A World of Speculation

I walked back to the car seeing nothing but the putty-colored wet sidewalk under my feet.

As I walked by the door to the lecture room where the parents were, I heard a woman give a wail of grief. I shivered at the pain and terror and wondered if it was Angela.

I tried to avert my eyes from the memorial wall that was taking shape along the plate-glass windows of the cafeteria. The flowers and photos and teddy bears forced themselves into my vision, the flowers already broken and wilting, the photos with their colors dripping like tears. The teddy bears looked at me with their hard little eyes, asking, as the detective had asked, “Do you know why your daughter might have done this?”

In the parking lot, wires meandered like snakes from media trucks to lights and monitors. As I stepped among them, focused on the simple task of not falling down, something dark appeared in my vision, and I jumped back.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” a woman said.

I looked up to find one of the newswomen with the perfect hair holding out a microphone and looking at me with a friendly and sympathetic smile.

“I wonder if you would be willing to share your thoughts on the events here today.”

I stared at her for a second or two while I waited for her words to get translated into something I could understand. “Share my thoughts,” I repeated. In the monitor just off camera, I saw an old, old woman, bitter, frightened, and scary. I looked around, wondering where that horrible woman was, and then I realized it was the murderer’s mom. I turned my face away and walked back to my car.

How could this have happened?

I remember the helplessness of holding her tiny, writhing body, racked by colic, as she flailed in pain. The neighbors upstairs would pound on the floor to protest the noise. I was an 18-year-old mom with no experience, no family, no friends nearby, the baby’s dad on the road. She was tiny, red, anguished, and when she finally did fall into an exhausted sleep, I would put her on my bed and curl around her, sheltering her with my body without touching her, for fear of waking her from her sleep. And I would sob silently at my inability to help her.

My phone rang, and Chloe’s name showed on its little screen. I thought of letting it go while I recovered myself, but then the morning’s missed call from Melody came back with all its unseen horror, and I picked it up and made my voice as neutral as I could. “Yes?”

“Mom?” Her voice was tinny, echoey — the unmistakable sign of a call from the girls’ bathroom — and she was sobbing so hard that she could hardly get the words out. “There’s a — video — Melody — Have you heard?”

“Shhh, shhhh,” I said, going into the same routine that didn’t work with colicky Melody. “Yes. I know. Take a deep breath. Wait for me in the office. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I blew my nose, dried my eyes, and went to deal with the daughter who hadn’t committed a murder — yet?