Kathy woke abruptly in a muggy sweat. She glanced at the clock glowing on the nightstand. 2:17 AM. Another night to add to her collection of sleepless nights.
She turned on to her side and closed her eyes, hoping that she could trick her brain back to sleep before it realized it was awake. She knew it would not work. She had a dream that Matthew was a baby. He was standing next to the bathtub, naked. The dream had felt so real. She could feel the softness of his skin when she picked him up. She could feel the texture of the bubbles in the tub, the smell of baby shampoo on his head. He looked up at her, his eyes were so happy. He brought a fistful of bubbles to his mouth. Kathy began to panic. She was shouting at the baby to stop. He smiled at her as he filled his
mouth full. Kathy was stuck in place and helpless as his cheeks puffed, filled to the brim with bath bubbles. He giggled and splashed the water, unaware of the inevitable harm he was inflicting on himself.
Kathy hated when she dreamt about Matthew, which was every time she slept.
Maybe it wasn’t so much the dreaming part that she hated but rather the moment after when she was awake. She laid there, grasping at the details, wishing she could store them up for later in the day when she felt him slipping away. Kathy laid in bed until the sun started to come up. It didn’t matter anymore if she was tired or rested or busy or free. Her days had become blurred and grainy.
She laid in her bed as she went over the bare minimum required of her for the day. The grocery store. She would have to go to the grocery store today. She was officially out of all things edible in her kitchen and she was not yet ready to face the teenagers who delivered food in the area. She could already feel the panic in her belly. All of those people searching her face for some sort of emotion. Maybe someone would ask her how she was doing. Most would stare at her from afar, shocked to see her in public.
It was only a matter of time and motivation before she would move out of this
town. There was nothing left for her here, nothing but ghosts. She had moved here when Matthew was 7. It was the perfect town with the perfect schools. She found a job right away, and her and Matthew settled seamlessly into place. Now, it was just another town outside of any city, littered with the same shopping centers as the next.
She took the long way to the store, still unable to drive past the high school that Matthew attended just weeks ago. She made a silent vow to herself never to drive past that place again. She parked her car in the grocery store parking lot and waited a moment. She thought about how unimportant it all seemed now. How dedicated she had felt to a job that was now presumably gone. She hadn’t spoken to her boss in over three weeks and she wasn’t planning on calling anytime soon.
She walked into the grocery store and could almost feel the air being sucked out of the room. She kept her eyes focused to the ground, immediately regretting the decision to come. She should have stayed home and starved.
She gathered a few essential items and headed to the checkout line. While she
was waiting, she caught a glimpse of the local newspaper. On the front page there was an article about the upcoming candlelight vigil planned for the upcoming weekend. She felt her face flush. She hesitated for a moment before she grabbed the paper and began reading.
The vigil would take place in Shadows Park at 7 pm on Friday evening. They
would light 17 candles and have a 17-minute moment of silence to honor the students who had been killed in the recent school shooting. Kathy felt tears well in her eyes. “18 victims, 18 minutes” Kathy thought. There were 18 victims from that day, but she knew no one would want to hear it. She put the paper down. She picked it up again and kept reading. “The alleged gunman Matthew Babster, age 17, died in the hospital the following day. He sustained fatal gunshot wounds after police opened fire on him. The motive for the killing spree is still unknown.”
Kathy slowly lowered the paper and set it back on the stand. She never lifted her gaze to the cashier as he checked out her items. She could feel eyes on her from every angle. It was becoming too much for her to bare and she took a gasp of air as she walked out of the store. As she approached her car, she noticed a note attached to her windshield. Written in blue ink, the note said,
“Fuck you Bitch.”
It was only a matter of time before Kathy would move out of this town. Once she had some food and coffee she would pull up a map and pick a new town. Maybe she would change her last name. But first she would try to get some sleep.