Title: Desperate Housewife
MS UST, Angst Galore
Written for the June Open theme MR challenge.
"Scully, where did they find her?"
I knew Mulder was going to start on the morbid questions sooner or later. I was still in mild shock from having to autopsy my best friend's mother, then watching him alternately deny her death and accept it simultaneously. After I told him about her illness, he sniffled against my shoulder and allowed me to steer him to the couch. Ever contradictory, he shifted so that he faced the back of the couch, back to me, for some semblance of privacy in his grief, but snaked his hand over his shoulder, reaching until I took it.
We sat in the silence for half an hour before he started on the questions. I knew I had no choice but to answer him.
"Police told me the gardener came by to mow the lawn, and let himself into the back yard. He saw her through the screen door in the kitchen, sitting in a chair, slumped across the table. He kicked the door in, and smelled gas, so he called police from a neighbor's."
"Why would she sit in the kitchen and inhale gas, AND take a bottle of Diazepam? Why not just lay in bed and never wake up?"
All I could reply was that I didn't know.
I knew my daughter was dead twenty years before I killed myself. It happened in the very same kitchen where I turned on the gas, taped up the doors, and for good measure, took my entire supply of diazepam.
It was 1979. Samantha had been missing for six years. My marriage to Bill had dissolved four years ago. And my darling boy was 18, zipping through his last year of high school, already preparing to leave for Oxford at the beginning of the summer.
Fox was already taller than me even then, and he had been working various after-school jobs for travel money. For the first time in a long time I no longer worried constantly about my shy, lonely boy. He seemed eager to move on, excited about the future and the opportunity to step out of the shadow of his depressive, angry family.
I remember the morning like it was yesterday. I was polishing my silver. He came into the kitchen with a pair of hair shears, and leaned his gangly body against the counter. He hesitated for a bit, like he was about to ask something very important. To my surprise, he cocked his head to one side and said, "Mom, will you cut my hair?"
I hadn't cut his hair in at least five years, not since he'd had his own pocket money and liked to walk down to the barber on Main Street. He claimed a professional made him look older.
But I was delighted at his request. I smiled warmly and said, "Sure, honey. Help me clear away this silverware. You know I don't mind, but what happened to Sam down on Main?"
"Well, y'know I'm trying to save money, and I just figured why waste the five dollars when I could get you to do it for free? I wanted to catch a movie with Sarah tonight, and it's getting a little out of hand..." he explained breathlessly as he ran his hand through his hair. He sat down and helped me wrap each piece of silverware. We set them in their case and he dragged a dining table chair to the middle of the room, facing the screen to the open back door. Seated, he was just the right height for me to reach, and I began to clip at his thick brown hair methodically, as if I had just done it yesterday. Always a talker, he babbled on about the basketball team, the girl he was going to see a movie with, and whatever else was on his mind. The hair fell to the floor in short, even pieces, and I listened to him talk.
Suddenly, I glanced out the door and saw a figure on the grass. My daughter. She was a young lady, gaunt and spindly. Her eyes stared lifelessly up at the sky. There were dark purple bruises around her neck. She was surely dead. And he was standing over her. His trenchcoat blew in the slight breeze, he reached into the pocket and pulled out a cigarette.
I gasped audibly and snapped the shears closed.
"... and I told her that I thought it'd be a great movie, the special effects are s'pposed to be state of the- Mom!"
In that instant, Fox felt the cool steel against his head, and a thick six-inch lock of hair fell on his shoulder, then fluttered onto his lap. He was stunned into silence. His hand flew to the spot on the back of his hair where you could now see his scalp. "Mom, what're you doin'? That's too short!" With his hand still on his head, he stood up, the patch of hair floated to the linoleum floor.
My eyes still on the back lawn, I backed away. The shears clattered to the floor along with the hair. The expression of horror on my face was enough to make him forget about his new bald spot, and follow my gaze outside.
But she'd disappeared. And so did he. Both figures were gone as suddenly as they appeared.
His head whipped between me and the back lawn, searching for whatever I saw. Fox's voice rose with apprehension. "Mom? What'd you see? Who was out there?" His voice sounded so plaintive and confused. I was overwhelmed.
"I-I.. I'm sorry, Fox. I can't. I'm sorry about your hair. You can take some money out of my purse and take the car to Sam's. He can fix it. I-I-I have to, have to lie down." I stumbled out of the kitchen to my room, leaving my son standing in the middle of the room, completely bewildered, still with his hand on the back of his head.
I knew he'd be disappointed that I couldn't even handle the simple task of saving him a few dollars and giving him a decent haircut. I waited until I heard my Buick backfiring out of the driveway until I broke down.
I always knew he had her. It was twisted logic, but I was glad to have been unfaithful, because it gave me the hope that if Samantha were with her biological father, her life might be spared. And up until this moment, I always knew she was still alive. At that moment, I knew her luck had run out, and he had finally done away with my daughter for good. At age fourteen, she had finally been taken away from this world. The weight of my revelation caused me to cry myself to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of the front door slamming. The sun was setting, I had slept the rest of the day away. Fox bounded loudly up the stairs, and seemingly as an afterthought, walked softer towards my bedroom door. His knock was barely audible. He didn't wait for me to answer before peeking his newly-shorn head in.
"Mom? You awake?"
I sat up in bed. In the space of an afternoon, my son had gone my darling boy, fidgeting in the seat in the kitchen while I cut his hair, to a grown man. His hair wasn't shaggy and stylish anymore, it was cut short and professional-looking. He crossed the bedroom in a few long strides and sat down on the edge.
"What do you think?" He was smiling, but I could tell he was bursting with both worry and curiosity. He came up under the impression of showing me his new haircut, but I knew he wanted to know what had made me so horrified.
"You look so grown-up," I sighed. "I'm sorry, Fox. I guess I just wasn't paying attention..." my excuse sounded hollow to my own ears. I swallowed. I was never a very good liar, especially around my son, so I decided to tell him the truth. Or, what I understood of it. "I don't know why," I began slowly, "but I started thinking about Samantha. And how much I miss her. I didn't mean to cut it so short."
"It's ok, mom. Sam says the 70's shag is gonna go out with the ringing of the new year. I'm just getting a jump on it. I gotta keep my trend-setter reputation, huh?"
My heart burst with love and pride for this boy, always so thoughtful and considerate. Letting me off the hook again. I squeezed his hands. "Yes, you do. But I still feel terrible, Fox. Why don't you take Sarah to a nice restaurant, on me?"
He knew I wasn't telling him the truth, but he didn't press any further.
"Thanks, Mom. I'll see you tonight, OK?" He leaned over to hug me, then bounded back out of the room.
I stayed in bed the rest of the night, to mourn the loss of my daughter, for the second time in six years.
Though I was almost whispering, my voice boomed out in the silence.
"Will you tell me what you saw in the woods?"
He hesitated. After our visit to Arbutus Ray's house, we were both lying in my hotel room on the bed. I had kicked off my shoes, but Mulder remained fully-clothed. We had decided to fly back to DC the following morning, but Mulder was undecided as to whether or not he would still take his requested leave of absence. He had his back to me again, but I knew that he didn't want to be alone. And he knew I was going to ask him eventually. He was so exhausted and drained, but I had to know.
"I saw Samantha. She was 14. Just like in the diary."
"Well... why? What happened to her? Was she a ghost?"
"I don't know. I think... I think she..." he hesitated as he struggled to gather his thoughts. I thought back on the past two days, on all the grieving parents he had spoken to, and waited for his theory.
"I think that the Smoking Man would have killed her, but she disappeared. Into the starlight, before she met a violent end. Just like Harold Piller told me." he finished.
My silence from my end of the bed asked him to continue, so he did.
"He explained that there was a train crash, but when they recovered the bodies, none of the children's bodies could be accounted for. And all the parents I talked to spoke of seeing their children dead in a vision, then the child's body disappears. Amber-Lynn was being targeted by the reindeer farm owner, who had probably also targeted Kathy Lee Tencate's son as well. And Harold Piller's son disappeared, too."
"Did your mother see a vision?"
"Yes. I think that's why they found her in the kitchen. Because that's where she saw it. And I remember when it happened."
That was not the response I was expecting. I sat up and faced his back. "Did you see it too?"
To my relief, he shook his head.
"No, but I was there, and now, knowing what I do, I remember when she did, and it makes sense. It was my senior year of high school, six years after Samantha had been taken. I had asked my mother to cut my hair, and while she was cutting it, she saw something out the back door that freaked her out so badly she cut a plug out of my hair and left a bald spot. She wouldn't tell me what she saw, she just shut herself in her room for the rest of the day." He was silent for a full minute before he continued. "Which means she let me search for her for thirty years, knowing all along that she was dead." He cleared his throat, extended a hand towards the nightstand on his side, and jerked a Kleenex from the box. He blew his nose, tossed the used tissue to the ground, and sighed heavily. "So I guess I have to go home and bury them both."
Though he wasn't sobbing or anything so histrionic, the profound sadness and defeat in his voice was enough to make me scoot closer and hug his back. I wanted to apologize for his grief, to tell him it would be all right. But even with all my personal experience, those ready-made lines just seemed hollow and pointless. "Do you want me to help?" I said into his shoulder blades.
He nodded silently. "I'm really tired," he sighed. There was nothing more to say.
My funeral was short and simple, just as I asked. It was sunny in Raleigh, and just a few people came. My neighbors from the Vineyard, my lawyer, my gardener, and my son and his partner. My darling boy looked just like he did that day I cut his hair too short. They stood side by side. I did it because I knew that I couldn't bear to lie to him for another day. I did it because I wanted him to know the truth, and finally let go. And I did it because I was finally sure he wouldn't be completely alone.