“Remember daddy, no peeking!” my 6-year-old daughter says as she runs off into the woods. I stand in front of a thick oak tree, cupping my face to the bark. Our car, just 50 feet away, behind me, resting on the old dirt path. I wait a moment to give my daughter a head start. Then, I begin counting.
“100, 99, 98, 97…” I start, hearing the rustle of her feet fade into the void of silence in the woods. As I stand in this position, my mind can’t help itself but to remember the past. To remember the center of our universe. To remember Lynda.
…88, 87, 86, 85…
God, how can I describe Lynda. She was my sunshine. We met during college. I was on my way to being kicked out of the engineering program and I was really depressed about it. So depressed, in fact, that I decided to go to the college counseling center to work out my issues. That’s when I first met her. Brunette hair, just the most dazzling light brown eyes, and I will not lie, she had a body that could make any man take a double take and maybe a few women. I was already smitten before she ever introduced herself.
She was a psychology major who had landed an internship with the school to help guide other students back on track. Her time with me was supposed to be for 45 minutes, but we talked for over 2 hours. Have you ever just met someone you instantly had that connection with? The unspoken bond that could only come when the two perfect people meet at the exact right time? Well that was us for sure. As two broke college students, our first date ended up being 2 pizzas from the local pizza shop and Netflix.
As time went on, we became closer and soon we were almost inseparable. Granted I was still struggling with my major at the time, but she always believed in me. Staying up with me and quizzing me on certain terms and problems. She had smarts, probably would’ve excelled in the major. With her support and encouragement, I managed to keep my head above water in my classes and before I knew it, I was a B+ student and back on course to graduate on time with an engineering degree.
…77, 76, 75, 74….
Fast forward a few years later, I had graduated with a Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and was working for a well-known company. Lynda landed a well-paying therapist position and was loving every minute of her job. I was stuck in the usual city traffic. That was the worst part of my day. A generic pop song was on for some background noise. If I was going to be stuck in a 4-lane congested highway, I wasn’t going to be listening to squeaky brakes and the occasional profanity. My phone buzzed in the phone holder that was attached to the windshield. Lynda, in bold white letters, faded in with a green phone icon bouncing lazily up and down. I tapped it, putting the call on speaker. She never called, unless it was an emergency.
“Hey hon, is everything alright? Did you burn the pasta again?” I asked in a joking manner.
“No! Okay, yeah, I did, but I’m not calling about burnt pasta. I have something to tell you.” She said in a serious tone. This didn’t sound good. Last time she had such a serious tone I was close to dropping out of college entirely.
“Well, what is it honey?” I replied, a pretzel knot forming in my stomach.
“I’m pregnant.” she replied simply. I scoffed and braked hard. The car behind me blared their horn but I couldn’t hear them. Did I hear that correctly, the love of my life, pregnant?
“Hello?” My wife’s voice echoed out of the speaker. I didn’t even realize a full minute went by as the recent news filled me with excitement.
“T-that’s great! Oh god, that’s f*****g fantastic!” I yelled, a gigantic grin on my face. Thinking back on it now, the people near me must’ve thought I had gone crazy.
“I couldn’t wait till you got home! I had to tell you right away!” she replied, her excitement matching mine.
“You know what, f**k cooking, we are going out tonight!” I said as explosions of excitement erupted in my belly. We went to our favorite Italian restaurant, a bit pricey but it was the place I proposed to her the night of our graduation. It only made sense to go back there. We spent almost the entire dinner thinking of baby names, what kind of crib we should get, when we should start a college fund, and even if we should put them in private or public school.
….63, 62, 61, 60, 59…..
Nine months later, I was sitting in the hallway of the hospital. My hands clamped together, squeezing tight as I heard Lynda scream in agony. My left leg was shaking uncontrollably while sweat was beading on my forehead. Soon one scream became two. I stood up, walking briskly to her hospital room. The door opened suddenly. The doctor, with his blue scrubs and mask on, congratulated me on my new baby girl. At 6lbs 7oz, little Angelina was brought into the world. Tears filled my eyes as I watched my wife hold our daughter in a loving embrace.
….45, 44, 43, 42, 41…
For 5 years, that little girl was my focus every day. I had gotten better at work and my boss noticed. Gave me a promotion with a raise. Angelina got bigger and soon was talking up a storm. She was popular and adored by everyone. Even our next-door neighbor’s teen daughter offered to babysit for us so we could have some time alone. If I had a watch or a remote or something to stop and just loop that time of my life I would have.
…35, 34, 33, 32…
One night, I was giving my daughter a tubby. Her toys floated in the bubble filled tub, bobbing side to side. Lynda was out grocery shopping, and I had to take on a couple motherly duties, which I didn’t mind. While I was washing my daughter’s hair, massaging her scalp to get the shampoo deep in her hair, I noticed something. The white foam was beginning to change color. What used to be cloud white was turning into a clay brown. I was confused. I pulled a few strands up, letting the hair slip through my fingers, only to be left with an oily brown residue on my thumb and index finger.
“Angelina?” I asked as I rubbed the brown liquid between my fingers.
“Yes daddy?” she said, not looking up at me, too preoccupied by her rubber ducks.
“Did you roll around in dirt today? I keep finding this brown stuff on your hair.” I replied showing her the odd liquid.
“Silly daddy, that’s coloring! Mommy didn’t like my yellow hair, she said yellow is icky.” My mouth dropped. Yellow hair, coloring, blonde. All those times where I had found boxes for hair dye, she kept saying it was for her grey hairs so I never questioned it. My hair has always been dark brown, just like the rest of my family. The thought had never crossed my mind that Lynda would ever do something like this. I confronted her soon after I put Angelina to bed. A screaming match soon started. Things were thrown and words were said. Before I knew it, I had my hands throttling her throat, her pleas and gasps weakening by the second. It didn’t last long. She was dead before 10 pm. I stared at her lifeless corpse, trying to connect the dots. She never even told me who the man was that she cheated on me with. It didn’t take me long to figure it out though. Why she always insisted to have the neighbor’s daughter babysit. How in the right light, they almost looked like sisters. I laughed because the truth was in front of me the entire time. I was just too delusional to believe it. I got up, grabbed the kitchen knife, and went over to their house to do what had to be done.
….20, 19, 18, 17….
After I came back from the neighbors, I told my daughter we were going to play a special game of hide and seek. What was so special was that we were going to play in the woods at night. She was so adventurous. She loved the little nature walks I took her on when the weather was nice enough for it.
The sound of a metal clang brought me back to the present. A shrill scream echoed out. Birds flew out of trees in a panic. She must’ve triggered one of the bear traps hidden around these hunting grounds. I know I won’t get away with what I’ve done. I’ve killed 3 people and I’m sure by now the police are searching for me.
“…5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” I finish counting, pulling my knife out of my back pocket. With her screams being this loud it’ll be easy to find her. Ready or not Angelina, here I come.