I wasn't aware of him until he sat next to me. He was the unshaven, fingerless glove type I'd expect to find at a bus station or sitting on the sidewalk with a paper cup at his feet--not someone I'd encounter at the motor vehicle office. I tightened the grip on my purse and looked around for another seat. There wasn't one.
The man coughed into his sleeve and asked if the author of the book I was reading was any good. I ignored him and wondered why he cared. He didn't look like the reading type. Was he hitting on me? He coughed and asked again.
"I like her," I replied, without taking my eyes from the page.
He coughed and said, "Good."
I guess he didn't get to talk much, because even though I only grunted in response to most of his forays into conversational topics, he kept on coughing and yakking. Our "discussion" remained like that until he brought up the mother who killed her children because they wouldn't stop crying. I glanced from side to side. No one was paying attention to him that I could tell. I let out a slow breath and turned an unread page, hoping the man would stop.
"How can a mother do that?" he said, looking at me for the first time.
Leave me alone.
I only half listened as he prattled on, until he mentioned a similar case from my hometown. That's when I heard him say my former name. My body tensed. I dropped the book. I leaned down to pick it up, my hand shaking, and tried to act like I hadn't heard him.
"That case remains unsolved," he said. "The woman's car was found at the bottom of a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, but the police never located a body." He leaned closer and spoke in a near whisper. "Some think she's dead, like her kids. Others are sure she's alive and remarried with new children, children who are in danger. Me? I don't have an opinion. Well, except if she is alive, she should turn herself in."
I remained quiet, staring at my book without seeing the words. Five minutes later, too frightened to listen any more, I left without taking the eye test. I sensed him following me out the door, but when I turned around, he was gone.
Back home, I take a sip of scotch, and stare at the distant tree tops. The gun I keep around, just in case, rests on the kitchen table. I'm tired of waiting for someone to recognize me after all these years, like the man at the DMV maybe. That's why I called the police and told them what I did. They're outside, threatening to ram the door in if I don't open it.
On the way home, I decided to turn myself in, but now I realize I fear going to jail more than I dread committing suicide. Good things can't happen to a woman in prison convicted of shooting her own children. The man at the motor vehicle office had that right. He was wrong about me remarrying and having more children.
I know. I'm babbling. I'm afraid of what will happen if I stop writing. God, my hand is shaking so much I can hardly write.
I'm sorry, Katie and Sam. I do love you and know I won't be going where you are. I've missed you every day, even the days I tried to forget, but now it's time for all of us to rest.