“It’s about your father, Roger.”
“What about Roger?” She had my full attention. My heart started beating faster just hearing his name. I chose not to think about him most days, because when I did, I immediately remembered everything that was lost. We had been estranged so long that it was easier for me not to think about him.
“I know this is going to sound crazy, but I know Roger didn’t kill your mother.”
The other shoppers in the brightly lit grocery store seemed to vanish, and it was just me and the woman in the red puffy winter coat standing between the apples and the oranges. It suddenly struck me as odd that she was wearing such a heavy coat in the mild North Carolina climate. It was late February, and while the last remnants of what we called winter in the south seemed to be hanging around—slightly cold, gray mornings, occasional frost on the windshield—we all knew that spring was right around the corner. So, maybe she wasn’t from here, this stranger overdressed in a heavy winter coat.
“How do you know that?” I whispered as I leaned closer to her, trying to contain the potentially inflammatory conversation to our ears only. I could feel the panic rising in my throat, a tightness that couldn’t be seen but could be heard in my strangled words.
“Because my son is the one. He killed your mother. The wrong man went to prison.”
“Penny, Matilda, wake up. I have something to tell you, something’s happened,” Grandma Trisha said.
She told us in a hushed voice that something very bad had happened to Aunt Tilly, that she had been shot and she was dead.
Like most adults did, she left out important details that she didn’t think we could handle. Not only could I handle them, I needed them. My head was spinning with questions-where, how, who? I was pretty sure my questions would not be answered, so I sat quietly and listened with my head resting uncomfortably against the knotty wooden headboard.
My grandmother brushed the bangs out of my eyes with one hand, and then squeezed my cousin’s shoulder with her other hand before leaving the room and telling us to get up and get dressed. She said people would be coming to the house to “pay their respects,” and we had to be ready.
I knew how this was going to turn out. He jerked me up from the ground, my whole body battered, bloody and aching, and shoved me into a sitting position with the tree behind me to prop up my weary body.
That’s when I saw the pistol in his right hand. The sirens were getting closer. I estimated Glendale was probably just another third of a mile from where we were. But the woods were so dense, there was no way anyone could see us.
Andy brushed the hair out of my eyes and forced me to look up at him. He was still fuzzy through my tears, but I could see the look on his face now. It was one of pure anger and disgust.
Lies That Bind
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