When Marcos and I got home from buying ice-cream, the house was strangely quiet. We had rushed home, knowing that the dinner that Megan had prepared would be already waiting on the table. Marcos wanted to run in and eat his dinner as fast as possible, because he couldn't wait to try out the flavor of ice-cream that he had picked out. It just hit me so hard to go from this rushed excitement, to abruptly be slapped with the reality of stepping into a silent house. I knew right away that something was wrong.
Maria had taken the baby to their room, and Megan was in the kitchen by herself, silently staring blankly out the window. Neither Marcos nor I were sure what to make of the scene, and he wasn't sure how to act. He looked at his mother with a deep concern that you never expect to see in such a carefree, young child. He took my hand, and waited for me to somehow fix things.
"What's wrong, what happened?"
She knew that we were there, but didn't respond to my questions. Her eyes shut tight for a moment, and it was then that I noticed that she had been crying.
"Meg, are you okay?"
She paused a moment before answering, but she didn't turn to face me, nor did she open her eyes. "The police came by."
"Why, what happened?! Is Maria okay?"
My question seemed to break her from her stupor. She turned around to look at me, and said, "No, ... no, it wasn't anything like that... " She looked at my worried expression for a moment, remembering again that just like her, I was concerned about the family. She seemed to again see me as a husband and father, but when she regained her train of thought, her expression again changed. "They were looking for the knife that killed that woman."
This was a very strange thing for me to hear, especially in the context of being so fearful that someone had been hurt. I've been thinking about that split-second since it passed... a father's fear suddenly transformed into a fear of a different kind, and the concern that someone may have been hurt suddenly transformed into knowing that someone was hurt, but it not mattering as much as the chance of being caught. For just a second, I forgot about my family, and was alone in the room... it was so strange, because I never stop thinking about them... it made me wonder if I remembered them when I did it... was it for them, or was it for me?
My mind quickly recovered, and I could again feel my son's hand in mine. I remembered where I was, but not soon enough for her last hope in me to be salvaged. I don't know what expression she saw on my face... I wasn't to be found behind it, but apparently the expression was revealing. As my eyes came back into focus, I found hers staring wide at me; she seemed shocked and conflicted.
"I... I don't understand, Manuel... why?"
"I don't know... it just happened."
"But you've been so wonderful lately... you've been the husband I've always dreamed of, ever since..." She stopped herself from saying more as she looked off to the side slightly, seeming to piece things together. I don't know if she understood... I barely understood, but something clicked in her, and as much as she wanted to hate me, her confliction prevented her from taking a clear stance. She quickly looked back at me, as if to ask a question, but she couldn't seem to form the words.
"I think it just had to happen... I think I needed it."
She seemed to understand, but not understand. Despite everything that she thought about people who do such things, she seemed to realize that it had made everything so much better for all of us. A forgiving and loving smile seemed to approach her lips just slightly, when Marcos said, "Mommy, are you okay now?"
She looked at Marcos, and any trace of that smile simply fell away. I watched her posture straighten slightly, as if she was building up some sort of inner strength... I watched her intently, hoping that her smile would return... that simple smile that would indicate a happy ending to all of this. It never came.
She held Marcos in her gaze as she spoke to me. "Maria found it before they could; I think you'll be safe. It's in the drawer over there... just take it and go." She was looking so intently at Marcos, as if he was the source of her newfound resolve.
"Just go, Manuel."
She didn't look up; her eyes were locked onto Marcos. As I sadly let go of his hand, she snatched it from me, and pulled him toward her. I silently took the knife and began to leave the room, watching her all the while. I was hoping that she'd at least give me a glance, if not that smile that I so longed for; she gave me neither.