Herbert and Penelope did not have much time for their grief before the police officers came over to them.
“Excuse us, sir, ma’am.” The police officers nodded to Herbert and Penelope.
“I’m Officer Jacobs,” the burley man stated as he showed his badge, “and this is my partner Officer Hailey.” The woman officer also flashed her badge. “I hate to disturb you, but if we could just ask you a few questions.”
Herbert nodded, still holding his wife.
“Separately,” Officer Jacobs clarified.
“Separately?,” Herbert’s voice shook slightly, “Why?”
“Just routine procedure, sir,” Officer Hailey smiled, attempting to alleviate their fears. A hard task considering she looked nearly as imposing as her partner.
Herbert pulled back from his wife slightly. He looked into her tear stained eyes. Penelope nodded and let go of him and followed Officer Hailey. Following Officer Jacobs, Herbert kept looking back at his grief torn wife.
“In your own words, would you tell me what happened.” Despite her appearance Officer Hailey sounded as if she was genuinely sorry for Penelope.
Penelope took a deep breath, and then another. She wished she didn’t have to do this right now, but if she didn’t, when would she? Haltingly she began to tell the Officer her side of the story.
She spoke of how she had wanted to buy her daughter a special dress for the dance that was coming up. How they had gone into the different stores and been just about verbally kicked out of each one. She was going to take Leigh down to the Garment District, when she realized they had to return to the airport to meet Herbert.
Penelope paused, then continued in her halting voice how they had been walking back to the metro. How Leigh had started to walk on the edge of the curb with cars rushing by within inches of her. penelope told how she'd asked Leigh to stop doing that. It was, Penelope’s voice choked and she was handed a tissue. It was when she turned around to ask Leigh again to stop that her daughter just threw herself in front of the bus.
Unbidden tears streamed down Penelope’s cheeks. She confessed to having been frozen to the spot and watching with horror as it all happened. She could have stopped it, she sobbed, she should have stopped it. Officer Hailey put an awkward arm around Penelope, patiently waiting for her tears to slow.
“I understand you were at an Interview the whole time,” Officer Jacobs asked Herbert as they walked away from Hailey and Penelope.
“Yes,” Herbert could only manage a one word answer.
“Did it go well?”
“Yes,” Herbert said again, not sure how this was relevant. Jacobs seemed to be looking for more. “I was accepted.”
“Can you think of any reason your wife may have wanted to hurt your daughter?”
“What?” Herbert looked at the man, seriously shocked.
“Standard procedure, your wife was with the girl, I have to ask.” Jacobs’s face betrayed no emotion.
“No,” Herbert insisted, “Of course not, she loved our daughter, completely.” He emphasized the last word. He knew his wife would trade places with Leigh, if she could.
“And your daughter, can you think of any reason she would want to harm herself?”
Herbert furrowed his brows trying to think. His wife had mentioned she should have known, but Leigh had always had a smiling face and a welcoming hug and kiss for him whenever he came home. Yet, Herbert shook his head.
“I, I don’t know,” he said remorsefully, “I feel I should, but I don’t know.”
When Penelope had calmed down Officer Hailey poised her next question.
“Can you think of any reason your daughter might have chosen to harm herself?”
Penelope closed her eyes. She could see things so clearly now. All those signs that she’d chalked up to being a teen. She said as much, her words punctured by sobs. She said how horrible she felt for not doing anything. How she wished she could go back in time, do it all over, anything to save her only child. The only child she had ever been able to bear; would ever be able to bear.