TITLE: An Eye for an Eye?
By Steve Uppendahl
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An Eye For an Eye?
We probably looked like something out of a romance novel, man and woman walking down a white sand beach, foamy water lapping at our feet. Both of us carrying our shoes, my khakis rolled up, but dripping wet anyway. Mia wearing navy shorts, with water droplets sliding down her legs. A flaming sunset behind us, lighting up the sky with bright hues of orange and pink. Yes, I’m sure we looked like the picture of romance. From a distance. Up close was something else entirely. We were not here for romance. We were here on business. A friend of a friend had found him, and was willing to eliminate him. He was waiting for my signal. Three flashes from a flashlight and it would be over. An eye for an eye.
“We can’t do it, Seth.”
“Yes, we can, Mia. It’s very simple.”
She shook her head and looked out towards the darkening horizon. “It’s murder. No matter the circumstances. It’s murder and it’s wrong.”
Laughing bitterly, I also shook my head.
“Lots of things are wrong, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Besides, I can think of nothing that would feel so right as knowing he is dead. He deserves it.”
“Yes, he does. But, that’s not our decision.”
“Please, do not give me that ‘it’s God’s will’ line again. God and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms right now.”
Looking out towards the sinking sun, I concentrated on darkening clouds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Looking straight up I muttered, more to Him than her, “I don’t think we ever will.”
Mia winced, looked down and whispered, “I can’t talk about that now. It’s too much.” She choked up a second, gathered herself and spoke, her voice much stronger and looked me straight in the eyes.
“You know we can’t do this. It would break us financially, and would haunt us forever. You have to know that, Seth. Can’t you see that?”
I crouched down to pick up a pearl like pebble from the sand. I closed my eyes. I saw the television screen showing the white sheet being pulled away. Seeing Lacey’s ashen grey face, her tangled (God, she would’ve hated that) brown hair fanned out above her head. I stared at her until my vision blurred.
I threw the pebble into the ocean and answered with my back to her.
“No. I can’t see that. What I see is that Lacey, our daughter, our life, is over. And his life is just fine, going on without a care in the world. I plan to change that.” I looked down at the flashlight.
Hearing rapidly approaching footsteps I turned in time to see a furious Mia sprinting towards me. I was shocked by her speed. I had forgotten about her track days. Her left arm was cocked. My head rocked back, my cheek felt as if it had split. I fell back into the sand, feeling my head crush a small shell. She straddled my chest, grabbed my shirt with both hands, screamed into my face and shook me with each word, “Our life is over? We have two other daughters, Seth. They’re not even in middle school yet. They need their father, their complete father.”
Exhausted, she let me go. I let my head fall back on the same crushed shell as I stared at the first stars twinkling into view. Mia leaned forward so our eyes connected and whispered, almost pleading, choking back tears,
“Lacey is gone, Seth. You think you failed to protect her. I understand that. You’re wrong, but I understand. The three of us need your protection too. It takes strength, real inner strength, to stand up when you’ve been knocked down. It takes real strength to get up each day and live. Maybe not live for yourself, not yet. But, live for us. We lost a daughter. Our girls lost their big sister and hero. They can’t lose their father. If you do this, they will. Whether or not you’re caught won’t matter. You’ll never be the same, and neither will we.”
Mia didn’t wait for an answer. Without wiping her tears, she walked towards our cabin. I eventually lost her in the darkness. She never looked back.
Groping in the dark, I found the flashlight. I sat on my knees for hours, years maybe. Chest heaving, sobbing loudly, I dug, burying it deep. I stood, staggered, and followed my wife.
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