A Woman Answers Questions About Her Mothers Disappearance
|“The last time I saw Mom was 15 years ago.” All of their eyes were on me. No one said anything to me, almost as if they just expected me to go on with my story without any provocation. So I did, though there was a bit of guilt that accompanied my action. “Dad and Mom had been fighting a lot, he told me that he had been to see a divorce lawyer and was going to file as soon as he could afford it.”
The courtroom was stunned; my father’s friends and colleagues who had all come out to support him had looks of shock and outrage plastered across their faces. I looked over at the jury and the all seemed to have the same thought, “Guilty.”
Maybe I should refresh your memory for you, just in case you don’t know what I am talking about. I live in a suburb of northern Michigan that has not been able to keep up with the rest of the world. In High Hills, Michigan they still believe that divorce is immoral and if you get one you must be a heathen.
My dad was on trial for my mother’s disappearance, one summer afternoon in 1995 she just simply vanished from God’s green Earth. There was no evidence that she was alive or dead, in fact the only reason why my dad was on trial was because no one knew exactly what had happened to her.
“Miss Stafford, as hard as this is for you and I imagine that this is a hard subject for you to talk about,” The prosecutor paused and flashed me a sympathetic look, complete with his sad, green eyes. At one point shortly after my mother’s sudden departure, he and I had been lovers. Well not quite that much but we had been boyfriend and girlfriend. As we got closer to graduation, he dumped me because he was pursuing a career in law like his father. “Please continue telling us what that period of time was like. How did you react to the news that your father was about to go against God and file for divorce?”
“Patrick please don’t make me do this,” I pleaded, thinking that if I used his first name, he would be reminded of the love that we once shared. He raised his eyebrow but said nothing. I looked at the judge, a man who had been on the bench since Columbus had landed in America. “Your Honor please, please don’t make me relive this nightmare yet again.”
The judge sighed, it was one of those old man annoyed sighs. If he were younger it would probably seem as though he was trying to catch his breath but to me it seemed as if he lost his breath. “Young lady if you did not wish to talk about this then you should not have opened your mouth. Now please answer the question,”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath myself. Tears clung to my eyes; the words that left my mouth would be repeated time after time in the trial. “After dad told me what he had, I went to mom and tried to convince her to save the marriage. There is no doubt that my parents loved one another very much. I was young and naïve at the time and thought that would solve everything.”
Murmurs shot throughout the courtroom, the scandalous things I was saying were sure to send my father to the chair. Patrick smiled the killer smile at me and I knew that this was it; he was going in for the kill. “So Nancy, why don’t you tell us what happened the next day? Why is the day after your revelation important to the chronology of your story?”
He flipped my strategy on me and now I had no choice but to tell my story the way everything had happened. I caught a peek at my dad, his head was in his hands and though I didn’t see his face I knew that he was crying. “That night I heard my parents fighting again, which was not unusual. The following morning I went out with my friends, to the movies, I think we seen Clueless. Afterwards we went to the mall, where I might the prosecutor who was my boyfriend at the time. After we walked around the mall I went home and no one was there. It was odd because mom rarely went out; she preferred the solitude of the house.”
“And this was the day that your mother disappeared, when she was likely murdered?” If I hadn’t been in court, I would have slapped Patrick as hard as I could. He was making a hard topic even more difficult.
“Objection!” My father’s attorney jumped to his feet, his fist in the air. “The prosecution cannot ask the witness to speculate about what may or may not have happened that afternoon.”
The Judge sighed. If it had been up to him, there was no doubt in my mind the question would have stood. However this time the law was on my father’s side and there was no way that they would let a technicality get him off. “Sustained. Counselor please remember that this witness does not know what happened, she can only answer whether or not this was the day she last seen her mother.”
“Let me rephrase the question then. Nancy was that the day that you last seen your mother alive?”
The tears finally rolled down my cheeks, stopping at the corner of my mouth. “No. The last time I seen mom alive was just after our talk about what dad told me. She came into my room and told me that dinner was on the stove and that she was going to lie down for a bit.”
Patrick looked at me with pride in his eyes. I knew for a fact that I had just sentenced my father to life in prison. “No further questions!”