It wasn’t meant to end like this, not like this. We were supposed to be a family, and families stick together no matter what.
Driving home, I let my mind wander back to Jenny and the kids, thinking about happier times and wondering how they were getting along without me. They were probably having dinner now, and Jenny would be trying to feed baby Margaret her peas. She was starting to teeth and we wanted to switch her to solid food. Dinner was usually a messy affair with lots of baby spit involved.
In the middle of the food fight, Clarissa will be regaling Jenny with a longwinded account of her day in playschool. From how she hated Miss Watson for making her sing in front of class, to how annoying Bobby Rodgers was for following her around during playtime. She loves finger painting and wants to study art in school next time.
Damn, why must they grow up so fast? I thought, smiling to myself as I realized just how much I missed them. I wanted to tell Jenny just how sorry I was, that I was ready to do anything if she would just take me back. I wanted to be with my family again. Driving past the road that would take me to the house, I was possessed by a sudden impulse to drive home right now. It has been two months since our big fight, surely she would have calmed down.
What have I got to lose? I’ve already lost everything I care about. And with that crazy notion, I swung the car around and guided the car up the narrow street that would bring me home.
Parking the car two blocks from the house, I walked quietly up the street, keeping my head down in case any of the neighbors saw me. Standing across the road, I hid myself behind a tree as I tried to compose myself, thinking about what to say. This was a bad idea I told myself as I started to doubt and feel jittery about the whole plan.
Sneaking a quick look, I saw Jenny sitting alone through the dining room window. There was no sign of the girls anywhere. They must be with Robert or at her mum’s I guessed, thankful that someone was helping her through this difficult time. Taking a deep breathe to calm the nerves, I decided I should just give her a call first just in case.
“Hello?” Her voice was a melody in my ear as I saw her pick up the phone inside. It was wonderful to hear from her again. God how I missed her!
Looking at my wife through the window, I spoke from the heart. “Jenny, it’s me. Look, please don’t hang up. I just want to apologise. I know this entire incident has been my fault and I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am.”
I paused for a moment, waiting for her to recognise me and hang up, but she stayed on the line. From the window, I saw her expression change as she started to cry into the phone. “I missed you too, baby.”
On the verge of tears myself, I kept my gaze on her as I started to profess my love and remorse to my wife. “I’ve mistreated you and the kids, and I’ve done things, horrible things, that I shouldn’t have. I just want you to know that I will be always there for you honey, no matter what. Please Jenny, just give me one more chance, I swear I’ll make it right again. I’ll….”
From the corner of my eye, I caught a distinct movement coming from the adjacent kitchen window. A dreadful feeling came over me as I realized there was someone in the house with Jenny!
“Eric? Hello? God I missed you too, Eric! Where are you?”
I didn’t reply. It was a man; he was wearing a mask and tinkering with the stove. Suddenly, the fire alarm went off. “Jenny! Get out of the house! Go out the front door now!” I yelled, hoping she would do as I instructed.
“What’s that Eric? I can’t hear you? Jenny shouted over the noise. “Give me a minute. I need to turn off the darn smoke detector.” And she walked out of view and into the kitchen.
“Jenny, no!” I screamed, dashing across the road to the house. I charged at the door, slamming hard into it with my shoulder, but it did not budge. Panicking, I picked up the lawn chair and smashed open a window. Looking in, my worst fears came to life as I saw Jenny lying motionlessly on the floor. The masked man was gone, out the kitchen door, as a fire raged over the kitchen stove.
“Wake up, Jenny, wake up!” I cried, desperately trying to climb through the window to reach her. The shards of broken glass shredded my hands as I tried to squeeze through the shattered window. Whatever the cost, I had to save Jenny.
All of a sudden, a massive explosion rocked the house, flinging me backwards onto the lawn as a ball of fire and shattered furniture ripped through the window. The entire house was ablaze now, it was too late to do anything. Standing on the lawn, I looked at the raging inferno with utter despair as it consumed everything. My wife, my home and my dreams, everything was gone now.
Feeling faint, I just wanted to sit down and cry. I needed to mourn for my wife. Yet I know I should not be here. Across the neighborhood, people were coming out of their houses now to witness the spectacle. Sooner or later, someone will spot me, and I would would be a prime suspect. After all, I was the abusive husband who disobeyed the restraining order. But if I leave, they’ll hunt me down and take me in anyway. I was the last caller to the house. They would pin the entire thing on me.
There would be no escape. I was paralyzed, torn between two worlds, not knowing what to do. The wails of police sirens in the distance were coming closer now. I need to decide, stay and be taken in, or run and try to find my wife’s murderer first.
From my wallet, I took out whatever cash I had before flinging the rest of the contents into the blaze. My ID, driver’s license, credit cards, everything was gone now. Next I needed to get rid of the phone, and I chucked it through the window. Hopefully they would think I’m somewhere inside the rubble.
I was a wanted man now, and the evidence stood against me. I would be guilty until proven innocent. There was no other way, I had to find the bastard who did this and get him to confess.
What choice did I have? I ran.