By Riss Ryker.
I wasn’t always like this. Once, I was animated, full of hopes and dreams. My husband and I owned a four bedroom, ranch-style home on six acres of wooded property just outside the city of Albany, New York. We were your normal suburban family with a mortgage, car payments, college funds and money set aside for retirement. Our girls, Alessa and Arielle, identical twins, were almost impossible to tell apart.
That morning, I noticed changes in my family’s early morning routine. Little things, mind you, nothing that anyone but myself could distinguish. For instance, the twins came downstairs like they usually do, to grab a quick bite to eat. Instead of their normal breakfast of Pop Tarts, they each made themselves a bowl of hot oatmeal. They never ate oatmeal, ever. I observed subtle exchanges between them, little signals. I knew they were communicating telepathically, that much was obvious. Then in walked my husband, adjusting his tie. Instead of going right to the coffee as he did every morning for sixteen years, he went over to the girls and gave them each a kiss on the forehead. I saw them pretend to be surprised, and even ask what they did to deserve a kiss. I knew it was all an act for my benefit.
“Why did you do that?” I asked him, “Just spontaneously kiss the girls good morning. You never do that, why today?”
“Can’t I give my two beautiful girls a good morning kiss, for God’s sake?” he asked, “What’s wrong with you, Charlotte?”
There, another change, he called me by my full name. I never heard him do that before.
“Why are you calling me that, Jack?” I said, “You never call me that.”
He looked at the girls like I was crazy, downed a cup of coffee, and they all left together. Something else they never did. He usually stepped out to work first. What the hell was going on? Peeking out of the living-room curtains, I saw them conspiring together, looking at the house and no doubt talking about how they were going to get rid of me. I spun around, my back to the wall, hoping they didn’t see me.
Maybe they were planning something. Maybe my own family was plotting to murder me. I ran upstairs to the girls’ room, looking for clues, and opened up the computer to Arielle’s Facebook page. Checking their messages to one another, I found what I was looking for.
Arielle: Hey, what time r we doing that today?
Alessa: I think dad said right after school so b ready.
Arielle: Think mom suspects anything?
Alessa: Nope. She’s clueless. Pretty soon it’s off 2 the Rio Grande!”
Arielle: We are gonna have so much fun when she’s gone, Alessa! Mom can b such a tyrant!
Alessa: Amen, sister! C u later.
My God. This was really happening. They planned on killing me, then taking off to the Rio Grande! I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, my stomach flooding with bile that threatened to choke me as it rose up into my throat. I had to go! Leave! Just pack up my things and never look back!
Running to the bedroom, I let my robe slip off to the floor and grabbed a suitcase out of the closet. Not bothering to fold anything, I threw some undergarments inside the suitcase and with my arm, scooped everything off my dresser and nightstand inside as well. Throwing on the same clothes I’d worn the day before, I slipped into a pair of sneakers, grabbed what I’d packed, and ran for the front door. I passed the mirror in the foyer and stopped dead. A wild-eyed, tousle-haired stranger stared back at me. I didn’t even recognize her.
Outside a swift wind rolled huge, cumulonimbus clouds across the darkening sky as if the wrath of God would soon be upon the earth. It only added to my anxiety. Carol, my next door neighbor, must have been part of their insidious scheme, for the moment she saw me, she was on her phone. Calling my husband, no doubt. Then it hit me. Of course! Why didn’t I see this sooner? Carol always had eyes for Jack! Coming out in her nightgown in the early morning when Jack would leave for work, shamelessly flaunting her young, stick-thin figure in front of him as she bent over in her garden. I felt like a total fool not seeing the signs! I felt old and used up compared to Carol. Is that what my girls wanted? A younger, prettier mother? Getting into my Ford Escalade, I turned the key, tears hot and brimming in my eyes. Nothing. Not even the sound of the engine trying to turn over. They sabotaged my vehicle! My God! Hyperventilating, I got out of the SUV and ran back inside, not bothering to take the car keys with me. Back up to my room, I shut the door and tried to think. Walking to the window, careful not to disturb the curtain, I watched for any suspicious behavior.
I watched the mailman go from house to house, noticing his bag looked suspiciously larger than usual. As he approached, I saw him reaching into his bag, wondering if perhaps he had a concealed weapon or something to jimmy the lock on my front door. I waited to hear any tell tale signs of forced entry as I ducked down by the side of my bed. My mind felt strange and disorientated as I sat there for what seemed like hours. My hands felt clammy, fingernails biting into the the flesh as I listened for any sound that was out of the ordinary. There was a strange buzzing in my head as I struggled to comprehend exactly what happening here. I’m not crazy! Saying it out loud, like a mantra, I looked over at the clock and my heart almost stopped. Two-thirty? How can that be? Where did the hours go? Hearing a car pull into the driveway, I stood and ran to the window. Jack and the girls! Oh, my God, no! Why was he home? I knew why, and my heart was breaking.
Panicking, I looked around wildly for a place to hide, going so far as to open my bedroom window in case I needed to jump. Then I remembered the revolver Jack kept hidden in the nightstand and scrambled over to get it. Cradling the cold steel in my hand, I remembered it wasn’t loaded, the bullets kept in a pocket in his best suit.
I froze. They were coming. Rooted to the spot, I listened to their footsteps approaching from the stairs.
Fumbling with the bullet, I managed to load the gun, undoing the safety as Jack taught me.
“Char? What are you doing in there, baby? I have a surprise for you!”
“Go away! Get away from me, Jack!” I cried out. “I just bet you have a surprise alright!”
“Char? What’s going on? Are you alright? What’s going on?”
“Keep away! I won’t let you kill me! I won’t!”
I saw the doorknob turning.
I heard the girls giggling.
I pointed the gun at the door and pulled the trigger as it swung open.
The chaos after that is something I will never forget. The sound of a body hitting the floor, the girl’s shrill screams, a dozen roses scattered like fragrant drops of blood, and Jack, mouth still open in eternal surprise. But the single most memorable moment was when I picked up the tickets from the floor that had fallen from Jack’s hand. Two tickets to the Rio Grande. It was my birthday today.
Like I said, I wasn’t always like this.
RISS RYKER is a mom and grandmom, and a shelter dog advocate. Residing in Upstate NY, she enjoys hiking in the Adirondack mountains with her three dogs, all rescues. A proud member of the Writer’s Carnival community, Riss has had several publications with them and in Writer’s Digest. Please join her Facebook page,