Daniel Richard stood in front of his mirror, watching his reflection stare back at him. He stood an even 6’0” at 175 pounds, with blue eyes and artificially shaped brows. His face was clean shaven and his thick black-painted hair was combed back. A black suit hugged his frame, kept from his strict diet and exercise. A grey tie perfectly pulled to his collar was clipped in place to his white dress shirt. Daniel knew he was a handsome man. It would not be hard for him to remarry and find a suitable maternal role model for his late-in-life young son. He had a smile that would dazzle his face and charm a woman.
For a short period.
Despite his dazzling smile and handsome face, dull, blue eyes stared back at Daniel. The mirror showed him the truth. He was getting old and boring. He could never return to the times where his only worries were his grades in sociology or hangovers or where the next party was. Daniel could see the dark bags that plagued under his eyes from the years of slaving away at his corporate job, running around being a yes-man to his bosses. No matter the amount of sleep or treatment he received, he can never rid them. They are stuck there like the fake smile he often displayed.
When was the last time Daniel smiled from joy? Ah! He remembered. When he saw his wife for the last time before she had to go six feet underground.
Daniel had made plenty of mistakes in life, and marrying his wife was one of them. He had thought she was just like him – fun – and she was. Up until six years ago when she began to talk about being responsible and suddenly wanting kids, then went on to have one without his consent. That bitch. He distinctly remembered in their vows that all their decisions would be made as a team. There was not an inkling of memory of their vows saying, “You can do whatever you want. Who cares about me?” Well, she was dead now. There wasn’t much that could be done.
That kid. That kid that is so much a carbon copy of his younger self was just a reminder of her treacherous decision. Her desire to start a family with him was so great that she had the audacity to lie to him about keeping up with her birth control pills.
And where did that lead her?
To illness. Soon after the birth of their son, his wife had to discover that she was sick, and she just had to leave the earth by herself in peace. As if it wasn’t enough that he had to deal with her withering away into nothing before his very eyes, she just had to leave him the burden of keeping the child alive. It was in his vows to keep his promises to her when they got married. She made him promise her that he would care for, love, and protect the child.
You’re failing, his reflection told him. Just go sleep forever.
“Not yet,” he replied.
Daniel had a plan. His plan was to remarry. Find a nice woman who could deal with the burden every so often and provide him the care, love, and protection he needed. Occupy the child when he didn’t want to or when he needed it.
Daniel walked away from his reflection. He stepped into the naturally lit living room to see his son patiently sitting on the sofa with his child tablet in hand. The boy looked away from his toy and promptly shut it down. He quickly went to him. His hand went to hold Daniel’s, but it was quickly pulled away.
“Sorry,” the boy mumbled as his father’s glare came down on him. “Isaac won’t do it again.”
Daniel remained silent. He clenched his fist tightly as his heart and mind yelled at him for being cruel to the little boy. He did nothing to warrant being cruel to him except act as a constant reminder of his wife. The wife that left him alone to be miserable.
Daniel continued to stay silent. He picked the little boy up and grabbed his little backpack that he needed for school.
“Man, they found another one! Listen to this, 36-year-old Luther Simmons was found dead in his apartment complex with the same puncture wounds in the neck as-”
Daniel shut off his radio as he pulled up to his son’s elementary school. He stepped out of the car and helped his son out of his car seat. He held his hand firmly as they walked from the large parking lot to the classroom. He scanned the room, and a charming smile appeared on his handsome face as a woman approached them. She was a beautiful woman with dark brown hair put into a bun by a golden butterfly pin and bright green eyes.
If anyone can be the perfect motherly figure for his son, it would be his kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Grace. As his son’s teacher, he knows that she would be able to properly raise him, and for that reason, he has been courting her.
“Hello, Isaac!” She greeted him brightly. Her eyes went to meet Daniel, and she gave him a shy smile. “Hello, Mr. Richard.”
“Jenny, aren’t we past formalities?” he asked. “Especially after last Saturday.”
Daniel thought back to Saturday night. It was their first night together after two months of dating. It seemed Daniel’s charms were still strong, for after only a week of talking, Jennifer quickly accepted his request for a casual coffee date, and then after another week she became his girlfriend.
Jennifer blushed and playfully glared at him. “You are going to get me fired if you say that any louder, Daniel.”
“Then I can just make you my housewife,” he replied.
She laughed. Almost too much. She straightened herself and smiled. “You should get going. I’ll see you tonight.”
Daniel nodded. “I’ll see you tonight,” he said.
“Wait, Danny. Are you forgetting something?” Jennifer looked down at Isaac with a smile, pushing the boy forward.
The man sighed then crouched down to Isaac’s level and wrapped his arms around him. The small boy hugged him tightly, making Daniel hug him back with the same tightness, and suddenly, Daniel didn’t want to let his son go as guilt weighed on his shoulders. He remembered the first time he held his son and the promise he made to his late wife. He would watch, love, and protect their son. She had not forced him to promise her, but he had promised her of his own accord because the very moment he saw his little boy, he was his pride and joy.
He pulled away from his son and kissed his forehead. “Sorry about earlier, kiddo,” he whispered.
Isaac nodded and went back to hug him.
Daniel smiled up at Jennifer. Another reason why he wanted her to be his. Other than his wife, Jennifer was perfect for him.
It didn’t take long for Jennifer Grace to become Jennifer Grace-Richard, and everything in his home changed. Things were brighter now and filled with laughter. Daniel could hear laughter coming from the living room after he tucked his son into bed and gave him a goodnight kiss.
Daniel walked out to his living room to see his wife and their neighbor, Paulos, who was also his coworker, drinking at the table. He went to sit down beside Jennifer. Again, he saw the smile on her natural face. Her hair was up in a bun as always by her golden butterfly pin. He kissed her and smiled.
“Authorities are still in search for what the media has named the Alphabet Killer. There is belief that—”
“Alphabet killer is such a dumb ass name for a serial killer,” the Puerto Rican man slurred with a thick accent as he put the TV on mute. He gulped down the rest of his whiskey and poured himself another glass and another for Daniel.
Daniel laughed, letting go of his wife to let her go back to the kitchen to grab another bottle of whiskey. “Be careful. He might make you his next target for insulting him. I think the next letter is P.”
Paulos snorted. “I like to see him fucking try.”
“How do you know it’s a him?” Jennifer asked, coming back from the kitchen. “The killer could be a woman.”
“Doubt, señorita. According to the news, these aren’t weak men, and no woman can overpower a grown man.”
The woman laughed. “You don’t know that. She could easily with the right circumstances,” she said, fixing her pin in her hair. “All she needs to do is put up the right act, get the trust of her victim, serve them with a nice cup of scotch or whiskey, and her fun begins.”
“Please tell me you didn’t poison our whiskey,” Daniel joked.
Jennifer turned to her husband and winked, making him laugh then smile at her with eyes filled with affection.
“You know, I never thought I would see you actually smile, Daniel,” Paulos said after finishing his glass again. “No one likes your bullshit smile.”
Daniel sneered. “Except for the big guys,” he said, picking up his cup.
“They like anyone who kisses up to them. How is it, Daniel? Kissing up to asses of old men?”
“I will kick you out. This is my home, and I will punch you for insulting me and kick you out.”
“Wow. No need to punch me! You need me to show your son you have friends!” Paulos laughed. “Jenny, here, told me while you were putting your son to sleep.”
Daniel glared at Jennifer, who simply giggled. She swirled the bottle of whiskey then poured the men another drink. She hummed a song he could recognize. She had sung the childish sounding song around him many times before, but he could only remember a few lines.
We paint white roses red
Each shade from a different person’s head
This dream, dream is a killer
Getting drunk with the blue caterpillar
Daniel was unsure what had happened.
His memories became blank after he started to complain about their bosses to Paulos. There was just one big hole.
He had woken up to the sounds of his wife’s sobbing and felt a wet stickiness on his hand. He opened his eyes to find Paulos on the floor, lying in a pool of his own blood. There was blood almost everywhere. His floor, his table, his couch. He looked over to Jennifer to see her in the corner with a bruised eye and torn clothes. Daniel looked down to his hand to find Jennifer’s hairpin in his hand, covered in blood.
Daniel quickly threw the hairpin to the side and crawled to Jennifer. Right now, all he needed was to stop his wife from crying. He carefully placed his hand on her shoulder. “Jenny…”
She opened her eye and quickly went to hug him tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered. She pulled away to look into his blue eyes. Her damp, clean hand touched his face.
They stared at each other for a bit before Daniel quickly pulled away, registering that his new friend was on the floor. He went to him and turned him over. Cold. There was a puncture wound in his left eye and multiple puncture wounds in the man’s neck. The wounds were about the same size as the golden butterfly hairpin.
Daniel raked through his memories to remember what happened, but it just stopped a little after Jennifer had served them another drink during their talk about their bosses. How could he just forget? He hadn’t had that many drinks, had he?
A loud knock came from the door, making them jump. “Holland PD! We got a call for a domestic dispute!”
Daniel turned away from the front door to see his son standing by the couch. His heart stopped. Daniel ran to him and quickly covered his eyes. He was still unsure what had happened, but he began to choke a sob. “I’m so sorry, Isaac. I love you.”
Everything was crashing down on him. He was sorry that he was happy that his wife died. He was sorry that he didn’t cherish his son sooner. He was sorry that he was going to leave his son alone. He had fully broken his promise to raise their son right. This was his little boy. A little piece of him and his wife, and he failed him.
Daniel heard the door break, then commotion, followed by his Miranda Rights being read to him as he was pulled away from his son. He watched as Jennifer quickly took Isaac into her arms. She was smiling at him, forcing him to not look at his father or the scene.
Maybe not fully.
Jennifer Grace stood in front of her mirror, watching her reflection smile back at her. She stood a solid 5’7” at 155 pounds with blue eyes and newly cut hair. She was wearing a black dress that hugged her fit figure. Her hair was put into a bun with her golden butterfly hairpin. Jennifer’s face was mainly natural except for her lips, painted dark red. She was beautiful. Jennifer was not going to deny that about herself. With her slender body and bright personality, she could easily find herself someone.
For a short period.
Despite her bright smile and beauty, Jennifer was much darker in her soul. The mirror showed her the truth. Every time she blinked, her reflection changed between smiles and laughter. A man she would call her husband would never stay with her long. They would realize — eventually — who she was. How she was. Her mind was chaos. It would never be organized like her current life of perfection and freedom.
Insane. Her laughing reflection said to her.
“No, I’m not!” she said to the mirror. “I am a mother! Mothers aren’t crazy. They’re stable. They provide life to their young. They teach them to be good. To be right. Clean up after their messes. Everything I do is right. I’m right… I’m right…”
Jennifer left her laughing reflection, hearing the echoing voices in her ears. She stepped into the naturally lit living room to see her son patiently sitting on the sofa with his child tablet in hand. The voices instantly became louder when the boy saw her and smiled.
She went to pick him up and kissed his forehead, seeing his innocent blue eyes shine brightly.
“Time to go visit daddy, Isaac,” she said, then began to hum the alphabet as she walked out the door.