Written by Niles M. Reddick.
Barbara no longer went to the women’s group at the Methodist church, and for the first year after her daughter’s death, Barbara didn't even come to church. When she came, she slipped in when the choir was beginning, went up and into the balcony, and crept out before the final prayer. She let herself go. The gray came from the roots of her hair and took over like weeds in a flower bed. When I saw her at the grocery store, the dark circles underneath her eyes and the saggy clothes told me she hadn't slept and had lost weight.
“Honey, how are you doing?” I asked.
“I miss seeing you in the group.”
“I’m hoping to come back.”
I hugged Barbara, but she never came back to the group. She looked like the stage four chemo patients I pitied at the hospital, knowing the majority wouldn’t make it despite the fact they'd done everything they were told and prayed incessantly. She didn’t even look as good as the few who’d learned they were in remission and would make it when they hadn't followed instructions and hadn't prayed.
Barbara had been full of life before Kelsey’s murder. She did more than all of us in the women’s group. She helped at the homeless shelter, served at the soup kitchen, stood in the freezing cold and snow ringing the bell for The Salvation Army at Christmas, met with recovering addicts at the center and held their hands and listened to their stories of rape, drug deals gone wrong, car wrecks, and unforgiving families who’d turned their back on them. Her degrees in Social Work and beliefs didn’t help her, however, when the police chief showed up on her doorstep and asked to come inside. Barbara fell apart and knew something was horribly wrong. She learned Kelsey had been killed at the university four hours away.
Barbara froze, like Lot’s pillar of salt wife, and was only alive biologically, her body on automatic pilot drifting through time and space.
I dabbed the tears from my eyes at the closed casket funeral, told my husband I couldn’t imagine anything worse than burying a child. I called her, sent her notes, and even dropped by and banged on the door, but she didn’t respond for months.
Barbara’s daughter Kelsey had been shot dead in the university parking lot. Dreams of being a counselor, of marriage, and of children evaporated with her. A security officer driving through the lot saw her slumped against the car, thought she was just another passed out drunk student. They finally found the killer, strung out on drugs and hidden in the woods near the university. The killer had been a cute little boy, his family’s heart and soul, and star football player in high school. When he didn’t make it in college, he’d joined a gang, became hooked on meth, and didn’t even know he’d killed Kelsey for a five and three ones in her purse.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel "Drifting too far from the Shore", two collections "Reading the Coffee Grounds", and "Road Kill Art and Other Oddities", and a novella "Lead Me Home". His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including "The Saturday Evening Post", "PIF", "New Reader Magazine", "Forth Magazine", "The Boston Literary Magazine", "Cheap Pop", "Flash Fiction Magazine", "With Painted Words", among many others. Website: http://nilesreddick.com/