picked up Michelle’s pendant, looked it over and then placed it back on Michelle’s chest. There was an awkward silence. Supposedly, Amy ran her fingers on Michelle’s breast. Michelle freaked out and shoved Abby so hard she staggered back and fell. “What did I do?” she stammered.
Michelle was in a frenzy. “Did you see what she did? Get away from me, you weirdo.”
Abby was shocked to tears. “What?”
“Get away from me or I will kick your ass, “ Michelle thundered. Amy got up and walked away cowering like a dog with its tail between its legs. The next day, the gossip was all over the school and in our community-Abby was a lesbian. The gossip was so ludicrous; I had to tell people that it wasn’t true. The next day, I got nasty looks from girls in the cafeteria, and the cold shoulder from Theresa. I shut up.

Not long after the Michelle incident, I heard that a group of girls had surrounded Abby and took turns shoving her. They called her a dyke over and over again. The T’s laughed uncontrollably as they described Abby’s hysteria as she struggled to break through their circle.
The next day, Paula was at the school. I saw her as we changed classes. She didn’t see me as she walked in and I made no effort to get her attention.
According to what Betsy had told my mom, the principal told Paula there was nothing he could do since the event happened off of school grounds. None of the girls were called to the office. No one was suspended or even given detention. No adult made any attempt to stop the bullying or the gossiping.

Abby changed. She lost weight. She no longer took care of her beautiful hair. She sat alone at lunch. She walked the hallways with her head down. She went from sweet to pathetic; melting away right before my eyes. Our school days blended one into another. They are supposed to be the best days of a girls’ life but not for Abby. She became a target. Even kids who didn’t know her tripped her, knocked her books from arms, and stuck bumble gum in her hair. She was teased relentlessly about her black mother and the guns in her house. She no longer cried out loud when kids shoved her in the school hallways. She didn’t flinch when boys made remarks about her flat chest. She was like a tiny mouse constantly on the alert for danger. Her tears, she kept to herself.
Theresa had no mercy. She knew Abby was in a frail position and she loved pouncing on girls who were frail. She harassed Abby at the bus stop. Abby must have complained because after that Paula drove her to the bus stop. Right at the corner, Paula would wait until the bus arrived and watch as Amy got on the bus.
One day, Abby said out to Paula. “Mom, I hate this school. I don’t want to go here. “ Paula looked at Theresa and said, “if they touch you, It’ll me and their mothers.” Abby gave her mother a strange look as she walked past us and goton the bus.

That threat didn’t stop the T’s. She, Tamara and Tabitha stalked Paula and Abby whenever they saw them at the supermarket. Up and down the aisles they would follow Abby and Paula. They would whisper to each other and giggle at Abby or smack their carts into Paula’s and laugh as they said sorry. The store manager was no help. She said there was nothing she could do because the girls weren’t doing anything wrong.

The three T’s didn’t know when to stop. When Paula and Abby went for walks, they rode their bikes. Sometimes they get so close to Paula and Abby they practically touched their heels with their tires. When Paula and Abby stopped. They stopped. When Paula and Abby moved on, they did too, snickering and making remarks about Abby being a foster child. It was that remark that always brought Abby to tears. Paula went first to Jennifer then Bessie and Christie and complained. But they were just as nasty as their daughters. “My daughter has as much right as you do to be as in this community. Now get away or I’ll call the police,” Jennifer threatened.

With the blessings of their mothers, the three T’s continued their campaign but now their mothers joined in. Wherever Paula went, they made it sure they were there, too. Whispering into each other’s ears, close enough for Paula to hear.
“I should get foster kids, too.” Jennifer would whisper. I know all about what they did to Paula because Jennifer would tell my mother everything she, Betsy and Christine did and then laugh about it.
“What a great way to make money from the state,” Christine would whisper back. They knew Paula heard every word. How Paula managed to keep her composure, I’ll never know.

Months went by and the killer queen bees continued with their death stings. When a new neighbor moved in, Jennifer, Betsy and Christine welcomed them. The new neighbors were invited to parties and events. “Oh, by the way,” the women would announce, “stay away from them” and point to Paula’s house.

Finally, Paula reached a point she couldn’t take it anymore. She went to the police and complained about the stalking and the rumors and the lies, but they told her the same thing. As long as she and Abby weren’t being threatened physically there wasn’t much they could do. Paula was told the T’s and their mothers had every right to be where they were.

I had stopped talking to Abby a long time ago so I never knew what was in her heart. But it was obvious she was suffering. I knew it and so did everyone else. But none of us knew her suffering was so deep she wanted to die.
If only I could go back in time. I would have righted all the wrongs we did to Abby. I would have told Theresa to go to hell, and I would have told Jennifer, Bessie and Christie to go to hell, too.
It was summer when it happened. School was almost over. It was day no different from the others. Paula drove Abby to the bus stop and waited for the bus to come. She watched as Abby got on the bus then she headed off to work. If only she knew what was in Abby’s heart maybe Paula would not have been so stubborn. Maybe she would have moved and taken Abby to a new school where she could have started all over. Maybe. Maybe. Our hearts are full of maybes when there’s not turning back.

No one had bullied Abby for days. But that day at lunch, Abby supposedly touched a girl with her lunch tray. The girl went berserk. She shoved her fist under Abby’s tray and punched it hard. Abby’s lunch went into her face and hair. The entire lunch room roared in laughter. Abby didn’t say a word. She picked up her tray and walked back to where she usually sat. “So what are you going to do, Abby? Cry to mommy.” The girl was practically in her face.

Theresa beamed. Here was another opportunity to hurt Abby.
“She doesn’t have a mother. Paula’s her foster mother. The state pays her to take care of Abby.”
Abby winced. The kids at my table burst out laughing. Tabitha put her two cents in, “at least I have my real mother. My mother loves me. She would never give me up.” Abby put her hands to her face to hide her tears as all the kids jeered at her. “I bet she doesn’t even know who her father was.” Abby got up from her chair and left the lunchroom. I watched as she ran up the stairwell. Tamara remarked, “Abby’s father didn’t love her. Thank God my father loves me.”
The rest of the kids agreed and I did, too.

It was during dinner, that my mother got a call from Christine. Her voice was so loud I could hear her from where I sat. “The police are at that women’s house.”
My mother jumped from her chair and rushed to the window. “Oh my God, an ambulance is coming.”
I ran to the kitchen door and pushed it open. My sisters and brothers crowded around me vying for a good spot. “What’s going on?” our neighbor called to my mother. She walked toward us as she gazed at the commotion at Paula’s house. “Should we take a look?” she asked nervously.
My mother tied up her hair and walked out. I followed. Other people were following behind us. Cars pulled up. Three women jumped out of their cars, “Something’s happened to Abby.”
I looked at my mother astonished.
“How do you know?” my mother asked. There was frightened look on her face. “Look, here come the cops and an ambulance,” one of the women replied.

I ran as fast as I could. My mother ran behind me. A crowd had gathered. Jennifer, Bessie and Christine were in the front holding hands with their daughters. They appreciated drama and they got what they were looking for. The paramedics opened the door. They brought up a stretcher. When they emerged from the house, there was a white plastic bag on the stretcher. I felt faint. My knees felt like rubber. I grabbed my mother’s arm to keep from falling.

Paula followed behind the paramedics. She howled like an animal caught in a trap. The women I had seen earlier were holding her as they made their way out the door. One of them said, “Paula, I love you. I’m so sorry. Mommy is on her way.“ Paula sobbed even louder when the woman mentioned her mother then she stopped suddenly when she saw her daughter’s tormentors and their mothers.

“You killed my Abby. You and your rotten daughters did this.” Her voice had grown horse from her screams. She lunged at Jennifer but Jennifer jumped back. “She’s crazy. I told you she’s crazy.”

Paula howled again and her sisters held her with all their strength. She wanted nothing more than to tear Jennifer apart. “Paula, she’s not worth it. There’s nothing you can do.”
“Oh, yes there is!” Paula thundered as she pointed her finger at Jennifer and then at the others. “I’ll make all of you pay for what you did.”
“It’s your fault, Paula. You should have taken your daughter and left when you had the chance.“ Christine taunted her.
It was Paula’s sister who opened her mouth this time. “Shut up, woman or I will let my sister go.”
Suddenly, Paula stopped. Her senses cleared. She straightened her shoulders and lifted up her chin. She looked at Jennifer, Betsy and Christine as if seeing them for the first time. “The 3 little monkeys are gonna get what they deserve.”
Jennifer gasped as she looked around at the people standing next to her. “did you har her. She threatened me. She’s nuts, I told you she was.”

Paula never wavered as she continued, “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.” Now she was the one who was taunting. Jennifer was completley unnerved.
“Go to hell, Paula. Go to hell with your foster daughter,” she screamed. If there was a moment when Paula should have beat the hell out of Jennifer- that was it. Instead she walked away. There was a small smile on her lips.

At first the cops were too stunned to do anything except watch but when Jennifer told Paula to go to hell with her daughter, they had had enough. “All of you out of here. Lets go.”
Everyone did as they were told. They turned their backs on Paula and her sisters and headed back home. I was sobbing so hard I could barely see.
My mother was annoyed. “Why are you crying?” She asked. “You never liked her.”
I stopped walking so quickly my youngest sister slammed into me but I was too struck by what my mother said that I hardly noticed. “What are you talking about? I did like her. You’re the one who didn’t want me around her.” At that moment, I hated my mother.

Abby must have known Paula wouldn’t be home until late that evening. She took her jump rope and hung herself from her ceiling fan in her bedroom. I know that because I overheard my mother talking to Jennifer who told all the details she got from the school nurse who knew the police captain who had got the call from the 9-11 dispatcher. Abby had broken her neck.

Gossip travels fast.

I was so stricken by Abby’s death; I could barely eat or sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone especially the T’s. They called and stopped by but I didn’t want anything to do with them ever again. They laughed when I told them and left without a backward glance. They were never my friends. I should have known.

But I didn’t care anymore. A girl who would have been my best friend was dead. It was too much for me to handle. I cried then slept. Sometimes when I woke up I would think I had a bad dream then I would realize it wasn’t a bad dream then I would cry all over again.

Two days went by. I stayed in my room. No matter what my parents did I wouldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t care about school. I refused to go to my soccer game. My father told my mother to leave me alone and that’s what she did. I spent most of my time staring at the ceiling.

My mother was worried. She made me my favorite foods but I wasn’t interested. All I wanted was water. My mother got it for me and placed it on my nightstand. I feel asleep and when I awoke I was thirsty. I stretched out my hand to get the water and when I did I knocked my bible to the floor. I got out of bed to get it. The two roses that Paula gave me were sticking out. I smiled as I touched their dried out petals. I opened my bible. A petal was wedged in between the pages. I took it out and saw the passage it had covered. I read it. The words sucked my breath away. “Oh, Abby, I’m so sorry. Forgive me, please.”
The sorrow that I held inside, surged forth like a violent swell of water. I couldn’t catch my breath. I struggled. I was being sucked down. “Mommy,” I screamed, “help me, help me!” My mother was in the next room putting my sisters to bed. She rushed in.
“Tracy, what’s wrong?’
“I killed her,” I struggled to get air into my lungs.
“Sweetheart, you didn’t kill her. She killed herself”

That was no consolation for me. I began shrieking. “I killed Abby. She needed me and I turned against her. “ The dark water was now a raging whirlpool dragging me down into its current. I was drowning.
“Mommy, help me. Please help me. Abby wouldn’t be dead if I had stayed her friend.“ I raised my hand up to my mother. She took it and lifted me up. My father was home now. He heard my cries and ran up the steps. He took me from my mother and carried me downstairs, and put me on the couch. I had lost my mind. I shrieked and clawed at the air. I killed Abby. No matter what my parents said there was nothing they could do to calm me.
I turned away from them burying my face into the cushions.

I felt a hand on my neck. It was our priest, Father Mark. He had baptized me and my brothers and sisters. He knelt beside the couch. His face level with mine. “Tracy, I heard about Abby. Your parents told me you are blaming yourself for what happened.”
I burst out crying and blurted out everything. “Father, I’m so sorry for hurting Abby. I was a coward. I turned my back on my friend.”
There were tears in the old priests’ eyes. I told him that what I read the Bible caused me to cry hysterically.
“What passage are you talking about, Tracy? Can you show me?”
My mother handed me my bible. I found the passage and read it. “Be strong, and of good courage. “ I sobbed again. “See father. I wasn’t strong. I had no courage. I betrayed Abby. Now she’s dead.”
Father Mark took my bible and reread the passage. He sighed deeply. “You got it all wrong.“
I stared at him.
“This passage is meant for you now, Tracy. Be strong and courageous. This is a message for you.”
I stared at the old priest. Maybe Abby was reaching out to me. She knew about the roses I had pressed into my bible. What Father Mark said made sense.
“Father, can you pray with me please?” I slid off the couch and knelt next to him. I pressed my hands together tightly to stop shaking and Father Mark placed his hands over mine. My sisters and brothers knelt next to me. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for courage and strength. Even though I felt physically weak and drained I felt a sense of strength through prayer.
That night, I slept without waking up.

A few days later, I saw a black limo pull up to Paula’s house. I put my favorite dress on and I walked over. Paula came out of the house. Her sisters were holding her hands. Tears filled my eyes when I saw her. She gasped when she saw me. “Miss Paula, please let me come with you. I want to say goodbye to Abby. “
“No.” Paula replied then walked past me without another look.

No one went to Abby’s viewing or funeral. No one was invited. I found out later where she was buried but I didn’t dare go there for the longest time. I was scared too death I would run into Paula. And what would I say if I did run into her at her daughter’s grave? I felt ashamed even thinking about such a meeting. It made me wish I were dead instead of Abby.

Time went by but instead of moving forward, Paula collapsed inward. She wandered the streets with a faraway look in her eyes. She lost an enormous amount of weight. Her hair that she kept so perfectly styled was now tangled and course. Sometimes, she was seen walking aimlessly in the park talking to herself.

The Gossip whores were back at it again. Tongues wagged.
“Her car is always in the driveway everyday.”
“How’s she supporting herself?”
“She’s going to lose that house and that will hurt the value of ours”
“She looks like she’s homeless. We need to do something.”
The gossip went on and on. No one ever approached Paula.

Then she disappeared. Some of the neighbors thought she had gone back to work but they were proven wrong when constant hammering was heard from her back deck. The hammering went on for hours at a time. it would stop for a few days then start back up again.

I decided I had to visit Paula. I wasn’t sure how she would react but I told myself I had to at least try.

I called out as loudly as I could as I came up to her gate. There was no answer. I didn’t wait to be invited. I opened the gate and walked to the back where I heard her hammering and singing.
“Hello Miss Paula, “ I said softly as if my usual voice would scare her. Paula stopped what she was doing. She looked at me like she didn’t know who I was. “Its me, Miss Paula, Tracy,”
Her clothes were filthy. It was a shock to see. Paula had always been so meticulous. Her nails and her makeup were always perfect. But now, Paula was something different – she was no longer the polished, professional lady but a lost, heartbroken woman.

Beside her were all kinds of tools including a blow torch. Why would Paula need something like that? There was a thick sheet of metal and wood. Paula stared at me and began hammering against the metal causing it to fold into a triangular shape. “What are you doing,” I asked.
“Getting ready to kill my three little monkeys, that’s what,” Paula murmured. I laughed. Paula would never hurt a fly. I smiled at her as she raised her eyes to me. Gone was the sparkle I used to see in her brown eyes. Now there was something else and it made me suck in my breath. My heart pounded.
“Little girl, you need to go home now. Don’t come back here anymore.”
“Miss Paula, Please forgive me.”
She stared at me as she oiled a tool that looked like enormous pinchers.
I gulped. “Please, Miss Paula.”
“Forgive you?” she asked then grew silent perhaps remembering the days when I was Abby’s friend. Minutes passed then slowly she shook her head, “Too late for that, little girl. Now leave me be.”
Tears came down my face as I pleaded once more but Paula was raised her hand to silence me.

A few days later, I decided to try again. It took ever ounce of courage but I managed to walk to the back of her house and say Hello.
Paula sat cross-legged on the bare wooden planks. She was hammering another piece of metal. She used a huge mallet, humming and talking to herself. She never acknowledged me. I looked around. Her Rose garden was no longer beautiful. Weeds have engulfed them. They were turning brown. For Paula, her garden no longer existed. Nothing that was beautiful existed.

Four months after Abby’s death, she looked more like a bird of prey than human.
I went to her with outstretched hands, “Miss Paula,” I murmured. There was no emotion in her eyes when she said, “Don’t want to hear it. Go away.” She got up. She brushed dust off her clothes and went back into her house. She had dismissed me.

Paula had snapped but she didn’t snap completely. She was going to do what she had promised to do. Not long after Abby died, Paula began to stalk the women she blamed for Abby’s death. Wherever, Jennifer, Christine, and Bessie went, Paula was there. Paula would stand a few feet away and stare the women down. Both Christine and Bessie was a nervous wreck. Jennifer laughed at them, “She’s nuts. Just ignore her. What is she going to do to, anyway?”
At the food market where the three went shopping together, Bessie felt a presence. She looked up. Paula was staring at her like a hungry beast. Bessie went to the store manager and complained, “She’s following us. Everywhere I look there she is.” The manager approached Paula but Paula had no clue what the problem was. She introduced herself as an attorney and made it plain to the manager that she was the one being harassed and if it continued she would take action. The manager apologized, and told Bessie that Paula had every right to shop in his store just like she did.

A few days later, it happened again. The three women were jogging when they saw Paula sitting on a bench. When they jogged past, Paula got up and walked behind them with a pace that was fast enough to keep them in view. This time, Jennifer called 9-11 and told the dispatcher that they were being followed. The police were notified and confronted Paula. Once more, Paula pleaded innocent. “ What is this? I can’t walk in the park? She complained. “I’m not bothering them. I have no interest in them whatsoever.” The cops agreed.

Paula became more brazen. She followed the women when they went for walks. She pushed her cart into theirs at the food market. At games, she sat next to them. When they got up to move, she moved. Paula somehow learned Jennifer and Christine’s schedule at the YMCA, and worked out when they did, staring at them with unblinking eyes. The women become afraid. Whenever they ventured outside, Paula was there. They complained again to the police but the police blew them off with increasing annoyance.

Then the Saturday they were supposed to volunteer at a 5K run; Jennifer, Betsy and Christine disappeared. Hours passed. They were supposed to be at the run at 730 am. Their friends waited. An hour passed and they called their houses. Their husbands answered. Jennifer had picked up Betsy and Christine. They were seen in Jennifer’s car, waving goodbye as they drove away. Two hours had passed.
Anxiety gave way to alarm when the 5K finished and the awards were given out. The police were called. Then someone said that Paula hadn’t been seen all day either. That was unusual because Paula always where Jennifer, Betsy and Christine were.

Now the alarm turned into something worse- a feeling of terror, a feeling of foreboding. My mother was out on the street. A crowd had gathered. Their eyes fixated on the once lovely house of Paula’s. A cop sat in his car. He was on the radio asking for backup. Had someone hurt Jennifer, Betsy and Christine? Had someone hurt Paula? I felt a panic grow inside me. I guess everyone else felt the same. I could see a worried look in their eyes.
Two other patrol cars showed up. The first cop spoke to them. They got out of the car. They had rifles in their hands. A swat team came. Men in black uniforms carrying high-powered rifles crept up to the front door and along the sides of the house. This was serious. This was real. I began to cry.

Most of the community had converged across the street from Paula’s – out of harms’ way but close enough to see what was going on. Most of the women spoke in frantic whispers as their children stared at the police. Suddenly, the T’s ran up the front of the crowd sobbing. Their fathers were close behind them. They put their arms around their daughters and cried too. My mother told me to go back to the house. I obeyed. I walked into the front of the house and out the front door. I ran behind our row of homes and then snuck across the horse farm that backed up to Paula’s house. I could see the police taking frantically on their walkie talkies. I pushed the back door opened and ran in. I had to see. I wish I hadn’t done that.

In Paula’s kitchen, the floor was slippery with a huge amount of bright red blood. Then cops saw me and yelled at me to get out but the urge to see caused me to disobey. I ran upstairs. Paula had hung herself from the same ceiling fan that Abby had; her feet dangling inches from the floor. “oh no. oh no. Paula.” I screamed. My legs buckled under me and felt the lunch I had eaten make its way back up my throat.
A cop bounded after me but I ran down the other steps that lead into the kitchen and then down into the basement. I was half way into the basement when another cop grabbed by my arms and dragged back up the steps, but not before I saw the body parts- Feet, fingers and hands tossed on the floor like my little sister’s toys. Puddles of bright red blood were on the floor underneath the three torsos that were strung up like beef at a butcher shop. I screamed hysterically. There was a commotion in the Kitchen. Loud voices and shouts were so loud my ears were ringing. Jennifer, Bessie and Christine’s family had managed to push their way into the house. They rushed past me. I cried out, “Get back. Don’t go down.” But they didn’t listen to me anymore than I had listened to the cops. The families now saw the horror of what Paula had done. I heard their cries and screams and covered my ears. My mother was next to me pulling out of house. There were more shouts coming from the end of Paula’s yard. The shouts turned into screams, more terrible than the ones that came from the basement.

Jennifer, Betsy and Christine’s torsos hung high on hook in the basement. Their extremities were on the floor. When screams were heard outside, everyone rushed out. It was Theresa who had been screaming. She collapsed in the overgrown grass holding her chest like she had been stabbed. Her eyes were fixated on the small ridge that separated Paula’s house from the horse farm. I looked up. My neighbors and the police looked up. There on three separate pikes were the heads of Jennifer, and Betsy and Christine. All of us howled in unison like a choir in a cathedral.

Below the heads was a large banner that read- my 3 little monkeys.
Tabitha and Tamara screamed like Paula had months ago. They crumbled in sobbing heaps like Paula had. Their fathers picked them up and carried them away.

Under all the severed heads, thick red blood dripped. The heat was terrible and swarms of flies and gnats crawled across the heads; in and out of the openings of their severed parts.
Betsy’s eyes were gone. Nailed to her chin was a sign that read, “my little monkey, see no evil.” Christine was next. Her ears were gone. Her face was frozen in a scream. God only knows how she suffered in her last minutes. Nailed to her chin was a sign that read, “my little monkey, hear no evil.” Jennifer was the last and she was the most terrible sight of all. She had been the one who had tormented Paula the most with her nasty mouth. There was no nail driven into her chin because there was no chin. Her jaw, her mouth, tongue and teeth were all gone. Nailed into her forehead was a placard that read, my little money, SPEAK NO EVIL.

Nobody knows that I visit Paula and Abigail’s graves. If they did, they would go berserk. Not that I care what they think. I’m over what people think now.
Paula’s grave is right where it should be- next to her daughter’s. There is no tombstone. I’m doubt if there will ever be one but it doesn’t matter. I know where Paula’s body is.

I usually go there after dinner. I put flowers on their graves. Then I pray. I pray that I’ll see Paula and Abby in the afterlife. Maybe by then, Paula and Abby will find it in their hearts to forgive me. That’s what I believe anyway and believing that makes my days go easier.
Well, this is the end of my story.
I didn’t write it for enjoyment.
I wrote it so you could learn a few lessons.
Lessons I wished I had learned.

Too late for me.
But not for you.