As usual, the house was quiet to an eerie degree; the sounds of her entrance echoing down the narrow entry hallway. Nighttime was her least favorite time to be at home, as the fond memories that she harbored of her daughter’s childhood coupled with the painful reality of her murder often became too much to bear. The usual rush of cool air greeted her immediately, reminding her that the heater hadn’t been turned on in over three months despite an unprecedented West Coast winter.
Maybe tonight will be Opening Ceremony for the heating ducts this year…
(Flashed Back In Time)
An excited little girl with an adorable button-nose and the most white-blonde hair imaginable runs swiftly through the same entry hallway in a blur, giggling and snickering loudly as she drags a chair from the kitchen table at her side to the wall. Her mother helps her position the chair safely against the wall for the bright-eyed toddler. The girl scampers up and stands tall next to her smiling mother,
“Ummm tawl as you, Mama!”
The squeaky declaration echoes for a full thirty seconds throughout the hallway as the mother feigns shock and terror at the statement before scooping the tiny girl up into her arms, spinning once and then setting her back down on her makeshift ladder and retorting “You wish!” loudly. The two giggled together like schoolgirls for several seconds before the playful mother snapped her face into total seriousness and fell silent. The girl naturally copied her mom’s actions and quieted as well.
Slowly, and with the seriousness of a police officer, the mother began the annual announcement:
“I am happy to present to you the Queen of the Thermostat, the Keeper of the Warmth that you all know and love…”the woman made a broad gesture with her arms toward the family room and it’s muted television screen as if speaking to a grand audience from a podium, affecting anxious shutters from her pink-cheeked daughter at her side – a grin so full and seemingly stationary that the small girl dribbled drool from either side of her wide smile uncaringly.
“Drum roll, please!” The beating of drums sounded in the proverbial high-tempo of anticipation from the woman’s own hand repeatedly connecting with her own upper thigh for sound effect and the girl wasted no time with turning on the heater for the first time in 2001; and the ceremony was over until the next year.
(End Flash Back)
Jenay Cross had become a recluse outside of the stories to the children at the Samaritan Spirit; her love for life and its experience had all but drained out of her upon the conviction of her daughter’s killer. The fact that he awaited death down south somewhere near the Mexican Border brought her no comfort or reprieve from her anguish, the idea of an eye for eye seemed ridiculous to the spirit of such a wise soul and always had – even before one of the eyes in question belonged to her only child. Now, the man’s execution felt as if it were somehow tied to her own conscience; but the woman only sought some type of escape from the misery that she knew as life since her daughter’s demise.
Reality, however, proves such things impossible for a grieving mother or father in the throes of despair over the death of a child. The very concept is unnatural and uncomfortable – a parent is just not ever supposed to outlive his or her own child – never was and never will be. The woman’s thoughts drifted groggily back to Jacob and his mother, who had no doubt arrived to receive the worst news of her life by now. Next, Jenay thought of the burn victim who had been deemed unable to progress by the staff already. Life seemed so unfair then; so bitterly unfair. She grabbed the remote and turned on the television in attempt to try and redirect her train of thought to a better place, a tactic that she had pretty much mastered in the last year or so.
The news reporter was serious and solemn, reporting from in front of the burned out skeleton of a building, smoke still precariously rising in thin tendrils from the remaining frame. The scene was gruesome and telling of an awful tragedy on a grand scale, as mirrored by the reporter’s story as the narrative to the grim and deadly images. An enraged and apparently insane man had lit his own home on fire and locked it down from inside before escaping the scene. The stunner came with the report of his wife and three children having been inside upon the fire’s ignition and night-long blaze - killing two of the children and leaving one in critical condition. The reporter sadly stated that the mother of the children had been found dead as well, although it appeared that she had been dead prior to the blaze.
The incoming burn victim at Samaritan Spirit…the one who’s not expected by staff to live very long…
Suddenly, a young boy’s second-grade photo appeared splashed across the large flat screen; he was smiling broadly with a mouthful of braces against bright white teeth. His green polo collar was not straightened, folding off to the right side in an unbalanced crumple. He was black – dark black; black enough for his skin to match his hair perfectly. His smile was genuine and his big eyes were sincere, his left ear was pierced and sported a faceted stud that shined with the reflection of the camera’s flash; the boy was adorable. The scenery on the screen suddenly overtook the empathic; the destruction, the loss, the carnage – the knowledge of the lone survivor lying regretfully in a burn bag, wishing for death instead of survival because the pain is un believable – the orphaned and abandoned betrayal of life. Jenay sobbed loudly at the kitchen table, remote still wrapped tightly within her fingers, hovering above the stack of mail.