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The first time, she was six.
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We were in Walmart. Then she was gone. I have never been so terrified in my life. Until today, maybe. You imagine all the possibilities.
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You know a pervert has kidnapped her. You hear your ripped freak fat burner discom interview on the local news, begging the perv to bring her home, unharmed. We all know one of those. If you have a headache, she has a migraine.
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But losing Chloe in that Walmart was worse than the usual lost-child-announced-over-the-public-address-system situation. Not even her first name. All she knew was that we lived in a red house. The house has always been yellow. Financially, the house was too good a deal to pass up; we used the inheritance from my grandmother to make a hefty down payment. The location was ideal, just on the edge of the college campus where my husband, the literature professor, taught.
He could walk to work in his tweed blazer and wool cap.
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I digress. Back to the yellow house. I wanted to paint it white. Randall and I agreed the day we went to settlement to paint the rambling Victorian white with green shutters. I was at an OB appointment when Randall met with the painters.
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It was mild for late January and he was in a hurry to have the peeling paint tidied up before there was snow. And when I arrived home, the painters were painting it yellow. I called Randall at his office. He called me back two hours later. It was too late, he said. The paint had been bought. It was nonrefundable. The house would look better yellow than white anyway, he told me. Until I was older. At least, wiser to him.
Undone: Wild Men, #2 [x4ew62wq]
So I always wished it was white. But it was yellow.
And Chloe could never remember the difference between yellow and red, so she called it our red house. I walk to the window and gaze out. Just dead leaves, dead branches. The same deadness I feel inside. I think about that day in Walmart when Chloe was six. But that day, my emotions were lodged in my throat, threatening to spill out between the aisles in hardware.
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Cleanup on aisle twenty-two. I found her within two minutes, three tops. Or maybe the ripped freak fat burner discom of screws beside them. She was all smiles. That perfectly round, flat face, almond-shaped eyes, putty nose, and tiny rosebud lips.
All telltale signs. When I close my eyes, I still see her as she was that day. Small and round. Red-blond hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, blue corduroy pants, a light blue shirt, blue sneakers with sparkles on them. She loved blue.
Blue like her eyes. Chloe, my precious daughter, was officially diagnosed with Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, at eleven days of age. I knew within seconds of her birth. When I was pregnant, my OB had said it was common for mothers to worry about the possibility of birth defects, and that I should relax and anticipate a healthy baby. I refuse to ever look at my child that way. And she was healthy. But she would never be what Randall had wanted.
What he wanted most, what he dreamed of, was a scholar, a son or daughter to attend his alma mater, Princeton. What he wanted was all the things Chloe would never be. I lean so close to the window that my breath fogs the cold glass.
In literary analogies of a broken heart, images of ripped freak fat burner discom are often used. I hear her husky giggle. When I close my eyes, I can smell ripped freak fat burner discom still, here in this room. Her room.
Does a mother ever forget the scent of her child? I fight the tears that sting the backs of my eyelids. I see myself in the reflection in the window.
I watch myself walk around her bedroom, the walls painted a pale blue, picking up dirty clothes: panties, socks, her pj top. Really, a cami would do, but she likes wearing a bra. It makes her feel like a woman, I think, instead of the child she will always be. Lined up side-by-side, parallel to each other, perpendicular to the edge of the sink.
So, why is it okay for her to leave dirty underwear on the floor?
Late, late. I have a doctorate in Comparative Literature. The having a mom part. I wish I had a mom to put in a retirement center.