by Anya

This was the kind of thing that broke up marriages. Destroyed lives.

(She’s still screaming in your mind: why weren’t you watching him?)

They keep whispering about how well she’s handling it. Some of them are in awe of her ability to cope; others dance around unspoken accusations, suspicions. Her posture is rigid. Her clothes are impeccably ironed. Her hair is perfectly styled, and all of it tells you that she’s not handling this well at all. You haven’t seen her this well put together since she quit her job. Really, not even then.

You were up all night baking, but you decided to only bring a basket of muffins and a casserole. She accepts them without meeting your eyes, directs Tom to take it from you. His arm almost brushes hers, but she jerks away, avoiding contact.

(Fists pounding on his chest. Why weren’t you watching him?)

She hates him. She blames him. Or at least, that’s what she told you when the paramedics and the police and the nosy neighbors had left, when her other kids were asleep and she couldn’t stay in the house anymore. You’re not sure why exactly she came to you; she blames you, too, although perhaps not for the same reason you do.

You can’t close your eyes, because you remember kneeling over his body. Frantic, determined chest compressions. You drew on everything you could remember from your First Aid for Parents class, but his skin was too cold. You couldn’t get his heart to start again.

(And heaven help you, when they took away his body, you were relieved that at least there wasn’t any blood to clean up.)

She blames herself most of all, because she has this irrational idea that good mothers don’t have dead children. You wish you could cling to that idea; you’re haunted by the memories of every time that Danielle or Andrew was near a pool, out in the ocean, every time that Rex was distracted or you turned away. You peer into their rooms at 2:18 in the morning. You dream of cold, cold skin and blue, numb lips.

(Still screaming, still screaming, TOM, WHY WEREN’T YOU WATCHING HIM?)

And you dream of that one time – that one time – when you felt her lips, her skin. Wicked, adulterous, easily-blamed-on-the-alcohol groping after a dinner party. Fleeting kisses and light caresses, and you confessed, you repented, but it was enough to anger God. It was enough to ensure your punishment. Your son is going to Hell; Lynette will never see hers grow up.

You reach for her, desperate for reassurance (you did all you could, you did all you could), but she shies away from your touch. You pull back your hands – your weak, pathetic, sinful hands – and step aside.

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