I am Rebecca. Rebecca Adeline Taylor, a name I have had for almost twenty-five years. Before that, I was Rebecca Adeline Desmond, but it had been so long since I had heard that name that it has almost been forgotten. Not quite, but almost.
For eighteen of those twenty-five years, I was married to Albert Thomas Taylor, a vicious, abusive, violent man when drunk, and a loving, compassionate man when sober. Unfortunately, it was only the very first of those eighteen years that he was sober more often than not. After he lost his job at the slaughterhouse just seven months after we were married, he turned to drink to try to banish whatever demons possessed him until the drink itself was the demon.
When I got pregnant with my beautiful baby boy, things got even worse. Somehow, God watched over my child and me even as Albert tried to kill him before he was born, and my Erik was born healthy and hearty to a father who hated him with every fiber of his being and a mother who loved him just as much. For almost seventeen more years, Albert terrorized us both, ignoring Erik at first, and then striking him and me when he got in Albert’s way, until it got to the point when we were struck and beaten for any reason and no reason at all.
I had often dreamed of leaving Albert, but I had thought that I couldn’t take care of Erik by myself. I had no family to speak of, and there was no chance I would leave without my son. So, I stayed. I stayed and bandaged my son and myself when Albert’s strikes drew blood. I splinted my son’s broken bones and held him when he cried until he learned not to. Then I just held him. These things were usually done after Albert had fallen asleep or passed out, for he didn’t like it when I paid attention to Erik.
Then came the day when Albert killed my son and we ran. We ran like cowards from Willow, Tennessee to Knoxville to escape the law. I knew in my deepest soul that I had done nothing wrong, but Albert convinced me that because I had been in the cabin when Erik was hurt and had done nothing to help him, I was just as guilty in the death of my son as my husband was. It took me six long months to break away from that notion and from my abusive husband, but by then it was too late. My Erik was dead, and I was alone.
I left Tennessee and made my way north and east. I wanted to go to New York City where I could lose myself in the millions of people there. I could never forget my sins, nor could I ever forgive myself for not taking my son away before it was too late, but perhaps I could start over.
For six years, I worked as a waitress in numerous little towns, as a maid in numerous households, and even as a seamstress in Charleston, West Virginia. Little by little I covered the hundreds of miles separating me from my goal, and now, I was working as a nurse at Saint John’s Hospital on Long Island. I had been in New York for two weeks and at the hospital for one, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to work in medicine again. Before marrying Albert, I had graduated from a nurses’ college in Virginia, but he had forbidden me to work while married to him, even when we ate bland, tasteless cabbage soup because we had no money.
I had made a few friends since arriving in New York, although my hours at the hospital and the commute to the boarding home in Far Rockaway took up most of my time, so I didn’t have much time to socialize. For the most part, I was still alone.At least, that is what I thought until that moment, that tiny fraction of a second, that minuscule point in time. I stared at the unconscious body on the floor of the private hospital room at Saint John’s, the broth for my patient completely forgotten as it clattered to the floor. My mouth was agape, and my mind was whirling. Albert had lied to me. He must have, or else I was seeing a ghost.