Empty Nest
by Northlight

I won't let anyone take you from me, she says,

(my sweet baby, my darling little girl),

and touching Brigitte's careworn face, knows she is saying goodbye.


The paper is warped, stained with tears and blood. Brigitte's handwriting, never clear, wavers so badly that the note is almost incomprehensible. She doesn't need words, doesn't need torn looseleaf and trembling swoops and slashes of black ink to know:

i'm sorry, i'm so sorry, mommy, please.

help me, mommy, help me.

Pam sways, one hand to her heart. Her mouth is open and twisting in grief. Her fingertips memorize the feel of paper, her baby's blood and grief.


The twisted body in the basement

(my god, henry says, what is that thing?

don't you know, she doesn't say, can't you feel it? my baby, my baby.)

is covered by a sheet. Henry gags as she pats the great head, cradles it against her empty belly. She won't let him call the police, and she is fierce in her grief. She won't let them take away her little girl, her sweet child--she'd promised, and she won't see her flesh and blood cut into, discussed beneath bright lights with horrified fascination.

She curls downwards, presses her lips against cool, rough skin.


This is what she dreams of:

Standing in the doorway, looking on with motherly satisfaction. The girls are curled on Brigitte's bed. Her arm is flung over Ginger's shoulder, Ginger's head pillowed on Brigitte's lap. Photographs lay scattered across the mattress, briefly forgotten.

Ginger's hair slides across Brigitte's hip and thigh as she lifts her head. She smiles, and holds out her arms.

Mom, she says.

I'm here, Pam says, I'm here, honey.

She smiles, stretches out her arms, and wakes with a wet face.


Henry doesn't understand. We should have seen they weren't right, he says.

They're sisters, Pam doesn't say, they're blood. They're my blood.

They plaster and paint over the long, deep gouges in the hallway. The hang up paintings knocked to the floor, and carefully dispose of broken furniture, piece by piece, over the span of months. She won't let anyone hurt her babies, but she can't and won't let him strip the polaroids from the wall in the girl's room.

She screams when he tries, pounds her fists against his chest, and doesn't hear a word when he tells her that she's tearing herself apart.

She doesn't listen, because it isn't and can't be true. She is a good mother, and she only doing what she must.


When spring comes again, she returns to her garden. She digs her fingers into the earth, and can almost feel Ginger's fingers curl around her own.

She hums as she works, content.


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