Water angel – short contest story
“Mama’s running to the store, play with daddy. I’ll be back soon.”
His dark brown eyes pierced the armor guarding my heart—as if we both knew I was lying.
But that was impossible. Mason had a hard enough time stringing together a coherent sentence, let alone comprehending the fact he’d never see his mother again.
Lyle didn’t so much as peel his eyes from the TV, or his lazy ass from the couch. Nothing new there. The last I heard of my husband’s voice?
The irony wasn’t lost on me.
Grabbing my purse and keys from the table, I turned away from the life I never chose.
A clean break.
Lyle’s rusty Ford pick-up clambered against serrated concrete on the shoulder of highway 101, snapping my eyes open for the millionth time. I rolled the window down further. Hot air caressed my face, pleading with me to give into the exhaustion, in all forms.
Better stop for the night.
Headlights washed over a sign that pointed out the exit ramp, so I eased off the gas. My tired eyes sought the clock as if it held the answer to why I’d driven for 8 hours.
480 minutes spent distracting myself from brown eyes that had the power to disarm me.
28,800 seconds of forcing myself to forget another pair of eyes that had executed my very soul. Green as the creek she drowned in a month ago.
You can run but you can’t hide from that kind of agony. It haunts every crevice of the mind. Impossibly long eyelashes framed gleaming emeralds, her plump lips were always drawn into a smile by the simplest things. Like the butterflies in the field she toddled after, fast as her eleven-month-old legs could carry her.
That’s when it happened.
I thought Lyle had her.
He thought I did.
Our parents and the rest of the family assumed she was with us.
But all along the creek had her.
Clutching her to its chest—holding her tighter than I ever could.
I ground my teeth together, a barricade against the cries that rose in my throat. At first it came out muffled, then the wail of a dying animal filled the cab. The first sound to grace it since I’d pulled out of the driveway. Carbon dioxide exited my mouth in staggered gasps as I turned onto a main road in small-town-somewhere-Ohio.
My mantra fueled a twisted optimism. Never again would I deal with the fault Lyle placed on my shoulders. No more thoughts of Mavis, a flaccid angel afloat, with short curls swaying to a beat of their own. Good-bye to my anger toward Mason for distracting me when my baby girl needed me more than he did.
Relief morphed into a shocking clarity that rippled through me like a jet-ski disrupting a small fishing boat. Waves of understanding crashed into my chest, spraying my cheeks—pointing the finger at them had enabled me to avoid the truth.
I killed her.
By failing at motherhood.
A horn blared. My foot lingered between gas and brake—I’d stumbled between worlds for weeks now.
Without a moment’s hesitation I made my choice.
* * * *
Kristen Yard is a stay at home mom, and an aspiring YA author. She’s working toward a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing & Literature. When the toddler allows her to that is…