The last time I saw Angelina, her hair was a tangled mess of brown strands that roughly resembled two braids on either side of her head. The smear of a sticky orange sugar glaze lining her mouth was all that was left of the sweet treat she’d bought from the musical van that cruised down our street hours before.
I think about that van often now, I wonder if the skinny unshaven man behind the wheel noticed the way my daughter’s eyes shined. If he too saw the way her cheeks were touched with cherry, as if by an angel’s soft pinch of grace. I wonder if his van served more than just the purpose of alluring children with its siren like song.
This morning I walked the streets of our neighborhood, like I do every morning, like she did that summer day in June, and I noticed house number 2607, the one with the blue shutters and peeling white siding, had their curtains open. The thing about that house is, they never have their curtains open. I’ve told the police this, but they say that means nothing. They can’t get a search warrant for every house that keeps their curtains closed. I’ve thought about walking straight into their house, when the garage opens, or the man is outside mowing the lawn.
But a part of me knows I’ve gone a bit crazy. I comprehend time stopped for me on June 19, 2012. The police tell me, my husband says, the death certificate proves, my baby was killed, two houses down from mine, by a dog that’d escaped its yard. But I don’t understand how that can be true. I’d never seen a dog at that house. I sit here and stare at her little shoes, and I think she can’t really be completely gone. She’s got to be out there. Somewhere. Waiting for me to bring her home.
I know I’m going to die here, with his hands tight around my neck. The smell of the musty old room is juxtaposed to his brilliant white, perfectly straight, smile that dances playfully across his handsome face. Part of me always knew he was a psychopath, and I wonder now, why my desperation for his love dug so deep into my bones. A part of me surrenders to the knowledge sparking under the pressure in my brain, he was never capable of loving me.
There’s pleasure in his eyes, a thrill of curiosity, as each of my breaths struggle harder to penetrate his grasp. I would have thought I’d be scared, in this moment, had I seen it coming. But the irony is, I’ve wanted to die without him. During the months he disappeared and wouldn’t call. Crying out helplessly to God in my room.
So now that it’s his hands I’m at the mercy of, I realize there’s no happy ending. And I’ve given in. There’s a strange sense of peace in knowing I’ve been waiting only for him to save me and it’s him that’s killing me.
Just as my eyes close, his hands release. A rush of fresh, unrestricted air, fills my lungs as I gasp. Surprised again. He laughs. And God, it’s such a beautiful laugh.