Part of our vows had been for better or for worse, not three suicide attempts and one homicide case

Part of our vows had been for better or for worse, not three suicide attempts and one homicide case. Seeing your little girl on a slab because of your nutjob wife was a new experience for me, and one I did not wish one anyone – not even my worst enemy.

I was too shocked still to feel anything but disbelief. It was as if all reality had become hazy and grey.

Even as I stood looking down at my sixteen year old daughter with a sheet pulled up to her chin, her red hair splayed around her – the only color in the room except white and silver, I could not for the life of me believe a second of it. Her name had been Rachel. Rachel Dawn Irvin, captain of the swim team, third in her class, her mother's baby. I had blinked a second too long and she was gone. Beyond all reach and all help.

The helplessness and the empty feeling of loss were all new to me and chilling. My little girl would never graduate high school, would never call me at three in the morning because her boyfriend had popped the question, would never graduate college, would never hold her newborn baby. I would never get another late night to talk to her about everything and anything that crossed our minds, I would never get another chance to tell her a joke, I would never get another day to go hiking with her, or go swimming with her. I would never see her smile at me again. I would never get to hold her in my arms and tell her it'd all be okay. She was gone.

I put my hand to her cheek and didn't feel the crinkle of her face when she smiled, just the startling feeling of dead, cold flesh. I barely felt my hand leave her face as I slipped to the cool, tile floor and wept.


They say over time it hurts less. But who can trust what they say? It has been a year and a half since Rachel was killed and every passing second I missed her more. The open photo album in my lap didn't help. I had opened it in hopes of clinging to the good times but that had only led to a fifth of a bottle of Jack Daniels in my system and tears rolling down my face.

Ricky was so proud of me for keeping it together when I heard, at the funeral, and every day to this one. Ricky always was the one for keeping up appearances even if those appearances were the complete opposite of the truth. But that was Rick; it was how he was raised. First sign of emotion and his parents started screaming things like weak and homosexual at him. He had been a groomsman at my wedding, and a close friend since high school but no matter how I tried I couldn't do what he did. Turn it all into arrogance and anger.

It just didn't work that way.

The way it did work sucked, granted but that's the way it happened for me. I was in an eternal state of mourning: at work, at the bar, out with the guys, talking to my sister, and sitting here gazing at the pages of broken memories. Rachel was always on my mind, forever in each breath I took.

Her birth had brought me such joy, such that I had never known. When I was holding her in my arms for the first time, I thought my heart would burst. Losing her had racked my mind and my soul in a way I'd never thought possible. Looking down on her holding a hard won swim team trophy with a big, triumphant grin on her face should have brought a smile to my face but it only made me want to crawl into the rest of the bottle of Jack.

Somewhere I knew that wasn't the answer and it damn well wouldn't fix the problem. But it sure as hell sounded good. I closed the album and set it on the couch and got up from the chair. Walking into the kitchen I swallowed the memories before they swallowed me. I opened the cabinet and managed to look past the box of Midol and Tylenol, reminiscent of the times before Crissy went to prison and got a glass.

The water in the tap ran cold after a moment; I filled my glass and looked at the kitchen table. I took the final slice of pizza from the box from downtown and nibbled on it as I headed down the hall to my study. I had deadlines to meet and god knows, they didn't wait on anyone or anything – living or dead.

I let out a breath as I sat down in front of my computer. Logging on I looked for something to wipe my now empty hands on. The pizzas downtown were always delicious but usually greasy. Finally I gave up and wiped them on a Kleenex, Crissy had always insisted that I have a box at my desk and I still had them. With a smirk, I opened a blank document and tried to write.


It began so simply, a gin and tonic at my favorite Friday night club, Golden Nights. One wink at a stranger and I was suddenly knee deep in the twenty first century's version of the nine plagues of Egypt.

After taking one look at the stranger, I should have known I was in for the blood, the frogs, the flies, the whole shot. Should have known but didn't.

He said his name was Robert but the only thought in my head, other than damn, was he sure as hell didn't look like a Robert. Well, Robert was a solid nine inches taller than me and at 5' 7 - that was a new one for me. I was tall by most people's standards, for a woman anyway. He was sexier than sin and when he offered to buy me a drink – well, it should have ended there. But it didn't.


Damn if all love didn't fall back on the one's that loved you first, well, not first but best of all. But when men fuck you over, who better to comfort you than your friend that has had it just as rough, if not rougher with the other kind than you?

But Bridget was horrible at it. I loved her because she was trying so hard but I think maybe it was that she was trying too hard.

"He's a jerk. Just forget about him," Bridget said her eyes on mine. She brushed a loose black curl from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. But the biggest problem with the whole comforting concept, other than I was inconsolable at this point, was I wasn't far enough into the breakup stage to be angry at him. It just fucking hurt.

"He's not a jerk, he's just a cheater." I muttered, trying not to cry. The only reason I had not run into the arms of my best friend, the one that was actually very good at the comforting issue, was because Annie was the reason my marriage was falling apart. In all actuality, Nathan was the reason it was tearing apart - Annie was just the reason I knew about the infidelity.

I glanced at the clock on the living room wall, 8:03 p.m. , two hours after I found out. Annie had walked in on Nathan and I discussing work over dinner. She demanded to speak with me quietly and I took her into the den and she just broke down, sobbing in my arms. She told me everything.

Now Bridget lit up a cigarette and offered me one. I shook my head torn between smiling and crying.

"Are you staying the night, honey?" Bridget asked, quietly breaking the soothing silence. Again, I was torn. I never wanted to go home again but I knew I needed to go to the QuikMart and pick a few things up and one of those items would raise a few eyebrows. I knew for a fact if Bridget caught wind of that certain item and I'd never be able to shut her up or keep her from wringing Nathan's cheating neck. But that image put a grin on my face. What woman wouldn't it? I simply shook my head.


The noxious silence was stifling, as I watched Doctor Stephen's face. His thin lips shifted to one side of his face like he was considering the best way to tell me something important, but something on the far side of good news.

I felt like the tune of Jeopardy! should be playing in the background. Either that or Twilight Zone.

"Well, Hunter," Stephen started. The dramatic pause made me think of all those women that don't want to be pregnant, and the three worst spent minutes of their lives waiting for the test result to show up. But in the same moment I wanted to reach across the small distance between my chair and his stool and strangle the man. "The blood test came back negative for anemia, clotting disorders and immune system disorders. But had some irregularity to it."

"Now will you translate that?" I found myself asking. Doctor Stephen's face fell from blank to stern. I dimly recalled the nurse's explanation of the complete blood count test before they ran it. She had said it can help detect blood diseases and disorders. Among these were anemia, infection, clotting problems, blood cancers, and immune system disorders. Stephen's had just crossed off every one on that list but infection and cancer.

"That means that we need to take another sample to cross cancer off the list and see what infection you might have," Stephen's said calmly, trying to ease my mind. Shortly thereafter, Stephen's left the room and I was taken to the lab attached to the small clinic and gave yet more blood.

Once I left the clinic, I drove around a bit – trying to ease the constant thought in my head. I finally headed home.

The second I hit the door, I headed for the phone. After three rings, Bridget finally picked up.


"Hey, Bridget, it's me…" I said, walking, pacing really with the cordless phone to my ear.

"Well, I'll be damned. Mister Writer finally returns my calls." Bridget said in mock offense. "So how are you?"

"Honestly? Shitty." I said as I began rummaging around my kitchen, searching for my pack of cigarettes I had hid six months ago when I gave up smoking.

"How come, baby brother?" Bridget paused and listened as I finally found the half a pack of probably stale smokes and flipped on a burner to the gas stove. I lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and flipped off the burner. "Are you smoking again, Hunter Daniel?"

On the exhale I spoke, "Like you have any room to talk, Gadget." My big sister had a two pack a day habit and she was bitching about me lighting one up in six months?

"Don't think I won't take you out back and beat you because you used one of my favorite nicknames," Bridget said with a laugh. I had to envision my 5',2" sister bending all two hundred and ten pounds of me over her knee, and I had to chuckle at the image. But she'd done it before, so it had its desired affect.

"Look, I won't tell you this over the phone, Bridget. When you get free for a few hours, get your happy buns two towns over and visit your little brother."