This story is by Patricia Bumpass and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Five-Year Anniversary
No, I call out as I startle awake. Pushing my hair back from my forehead, I look around and realize it’s still dark outside. The clock at my bedside informs me it’s only 4:30 a.m.
There would be no more sleep for me this day.
Throwing the sweat-soaked covers off my legs, I decide I may as well get my day started. As I pad into the kitchen my cell phone rings. “Mom, what are you doing up so early?”
The sweet soft voice of my dear mother replies, “I knew you’d be up this early. If you got any sleep at all, Sweetheart.”
“You know me so well.” I chuckle.
“What are your plans for the day?”
“I don’t know mom. I have the day off so I’m going to put flowers on Jeremy’s grave. Other than that, I have no idea.”
“I wish I could be there with you. You know that right?”
I look down at the counter. “I wish you could be here too.” I sigh. “It’s been five years since. . . Why am I still waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat?”
“Oh honey, you were attacked, and you watched your child die, all in the same day. It’s going to take longer than five years to get over either of those events. Give yourself a little space and a little grace – especially today.”
“I love you, mom. Thank you.” I wipe away a tear.
“I love you too dear. Call me later?”
“Yep.” I punch the red button on my phone that ends the call. Pouring coffee from the pot that I made while talking with mom, I sit at my kitchen table and relive the day that changed my life.
A couple of hours later, I turn on the T.V. as I put on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. Two things happen. The face of the man responsible for the worst day of my life splashes across the TV screen, and the doorbell rings.
Frustrated, I turn the volume down and run to the door. “Who in the world could this be?”
I open the door to find a well-dressed gentleman in a blue suit and tie. I smile and lean in for a hug and quick kiss before I step back so he can enter.
“Detective Logan. Hi. I wasn’t expecting you until later.”
Closing the door, I turn to face the man who has been my rock these past five years. “I was getting ready to go visit Jeremy’s grave.”
He turns away and rubs the back of his neck, a sure sign he has something he doesn’t want to tell me.
“Under the circumstances, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” He walks over to the fireplace and turns back to me.
“What aren’t you telling me, Jack?”
He walks back into my space and places his hands on my shoulders. “Carver Thornton has escaped.”
The room tilts.
Holding onto the wall, I rush to the bathroom down the hall. When I come out, Jack is leaning against the wall with his arms folded and ankles crossed. “Are you ok?”
I shake my head.
“I’m sorry to bring you this kind of news on the fifth anniversary of such a terrible loss. I should call. . .”
“No,” I interrupt and look him in the eye. “What happened?”
“We’re not sure. All we know right now is he killed a guard and wounded one more. We have reason to believe he’s headed your way. I’m under orders not to let you out of my sight.”
Shaking my head again, I turn so he won’t see the unshed tears in my eyes. “How did he find me?”
Jack wraps his arms around me from behind. “Are you sure I can’t call. . .”
“How did he find me?” I interrupt him for the second time.
He sighs, “His lawyer hired a private detective to find you.” I step out of his arms and away from him. “Please know that my office is doing everything we can to return him to custody.”
I laugh. “What makes you think he’s coming after me?”
“Why don’t we sit down. You look a little unsteady.” He follows me as I take a seat on the sofa. “From day one, he has said he’s going to find you and make you pay for putting him behind bars.”
Jack takes a breath and looks around my small apartment before continuing. “He has also been saying it’s your fault Jeremy is dead.”
I swipe at my face then stand up. “Jack, you know what this day means to me. I don’t plan on missing a visit to my son’s grave this year.” I walk into his personal space daring him to stop me.
“I’ll drive you.” He flips his keys as he grins at me.
Jack gives me the go-ahead to enter the mausoleum, but I take a moment to gather my thoughts. Inside, I pull out the tiny drawer holding my son’s remains. “Hey, baby. Mommy misses you so much. You would have been starting second grade this year. . .”
The door to the crypt flies open and Detective Logan falls into the room followed by my ex-husband, holding a gun. Jack isn’t moving.
“Carver.” I push the drawer closed.
With the gun trained on the detective, my ex-husband snarls, “Bet you thought you’d never have to deal with me again. I see they sent the detective who helped you put me away to protect you. At least now I get to take care of you both at once.”
My eyes travel to the form lying on the ground before I look back at Carver. “I heard you escaped. I never thought you would have the nerve to show up at my baby’s grave. Not after you murdered him in cold blood.”
He trains the gun on me. “Shut up. It’s your fault our son is dead. If you had taken him to your mom’s, he never would have walked in on us. I didn’t know he was in the house. I may have pulled the trigger, but you killed our son.”
“You’re delusional. You raised that gun, you pointed it at our child, and you pulled the trigger.” I walk up to him. “You don’t have the guts to shoot me, Carver.”
He slaps my face, and I stagger across the room. I wipe the blood from the side of my mouth. Standing over me, he says through clenched teeth, “That smart mouth of yours is why I raped you. When Jeremy came running into the room, I thought he was our nosy neighbor coming to check on why you were being so loud. I didn’t know he was home.
“I finally get to pay you back for my trouble. I’m going to have my way with you. Too bad, lover boy here can’t watch the show. It’s all good, though. Even unconscious, he should still be able to hear your screams. When I’ve had my fill of you, I’m going to kill you both.”
With the gun still pointed at me, he begins to unfasten his belt using his free hand.
“You’re not going to get away with this.”
“Shut up before I hit you again.”
“You may as well pull the trigger. That is the only way you’re ever going to force yourself on me a second time.”
“That can be arranged.” I cringe as he cocks his gun.
Instead of a shot ringing out, Carver Thornton falls beside me. A smoking bullet hole in his back.
I roll away from his lifeless body and release five years of pent-up tears. I hear Jack calling, “Lacey, are you ok?” before everything goes black.
Jack is sitting in a chair next to my bed, holding my hand, when I return to this world. “Hi.” I lift my other arm towards his head. “It looks like he hit you pretty hard. Does it hurt?”
“Welcome back. It only hurts when I laugh or make any sudden moves. How are you feeling? I hope he didn’t hurt you while I was passed out.”
“He never got a chance, thanks to you. Why am I in the hospital?”
“You’re in the emergency room. The doctor says you’re in shock. And you’ve got the beginning of a nasty bruise on your right cheek. I’m sorry I put you in danger.”
I shake my head. “Don’t. If it hadn’t been for you, I’d be dead.” I touch the side of his face.
He places his hand over mine. “I sent a patrol car to pick up your mom as soon as her plane lands. I’ll sit with you until she gets here.”
I glance down at our clasped hands. He follows my gaze and looks back up at me, his lips curved in a smile.