November 2, 1982

Victoria skipped through the front door and immediately ran upstairs to get her new Barbie. It was her favorite gift from her birthday, but her parents would not let her take it to school to show her friends. Humming John Cougar’s “Jack and Diane,” she made her doll dance in the air all the way back to the kitchen. She took a cookie from the jar and looked around, “Mommy! I’m home!” There was no answer.

She took a bite of the sugar cookie and wandered into the living room. Looking around, she noticed her mother lying on the couch, her eyes closed, “Oh, Mommy is just tired and taking a nap. I’m going to wake her up and give her a kiss!” Victoria sat on the edge of cushion and gently shook her mother’s shoulder, “Mommy, it’s time to wake up. What do you want me to make for dinner?” When she did not move, Victoria shook her again, “Mom?”

It was then that she began to worry. She shook her mom harder for a moment before placing her head on her chest to try to hear a heartbeat, but the sweater Abrielle was wearing made it difficult to tell. Crying, Victoria ran to the kitchen to grab the house phone from the wall. She quickly dialed 9-1-1 and twirled the wire while she waited.

“9-1-1 emergency.” The woman’s voice sounded slightly bored.

“I need help. I don’t think my mom is breathing and Daddy and Nolan aren’t home.” The words came out jumbled, “I need you to come help me.”

The tone immediately changed, “Calm down, sweetie. Where are you?”

She took a deep breath, “1949 Pearl Way. Please, hurry!”

“Help is on the way, sweetie. Stay where you are until they arrive.”

Victoria hung up the phone and went back to sit next to her mother, hugging her Barbie close to her chest. She stared at her mom, but she did not see her. Instead, her mind was far away from the house, “I need to call Daddy. Daddy needs to help me. Maybe Miss Blake will help, but I don’t know her phone number. Should I call grandma to come pick me up? The lady on the phone told me to stay here. How long is the help going to take? I hope she sent everybody- the police, firemen, doctors, and anyone else who is supposed to help us. I don’t think the army would come, but they might. That would be good. They know how to keep me safe. I wish Mommy would just wake up and she was playing a joke on me. That would be mean. It’s not April Fools’ Day. My birthday was two days ago; maybe Mommy is still really tired from the celebration. She is sick after all.”

She stayed by her mother’s side even when she could hear the sirens approaching her house. She refused to move as the ambulance and police cars pulled into the driveway. Six men entered through the unlocked front door and rushed to the living room. The emergency medical team began to examine Abrielle as a police man pulled Victoria away, “How old are you, sweetheart?”

“I turned eleven two days ago. Is Mommy okay?” She looked at the man with big teary blue green eyes, “She’s been sick for a long time. Something called cancer.”

His kind eyes grew sad, “Cancer is a bad disease, sweetheart. The doctors will let us know how your mommy is in a minute. What’s your name?”

“Victoria, and my mommy is Abrielle. Abrielle Williams.”

“I am Officer Owens. Where is your father, Victoria?”

“He’s probably at work or about to leave work. I don’t know if he’s coming home yet. His name is Louis, and he works two jobs. One is at an electricity place and the other is Winn Dixie. He comes home with free cookies sometimes, but he didn’t work there until Mommy got sick.” She kept babbling, “My brother should be home soon.  His name is Nolan, and he tutors kids after his high school is over. He’s fourteen.”

“Was your mom like this when you got off the bus?”

“Yeah. I thought she was taking a nap. Her medicine makes her really tired, so she sleeps a lot. Daddy said that’s normal for her kind of sickness.” She glanced over at the couch where the medics were transferring Abrielle to a stretcher, “What are the doctors doing? Mommy is probably more comfortable on the couch.”

“They are taking her to the ambulance so they can try to wake her up.” Officer Owens looked at his partner who shook her head. He sighed, “Victoria, do you know when your brother usually gets home?”

“Around four, I think. I don’t pay much attention to time. Why does the police lady look sad?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself while I try to find your dad.” He waved her over, “Victoria, this is Officer Stiles.”

“You can call me Lauren.” She knelt down as Officer Owen walked away, “That’s a pretty doll you have.”

“It was my birthday present from my mom.” Victoria studied her, “Will you please tell me what’s going on, Officer Lauren? I called you because my mom wasn’t breathing. Is she dead?”

Lauren blinked at her straightforwardness, and then took Victoria’s hand in hers, “Yes. Her sickness killed her. You did the right thing by calling us. She is in Heaven now, and she is no longer sick or tired or in any pain.” She hugged the crying girl close to her chest, “Everything will be okay, Victoria. We are going to take you to the station with us until your father can come and get you. I will stay with you the whole time.”

“W-what about Nolan? He can’t come home to an empty house.” She hiccupped, trying to be a big girl and talk through her tears.

“My friend, Officer Wayne, is going to wait for him. He will let your brother know what happened and take him to you. You both will be together and in my care until your father comes.” She paused, “He will probably want to visit your mother first.”

“I understand. He will want to say goodbye.” She sniffed, “I thought she was sleeping, Lauren. I didn’t say goodbye, and now she’s gone. I should have given her a kiss.”

“She knows that you love her, and she is still watching over you as a guardian angel. God is keeping her safe now.”

“God was the one to make her sick in the first place.”

Lauren didn’t know what to say. This was a distraught and confused girl who would be traumatized by this moment for the rest of her life. Wiping away the tears running down Victoria’s cheeks, she finally said, “Why don’t you take your doll outside for some fresh air? We will be leaving soon.”

“Can I take my book with me?”

“Of course.”

Victoria trudged up to her room, tears streaming down her face. The pain she was feeling was almost too much to bear, but she did not truly realize how this day would affect her future. She looked at the cross hanging on the wall above her bed and stared at it for a few moments. Then, with a strangled cry of rage, she climbed onto the mattress and tore it from the wall, throwing it across the room. She grabbed The Hobbit from where she had left it on her dresser and ran from the room, not looking back to see the shattered pieces that were now scattered on the carpet.

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