When Not Writing my Next in the Sterling Novels, I Blog to Amuse...

When Not Writing my Next in the Sterling Novels, I Blog to Amuse...

April 07, 2012

An Eye for an Eye


“Hi, this is Jasmine, I’m not able to take your call right now; leave a message and I’ll call you right back…bye!”

I smiled when I heard the last word – it was the way that she said bye! – it was so sincere, so energetic. 

It was sweet, almost with a melody.

I dialed again.

“Hi, this is Jasmine, I’m not able to take your call right now; leave a message and I’ll call you right back…bye!”

This time I didn’t smile.

A small tear filled my lower eyelid.

“I miss you,” I whispered as I began my message, “I want you to come home.”

Instantly I felt foolish.

Jasmine won’t come home.

She can’t.

She’s dead.

Killed by a man who didn’t know that his last drink should have been the one before the previous five.

Chapter one

He drank.  Now there’s a drink is in my hand.  There really shouldn’t be.  That’s how she died.  But something has to numb how I feel.  Everything is so dark, so heavy.  I want to jump from the roof of a tall building.

The sadness is resolute.



It’s an unseen weight lowering down on my body - slowly, heavily.  I want to push it back.  I can’t.

It’s so strong.

I want her to be there.  To be lying in the spot on the left side of the bed.  Her side.  I still haven’t touched her pillows.  I can’t sleep on her side.  I can’t sleep on my side.  The bed is cruel to me now.  It reminds me of where she should be.  Where she isn’t.  The hardwood floor next to the bed is as far as I’ve reached.  It’s where I curl up each night. 

I’m like a dog. 

I’m loyal. 

I’m silent. 

I’m pathetic.

A little girl’s cry fills the air.  It’s near two in the morning.  She’s screaming for mama.  Only 16-months old and somehow she knows: 

Mama’s gone. 

Mama’s dead.

“Mama!” she screams again.

What am I supposed to do?

Her screams started the night of the funeral.  They’ve been relentless.  Endless.  They’ve been coming every night. 

Two months now.

Chapter Two.

The coffee shop is buzzing.  It’s the nicotine I guess; maybe it’s the people.  The cup of espresso I’m nursing has long gone cold.  I don’t care.  I sip at it anyway.

In the corner, I watch as a man plays with his daughter.  She’s really beautiful.  I guess she’s about the same age as my daughter, maybe a month or two older.

I’m reminded of how it used to be.

His wife is striking.  I felt guilty for even thinking the thought.

Jasmine was beautiful: the way she smiled, the way her hips swayed so invitingly when she walked, her whispers into my ear, the smell of her skin.

Everything.  All of it.  All of her.  Perfect.

I close my eyes and try to see her face.  It’s a struggle.  I was warned of this.  I’m angered that I can’t make her face appear clearly in my mind.  It’s almost fuzzy as if I’m trying to create her.

It shouldn’t be this way.

I sipped my cold espresso and looked again at the family across from me.

I can’t take my eyes off of them.

They smile at each other. 

Their little girl holds out to her side the tiny piece of cookie she’s been given.  The cookie hovers above the floor and in her hand.  The little girl cocks her head to one side and smiles at her parents.

They both want to tell her “no,” but can’t hide their smiles.

She’s just so darn cute.  She reminds me of my daughter.  We had those moments to; that is, my wife and I had those moments with our daughter.   Why can’t I see her face anymore; why is it hard to hear her voice?  I feel for my phone.  It’s in my pocket.  I’m going to call her voicemail again.

The little girl antagonizes her parents for a moment longer.

Her mother puts her right hand on her hip as if the little girl should know that it’s a clear signal, a warning telling her not to do it.

She does it anyway.

She drops the piece of cookie to the floor.

Instantly, a shrill laugh fills the coffee shop, as the little princess can’t help but find more humor in her devilish antic than is expected.

Her parents try not to laugh, but they are doing a poor job keeping it bottled.

The little girl claps vigorously and spits out a few syllables that I think intend to be the word “more, more!”

I look at my coffee, there’s one more cold sip.

My wife is cold; she is beyond cold.  She is part of a different world now.  She’s not in mine.

I set my coffee cup down and wonder if that happy, little girl’s dad knows that I’m the husband of the woman he killed.

Chapter Three.

I look at my watch.

The large hand moves to the top of the hour.

Any minute now.

And like clockwork, a garage door opens and he backs out from the garage.  It’s a different car, not the one that he was driving when he killed Jasmine.  He replaced it, helping him to rid the memories of when he ran her down.

“No chance,” the doctor had said.

The words had caused a sliver of ice to run down the entire length of my spine.  My knees had gone weak, and my body crumpled to the hospital floor.

They wouldn’t let me see her.  “Too much trauma.”  Those words had come from the same doctor.

I lowered myself in the car as he drove past.  He was predictable and nearly followed the same schedule and same path each morning on his way to work.

It was the same at lunch: the same place, the same meal, the same time.

It had been this way for three months.

But today would end differently for him.

Chapter Four

Night fell and it was time.

I took a long, slow breath and asked myself if I was ready.

I was.

I had parked the car a few blocks from his home.

Out of it, I stayed in the shadows and watched for the unexpected neighbor, or the occasional car.

There was neither.

At his front door, I didn’t hesitate.  I pushed the tiny, oblong doorbell.

Soon, it was followed by the sounds of footsteps.

The door opened.  I had thought of this moment countless times. 

What would I say?  What would I do?  Would I freeze?  Would I run?

“Yes,” he answered, “can I help you?”

It was then that he noticed the gun in my hand, hanging at my side.

I raised it; the barrel was barely an inch from his nose.

“Inside,” I said.  Not loud, not soft, but firm: I was surprised by my own voice.  It didn’t sound like mine.

I closed the door with my free hand and motioned with the gun for him to sit on the couch.

“Call for your wife,” I commanded.

He hesitated.

I cocked the gun.


His lips moved but no words came.  He tried again after swallowing.  “Sophie.  Sophie, come here.”

Down the hall she shuffled.  When she saw me she froze.

“Sit down next to your husband.”

She didn’t hesitate and complied.

But sitting wasn’t easy for her.  She started to shake just as she reached the couch and nearly fell onto it.  Her husband reached for her, helping her.  “It’s going to be okay, Sophie.”

“Is it?” I asked.  I don’t know from where this response came.  I didn’t know if I was asking myself the question, or him.

“What do you want?”  I could tell that his confidence was coming back, that he was moving past the initial shock of a gun pointed at his head.

“You don’t recognize me?” I asked.

“Should I?” he replied.

I thought about this for a moment.  Why should he recognize me?  There had been no trial.  No charge of murder.  He had one of the best attorneys East of the Mississippi.  He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter.  Six months in jail, sentence suspended upon completion of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

That was it.  My wife’s life, my pain, my daughter’s pain reduced to the cost of a half-running used car.

And me: I was sentenced to a lifetime without my love, my wife; with a daughter who will never know her mother, how much her mother loved her.  I was handed despair, grief, and unending loneliness, and he was handed a bill.

“No, I suppose you shouldn’t recognize me.  My name is Abbott – Abbott Bradford.”

At the utterance of my last name, he tilted his head knowingly.  He knew.

His wife knew, too.

The room went quite cold for them both.  I could see in his wife that her fear had moved to outright fright. 

He slumped.  Perhaps it was from the guilt of getting away with murder.  Perhaps it was from knowing that the sentence he should of received was about to be carried out.

“You killed my wife.”  Again, I surprised myself with the ease in which the words spilled over my lips.

“What are you going to do?”  This time the question came from his wife.

I smiled.  I don’t know why I did, but I did.  I think this unnerved them even more so, as both husband and wife shifted awkwardly on the couch.

She grabbed her husband’s hand and squeezed.

“I sleep on the floor.”  I don’t know why I said this, it wasn’t how I had prepared and certainly wasn’t any of the words that I had rehearsed incessantly.

“I sleep on the floor because I can’t stomach the thought of sleeping in our bed.  I haven’t since she was killed.  We have a daughter, you know.  Almost the same age as yours.”

“How do you know we have a daughter?” he asked.

I ignored his question, and continued, “Do you know what it’s like to hear your daughter scream out at night, over and over again, shouting mama, mama?  What it’s like when you try to comfort her, but she pushes you away because you’re not the person for whom she screams?”

I can hear my voice start to rise; I can see their fear increase, too.  I don’t care.  I continue:  “Do you know how painful it is that I can’t comfort her!?  What am I going to tell her!  What am I supposed to say to a child!?  Your mother was killed by some drunk asshole!” 

I straightened my arm so that the gun was pointed closer to him.

I inhaled deeply and then let the air hiss from my lungs and through my clenched teeth.

Tears are streaming down his wife’s face; his own has gone white, the blood drained from it.

“Have you any idea the pain that I feel.”

“No,” he whispers.

“You will now.”

Slowly, I move the gun from his face and point it at hers.

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