I understand why he left. He never understood why I couldn’t. We split five months after she’d been found. I’d been scoured. The flesh of life had been torn from my bones; the marrow of any future sucked from dead cores.
I used to think it was a betrayal . . . this emptiness. Surely, a child’s death should make you suffer every second of every day. Maybe swinging from madness to nothing had disturbed him. That’s why he’d said it was time to leave . . . move on.
But I couldn’t. I’m as buried here as she is. The weight of it is as a headstone; the absence of her my shroud; her memory is the silk cocooning me in my coffin. I can no sooner be dug up than she can.
She’d been missing four days when they’d found her. That time between missing and discovery was a breathless, overwhelming mania, where at any moment I’d burst. But with her finding . . . there was no violent scream, no explosive rage. There was just a snuffing out, plunging me into cold and dark.
Weeks later, I went to the copse just off the country road between our small village and the next even smaller one. Once it’d been lush, but it had decayed from the inside out. That litter strewn indent left behind—so like the hole from a pulled tooth . . . all squidgy and filled with detritus life couldn’t chew and swallow—was where she’d been dumped.
When the police searched, several torn plastic bags, a mattress and a battered baby walker had joined her. I still have nightmares about it. Her small body, limbs askew like a discarded tormented doll. That ate me up from the inside. ‘Hit and run. Driver Panicked; Disposed of Body.’ The newspapers ran the story for a week. I saved every headline and article, cut out all her photos. Tried to piece her back together.
He got the car fixed out of town on the sly. No one came knocking, no one asked, no one suspected, and maybe that’s why he couldn’t stay and I can’t leave: the waiting! But no matter where we are, we’ll never get off that stretch of road.