"I won't let anyone take you from me."
I won't let anyone take you from me, she says,
(my sweet baby, my darling little girl),
and touching Brigitte's careworn face, knows she is saying goodbye.
The paper is warped, stained with tears and blood. Brigitte's handwriting, never clear, wavers so badly that the note is almost incomprehensible. She doesn't need words, doesn't need torn looseleaf and trembling swoops and slashes of black ink to know:
i'm sorry, i'm so sorry, mommy, please.
help me, mommy, help me.
Pam sways, one hand to her heart. Her mouth is open and twisting in grief. Her fingertips memorize the feel of paper, her baby's blood and grief.
The twisted body in the basement
(my god, henry says, horrified, what is that thing?
don't you know, she doesn't say, can't you feel it? my baby, my baby.)
is covered by a sheet. Henry gags as she pats the great head, cradles it against her empty belly. She won't let him call the police, and she is fierce in her grief. She won't let them take away her little girl, her sweet child--she'd promised, and she won't see her flesh and blood cut into, discussed beneath bright lights with horrified fascination.
She curls downwards, presses her lips against cool, rough skin.
Henry closes his eyes, gags, when they find the torn body slumped in the depths of their home.
Pam ignores him, pulls on her gardening gloves, and wonders whether she should have known. He might have been a handsome boy, once,
(what do boys want, mom?)
and, oh, her girls have grown-up so fast in so short a time. She grimaces when his head falls back, loose-necked, and rolls him into a plastic tablecloth. Henry is breathing fast, shallow, and it takes a long time for Pam to wrap the body.
They wait until night, and bury him in the toolshed.
This is what she dreams of:
Her girls, together, timeless. They are curled on Brigitte's bed, quiet, content. Brigitte's arm is flung across Ginger's shoulders, Ginger's head pillowed on Brigitte's lap. From the doorway, she sees Brigitte's fingers stroking the base of her sister's throat, and the answering curl of Ginger's lips. Photographs lay scattered across the mattress, forgotten.
Ginger's hair slides across Brigitte's hip and thigh as she lifts her head. She smiles, and holds out her arms.
Mom, she says.
I'm here, Pam says, I'm here, honey.
She smiles, stretches out her arms, and wakes with a wet face.
Henry doesn't understand. We should have seen they weren't right, he says.
Pam's lips thin, and she doesn't speak. They were perfect, she thinks. They were mine, my babies. My blood.
They plaster and paint over the long, deep gouges in the hallway. They hang up paintings knocked to the floor, and carefully dispose of broken furniture, piece by piece, over the span of months. She won't let anyone hurt her babies, but she can't and won't let him strip the Polaroids from the wall in the girl's room.
She screams when he tries, pounds her fists against his chest, and doesn't hear a word when he tells her that she's tearing herself apart.
She doesn't listen, because it isn't and can't be true. She is a good mother, and she is only doing what she must.
The Fitzgeralds are famous in Bailey Downs. Freaks, people say. Crazy, others agree. Pam smiles, placid. She knows that her babies are good, and sweet, and that they love her. She knows, and the thought is a comfort.
When spring comes again, she returns to her garden. She doesn't wear her gloves, but digs her fingers into the earth. She folds her head beneath the sun and sky, and can almost feel Ginger reaching for her, fingers curling around her own.
She hums as she works.