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All My Fault
I remember it perfectly. It was a cool November evening, and I was out to eat with my family. We were at a fairly nice, expensive restaurant, and I was standing in line to go to the bathroom. I was wearing my favorite dress, white with brown flowers, I carried my favorite Vera Bradley purse, and I was wearing my hair the way I always did when I was out, down and curly, pulled back into a half ponytail.
There was a group of chatty girls in front of me, and two women behind me. I was vaguely hearing both conversations, the group of girls about some guy that they met up with at the mall and the two women’s about the weather. I was following both conversations slowly, not really caring about either when one of the women behind me changed her tone of voice to a very urgent whisper. I could barley hear what she was saying until the other woman responded sounding surprised, “You mean, we kidnap her?”
What? All of my focus was on this conversation now, and I took a casual step backwards, so that I could hear better. Neither of them seemed to notice, I observed with relief. I heard them describe a seven-year-old girl, brunette, brown eyes, small for her age with a bear that never left her side. I began to tie the kidnapping in with this girl.
“We’ll get her at 10:00 tomorrow night when her parents are out at their dinner party. I will fend off the babysitter while you snatch the kid.”
“Gee I don’t know about this,” the other woman said uneasily. “This whole kidnapping business makes me worried.”
“Keep your voice down will you!” the woman whispered.
I felt my stomach fall as though it were holding a brick. I had to do something. But what? I’ll go to the police I decided. I looked back pretending to look for someone and then caught a glance at the women. One, tall and thin with a long, black flowing dress, wavy strawberry blond hair that showered over her shoulders, light green eyes and she carried a coach purse. Her fingernails were painted a deep red matching the color of her heavily coated lips. She also had light freckles dotting her nose and her cheeks. The other, a shorter, stockier woman wore an obnoxiously bright green sweater, dark jeans, and high-heeled shoes. She carried a simple black purse, and she, too, wore a thick layer of lipstick on her small lips.
I whipped around quickly, only to find that it was my turn in the bathroom. I slipped in and paced around the bathroom refreshing my memory of what had just happened. I intertwined my finger around my hair nervously. I could smell the nauseating scent of cheap air freshener as it lingered heavily in the air making me lose my train of thought and feel dizzy. I decided I would finish my meal with my family and then go to the police straight after that. I calmed myself down with a few deep breaths, and thoughts of my previous yoga class.
I then left the bathroom and found that the two women were gone. I quickly scanned the room and saw the taller woman slip out of the door. I returned back to my table and tried to act as though nothing were wrong. I was able to make it through with several comments about the food and weather.
When we arrived at the house, I quickly offered to take Lucy, my dog, for a walk before dark. My mother thanked me, surprised by my unusual behavior, and I told her that I wanted some fresh air. I felt a twinge of guilt about lying, but shook it off as I thought of what I would say to the police. When I arrived at the station, I took a deep breath and walked in. The moment I opened the door, I was met by a thick smell of burning rubber and I did all that I could not to cover my mouth in disgust. I saw a door with the word “manager” written across the top, and I made a beeline for it. Without bothering to knock, I marched right in and took a seat. I only waited for about a minute, when a man came towards me and asked if he could help. I told him everything that I could remember about the restaurant. His response shocked me. He laughed at me. Was this a laughing matter? Uh, no. I tried to take the confusion plastered on my face and exchange it for determination, which didn’t work.
“Please sir,” I said. “You have to believe me.”
“Honey,” he said, “Go home and make yourself a mug of hot chocolate.”
What? I knew about a girl who was about to get murdered, and he was talking about hot chocolate? Before I could retort, he was already walking away chuckling, and I had no choice but to go home.
As I walked, the idea sounded stupider and stupider, and so by the time I was home, I almost forgot that it ever happened. I went to bed that night feeling back to normal and agreeing with the policeman. It was probably just a joke or something I assured myself.
That next week I opened the Sunday morning paper and read the headline,
Girl: age 7, kidnapped and held for ransom, then killed. Body found in cave along Roadside Hill.
I dropped my glass of orange juice on the floor and the cup broke with a clatter. I read it over several times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. It was the same girl that the women were talking about, and I was sure of it. I could have prevented a murder but instead I listened to a stubborn policeman. It was my fault I told myself. All my fault.