April 7, 2014
The ground dropped from underneath me, and I was falling stiffly into darkness–similar to what I imagine it feels like to dissipate into my surroundings, evaporate into the smog of a penetrating, crisp cold…grossly expire like a piece of meat properly thawed but then left out only to go bad.
“They found a body,” he said.
My brother was a composed man–a man of decent stature, accomplishment, and commitment. His voice was secure, maybe in hopes to offer something of shelter that I could hold on to. But, at that moment, there was nothing for me to grasp. I continued to decline, all the pieces of myself like a soaked puzzle–crumbling and deteriorated pieces never to be put back together.
I lingered in the same place of unending ambiguity. Have they found her? Does this mean she is dead? Will we ever find her? Is she hidden away in the darkened rooms of a stranger’s secluded shack, shaking and trembling? Or will we turn the next corner of the woods tomorrow to find her with her doll sitting amongst the caterpillars and butterflies, sobbing and hungry but otherwise unharmed and just reaching her young and delicate hands out for mommy?
My head had been overwhelmed with painful aches of memories and imagery, painting a thousand different stories of where she could be and what she could be doing, and what could have been done to her.
As the creases of my feet pressed against the wooden floor, I pictured Elizabeth folded up at the kitchen table. She liked to sit like that, knees to her chest as she scooped Fruity Pebbles into her mouth and melodiously hummed, entirely unintentional. She never brushed her hair before breakfast, no matter how many times I told her to, and every single morning she would ask me just one more question about her father.
I had loved this memory of her until the last month of searching plagued my mind with sorrow. As often as the painful flashbacks seized my brain, I was occupied twice more with painted images of Henry holding me closely as I sobbed through my black sweater, standing over a flower-full grave topped with a small, delicate casket. Immediately though, my mind would crash back into the fact that she was still unfound, and just as immediately, I felt as though my insides had been run over by a fleeting truck.
Henry lead me to the closet where he helped me accompany my week-old, oversized t-shirt with one of James’ old fleece jackets–Henry couldn’t help it. He had no idea who’s things were who’s. He had only flown in from his business job out in Chicago when he had heard about Beth’s disappearance. But I didn’t mind–the smell of James’ fleece brought me a sense of comfort.
When he had still been with us, James was always the reliable one. He seemed to always know what he was doing, and even on days when we entered in with no plan, it was always with him that we would end up somewhere spectacular with a story for the books. I suppose that’s what made me fall in love with him–his spectacular sense of divine direction in the world.
His jacket sheltered me now with smells of peppermint gum and pine trees, both of which helped to push me through the door of the medical center where a body lie in a hospital bed.
A young girl–twelve or so–lay dormant. Two, narrow scrapes dressed her jawline, while a gaping cut grooved into her forehead. She was still unidentified, but it was not Beth. Restless, I gracelessly dragged the hospital chair from the far side of the room and placed it directly at her side. Henry stood at the window to the room–no words–as I sat down and gently caressed the young girl’s hand and held it to my lips. Tears streamed down my face as I kissed the back of her hand and laid my head into her lap.
April 8, 2014
I woke to Henry trying to graciously lift me from the chair. A doctor stood over us, clipboard in hand. He wore a neat, white lab coat and a pair of dark auburn, square-framed glasses.
“We have to take her away now, I’m sorry,” he said, with an uneasy voice that expressed a sort of confusion, probably as to why I, who held no relation to the young girl, had spent the evening sobbing into her hospital gown.
Henry cradled me as we made our way to the waiting room, where I suddenly felt an intense desperation. I ripped myself from his arms and allowed my body to take over. Water gushed from my eyes and soaked my shirt, all to be camouflaged when I finally reached the grass outside. It was pouring rain when I fell to my knees in exhaustion and heartache. I gripped the back of my neck and squeezed tight at the ends of my hair as I screamed, “Where are you Elizabeth? Where is my baby girl?!”
Henry ran out and covered me, blind to my relentless need to lay there, broken. As together as my body physically and biologically stood, I felt as though my arms reached high into the sky, the remaining parts of me scattered across the hospital lawn, and my eyes continued to drop down with the rain, only to get a horrendous view of the brokenness that had consumed me.
April 14, 2014
“What was Daddy’s favorite animal?” she asked, gulping down another large spoonful of Fruity Pebbles.
“I’m not sure, honey. He really loved dogs, though. That’s why we got Jack here,” I told her.
“I think Daddy’s favorite animal is a brown dog because the day that the police people brought me home, I saw this brown doggy that stayed with me all night before, and when I fell asleep, he let me lay on him. So I think Daddy must have liked brown dogs a lot.”