She stood near the middle of a rain slick street, as a strong, cold wind brushed through her hair. She noticed a halo of bright light take over her vision from behind. It didn’t register with her as anything that She should be alarmed with, as She was too involved with taking in her surroundings. If she remembered correctly, she was near the south end of 6th street. Ahead of her, towards a dead intersection, was a large apartment complex that contained ten, three story apartment buildings. Having lived there as a child, she knew that each building contained no less than twelve apartments per building, with few vacancies. Over one hundred families lived in those apartments, and while the temptation to walk through the large courtyard within the apartment complex and sit on the swings that She played on as a child, She knew that it would be a waste of time. Plus, too many people lived in those apartments. The more people there were, the more eyes would see her. And She couldn’t handle that…not ever again.
“Hey, um, ma’am?”
In her musings, She had forgotten about the bright lights that lay behind her. Part of her mind had already known that it was a vehicle of some kind, and she could hear a man and a woman quietly talking within the vehicle. It was her intention to listen to what they were saying, but then she was thinking about the swings and she lost herself for the briefest of moments. That, and She didn’t hear a child in the car. Considering the hour, She knew that no child should be out right now.
“Excuse me, Miss…you’re standing in the middle of the road.”
She head a nervous male voice behind her and looked down at the heavy tool in her hands. She couldn’t think of its name at the moment but She knew it was used for planting trees. The log handle required two hands and the blunt blade at the top had gone dull years before She had started using it. As the nervous man had taken a couple tentative steps towards her, She realized the She was almost hugging the weapon against her, hugging the one thing that had loved her. And the she lowered the weapon and turned, swinging the weapon low and towards the man’s left knee.
Just before She had taken his knee, She saw the face of the man that was talking to her. He had short, blonde hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses, the kind you might find on a professor. He was thin and not quite as tall as her. In fact, he was much shorter than her. She knew she was taller than most people wanted her to be. As the blonde man fell to the ground a made a shrill yelp in panic and pain, She remembered how many times her mother said She would be lonely being as tall as She was. She brought her weapon over her head and struck the young, kind looking man square in the side of the face, where the jaw bone connected to the cheeks. She tore through both sides of the jaw, almost severing both sides cleanly. She looked up and saw the rows and rows of quaint and polished looking homes in front of her. A massive selection of two-level homes sat quietly and unassumingly. Most of the homes had lights on. Many did not, but She was sure that she could find her place in one of them. Behind her she heard a faint, fearful whimper of a woman terrified. She looked over her shoulder and saw a young woman with auburn hair and fair skin locking the passenger side door of the car she sat in. She rested her weapon against the grill of the vehicle and walked over to the passenger side and noticed that she was frantically clawing at her phone. The light of the display lit up her young features and made her eyes look ethereal. She stopped and too a final second to admire the young woman and take note of the oversized, red colored plaid shirt she was wearing, it must’ve been a hand-me-down as it looked much to big for her, or even the man she was with.
She liked it.
As she punched through the passenger side window, she took great care not to tear t on the many broken shards of glass that rained to the ground as she pulled the young auburn haired woman through the empty space where the window had been. She covered the girl’s mouth before she could let out a full scream and forced her to the ground. The young woman was struggling in vein against her as she pressed her large forearm onto the woman’s throat. She pressed harder and harder until she heard the unmistakable crack of her windpipe.
She stood up and removed the red plaid shirt and put in on as the young woman tried to breathe again. The weight of the shirt was surprising, and it felt as if it was hugging her and She lost herself in its embrace for the briefest of moments. She knelt down as the young woman’s skin started to lose pigment and lightly brushed her hair from her face and silently thanked her for the gift and considered leaving and just going home. She could take her new shirt and lay down in her cold bed and feel warmth as the chill of the air tried biting her skin and she could smile with the knowledge that she that the air couldn’t have her tonight. But she knew what she needed to do tonight and She knew that there wasn’t much time left for it.
She stood and left the two kind-looking people on the street, grabbing her weapon, her only friend, and held it loosely in her right hand as she strode confidently and with a purpose towards the large expanse of houses. She had wanted to go to the apartments to her right, but she knew that she would get lost in her own thoughts and nostalgia if She went that way. And She needed feel it again before the night was over. She needed to feel loved again before it got too late in the evening. Picking a home was easy part. She had to find a home that was away from the street, but not so far away that she couldn’t make her way back to field where her home lie in wait for her. She walked past four, or maybe five, homes before she found one that suited her. A porch light burned through the dark night air and a single light was on in what must be the living room. The distinct blue glow of a television pierced the overhead lighting from inside. Finally, She noted a single car in the driveway. A green, compact car that said “Pontiac” on the rear, with a baby seat located in the back.
This house would do.
From the driveway, She noted the large bay window wear a woman was watching TV and staring blankly at her phone. The woman wore sweatpants and a large grey sweater that may or may not have been hers. The woman wore her hair in a tight ponytail, and She could see a wedding ring on her left hand.
An oversized sweater, a wedding ring and a baby seat in the back of the car. This house would do. She didn’t know where the husband was, it didn’t matter at the moment. Perhaps he was working late, or maybe he was sleeping, in a few minutes, it wouldn’t matter. She walked up to the front door and only now took note of the red siding that made the home feel old and lived in, like something from a Norman Rockwell painting. She stood in front of the front door and carefully, silently gripped the handle and felt that it turned freely; she pulled slightly, just enough to feel that there was no deadbolt in use. Satisfied, She turned to her right and knocked on the large bay window. The woman in the ponytail yelped slightly, and after a few second of hesitance, she strode over to the bay window and searched the front yard. As She opened the door, She rested her weapon against the doorframe and strode inside, her bare feet made almost no noise as she walked across the carpeted floor of the living room. The woman in the ponytail turned and opened her mouth to scream, but She was already in motion. She reached out and grabbed the woman by the jaw, placing four fingers in her mouth and pressed her thoub into the young woman’s throat, hard, and forced her to the ground. The woman tried biting her hand but she could barely tell. She placed her left hand on the woman’s breast and with all her might pressed downward and caused the woman’s chest to cave in on itself.
After a few moments, the woman with the ponytail went limp.
As She stood up, She saw that a large and ornate mirror hung on the far wall and for the first time in a very, very long time, She saw her reflection. She remembered when she was a small girl that She was skinny with short, sandy hair; “boyish” as She was labeled. Now though, her hair was dark, matted and yet kind of wild how it covered her eyes. She had skin that seemed to had lost its color and had now resembled a slab of granite. She was much broader now and She noticed that her favorite dress, a black blouson dress with thick white stripes that peeked out from her plaid shirt had long since become faded and muddy. But what had caught her attention were her eyes, they were once blue and full of life and innocence, now they were void of both color and happiness. Like two burnt coals shoved inside a person’s skull. Deep purple-looking bags hung underneath them, reflecting years of restless sleep full of crying children and angry families. She tucked the mesh of hair that covered her eyes behind her ears and strode for the door, making sure to grab her weapon and confidant before closing herself off from the outside.
As she slid the deadbolt home, she turned and took in her surroundings. The home was clean and warm, the smell of a baking pizza assaulted her senses and almost made her feel hunger, but she ignored it. She had to ignore hunger, ignore pain and loneliness. She had to push it all away if she was going to get the one thing she wanted.
A staircase stood in front of her, at its base lay a full diaper bag. Empty bottles and clean onesies were stuffed inside. The sight of it took her breath away and she slowly walked up the stairs.
She passed pictures of the young woman with the ponytail and what must’ve been her husband. He was tall with chiseled features and he wore nice looking clothes. At the top of the stairs, hung a picture of a perfect newborn baby wrapped in a blue blanket. The baby’s eyes were closed and he lazily sucked on a pacifier while he lay on his back, wrapped up and safe from the world. She tilted her head and focused her hearing. She sniffed the air and noticed the faintest scent of baby formula and talcum powder. She turned to her right and headed for the door at the end of the hallway. It was open slightly, and the weak beam of a nightlight danced across the floor. As She placed a hand on the doorknob and pushed the door open, she heard the faintest sneeze from the baby that rest inside.
She stood in front of the crib that held the perfect looking newborn boy, a boy who couldn’t have been older than two months was wrapped in the same blue blanket that She saw in the picture. For the first time in months, She felt her heart skip a beat, and her stomach churned with delight, excitement and faintest bit of fear. She didn’t want to wake the baby, to disturb whatever dreams he may be having. Perhaps he was dreaming of his nice looking father, or his ponytailed mother. Perhaps visions of purple dinosaurs and soy formula danced throughout his head, She didn’t know and She didn’t care. This was all She had been looking for tonight. Whatever had happened before this moment, none of it mattered now. She reached into the crib and gently lifted the baby up and out of his bed. She turned and sat in a padded rocking chair, bringing the boy close to her and rocking back and forth. Without realizing it, She had started to hum a song from deep within her memory. The song was the same one that She had heard when She was a girl that couldn’t sleep a full night. It was the only time She remembered her mother smiling at her and saying nice things. It was the only time She felt someone loved her.
Suddenly, her humming turned into quiet singing and She was surprised that She remembered the words, and that She remembered how to talk.
“Come now baby, momma’s home.
I brought you in, out from the cold.
I’ll love you now ‘til I am old.
I promise you momma will keep hold.”
She knew that her voice must’ve have been grating on the poor boy’s ears, as he opened his eyes briefly and gazed into hers. To her surprise, he closed his eyes and nestled his head into her chest. A deep and almost overwhelming warmth crept through her chest and She held the baby just a little tighter…and then She heard the front door open and She knew the moment was over now. She lay the boy in his crib, taking care not to jostle his head, and she grabbed the weapon and walked out the door.
“Oh God, Karen!”
The man downstairs noticed his now dead wife and began sobbing. She knew that her time was limited and that she would have to make her way home soon. She stopped at the top of the stairs and reached out for the picture on the wall of the boy in the blanket. She took the picture from its frame and threw the glass and frame down the stairs. As the glass shattered on the floor near the front door, She folded the picture and placed it in the pocket of her plaid shirt.
“Oh God, JOEY! Daddy’s coming!”
Joey. What a nice name. She thought that the boy looked like a “Joey”. She brought up her weapon and only real friend and swung. The blade of the gardening tool struck the father square in the face, almost dead center, almost to the hilt. To her slight surprise, the blow didn’t knock him off his feet as it usually did to others. He simply stood there, shaking; perhaps it was because his had been running up the stairs. She grabbed the long handle of the weapon firmly and kicked at the nice looking man’s chest. The weapon was wrenched free and his body began tumbling down the stairs. Joey rested comfortably in his crib, undisturbed from what She had done. She calmly walked down the stairs and into the living room, grabbing the ponytailed woman’s phone from the couch and dialed for the police.
“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
She held the cell phone up to her face and breathed into it for several seconds and then tossed the phone to the floor. She knew that the police would be there soon and they would find the baby and make sure he was taken care of.
Later that night, perhaps an hour or so later, perhaps more, She walked into her home, a makeshift shake deep within the woods on the outskirts of Parkland. She lay her weapon down at a bedside table and lay down on the old mattress. The mattress was still stiff underneath her, even after all these years, but tonight it just seemed to relent just a bit. She pulled the picture from her shirt and unfolded it, feeling the same warmth that She spread through her chest She did when She held little Joey in her arms. She looked at the perfect boy wrapped in the perfect blanket and trembled at the thought of how she wouldn’t feel this warmth in her chest again one day. One day, she knew she would have to find a new picture in the hopes of feeling loved again. She thought of the day she died years ago and then of the day she came back, just wanting to be loved again. She closed her eyes and gently gripped the picture a bit tighter and rested peacefully under the watchful gaze of the dozens upon dozens of pictures of perfect newborn babies just like Joey that hung from the walls around her.
As she fell asleep, she asked out loud, “Why can’t I have you..?”