TWELVE – KAY BAILEY
Kay Bailey squeezed inside the door to her house and pushed it shut with her back. The sound of the latch echoed off the dark, bare walls.
The noise brought a tear to Kay’s eye. She put down her small bag of groceries and wiped the moisture from her cheek.
Her engagement ring got caught in her red hair; the tug she gave to free it made her wince. The small diamond glittered in the dim light, her hair hanging from the setting like red strands of spun gold.
Looking at the ring made the tears well up again.
The house seemed so big and empty with Tim and the kids gone.
She tried not to think about it, but the memories and emotions overwhelmed her. She sank to the floor without even turning on the inside light, sobbing uncontrollably.
Ten minutes later she regained control of herself.
They’re not dead, and neither are you, she told herself. Millions of people get divorced every year. It’s not the end of the world.
But it felt like the end of the world to Kay.
A short time ago it seemed like she had everything—everything that really mattered anyway: a home, a loving husband, two wonderful kids.
Then little Timmy got sick, and they needed more money. They both worked overtime to get it. Eventually, a lot faster than Tim expected, they paid off the bill.
Kay wished to God she’d known what the word actually meant when Abner Winslow offered it to her.
She supposed she should have expected it. He’d always had eyes for her—and any other pretty girl in the office… or on the street outside… or anywhere.
And with his money, Abner could afford to buy whatever struck his fancy.
Money. She had done it for money.
And because she loved little Timmy.
If only the company insurance had been better. If only Grant had been in charge then, rather than his uncle.
But he wasn’t, and she’d made her choice.
The money—for Timmy.
The cost hadn’t seemed too great at first. It had only been one time.
Kay wasn’t a religious woman. She thought herself pragmatic. She thought she could deal with it. Tim need never know.
But the adultery had eaten away at her soul until she felt she had nothing left. It was either tell Tim or lose her soul completely.
She hoped, she prayed, he’d understand. It had been years ago, after all. They had both been younger. And more foolish. And Timmy desperately needed the treatment.
And it had only been one time.
But Tim didn’t understand.
Kay’s marriage unraveled slowly, painfully, until, finally, Tim took Timmy and Kathy and went to his mother’s house in Duluth. Leaving Kay alone.
As empty as the house without the warm sound of children’s laughter filling the air.
As empty as the approaching holidays without family. As empty as the children’s beds and the spot next to her at night. As empty as the inside of Tim’s wedding band, left angrily on the dresser upstairs.
On the dresser, where Kay had left it ever since. Putting it away might make her realize he wasn’t coming back.
And she couldn’t bear that.
Kay picked herself up of the floor, retrieved the groceries, and walked mechanically into the dark kitchen. She set the bag on the counter next to the fridge and opened the door.
Cold white light flooded out of the appliance, momentarily blinding her. Her hair fell into her eyes, stinging them. She brushed the locks back with one hand and fished in her bag with the other.
First the eggs, then the milk, then the butter. Everything in its place. One step at a time. She could make it through another day. She would make it through another day.
She knew she should be getting a lawyer, trying for at least joint custody. But that would be admitting that the marriage was over, that she’d failed.
And deep inside, she knew the whole thing was her fault. If she hadn’t been weak. If she’d had a better job, or a better boss. If she hadn’t dressed so nice around the office.
Maybe then Abner wouldn’t have wanted her, and she wouldn’t have needed the money. For Timmy.
In the end, it looked like she’d lost him anyway.
Kay realized that she was squatting in front of the fridge with the door open, tears streaming down her face and splattering on the tile floor—her breathing coming in ragged sobs.
She must look so stupid.
She got up and sniffed back the tears, discovering she’d put away the last of the groceries without knowing it. She was about to close the fridge door when a sound from behind made her turn.
Someone was in the house.
“Tim…?” she called, trying to fight down the hope in her voice.
“Tim…?” a mocking echo called back from the dining room. Cackling titters wafted into the kitchen after the voice.
“Tim, is that you? This isn’t funny!” The voice seemed familiar to Kay, but….
“This isn’t funny!” the voice parroted back. Again, the laughter.
Fear gripped Kay’s heart and squeezed. She spun from the fridge without closing the door and groped in the semi-darkness for the wall phone.
She found it, picked up the receiver, and punched 911 without listening for a dial tone.
“Hello, police…?” she said frantically. “I need help! There’s someone in the house!”
“I need help! I need help!” cackled the voice.
On the other end of the line… nothing. Just dead air.
She could see them now, shadows with glowing green eyes ambling at her from the dining room.
“Help! Help!” the lead shadow called mockingly.
“Oh, my God!” Kay said, dropping the phone and trying to back away from the approaching mob.
“No help for you, Kay,” said the lead shadow. Its voice was sharp and nasal, like an adult trying to mimic a child—the voice of a clown gone bad.
“Kay’s been a bad girl,” said a sibilant female voice from somewhere further back.
“Bad Kay! Bad girl!” the unseen mob echoed in tittering, nasal tones.
The lead shadow stepped into the light. Despite his rat-like muzzle and shining green eyes, Kay recognized him.
“You’re mine!” he said, his evil voice stretching each syllable lovingly almost to the breaking point. His smile showed a mouthful of sharp teeth. He laughed.