'Til Death Do Us Part
|Something To Remember Me By
“No, Bill,” she repeated for the third time. “You cannot see her.”
I gazed at the woman blankly as if I had not heard a word she said. “I don’t see the problem, Mrs. Reed.” My voice cast echoes off the walls of the entryway. “I have a right to see her. I love her.”
If the woman had been clay, only a slice or two with a sculptor’s tool, the removal of some of the old suffering at the corners of her eyes, the dusted gray in her hair, the severity on either side of her mouth, and she would have looked exactly like Cheryl. Her eyes were the right color, a disturbed blue hue like shades of sky. Oh, yeah, she could have been Cheryl, if she had not been so old and marked. Despite the differences, her features dragged a tangled net across my heart. I faced her through a haze of recall, reminded of the girl that I loved and desperately wanted to see.
“I’ll say again," she said slowly, "you can’t see her. I know you’ve been trying to for months, but it’s time for you to let her go.”
Avoiding her words, my eyes wandered past her to the displayed photographs on the wall. My gaze locked onto Cheryl’s high-school-graduation picture. Instinctively, my hand grasped at her class ring that I still wore on a silver chain about my neck. “Let her go? Why, whatever do you mean, Mrs. Reed? How could I let go of someone I care so deeply about? Is that what you do to the people you love?” Intuitively, I believed the woman had some hidden purpose which outweighed love or concern for her daughter. She didn’t like me, never had. But I loved Cheryl. In my mind, that was all that mattered. How many times had I held her in my arms? Too few, and not enough to satisfy my hunger.
“This is different and you know it, Bill. You’re obsessed with her. It’s not healthy--not for you, and definitely not for my daughter.”
I shook my head. “Don’t you understand that you’re not the only person who cares for her?”
“I only understand that Cheryl wishes to never see you again.”
“But I have something I want to give her--something to remember me by.” I quickly produced a small, perfectly wrapped gift from my coat pocket. “It will only take a minute, Mrs. Reed.” Then added, pitifully, “Please, gimme a break, will ya?”
I could see her soften for a moment, but then her resolve quickly asserted itself. “I’m sorry. If you want to give it to me, I promise to make sure she gets it. She’s not here right now, anyway. She’s out shopping.”
Something came over me. “No, Mrs. Reed. That simply won’t do. I have to see her. ” I stepped over the threshold, pushed her out of my way. “I have to see her, NOW!”
She retreated to the living room, turned and stopped to block my path. I could see fear in her eyes, doubt, and I liked it. “Now you see here, young man . . .”
She never finished the sentence, as I roughly pushed her to the floor. Her head cracked hard against the coffee table in a crash of knickknacks and broken porcelain. I followed her down, smashing my knee into her chest. “You don’t understand. I have to see her!”
She didn’t struggle--made no attempt to get up. “Mrs. Reed? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it!” Her eyes were closed and a pool of blood pillowed her head and began to soak into the plush carpet. “Mrs. Reed?” Shuddering, I came back to myself and quickly stood in horror. “Oh, God. Oh, God, what have I done? No, no, no, Mrs. Reed get up! Wake up!”
In my panic I saw the phone lying on the floor and grabbed it. My mind raced to come up with a story to tell the police. I couldn’t think of one, my hands were wet, my breathing erratic. “Come on, Bill. Think! Think! Think!”
I looked at Cheryl’s mom. She looked so beautiful, so peaceful . . . dead. My mind folded in upon itself like a piece of melting plastic.
I dropped the phone. Think! Think! Think! I pounded my forehead with the palm of my hand. Okay, okay...no one knows I'm here. If I hurry, I can clean things up and get out before Cheryl comes home. Then I’ll show up and offer my sympathy. She’ll need me for sure then. She’ll be all torn up over the loss of her mother. Yes, yes, it could work.
My plan took shape.
"First we have to do something with you."
Quickly, I jumped up and grabbed Mrs. Reed under the arms. I dragged her body out the back, through the sliding glass door. A well-used path twisted up through the yard and off into the dense woods behind the house. She was heavy, but some supernatural strength seemed to pulse through my body, and I moved her up the trail.
I saw a shovel leaning against a shed in the backyard, and I hurried back to get it. All I could think about was how broken up Cheryl was going to be, and how I would show up to comfort her. We’d be back together in no time--no time at all. Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? It was perfect.
The ground was hard and the digging slow, but I got a shallow trench dug deep enough to accommodate her size. I pushed her into it and began to cover her. I threw a shovel of dirt on her face and her eyes fluttered. She let out a soft moan.
My, God, she's still alive!
I bent down to examine her. She was breathing.
The thought came to me: If she recovers, it’ll ruin all my plans.
I stood and lingered over her for a moment, watching her face, thinking. She looked so much like Cheryl, but there was only one thing to do.
Shrugging my shoulders, I picked up the shovel and returned to my task. I threw more dirt on top of her face. She coughed, and I worked all the faster, until she was completely covered. I patted the soil flat with the blade of the shovel; I even rolled a large stone over the shallow grave to hide my handiwork.
Walking back to the house, I felt better. Cheryl and I were going to be together after all. Everything was going to be all right. Hell, we might even live in this house together after we marry. "Thank you, Mrs. Reed."
I found myself smiling at my cleverness.
I left the house and hopped into my car. Slowly I backed out of the driveway and drove away thinking about my future. I was elated. I was going to get married--married to the love of my life.
When I got home, I rushed inside to get cleaned up. I wanted to look my best. Cheryl was going to need me. We were going to be married. The thought reminded me of the present I bought her--the diamond ring I had wrapped so perfectly to give to her.
I patted down my clothes, but couldn’t find the package. I went outside and tore apart my car, but it wasn’t there.
I tried to think of when I had seen it last, and then my blood ran cold. I had showed it to Mrs. Reed just before...oh, God! The realization hit me: I left it at the house!
The phone rang.
It rang and rang and rang.
I just sat there in stunned silence, my face cradled in my palms, refusing to answer it.
Outside, several police cars rushed up my driveway.