I threw the last cloth into the trash and tossed my gloves in along with them. The scent of blood still filled the kitchen like a stubborn itch that won't go away. After three days, I can barely stand to live in this- it is a constant reminder of the terror that rained down on our household what seems just moments ago. The memory of that day is like a brutal slap in the face, and I realized that the time when Briar needed me the most, I was not there for her. That, most of all, is what I cannot bear.
It was a cold November day, and I hurriedly let myself in. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was my daughter, sprawled across the floor, crying out in pain, because she couldn't understand why something this horrible had happened to her. The second thing I noticed was the blood, smeared across the linoleum like a cruel smile.
"What happened? Ohmigod, tell me, sweetie, who did this to you?" My voice was barely audible, a whisper of fear that echoed what I was feeling inside. She leaned into me, about to tell me something, before her head lolled back, and she lost consciousness.
Thoughts rampaged through my brain, and it was as if I was running in slow motion, desperate to reach the phone and dial the number of the people who could help my daughter. I had failed her, I thought. When she needed me most, I was not there.
The ambulance arrived twelve long minutes later. The situation still seemed so surreal to me, I couldn't fully grasp what was going on. But at the same time, my mind was going a mile a minute, trying to find ways to bring the horrible man to what he so righteously deserved.
"Ms. Gomez?" the doctor called from the ambulance. "She is going to be all right. The important thing right now is that she is brought to receive the proper medical attention she needs."
I nod, hearing him subconsciously. What is 'all right' really? She may be fine physically, but how many years will she spend in therapy, trying to work through the past. No sentence the judge could ever give would ever be enough. This man would never be able to imagine the lives he had ruined. I stared at Briar's body, and felt the tell-tale tears begin to sting my eyes.
I stepped into the back of the ambulance, daring anyone to tell me to leave. But no one does. I hold her hand, massaging it in small circles the way her therapist taught me to do. And, if only for a second, I see her eyes open and look at me.
"Briar," I say, trying to get her to talk to me. "Briar," I try again. But there is no answer from the limp body of my daughter, and later I wonder if it was simply my imagination, playing tricks on me.