Author: Kathi Macias
Title: My Son, John
Publisher: Sheaf House
Genre: Contemporary/Women’s fiction
Murder. Could there be a more chilling word? Could it be any more horrible than to have a loved one killed, brutally and heartlessly, without obvious reason or motive? When Liz Peterson’s elderly mother is found viciously beaten to death in her home, Liz and her husband, Charles, along with their grown son, John, and teenage daughter, Sarah, are horrified beyond words. Their previously predictable, respectable lives seem to have vanished without a trace, as they struggle to make sense of a senseless act.
And then a second blow—more devastating, if possible, than the first—rocks them to their core. John is arrested for his grandmother’s murder. As what’s left of the Peterson family begins to crumble under the weight of loss and accusation, the Petersons’ longstanding Christian faith is put to the test in a way they could never have imagined, and unconditional love is stretched to its limits. Will family ties and relationships withstand such a crushing blow, or will evil succeed in dividing and conquering this once close and inseparable family?
“I was in prison and you came to Me…” (Matthew 25:36).
Tick, damn it, tick! I cried silently, oblivious to the fact that I had just thought a word I would never say out loud. I glared through bloodshot eyes at the large, round, schoolroom-type clock that was the sole decoration on the cold gray wall behind the metal chair where John sat, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and holding a phone to his ear, while gazing at me through a glass partition, no doubt knowing that I was avoiding eye contact because the pain was just too great.
Still staring at the offensive timepiece on the wall, I demanded silently, Do you think just because you don’t make any noise that I don’t know what you’re doing, that I don’t realize that with every sweeping circle you’re stealing more and more of my son’s life?
Oh, God, if only there were a window in here! If I could just reach through this glass and touch him…!
The tears came then, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I pulled my vision from the clock and caught a glimpse of John’s anguished, sweat-beaded face before squeezing my eyes shut in a vain attempt to block out the swell of emotions that threatened to drown me. I had to stop this denial and refocus my efforts and energy on my son. He would never survive this nightmare if I didn’t; none of us would.
I forced my eyelids open, wiping the tears from my cheeks and wishing I had been allowed to bring my purse in with me. But, of course, everything personal had been left behind before I had been admitted to the visiting area. You’d think those in charge would realize a mother’s need for a tissue in such a situation.
Slowly, I cracked my lips into what I was sure was a wooden smile. “You look good,” I lied, knowing he knew better but hoping to convince myself. “Are they treating you all right…feeding you, and—”
Trembling but quite obviously trying hard not to show it, he pressed the palm of his free hand against the glass in what was doubtless an attempt to cut off my pointless questions. “I’m fine, Mom. Honest. I told you that last time. And…please, you don’t have to come here. I don’t want you to come here. Can’t you understand that?”
How could I understand that my son didn’t want me to visit him and support him when he’d been accused of something so horrific it was beyond comprehension? How could I understand anything anymore? Not only had John been falsely imprisoned, but he was losing weight and I could see he wasn’t well. He needed me….
“I want to come,” I answered. “I have to. I’ve never abandoned you before. Why would you think I would now—especially now?”
The pain and fear in his dark blue eyes flickered before fading to dull. He pressed his lips together and shook his head. “I have to go, Mom. Time’s about up anyway. I…hate talking to you like this…seeing you this way.”
I watched his Adam’s apple bob slightly as he swallowed and then said, “I love you, Mom. You know that. Dad and Sarah, too.” Then, after only a brief hesitation, he removed his palm from the glass, hung up the phone, and stood to his feet. Immediately a corrections officer was at his side, escorting him from the room.
Still pressing the receiver to my ear, I whispered, “You didn’t even say goodbye, John. You didn’t say goodbye….”
At the thick metal door, just below and to the right of the silent wall clock, John stopped, turning slightly as his armed escort unlocked the heavy barrier. Glancing backward, his lips spread ever-so-slightly in that frightened, little-boy smile he’d had since he was a little boy, the one he’d worn when he walked on skinny, shaky legs into his kindergarten room on the first day of school, assuring me that he was all right. As I had that day when I stood in the hallway outside his classroom, I now did my best to return his smile. Then he turned his back to me and shuffled on shackled ankles through the passageway.
So little had changed in the eighteen years since that first day of school—and yet the world my husband and I had known since our oldest child was born twenty-three years earlier had exploded and vanished, washed away in tears…and in blood. Nothing would ever be the same again.
John’s kindergarten smile had been his signal to me that he could handle things and I should leave. With legs of lead and a heart even heavier, I forced myself to honor his wishes.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley. Look for her new Blog Talk Radio show, coming soon!
Visit Kathi’s website at www.kathimacias.com.