In the corner of my mind.
Occupying precious space in my memory where images of my father should reside.
The heavy makeup, the cloying perfume. The way she touched and spoke to me all those years ago.
Sixteen years after my father’s death, I learned where she was and my eagerness to see what had become of her was so real that I could almost touch it…taste it…
I sought her out.
She worked at a convenience store, a cashier, working the early morning shift.
I sought her out in the predawn hours. No longer night, but not yet day.
I approached the counter, certain that I would unsettle her.
Her makeup was the same…her hair hadn’t changed. I could smell her before I even reached the counter, the weight of the disgustingly familiar perfume, her nails that same shade of coral.
There was nothing left that she could do to hurt me. She had already done the unimaginable.
It was my turn.
I paid for my purchases with a check that bore my name. I offered identification before being asked for it. She took my check. She didn’t even flinch.
I wanted so desperately to force her to see me.
She had tried to stop time. But her face was aged. Her skin yellow from too many cigarettes. Lipstick feathered into the fine lines around her mouth.
I stood, staring, trying to imagine what he saw in her.
What was it about her that made him walk away from his family? What was it about her that made me and my mother disposable?
Where was that magic? That allure?
She called my mother in the months following my father’s death. She wanted my mother to know that she had grown tired of my father and was preparing to break things off with him. She said that she planned to send him back to us because she was bored with him and that my mother could have had her leftovers.
The cruelty of those statements is beyond measure. Those words, pure acid…impossible to wipe clean, eroding and burning long after exposure.
No one won.
Her husband, destroyed.
My father, killed.
My mother, changed forever.
Me, fatherless with a devastated mother.
And she stood there, on the other side of the speckled-gray Formica counter. The root of all of that pain. She looked me in the eye…no sorrow. None. No shame. No words of apology.
Time had not clarified her actions. It had not brought her wisdom or accountability.
I asked her if she knew who I was.
Her reply was “yes.”
The evil emanated from her, so real that I could almost touch it…taste it…
This post is in response to a prompt from The Red Dress Club. You can see the details here. I have never had a more difficult time hitting publish.