When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. Apparently they didn’t like my artistic ability either, I thought to myself as I stood staring at the soggy, smooshed remains scattering the wet pathway. I heaved a heavy sigh and trudged up the 2 steps of my rickety front porch before folding up my umbrella and leaning it into its spot in the corner. I was exhausted and disheartened after my long day of peddling my real art, the paintings covering every available surface of my small home. I’d rather have them covering the walls of a gallery or some other art enthusiast’s home. I just wanted to curl up with a glass of wine and a good book and not think about how I’d make, or not make, the house payment next month. Unfortunately, a quiet night licking my wounds was not to happen, for as I raised my key wielding hand to the door knob, it froze in mid-air. The door was already ajar.
My heart beat wildly in my chest as I strained to hear if there was any noise coming from inside. Frustration mounted as the only thing I could hear was my ragged breathing and the blood swooshing through my veins. I dropped my purse and picked up the discarded umbrella. As I braced it in front of me like some kind of weapon, I made the dumbest decision ever; I entered the house.
It was dark inside. The faint glow from the patio light spilled across the lumpy shapes of living room furniture. I could tell the couch had been moved and the lamp I had left on lay broken on the hard wood floor. My eyes flew to the walls, to my art, and a strangled gasp tore through my chest. There was something terribly wrong; it didn’t look right. Tears sprang from my eyes as I disregarded my own safety and walked quickly into the room to flip a light switch on the wall. The harsh light illuminated the ugly truth and I cursed myself for not being able to afford a security system to protect the only thing left that mattered to me. Red spray paint slashed the walls and paintings, looking like the house was bleeding from grotesque wounds.
My knees buckled and my body slid down the wall into a quivering heap. The umbrella fell with a clack to the floor as I rolled on my side and lay there numb. My art was my therapy. I would have never survived the years of pain and torment after losing my husband, the love of my life, and my baby girl in a car wreck. A meaningless car wreck caused by me when I swerved to avoid a stupid cat in the road. Each painting was a tribute to their lights that were snuffed out much too soon due to my stupidity.
I’m not sure how long I lay there as wind blew rain through the open front door, but I finally pulled my stiff body off the floor and numbly walked towards the porch to get my cell phone from my discarded purse. As I began to bend over I heard a gruff voice behind me. “Don’t move,” said the intruder. I couldn’t help it. I had to see the man who would destroy what little was left in my life. As I spun around a searing heat hit my stomach and a loud crack filled the air. My mouth hung open as I looked at the blood pooling in my hands that clutched my middle. I didn’t spend time wondering why he did it or who he was. None of that mattered anyway. I wasn’t suicidal, but in those few moments I realized this horrendous man did me a favor by allowing me to be reunited with Brian and Emily. I looked up at the intruder’s shocked eyes and whispered “thank you” as the black took me.