Illustration by Andres Garzon
In the small town of Hamnia, a healthy baby girl named Melissa was born to proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. Denver Campus. She would be their only child. Their life together was anything but ideal, yet Melissa managed to bring joy to a loveless marriage.
Denver, a handsome and successful man in his mid-thirties, had recently been promoted to Vice-President of a new and progressive IT Company called Viral X. Despite his arrogance, he was well-liked by his co-workers. His wife Taborra was an unattractive, stay at home mom that was at least thirty pounds overweight. As an adolescent, she suffered from severe acne, which had left her with facial scars that contributed to her low self-esteem. She was a loving soul that lacked self-respect; allowing herself to be treated disrespectfully by others, especially her husband. Denver used to find her humbleness endearing, but over the years became annoyed by her lack of intrigue for excitement and new adventures. Taborra never had many friends and when she resigned from her career as a construction manager to become a stay at home mother, her world became very small. Denver distanced himself and lost all respect for his wife; seeking adventure outside of their marriage. Many often wondered why a man of his standing would marry such a lack-luster woman, as he was clearly unhappy.
Two years later, on a beautiful sunny day in July, the birds were chirping and the light breeze was blissful. The Campus’ left with their beloved daughter, to attend the annual Viral X company picnic. They reached their destination just before noon and made their way to where the employees and their families were gathered. Denver was greeted by his pal and colleague, Steve Adams, a genuine guy. Taborra had become accustomed to accompanying Denver to events, only to not be introduced and abandoned the entire night. The first time this happened, Taborra continued to stand by Denver, introducing herself as his wife and trying to interact, but quickly noticed that he would shut down any of her conversation starters and solely talk business to exclude her. Within minutes, others would join the group conversation and Taborra would be left to fend for herself.
She was often accused of being an overprotective mother that devoted all of her attention to her daughter. She instinctively refused to leave her side in fear that something bad would happen to her in her absence. While other mothers sunbathed on the beach and their husbands tended to their children, Taborra built sand castles with her daughter. When Melissa tired of that activity, she made her way towards the beach. Taborra followed behind, cautiously introducing her to the water. She never left Melissa out of her sight, not even to socialize with other people. Unbeknownst to her, she was nicknamed, ‘the weirdo’ by the other employees and their spouses, simply because her priorities were different. Her insecurities prevented her from confidently mingling with the other women, allowing her shyness to often be mistaken for mental instability due to her excessive introversion.
An hour later, Melissa fell asleep in her mother’s arms. Taborra laid her down to sleep in her playpen, situated in the shade, away from the incessant chatter and loud music. She planned to take this time to relax, but to her dismay, she realized that Denver neglected to bring her straw bag with the book she intended to read. She spotted her husband walking along the beach with his secretary, andfrantically tried to get his attention, but to no avail; he was clearly preoccupied.
This led Taborra to act completely out of character. She did something that still haunts her to this day. A young woman she had noticed earlier was walking her way, and Taborra assumed her to be an employee of Viral X. Taborra politely intercepted her, “Excuse me? I wouldn’t normally ask this of a total stranger, but I am getting rather restless now that my daughter has settled down for a nap. I was wondering if you would be willing to watch her while I run over to my car to retrieve my book.” The personable stranger did not hesitate to accommodate her request.
As Taborra thanked her and walked away, she felt a chill run down her spine. Her gut told her to go back, but she ignored it. She felt obligated to go through with her initial request because she feared the gossip that would ensue should she change her mind.
The woman eyed Melissa in the crib and a surge of hatred rushed through her. Never in her wildest dreams had she suspected Denver, the man she had spent countless evenings with while eating Chinese food and drinking cheap wine, to have a wife, yet alone a child.
She looked down at the infant with disgust, and felt something come over her. Hatred resonated through her and she quickly reached down, grabbed the teddy bear, and smothered the child with it. It was quick, and the child fell still without a sound. The woman placed the teddy bear back the way she had found it, smiling to herself as she took in the child’s soft, sleeping face. Then, she slipped away before allowing herself to feel an ounce of remorse.
Taborra hurried, her heart beating faster as she failed to shake the fear triggered in the pit of her stomach. She kept thinking that her daughter was in danger, but had no concrete reasoning behind her indescribable fear. She hoped that she was simply overreacting. She made it to her car, quickly retrieved her book and raced back, all while allowing her mind to wander through the possibility that her daughter would not be present when she returned. With tears in her eyes, she ran madly through the crowd. Denver spotted her in the distance and he instinctively made a mad dash after her.
As he got closer to his wife, he shouted, “Taborra, Taborra stop!” demanding her to come to a halt. It did not stop her, in fact, she sped up. He had never seen her run so fast.
Out of breath, she finally reached their daughter’s playpen, still asleep in the same position she had left her. The young woman was nowhere to be found.. At that moment, Taborra’s intuition led her to believe that the kind stranger was more than just a stranger. It was not out of character for Denver to attract the admiration of a female employee. Nevertheless, it was rather irresponsible of her to leave after gladly accepting to watch her child. Taborra swore she would never leave her precious daughter with a stranger ever again.
Denver’s cheeks turned pink from embarrassment and Taborra could tell he wanted to scream at her, but was restraining himself so as not to draw more unwanted attention. She had demonstrated such erratic behavior in front of his friends and colleagues. She could not bring herself to tell him the truth. Instead of explaining the situation, she allowed him to believe she was crazy. All was well, their daughter was fast asleep.
Denver sat down by the playpen, put his head in his palms and let out a long, frustrated sigh. Taborra sat beside him and rubbed his back, but he instinctively moved away from her touch. She apologized for her behavior. She explained that she had experienced a terrible premonition that had not come true. He snapped and said, “You’re ridiculous. What is wrong with you?”
Taborra just stared blankly at him as tears filled her eyes. She got up and walked towards the playpen as her daughter always seemed to alleviate any tension. She noticed that Melissa remained undisturbed despite all the commotion. She softly touched her daughter’s face and it was then she noticed that Melissa was not breathing. “Oh my God! Denver!” she screamed.
Denver looked at Taborra with such discontent while shaking his head in disbelief as he retorted, “Holy shit! What now?”
She picked up her daughter’s lifeless body in her arms and screamed, “Something is wrong. She isn’t breathing!”
Denver jumped up and took Melissa from her arms. He cried, “My baby! What happened? What did you do?”
He attempted CPR and told Taborra to call an ambulance. As her hands shook uncontrollably, she dialed as fast as she could. Minutes, felt like hours, before an ambulance arrived. Melissa was pronounced dead at the scene.
Denver screamed and fell to his knees. He could not look Taborra in the eyes. He despised her with every ounce of his being. The hatred he already felt towards her was now tenfold. He wanted to hurt her, his eyes wide and raging, but she was already dead to him. Taborra did not mention the woman as she was in too deep and feared speaking one more word during this calamitous moment.
An autopsy was conducted and determined that Melissa had been asphyxiated. Despite being the doting mother she was, her unstable behavior witnessed at the party and previous work engagements easily led her to be the only suspect. This was not the first time that her love for her daughter proved to be too intense. Denver often confided in his secretary about how he worried about his wife’s unhealthy attachment to their daughter. She could easily testify to solidify Denver’s position on the matter. There was no further investigation, and without any support from her husband or witnesses, Taborra was found guilty.
It was an unfortunate reality for Taborra, as Denver had long lost his admiration and respect for his wife; desecrating her true love and care for their daughter into a vile representation of her unfortunate demise. A judge sentenced her to life in prison, with no chance of parole. Melissa’s death had sucked the remaining life out of Taborra. She did not possess the energy to defend herself, and silently accepted her fate, as she knew that no one would believe her. She held herself responsible. The mystery woman at the beach had disappeared into thin air. Given all her self-doubt, she believed the accounts that maybe she was the crazy one and that the woman was in fact a figment of her imagination.
Denver was at the lowest point of his life. He was relieved to see his wife put away for the devastation that she had caused, but incredibly broken by the loss of his precious daughter. For Stella, his mistress, her eerie fairytale had come true. She stood by her lover throughout this difficult time; consoling him, despite being the cause of his endless misery.
Denver would never know the truth about that fateful day or his merciless mistress. Stella had won, she had solidified her spot as his one and only.
DÉSIRÉ BETTY is a Mississauga, Ontario based artist that began her innovative journey at an early age. Her passion for the arts, led her to pursue a career in Architecture; broadening her quest for constant creativity from the canvas to the built environment. Although content in her profession, there is nothing more fulfilling than creating art, in all its forms. In 2009, she vowed to complement her architecturally based career with her artistic pursuits. Désiré has since exhibited in several solo and group shows, had her art and poetry published in several magazines and sold pieces to art enthusiasts around the world.
Copyright © 2018 by Désiré Betty. All rights reserved.