Epilogue: I'm the Killer
Five years later....
"Damn man. I still can't believe it's been five years."
He knew how much time had passed. He had passed since the moment he got the news. He had
been counting the seconds actually.
It never got easier. The rage never left his heart. His mind, body, and soul was riddled with hatred
and could never accept it or make it easier. There wasn't a day that went by where he didn't want
revenge. This all could have been prevented and since it didn't work out that way, someone
had to pay for it.
"Shut the fuck up about it! I know how long it's been!" he growled. He didn't want his pain to make him seem soft, but when he was finally alone, away from everyone that was never in his life to stay for good, he broke down and would crumble. Girls would come around long enough to give him what he wanted and take what they came for and the guys that surrounded him were always too deep in a nod to even hear him vent. It had even been a constant battle to keep himself sane enough to avoid taking his own life. He didn't understand any of it, but he wanted to get even. He wandered around this world for a good portion of his life alone and just when he thought things would get easier, they fell apart all over again. And he knew exactly who was going to pay.
“Fauna Gabriella!” I shouted from the hallway when I walked out of my bedroom and saw a trail of Barbie and Bratz dolls scattered in a trail leading through the kitchen and into Fauna’s room. I swear, it didn’t seem like a five year old could make such a mess and it was her daddy’s fault for bringing her a doll home every time she batted those long lashes of hers. I swear, if I never saw another doll in my life, I would be satisfied. No one knew the pain of stepping on a small plastic high heel in the dark. I would have taken stepping on a Lego over that any day, especially since I had a belly that was ready to pop any day now that was blocking the view of my feet.“I’m coming Mommy!” she shouted back. Being called Mommy for the last few years had become music to my ears. It was proof that out of everyone in her little life, she held onto my heart the tightest.
All of the frustration from seeing the mess she had made, even after time and time again of being told not to leave her toys in the floor, washed away when I saw the spitting image of myself bouncing down the hallway with her thick black pigtails flopping around on the top of her little head. I would have put my last penny on knowing that she would turn out to be Danny’s twin
as much as we fought when I was pregnant. The only thing she got from him was his wide gray eyes. Everything else was all me. Even her hospital pictures were identical to mine when I was a baby.
“I didn’t mean to make you mad, Mommy,” she said as she pouted when she came to stand in front of me. Lord knows I couldn’t say no to Danny’s puppy dog eyes, and there was no fighting chance that I could say no to Fauna’s.
I enjoyed motherhood more than I would have ever imagined. It was one of the most rewarding jobs that someone could have ever asked for. Some days I was a nurse, fixing boo boos and fighting fevers, a professional wrestler when she would have her temper tantrums that were the equivalent to a hurricane and Danny was the referee, or a psychiatrist, talking about all of the mean old kids at the park. I could remember Fauna being extremely dramatic about them the first time she ever went, “And let me tell you about those girls, Mommy. They are bad and fast,” she said with more than enough sass than a five year old should have been able to handle.
Some days Rachel and I both took turns being referees whenever the girls would fight or if one of them didn’t get their way. “And let me tell you about Flora, Mommy. I don’t care if she’s my cousin. She is still mean and fast!” she said sternly. “Fauna, how in the world do you know what being fast means?” I asked, extremely curious. “Cause. Paw paw and Gigi told me that they would whoop my butt if I was ever fast like these other girls. I told them I’m not like those other girls. I’m a special type of princess, Mommy.” I swear I almost lost it right in front of her when she belted out those words loud and proud. They tell you not to laugh at the things your kids say or do, but sometimes that was the biggest challenge of them all. I almost pissed on myself the day she called one of the rude cashiers at the grocery store a bitch. I didn't give a damn if they thought I was a bad mom for laughing. Anybody with a sense of humor would have laughed. Sometimes I swear that she and I shared the same soul and with that came the same mouth that would never have a filter.We were a perfect match and if I was thinking it, you could bet your ass that she was going to say it.
What was probably even harder than containing my laughter at times was coming to the realization that she was getting to the point where she would be in school soon, and that would mean that she didn’t need Mommy or Daddy anymore. She wouldn’t need me to come in and give her a bath every night or read her a bedtime story and make sure her crown wasn’t crooked when she finally fell asleep. She'd spend six hours away from me at the most instead of running into my room to cuddle as soon as she heard Danny leave for the day. She wouldn’t need her daddy to check underneath her bed for the monsters anymore because she would know that monsters weren’t real.
And what had to be the most heartbreaking situation of them all was that one day soon she would realize that monsters were real and that they were just disguised as humans who could hurt you and make you cry without you ever being able to expect it.
I bent down, holding onto my belly to kiss her little forehead and she knew that she was instantly forgiven. That was another one of the perks of being a parent, you learned to forgive people at the drop of a hat. "Will my baby brother like playing with my dolls?" she asked. I chuckled and stood back up before I caught a cramp. She was already a handful. I didn't know what I was going to do with her when I had another one on my hip. She had spent the past few months carrying around a baby doll, telling Danny and I that she would feed her baby brother and change his diapers.
“How about we clean up so we can go visit Auntie Candace when Daddy gets home?” I asked her. “Yay!” she shouted before buzzing around the house to pick up her toys. It was hard to get over what all Candace put us through five years ago, but she turned completely around once Fauna was born and after that, I knew that she needed to be a part of her life even though Danny didn’t always agree. He always had trust issues, so I could understand why he wasn't crazy about her being around Fauna all the time. Candace had even been there for me after my miscarriage and I
knew that the only reason why she acted the way she did was because of her own personal demons. I loved her dearly and that love would never change.
The hardest part about trying to move forward and forgive people was realizing that you did make mistakes in the past and those were the worst things that you had to fight with. Losing my first baby ate at me each and every single day and Danny assumed that was the reason why I was always so eager to give Fauna the world. I fell back into the same feelings of fear and guilt when we found out we were expecting another baby earlier in the year. It got worse when we found out that this one was going to be a boy.
Danny knew that I still felt guilty and he always reminded me that eventually we did have a beautiful and healthy baby girl and we had nothing to be afraid of when the new baby arrived. The possibilities of what life would have been like ran through my mind constantly. When Fauna took her first steps, it was one of the happiest days of my life, but I still felt the sadness of not being able to experience that with my very first child. He or she didn’t get a chance to live or breathe or smile. They didn’t have a choice and that was an even worse realization. I loved Fauna and the new baby to death, but that thought of my first pregnancy was still glued in the back of my mind. In a way, I had no control over what happened, but I was left feeling like I was trying to compensate for the loss when I got pregnant again.
I was pulled from my thoughts when I felt a familiar pair of hangs wrap around my waist. Instantly, just like always, I felt like I was home. The warmth of Danny’s embrace caused everything to momentarily melt away and that was what I always looked forward to each and
every day. “How have Daddy’s girls and little man been?” he asked sincerely, palming my belly with both hands. “Fantastic,” I said as I turned around to kiss him. I was lying and he knew it. He could sense that something was wrong. I stood by the island of the kitchen with my arms folded across my chest, staring blankly into space while Danny warmed up some leftovers in the microwave.
“Syd, why are you still beating yourself up?” Damn. I was caught. He stood across from me, not even caring about the last thirty seconds left on the timer. “I’m not beating myself up over
anything,” I lied again. “Yes you are. You’ve been so protective over Fauna lately and you stay so deep in thought that I can have a full blown conversation with you and you never even respond. What happened with the miscarriage wasn’t your fault. There was nothing that you or the doctor could have done to make things different. It’s been five years and our son is doing just fine.” He knew that I was still hurting and that was probably why I loved him so much.
Some nights we would sit up and talk about everything until the sun came up and some nights he just let me cry in his arms. I didn’t know which one I enjoyed the most.
Five years. Five long years that felt like they had just flown by within a week. They had been filled with some of the best times of my life and some of the worst. The best being when I decided to give Danny a chance with my heart, giving birth to Fauna and being able to hold her as tight as I could and not want to ever let go, and marrying the love of my life. All of that seemed to fly by the quickest. The worst was losing my first baby, running into Dean in the mall and nearly having a panic attack while I fought so hard to remain calm, having him pop up at the hospital when Fauna was only a day old, and standing in the background at his funeral, hoping no one would see me while I watched the past get lowered into the ground. I thought that would be my closure and help me let go of the things I couldn’t change, but I was wrong. I was so very wrong. My guilt still ate away at me every single day and it hit even harder when I stared into both sets of beautiful gray eyes that I had been blessed to have in my life.
"I'm ready!" Fauna shouted. She pulled her rolling pink suit case down the hall with her shoes on the wrong feet. She must have been too excited to care. "You're not spending the night!" I shouted like a maniac. She wasn't about to get one over on me this time. When she spent the night with Candace, it was incredibly difficult to get her to come back home. Sometimes my mom would have to step in and make her act right.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but I've promised our daughter a trip to her aunt's house, so we're taking off. I'll see you in a few hours," I stepped toward him, giving him a peck on the cheek as I grabbed the keys. Fauna put her arms up and I scooped her up with ease, hitching her on my hip. "Who's the boss, you or Fauna?" he asked with a smirk. "Bite me," I mouthed to keep Fauna from repeating the words.
Despite how ridiculous the potholes were, the drive through Welch at sunset was always breath taking. The sight of the sky painted with orange and purple as the sun faded behind the mountains for the night was definitely something worth seeing at least once in your life. These were the evenings where Candace would pull a chair out on the porch and with Fauna perched on her lap, the two of them would watch the sunset together and talk about anything that came to her little mind. It always seemed like Candace was a totally different person and that was finally a good thing.
I put the car in park, looking up to see that the front door was wide open. She was probably out having a cigarette before getting ready for bed. Our visit was definitely going to make her night. "Looks like we made it just in time, kiddo," I said cheerfully. Fauna bounced in her car seat and quickly unstrapped herself. She held my hand as we walked up the stairs and onto the porch.
"Candace!" I called. There was no answer and from what I could see, the lights were off in the living room. We stepped inside to find that the TV was off and her pillow and blanket weren't neatly placed on the couch. That was something she always did before crashing for the night. My only guess was that she hadn't got the chance to shower upstairs. She would shower and then bring everything downstairs so she wouldn't have to keep making trips to the upper level of the house throughout the night. "Candace!" I called again. I picked Fauna up and sat her down on the couch. "Stay put," I ordered her. She simply nodded, still anxious to see Candace. I took a second to listen for the water running from the bathroom upstairs. Nothing.
Suddenly, my stomach tightened. Something was wrong. It wasn't like Candace to leave the front door unlocked, let alone open when it was getting late. I strolled quietly toward the stairs, taking one last glance behind me to make sure that Fauna couldn't sense my distress. She sat bouncing her head from side to side to make her pigtails flop all over the place.
I still heard silence as I made my way up the stairs and it was beginning to scare me. There wasn't a single light on except for the bathroom and the feeling of impending doom grew stronger and stronger.
I approached the bathroom door, peeping through the crack and I still didn't see her. What the hell is going on? I was getting frustrated and slightly annoyed. Now wasn't the time for me to get myself worked up and upset.
I huffed and pushed open the door, hoping to make her jump out of her skin when the door came flying open.
All of the air left my lungs because of what I came face to face with. For a second, my entire soul left my body.
There she was, laying lifelessly on the floor. "Oh my God," I whispered in total shock. I took a step closer, forcing myself to try to rule out the worst. She didn't have an ounce of color left on her skin. She was practically gray. "Candace," I whispered with tears already pouring down my face. I dropped to the floor, crawling on my hands and knees to try to get an even closer look at her. She was dead. I didn't want to believe it but she was dead. There was no denying it.
I couldn't control myself. I used every bit of strength I had to pull her limp body into my arms. "No no no no," I said softly as I began to sob. Something in the back of my mind that I thought died long ago told me to take a look at her arms. The right arm was clear which was odd, but the left arm had a trail of dark red blood that had already dried. The skin around the track mark was turning black and blue and the more I stared at it, the more my heart shattered. "You did so good. You were clean," I cried as I held onto her as tight as I could like it was going to bring her back. She had been clean for five years and this didn't sit well with me. Her battle with addiction was no secret, but I knew that she was finally strong enough to stay clean. Something wasn't right.
With blurry eyes and still keeping my arms wrapped around her, I scanned the floor in search of the needle she possibly used. When Candace was using, she had a tendency to be messy. She never cleaned up the evidence and we always stumbled upon dirty needles whenever she would pass out.
I found nothing and I was beginning to crumble and spiral out of control even more. No. That can't be, I thought to myself. She always knew her limit and I couldn't find a needle. None of this was adding up and it was tearing my heart to pieces. She hadn't used her right arm when she was left handed, I couldn't find the needles, and it was obviously an overdose. I'd call bullshit any day of the week. This wasn't like Candace at all. It was becoming clear that this was foul play. At this moment, the only thing harder than admitting to myself that she was dead, was the cold, hard truth that my cousin, my best friend, and the only person in my life that I had ever called my sister, had indeed been murdered.