“Breaking news tonight. King County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the discovery of a young man’s body near Tiger Mountain. We have unconfirmed reports that he may have suffered an accident while hiking.”
The newscaster’s voice froze me. It was the 4:00 news and I had been trying to reach my boyfriend all day with no success. He often hiked around Tiger Mountain when he wasn’t in the mood for a more challenging trail; the easy to navigate backwoods so near the city were where he went to clear his mind. I frantically dialed his dad, but there was no answer. I tried their home phone number, no answer again. Was it unreasonable for me to think it was him? Where had my stepmother been all day?
“Is something wrong?” I jumped, almost shrieking when I heard her voice behind me. She was holding the baby, and staring right at me. I thought fast, not wanting to let her in on my suspicions. “Nothing, no there’s nothing wrong. Ummmm, where were you?” I was stumbling over my words and she must have noticed that I was shaking. “We were out completing some errands. That’s all. Why don’t you take the baby for a few minutes while I start dinner.” She forced a quick smile yet her voice was so flat, a lifeless monotone. I took the baby and went to the living room, looking back over my shoulder while my stepmom began to search the pantry.
It was only a few minutes before she came back to the living room. She took the baby under the guise of changing her diaper and disappeared up the stairs. After a few minutes, I quietly followed. I was looking toward the baby’s room, looking for my stepmom, and didn’t see her right in front of me.
“We’re going to talk, young lady.” She grabbed my shoulder forcefully, pulling me by my shirt toward my room. Though she wasn’t much bigger than me, she was able to push me down onto my bed as I attempted to struggle free. Focused on trying to escape, I didn’t see the hypodermic needle and I didn’t recognize the pain in my upper thigh.
It was 1:17 AM when I woke up in my bed, hazy and lightheaded. My shoes and jeans were off and I was under the covers. I didn’t remember going to bed. I didn’t remember much of anything. I walked down the stairs, attracted by a dim light. She sat alone on the couch, staring blankly ahead. “Your father will be out for a few more hours, he took a much bigger dose than you.” My heart raced as I backed away, hoping to blindly find the stairs. She purposefully walked toward me, her calm betraying the knife she held in her right hand. No matter how much I didn’t want to, I had to turn my back on her. I ran, skipping half the steps, toward my father and what I could only hope would be the safety of his awakening. She had a hold on my shirt again and I could hear the rip of fabric as I stumbled backward into her. Her hand was over my mouth as I started to scream, but she couldn’t cover the sound. I heard my little sister start to cry in her room. That was it! Either my dad or the neighbors had to have heard me. I couldn’t scream again when I felt the searing pain in my right side as she pushed me back into my bedroom, onto my bed. I could feel the blood start to pool on my shirt but I knew the knife had not been pushed into me, but had only cut me as I had moved at the last moment, avoiding her stabbing rage. She buried her knee in my stomach, pinning me to my bed, and took aim again.
It was my iPod clock radio that smashed against her face as she raised the knife. She fell sideways, stunned, revealing my father, dazed and unsure of what was happening or what he had just done. She gathered herself and turned the knife on him, grazing his shoulder before he could push her away. Her chin was dripping blood from a cut from the broken clock radio and she seemed to grow angrier when she put her hand to it feeling the wound. She lunged again, but an even more forceful push staggered her, sending her careening toward my bedroom window. I don’t know if it was just good timing or God’s grace that caused it to be hot that day; the bedroom window was fully open and the screen couldn’t contain her as she crashed against it. She made no noise as she fell, only the crash of her hitting the wooden fence below. I got up, holding my side, and looked out. Her body seemed lifeless and I wondered if she had been impaled on one of the fence posts that broke her fall. In the distance, I heard sirens.
My father, his shoulder bandaged, held my baby sister as he watched them load me onto the ambulance. He smiled gently and assured me that he would see me at the hospital. I could see the police in our back yard, under my window, and wondered what they would do with her. There was no commotion and I didn’t see any paramedics there. Were they waiting for the coroner? CSI? My view was quickly obstructed by a medic who kindly assured me that I would only need some stitches. I didn’t know what the future held, but I was OK, my father was OK, and my baby sister was OK. And she was gone.
Two months later
In a cube at Microsoft, an engineer named Dan Faulkner chats with the new employee who just took over the cube next to his. A single father of two, he finds Paige Matthews pretty and smart. He barely notices the small scar on her chin.