The restaurant was a nice little place not too far from the Ann Arbor’s city theater. It had that turn of the century vibe to it and my mom loved the seafood there.
I walked in found that my mom and David were already sitting at a table by the fireplace. The hostess walked me to their table and when I approached the table my mom’s smile lit up the room.
“Hey mom.” I said as I approached. “David.” I added with a quick nod.
“How’s my little goofball?” My mom said
“Your goofball is good.”
I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. She had been calling me that since I was an infant. She said I was always trying to make her laugh even before I could talk.
I gave David a firm hand shake. He used to tell me, before I grew to despise him of course, that a man’s handshake said a lot about him. A soft handshake from a man says he lacks confidence and can’t be trusted. I had to agree with him, plus a mushy handshake from a guy just feels weird.
“You guys have a hard time finding a parking spot. The streets looked jammed tonight for some reason. There must be a game tonight.” I said as I sat down at the table and grabbed a menu.
“No kidding. We should have met in Plymouth. We had to park on the third level of the parking structure.” David said in an aggravated tone as he motioned for the waitress. “Next time I’ll make the reservations.”
“Stop it David. It’s fine honey. I like to walk, you know that.” My mom said as she gave David the look.
“Sorry about that. If I would have known it was going to be so busy….”
“Don’t be silly. A little exercise won’t kill your mother. Plus it’s beautiful outside. Did you see that moon?” She said.
“I did. Very nice.” I said.
She took a sip of her house wine and raised an eyebrow at how good it was.
I was excited to give my mom her present, but I thought it would be better after dinner, right before we were about to leave. I knew she was going to flip when she saw it.
“I cannot believe my baby is a senior in college.” She said as she looked at me with those motherly eyes. “Any idea what you will wanna do when you graduate?”
“Since I’m majoring in Art History I’m sure that any number of Coffee Shops in the area would love to get their hands on me once I graduate. I’m not just talking about the indie shops either. I think some of the big chains have been scouting me.”
My mom laughed out loud. David was stone faced of course. I could always make my mom laugh, but David was a tougher crowd. He shook his head and studied the menu in silence.
So much for David’s cordial behavior. Idiot.
Mom gave me that sympathetic look and a soft smile I had seen so many times before.
“I’m starving, let’s order.” I said, trying to curb the awkward silence from David.
We ended up having a great meal and decent conversation. I even spoke to David a little for my mom’s sake. I think the wine helped. Over the years I tried to do my best to forgive David, but I wasn’t sure I ever could.
After dinner was over we made our way to the front door when David stopped.
“Just one second. I need to use the restroom.” He said as he made his way to the rear of the restaurant where the bathrooms were.
My mom and I were standing in the vestibule waiting when I noticed the look on the mom’s face. I had seen it before.
“Okay. What is it?” I said
The seriousness of my mother’s face scared me.
“You’re not sick are you?” I said when she didn’t answer right away.
“No, no. It’s nothing.”
“Are you sure? You have that look. I know that look.”
She smiled and touched the side of my face.
“I’m just so proud of you son.”
“Thanks. You’re sure nothing is wrong though? You don’t have cancer or something and not telling me are you?”
“No. Fit as fiddle.” She said. Then after a second of silence she said. “There is one thing I would like to talk to you about...alone. It’s nothing to worry about I assure you, just something I have been meaning to talk to you about for awhile now.” She said seriously.
“You’re sure everything is fine though?” I pressed.
“I’m sure. It’s nothing like that.” She said as she gave me a reassuring smile.
“Okay then.” I said, still apprehensive.
“You’re such a good boy, handsome too. Just like your father.”
The comment caught me off guard. She never brought up anything about my real father before. She always made a point to change the subject if I even came close to talking about him. When I was younger I asked her what happened to him and she started to cry. She just said that he had to leave and never elaborated. When I got older I asked about him several times, but she would tell me that we would talk about it another time. I came to believe that he was some asshole that left my mom after she got pregnant, and to spare my mom’s feelings I left it alone. That’s why this statement caught me completely flat footed.
David came back from the restroom and as soon as my mom saw him she regained her composure and gave me a hug.
“I will call you tomorrow.” She said
I knew my mother pretty well and I could tell that this was something that had been on her mind for some time. She would want privacy and a good length of time to discuss it, so I let it go.
“Have a safe ride home.” I said.
She smiled, gave me another extra-long hug and they headed off.
I started walking in the opposite direction toward home lost in thought about what my mom had said. The simple comment about my father rattled me so much that I completely forgot to give her the gift.
I was still fairly close, so I turned and started to run back the other way. I knew it would take them a few extra minutes to get back to the parking structure, especially with my mom window shopping all the way back to the car.
I made it to the parking structure in quick fashion, which was right next to the bus station. Once I got there I ran up the stairwell to the 3rd level and started walking down each aisle looking for their silver SUV. I got to the fourth aisle over when I thought I saw their car. The lights were on, but it was still in the parking spot. I couldn’t see the entire vehicle because most of it was blocked by a large conversion van, but I was sure it was theirs.
Just in time.
I ran to the vehicle, while pulling the gift box from the inside of my jacket pocket. I was so excited that I tripped over something lying on the cement as I approached the car. I regained my footing and began to smile knowing how much she was going to love this gift. I couldn’t wait to see her face when I gave it to her.
I rounded the corner of the van and I could see the passenger door was wide open.
“I can’t believe I caught you guys. You must be the slowest walkers in the world.” I said.
I approached the passenger side where I knew my mom would be. David would never let her drive of course.
The sudden stillness and lack of noise became apparent the closer I got.
Something was wrong.
It was as if the world turned the sound off. The stillness of the parking structure, which normally would be bustling at this time, was wrong. All of it was wrong.
I inched closer to my mom’s door and one faint sound started to become more prevalent. It was the repetitive tap, like that of a dripping faucet in the middle of the night.
I took one small step after another, bridging the short gap between myself and the side door. The passenger door was partially open and I could see my mom’s right leg sticking out door as it would if she had just sat down in the car and was about to pull her leg in. The shoe on her right foot was missing. I went cold.
My attention was briefly pulled away by the damage to the neighboring van, which appeared to have been caused by my mother’s door slamming into it. The paint transfer was obviously from David’s silver car.
When I got close enough to see inside my worst fears were turned into a horrific reality.
My mother’s head was slumped down with her chin almost resting on her chest. A blood-trail that starting from her neck went down her shirt and led to a small dark coagulated pool collecting in her lap. Her shirt was stained such a dark red that it almost looked purple. The tapping I heard was the steady drip of blood falling from my mother’s nose and hitting the blood soaked leather seat. Even though her chin was down I could still see strings of dangling sinewy skin from her throat that had been torn away. Her left arm was broken in at least two different places and in an unnatural position over the seat behind her. The bone in her shoulder was protruding through the thin jacket she was wearing, which looked like a piece of splintered tree.
There was no movement as I checked in vain for any signs of life. There was none of course, but you hope for the impossible when it’s someone you love.
Time had stopped.
Though I didn’t think it was possible to move, I had to see if David was alive. He wasn’t in the driver’s seat where I would have thought and I could see a fair amount of blood on the seat. I went around to the other side of the car and was shocked by what I saw.
He was missing.
The driver’s window was smashed out and the metal around it was twisted and bent. There was more blood on the pavement just outside the driver’s door, but no sign of David.
I looked around I saw a blood trail that led from the car to the middle of the aisle, where it stopped abruptly. It was as if someone was dragged to a waiting vehicle and thrown inside before it took off.
I was in complete shock. None of what was happening to me seemed real. I felt lost in a nightmare, hoping that I would wake up in bed in a cold sweat like you see in the movies. I would not be so fortunate.
I don’t remember doing it, but I called 911 on my cell phone and waited.
I sat there staring at nothing, for what seemed like an eternity, when I noticed that I had my mother’s gift in my hand. I took the necklace from the box, and the heavy charm fell free and snapped upward once it reached the length of the leather rope.
I walked to my mother’s side, trying not to look at the gruesome injuries. As gently as I could I placed the necklace over my mom’s head and around her neck as I kissed the top of her head. She was getting her birthday gift.
“I love you mom.” I said.
That’s all I remember before the sound of police sirens and ambulances eliminated the silence. The commotion that followed was a blur. My world had just collapsed and I had never felt so alone than I did in that very moment.