Folio · 2017

Life Begins

Brittany McArthur

“Hey!! Don’t forget your vest!!”

The door slams as I speed walk from the bedroom, baby cradled in my arms. He was in a hurry again. Groaning, I slump my shoulders and drop my chin down to my chest, defeated, exhausted.

“Dang it Mom, I hate it when he does that.”

My mother was standing in the little kitchenette with my apron on washing dishes. Smiling, she dries her dripping hands on a towel and reaches for the little pink bundle, “Let me take the baby, you need a shower.” I lift the collar of my shirt over my nose and sniff. She’s right, I do need a bath.

Handing little Madi over gently I trudge to the front door where my husband’s heavy bullet proof vest lays forgotten on the cold tile. Scowling, I stare down at it for a heartbeat and bend to pick it up. “He knows I hate it when he forgets to put this thing on,” I mutter to myself, not wanting my mom to hear me complaining. I snatch it up by the thick shoulder straps and walk back into the kitchen. Dropping the vest on a kitchen chair with a thud and rip of Velcro I say, “If you don’t mind watching Madi, I think I’ll jump in the tub. I’m tired.”

Mom sits down on the couch in my tiny living room and lays Madi back on her knees. “Go on and take as long as you want, I’ve got her,” she leans over and gives the baby quick little kisses all over her cheeks, talking in a soft voice. They’re in their own little world and the stress of the moment melts away. I think of how grateful I am that my mom flew up here from Florida to spend this time with me. Sometimes a woman just needs her mom, no matter how old she gets.

As I pad down the carpeted hallway towards the call of a hot, bubbly bath I remember the load of laundry I’d meant to throw in an hour ago. Picking up the discarded basket full of dirty clothes I toss them in the washer and hear a metallic clang as something heavy falls to the bottom of the tub. Reaching in I sift through the mass to find a bullet nestled among the soiled blue uniforms and soft pink baby clothes. With the bullet warming in my hand, I turn the knob to get the water started and think about Greg and what he’s up to right now. He’s been an officer for about 12 years and while he’s a pro at this “cop life” I’m still new. I vow to myself to be more patient, it just worries me that he’s in K-9. His four-legged partner Tobias is a great police dog but with the police department being short-staffed… The washer finishes filling up, jolting me from my musings. I add the soap, drop the lid with a clang and shut the closet doors.

With the washer chugging away I slip into the bathroom, pull the shower curtain out of the tub and turn the water on as hot as I can stand. While the tub is filling, I rummage around in the vanity drawer for a book of matches. I find an elastic band and smooth my tangled hair up into a high ponytail deciding not to wash it tonight. After lighting my cinnamon vanilla candle, I choose the spicy Victoria’s Secret bubble bath I haven’t used in ages, the one I know Greg likes and squeeze a healthy dollop into the steaming deluge of water coming from the tap. Sighing deeply, I perch on the side of the tub to wait. Once the tub is brimming, I step gingerly into the fragrant water and let my chilly feet get use to the heat before slowly sinking in up to my chin.

The water is cool when I open my eyes to the sound of my mother tapping on the closed bathroom door. A little disoriented I realize I’m cold, goosebumps running up and down my arms.

“Brittany? Hey are you ok honey? Can I come in?” Mom peeks in the door, baby sleeping on her shoulder.

“Yeah, sorry, I must have dozed off,” sitting up I lean over and blow out the low burning candle. The vanilla scent cloying and sweet in the small space, making my voice raspy. I push myself up and out of the tub, splashing water on the floor and reach for the thick towel hanging on a hook next to the door. After wrapping the towel around myself and carefully tucking the end in place I glance up and notice the worried expression on my mother’s face. Her brows are pushed together, lips tucked between her teeth, I ask, “Hey, are you ok?”

“What department does Greg work for again?” she asks.

“The Sherriff’s Office, why? What’s wrong?” I move quickly towards the door and my foot slips in a little puddle of water. Grabbing the door jamb to steady myself I walk into the hall and notice the washer is silent.

“There’s something going on. I’m not sure if it’s anything, I have the News on. Come take a look.” Entering the living room, I catch a snippet of a news broadcast.

“…incident in Magna tonight. Stay tuned as we wait for more information to become available.”

I’m rooted in place, staring at the television screen trying to comprehend the scene unfolding on the channel 4 news. It’s my husband’s K-9 truck, it has to be, he’s the only K-9 on duty in the valley tonight. The truck was parked haphazardly at a curb, one tire propped up on the sidewalk, partially blocking the view of a little white house in the background. The red and blue flashing lights sear into my eyes. The driver’s side door hangs open, the back passenger window an empty hole, glass shattered on the ground. I take a quick step closer to the television when I notice the large black holes peppering the white painted exterior. They run in a jagged line the entire length of the extended cab, long bed truck, punching through the fender, the door, Tobias’s kennel, finally ending with the destroyed tail light at the back bumper.

The news flips to a commercial and I spin around to my mom. I’m going to panic, I can feel it bubbling up from my belly, into my chest.

“That’s Greg’s truck,” the words come out in a whisper.

“It’s a commercial right now, go get dressed. Madi will need to eat in a minute. I’ll see if I can find another station with more information.” She moves urgently to the coffee table and lays the baby down on the couch. Sitting carefully, she snatches up the remote and starts to scan through channels.

I fly back to the bedroom, toss my wet towel on the bed and dig through my drawers for something to wear. Settling on a worn t-shirt and faded pajama bottoms I shove my arm through the hole and pull the top down over my head, getting my sticky ponytail stuck and wrenching my head back in the process. Freeing my hair from the t-shirt’s grasp I snatch the matching bottoms and try to stuff my legs into the leg holes while I hop down the hall on one foot. I lose my balance and careen off the wall. Rubbing the ache in my shoulder I make it to the living room and sit down on the couch next to mom. She leans over and rubs gentle circles on my back when “Breaking News” flashes in neon blue across the screen.

“We are reporting that there has been an officer shot, and we believe one suspect barricaded in this house behind me. We have yet to confirm the status of the officer.” The camera man pans through the developing scene and I’m spellbound. I can’t look away. I’m trying to take in the entire scene but the camera moves too quickly.

“Why can’t the reporter just get on with it!” I say in an anguished voice. I cover my face with shaking hands and wait.

We sit this way for seconds, minutes, hours, I can’t even tell. Just waiting. Then I remember his vest.

It’s still laying slumped over on the kitchen chair.

Folio · 2017