When the Past Comes Knocking (Between Breath & Suffocation Sec. 3)

The headline read “Patterson Girl Rescued from House of Horrors Returns to Lay Mother to Rest.” Two pictures, past and present side by side offered as illustration. On the right, a picture of me the day before scattering my mother’s ashes into the thick, spikey, berry-filled branches of the Juniper trees, watching the ashes trickle through in a dusty rain. How they got that picture I will never know. On the left, an old picture of me, age 10, being led into a white sedan, my face distorted by pain, mouth wide open as tears slid down my cheeks. On my shoulder a hand–Debbie Michaels’, a social worker—steady and reassuring, nudging me through the imposing news cameras, lights, and loud, unfamiliar voices. In the background my mother clutching a naked baby doll with matted hair; an officer on either side of her, their arms locked in hers, forcing her towards a patrol car, its spinning red lights signaling danger, urgency. My mother’s face confused, framed guilty with camera angles.
A few hours after the newspaper landed on the front steps, Robert Carter, a reporter arrived, his knock heavy, intrusive.
“May I help you?” I answered, cracking the door just enough to get a glimpse of his face.
“Are you Juniper Hensley?”
“Price,” I corrected. “It’s Juniper Price.”
“Are you married?” He jotted my name on his notepad.
“How can I help you?”
“I wanted to see if this would be a good time to ask you some questions about your mother, Marcy Hensley,” he slid his pen behind his ear. “There are so many unanswered questions and…” his voice faltered a bit. “I thought you might be able to shed some light on a few things.”
“Like what?” I feigned.
“Uh…well…specifically, I’d like to know more about your mother…and your sister,” he shuffled through his papers. “Sage Hensley?”
“You must be new to Patterson.” I opened the door wider. “I don’t answer questions…”
“Wouldn’t it be good to get the real story out there,” he persuaded. “So many people think your mother killed Sage, and they even question Yarrow and Basil’s deaths. You could change this.”
“I…don’t…” John stepped in front of me.
“We’re good here,” he said. “Please get off my property and don’t come back.”
The door slammed.
Rachael poured us each a cup of coffee, and we planted ourselves around the kitchen table. They steered the conversation away from my mother, focusing instead on the things we could do before I left. But I could not root myself in the distraction. I was already back inside that day when I was ten years old. I was alone with my mother, waiting for Sage to get home. She was a senior at Patterson High. I sat at the kitchen table doodling in my journal. My mother busied herself with her afternoon rituals. I sat half-listening, and I must have lost track of her movements. She raced up the basement stairs screaming and clutching an old baby doll.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, certain she was in the middle of one of her hallucinations.
“I didn’t do it…I didn’t do it… I didn’t do it…”
“Do what?”
“Don’t go in there…little one, don’t go in there.”
I made my way to the basement, descending one step at a time. Midway I peered over the railing.
“I didn’t do it…I didn’t do it… I didn’t do it…”
I couldn’t breathe. I was falling. Falling. Everything I knew and trusted was fading into each passing second.
“She’s dead, little one.”
“No, she’s at school.” I wrapped myself in denial, abandoned between breath and suffocation.

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This entry was posted in Between Breath & Suffocation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to When the Past Comes Knocking (Between Breath & Suffocation Sec. 3)

  1. Norma says:

    Ok, you got me hooked. Now you need to write a little faster. We need you to get this published.

    Like

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