The Student Connection

...a student-run newsletter

Shades of Grey

By Kristen Yard, student, Center for Distance Learning

May 26, 2011

Miranda Worless left her two-year-old son without kissing him goodbye.

“Mama’s running to the store, play with daddy. I’ll be back soon,” she’d mumbled.

His dark brown eyes pierced the armor guarding her heart – they both knew she was lying.But that was impossible, wasn’t it? Mason had a hard enough time stringing together a coherent sentence, let alone comprehending the fact that he’d never see his mother again.

Lyle didn’t so much as peel his eyes from the television or his lazy ass from the couch – nothing new there. The last Miranda heard of her husband’s voice?A grunt.The irony wasn’t lost on her.Grabbing her scuffed brown leather bag and keys from the table, she turned away from the life she’d never chosen.

A clean break.

*****

Thud. Thud. Thud,thud,thud,thud,thud. Lyle’s rusty Ford pickup clambered against serrated concrete on the shoulder of highway 101, snapping Miranda’s eyes open for the millionth time. She rolled the window down further. Hot air caressed her face, pleading with her to give into exhaustion in all its forms.

Better stop for the night, she thought. Headlights washed over a sign that pointed out the exit ramp, so she eased off the gas. Her tired eyes sought the clock as if it held the answer to why she’d driven for eight hours. She had spent 480 minutes distracting herself from those brown eyes that had the power to disarm her; 28,800 seconds forcing herself to forget another pair of eyes that had executed her very soul – green as the creek her daughter had drowned in a month ago.

You can run, but you can’t hide from that kind of agony. It haunts every crevice of the mind. Impossibly long eyelashes framed gleaming emeralds; Mavis’s plump lips were always drawn into a smile by the simplest things. Like the butterflies in the field she’d toddled after, fast as her 11-month-old legs could carry her.

That’s when it happened. Miranda thought Lyle had her. Lyle thought Miranda did.

Nana, Pop-Pop and the rest of the family assumed little Mavis was with her Mommy and Daddy, but all along, the creek had her. Clutching her to its chest – holding her tighter than Miranda ever could.

Miranda ground her teeth together, a barricade against the cries that rose in her throat. At first it came out muffled, and then the wail of a dying animal filled the cab. The first sound to grace it since she’d pulled out of the driveway. Carbon dioxide exited her mouth in staggered gasps as she turned onto a main road in small-town-somewhere-Ohio.

New-start,new-start,new-start… Her mantra fueled a twisted optimism. Never again would she deal with the fault Lyle placed on her shoulders. No more thoughts of Mavis, a flaccid angel afloat, with short curls swaying to a beat of their own. Goodbye to her anger toward Mason for being a distraction when her baby girl needed Mommy more than he did.

Relief morphed into a shocking clarity that rippled through Miranda like a jet-ski disrupting a small fishing boat. Waves of understanding crashed into her chest, spraying her cheeks – pointing the finger at them had enabled her to avoid the truth.

She had killed Mavis.

A horn blared. Miranda’s foot lingered between gas and brake—she’d stumbled between worlds for weeks now.

The living. The dead.

Without a moment’s hesitation Miranda Worless made her choice, welcoming the vision of her chubby-cheeked little girl, haloed by white light reaching her arms out to her.

*****

When the paramedics arrived on the scene, they found a broken woman, framed by twisted metal, her eyes wide and staring, fresh tears on her cheeks and the ghost of a smile on her lips.

“I sweahhh’ I honked, I swehhve’d, and it was like she sped up and came right at me,” said the truck driver who had released Miranda, sweating heavily through his Boston accent.

The cops led the man into custody. He’d blown a .15 on the Breathalyzer test.

Detective Rigor, who had just gotten off of the phone with the dead woman’s heartbroken husband snarled, “Why would a mother choose that?” He glanced over his shoulder once more, shaking his head as the paramedics zipped the body bag. The last thing he saw was the dead woman’s blood-red curls.

Kristen Yard

Kristen Yard