A twinkling eye can mean so many things. The ones that are twinkling at me right now have murder in them. These same eyes twinkled at me with love when I was sixteen years old, just five years ago. My mother loved me with all her heart when I was a child. She was a normally functioning, socially relevant figure, the director of a MADD-like group in our city of Casper, Wyoming. I say “MADD-like” because those women were against… just about everything. Alcohol, drugs, prescription pills, just about anything that wasn’t natural. They didn’t see the good things that prescription drugs could produce, just the fact that they can be used as things to alter brain function and damage a life.
People tried to remind them that almost anything can be made into a drug with enough willpower and the right tools, but we still had permission to use Sharpie markers, White Out, and paint for assorted activities we needed for school and things like that. Those ladies were kind of crazy, but everyone appreciated what they did to keep the children and teenagers away from drugs.
I had a little sister. My dad had divorced my mom when I was ten, and mom remarried when I was fourteen. She got pregnant with Lee’s child within months of marrying him, and I was just about to hit my fifteenth birthday when she had my little sister. I thought it was pretty gross, actually. She made me hold her hand when she was giving birth, because Lee was off on a business trip. No one is ever supposed to see their mother give birth. It’s just wrong. But I stood next to her and held her hand and said nice things to her because I loved her. And I saw my sister’s tiny face and squinkly eyes and… I loved her, too. I guess being there for my mom through the whole pregnancy triggered some kind of maternal instincts in me, too, because as soon as I saw my sister, I knew I was going to keep her safe.
My mom was always there, too. Lee wanted her to stay home with Isabelle, and mom was happy with that. She took great care of both of us, making sure we ate healthy things and did our homework and everything. I actually had a great life, and even though I thought I wouldn’t like Lee because he wasn’t my real dad and all that, he treated me just as good as he treated Isabelle. It was like I was his blooded daughter, too. And I learned to love him like my own father.
My best friend and her family lived on the property next to ours. They had a man-made lake on the property, and we went swimming a lot, despite the water being so cold. My mom always told me to make sure Isabelle never saw me swimming in that lake, because she was afraid Isabelle would want to swim in it even if no one else was around. So I always told my mom when I was going over to swim so she could distract Isabelle and I could hop the fence and I knew that Isabelle couldn’t see the lake from the edge of our property if she decided to look for me.
But one day, Isabelle did see me swimming, and she asked my mom if she could swim, too. My mom told her no, of course, because the water was too cold for her. Isabelle was only three, and she was stubborn and very smart. She decided to go swimming when she knew my mom wasn’t paying attention. Mom knew I was at my best friend’s house, and she had given Isabelle some activities to do so she could have time alone with Lee. Isabelle saw her opportunity, and she went over to that man-made lake and went swimming. I guess she had just eaten lunch, so she must have developed a cramp in her stomach that was only exacerbated by the cold water. She drowned in that lake.
My best friend and I had come outside to have girl talk away from her parents, and we were going to sit by the lake with some blankets and lunch. That’s when we found Isabelle. I took her body out of the water and ran back to my house, yelling for my mom. She came downstairs after a few minutes, in a bathrobe and her hair disheveled. She called 911, but Isabelle had been dead for some time, and there was no way the paramedics could have saved her.
My little sister died because my mother was having sex with her husband. And my mother never forgave herself for it. Rightly so, in my opinion. She knew how Isabelle was, and she knew that Isabelle wanted to go swimming. She knew that I wasn’t aware of where Isabelle was supposed to be. She had my little sister cremated, the ashes placed in a beautiful red painted urn, and she placed that urn on the fireplace mantel. Red was Isabelle’s favorite color.
Things started to go downhill from there. My mother was always out of the house, walking the streets looking for God-knows-what, maybe even trying to find Isabelle. Someone mentioned to me once that they had heard my mother praying to God, asking Him to bring Isabelle back from the dead and back to her. I didn’t doubt it. I think Mom loved Isabelle more than she loved me, although she’d never admit it. She seemed to go a little… mentally ill after Isabelle’s death. She would be making dinner one night and suddenly come to my room, asking me why I was yelling at her when I hadn’t even said anything out loud at all. I would tell her so, but she always contradicted me, saying that I was yelling at her and I just didn’t want to admit to it. Lee actually sided with me several times, defending me against my mother’s random attacks. Then she would yell at him, saying that he didn’t want to have Isabelle and that he took her to the lake so she would drown just to get revenge for Isabelle being born.
Which totally wasn’t the case. Lee loved Isabelle, and she was the only child he ever fathered. He had been hoping that he and my mother could have a child together since they were engaged.
Lee tried to get my mother to go to a counselor or even a psychiatrist to get evaluated, but she kept saying that she wasn’t crazy, she didn’t need help, she especially wasn’t going to a psychiatrist because all they would do was prescribe her drugs that she would get hooked on and eventually overdose. She wouldn’t go talk to any professional, and then she stopped talking to everyone. Lee wanted to divorce her, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave my mother in that state without any support, and he wanted to make sure I had someone to take care of me. I was eighteen, but I hadn’t applied to any colleges and my minimum wage job wasn’t going to pay any bills. And I really appreciated him staying, because I was afraid that I would start acting like my mom if I stayed with her and didn’t have any other parental influence.
Eventually, my mom disappeared. One night she went to bed when Lee was out of town on business overnight, and when I woke up in the morning, she was nowhere to be found. I waited all day, hoping that she would come back from one of her walks, but she didn’t. I went to my best friend’s house, asking if I could search the lake to see if my mother had drowned herself, but my mother wasn’t there. Lee returned, and we waited another two days, and there was no sign of my mother. We didn’t bother calling the police about her. If she had been causing trouble, they would have called us. We didn’t get any calls or visits from the police, so we guessed that she was out there somewhere.
It was cruel, but we joked that maybe she went out into the mountains to find a place to die and put herself out of her misery. We continued on through life, and still there was no sign of my mother.
Now I’m twenty-two years old, I live in the same house as I did when Isabelle died, and my mother is at the door.
“You’re alive.” I point out, not knowing what else to say.
“I am. And I’m here.” Her hair is disheveled again, almost exactly as it had been when she found out about Isabelle. She is wearing a different nightgown than I remebered, but I guess she must have stolen a new one. She neglected to steal shoes to go with it.
“You didn’t take your key with you when you left?”
“I didn’t plan on coming back.”
“So why did you?”
“I forgot Isabelle.”
“It’s been years. Why now?”
“Because I wanted to take you, too,” my mother spits at me, suddenly slashing at me with a giant kitchen knife she had obviously been using on other things that could bleed, evidenced by the red-stained wooden handle.
I move quickly, dodging her attempt to slice my stomach. Her momentum takes her into the house, and I slam my elbow into the center of her back, hoping to knock her to the floor. I succeed, the impact of falling knocking the knife out of her hand. I jump on her, pulling her arms behind her back and straddling her ass. It must look like a mix between a legitimate arrest and a bad lesbian porno, and I actually chuckle at myself for coming up with such a good analogy.
Lee shows up in the doorway, freezing for a moment and then rushing to call the police. The officer must have been in the area, because he shows up with lights flashing and siren crying in three minutes. Which feels like forever when you’re trying to hold down an insane woman who wants to grab the knife she came to your house with to try to kill you.
The officer clicks the handcuffs, making them tight so there’s no chance my mother can escape. I help him try to lift her up and she kicks me in the knee, hyperextending it. I back away, grimacing and wanting to punch my mother in the face for hurting me.
“Sir, can you hold your wife back so I can get the extra cuffs from the patrol car?” the officer asks.
Lee nods and sits my mother back down, facing the house so she can’t see out the front door. The officer returns in seconds, holding another pair of handcuffs and what looks like a chain that will connect the two pairs. He places the second pair around her ankles and clips the chain to both pairs as I suspected, effectively hog-tying my mother. She is lying on the floor on her belly, knees bent and her ankles in the air due to the cuffs. She turns her head to face me, and her eyes are twinkling with murderous intent.
“I just want both my daughters together. I want to have you near me all the time so I never lose either of you,” she says, her voice strangely plaintive, completely at odds with her stare.
“I’m not dead, Mom. You can’t keep me like Isabelle.”
“Do not say her name!” my mother yells at me, struggling against the steel that holds her wrists and ankles.
“Isabelle. Don’t acknowledge her existence without her name, mother. Isabelle,” I say gently, hoping to change something in my mother.
All she does is scream, and the officer makes a comment about having to take her away and put her in jail until someone gives her the right analysis that would put her in an insane asylum. Lee and I help him take her to the patrol car, lying her on her stomach in the plastic backseat as she screams and spits and yells out curses on all of us.
Lee and I stand on the porch watching the patrol car disappear down the street. We never heard anything about my mother again, although we heard rumors that she escaped from the insane asylum and was hit and killed by a train on her explorations. I’m sure she hated dying a different way than Isabelle died.