145/366 - the first of the Abraham Darbys
A few weeks after he's released from jail, the pedophile crawls through the night in his tumbled red sedan and parks in the shadow of the fir trees that line our drive. While most of our family sleeps unaware, he crouches in his car like a spider, hunched and waiting. He returns night after night after night, always hungry...until finally the web snaps. I am standing in the grocery store, one hand on the shopping cart, the other reaching for an avocado, when a stranger approaches and reveals his secret. I think she must be joking - my God she must be joking - but she is not, and later that night the police knock on our door and we sit stunned as the tale spins out again.
My friends ask if I'm okay, really. They remember the first time we found out about the pedophile, when I descended into blackness, quit church, gave a blank face to the world while I beat my anger out inside. That was a plea bargain, a jail term and a year ago. I poke a finger into my heart, feel around, test my limbs. "I'm okay," I say, and after awhile I discover I am.
One day we visit long-missed friends. I stand in the kitchen with a glass of wine, watching while she unloads the dishwasher. Her hair is greyer now, but she seems unchanged. She looks me in the eye as she straightens and heaves a stack of plates into the cupboard. "We haven't talked for ages! How's the book coming?" The book? I blink. It HAS been a long time. She's smiling encouragement and I laugh, "No book. Just living!" and I change the subject.
That night I lay in bed and wonder how deep the words are hiding. An author friend tells me that if she doesn't write she will die, that writing it out is how she knows she's alive. "Not me," I say. The words are a clutch I can never unbury, a secret hope guarded by a dragon who will not let them loose until he knows we are safe.
The next morning I lift the calendar page, stare at the blank squares of summer laid out in their neat rows. Four months of his six month jail sentence have passed. Soon it will be over, he will be released, and I will have to fall asleep wondering if spiders lurk in the shadow of the firs; I don't know yet if I'm afraid. I see my reflection in the glass door, blank. Everything inside me is still...save for the small unfurling of a dragon's claw.