The phone call came in as she was returning home. The children in the backseat were in the midst of a rousing version of 'The Cat Came Back,' each attempting to outdo the other with the most outlandish tale of just how that wily cat managed to escape his fate once again.
"Turn it down a notch you two," she said as she fumbled with the headset. "Let me take this real quick."
His voice on the line was steady, if absent of the usual jovial tone, and his greeting did not initially convey the weight of the words on his tongue. "Hey, Kiki. I have something I have to tell you." The sounds that followed spilled out like the contents of a freshly shattered jar and her brain did not immediately register the pieces.
"There was an accident with William and his mother."
Maybe it was because she was driving or maybe it was because the reality was too unfathomable to conceive, but her initial thoughts went to a car accident. Bent metal and a broken windshield flashed before her eyes, and the baby with cheeks like chipmunks and a mop of black hair remained injured but alive. In the space between two sentences, hope proved fatal.
"William died." The words ran through her like a shard of glass and as he continued to speak her ears no longer heard the sound.
"Wait, what? No. No. What?" Her mind railed against the assault on her ears. "He...died?"
"Yes," and as the distant voice on the other end of the line offered the few details that were known...how the mother lost her temper...how it had been called in as an accident...how the light from this little boy who had just recently mastered walking after insisting on being held the first 15 months of his life had been beaten out of him by his birth mother...she felt the tears slide down her face and heard echoes of sobs that she did not recognize as her own.
"Mommy, why are you crying?" The boy asked from the confines of his rear seat. His words broke into the conversation and brought her back into the body she had been temporarily removed from.
"It's okay, baby. Mommy just got some really bad news. And I'm sad. I'm very sad baby," she mustered between sobs. As she hung up the phone, she was struck by the irony of her statement. It was not okay. It could never be okay. She and everyone she knew now lived in a world where a baby they loved and cared for and wanted to keep for their own, had been returned to the hands of a woman who murdered him within weeks. Her own children, barely old enough to read, would now learn first hand what evil looks like. Where the fuck was God in times like this? All she knew in this moment, was she had never been more alone.