An Acceptable Vengeance
An Acceptable Vengeance
"In three words
I can sum up everything I've learned about life.
It goes on."
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Saturday, October 14, 2000
The last image Marian had of Rob that day captured him as he opened the refrigerator, pulled out the quart of orange juice and emptied it, his throat moving with each swallow. "Don't drink out of the carton," she'd said. "Get a glass."
He'd paused, moved the carton from his mouth, and laughed. She remembered that laugh, a warm joyous sound that careened around the kitchen. His dark hair had been brushed, but still managed to look disheveled and mussed. No doubt when the girls saw that renegade curl separate and ease down his forehead, they described him as ' way cool, ' or ' hot ' or whatever young women said now about a sexy and desirable man. Her son, the man.
He'd tossed the empty carton into the trash, then picked her up, all arms and aftershave, and whirled her around. He did that a lot now that he was a head taller than she was with weight room muscles. "Give it a rest, Mom," he'd said, kissed her on her cheek, started for the door, then turned. "I won't be here for dinner tonight. I've got a date. Tell Dad I'm in the truck."
And then he was gone.
With Bill, she remembered sounds.
From the small radio mounted beneath her cabinet, someone sang, " I can see clearly now, the rain is gone ." Over the music, she heard Bill on the phone in the dining room, his professor's voice shaping words as if they had substance. He must have been talking to that young female student who persisted in calling him at home. The song from the radio finished just as she heard him replace the phone into its cradle and cross to the kitchen door.
"That twit," he'd said as he came into the kitchen, tall, and lean, a poet's face under dark hair laced with gray. "Could you take my blue jacket to the cleaners?"
He caught her by her shoulders and pulled her to him for a quick kiss that scarcely brushed her cheek, let alone her lips. "We should be back around 5:00 unless the game goes into overtime." And then he, too, was gone, the door clattering closed behind him and the house echoing emptiness. Moments later she heard his crew cab pickup back out of the drive.
Her memory of the remainder of that day blipped brief scenes like tableaus caught in a jerky strobe light. Bill's colleague from the university, Dr. Hani, waiting in the parking lot of the library. His musky cologne that almost gagged her as he climbed into her Ford Taurus. She was taking him to see the old farmhouse northeast of Edmond that her co-workers at Holdermann Realty were sure would never sell.
But Dr. Hani had clapped his small manicured hands together and said, "Very usable." He'd pulled a camera from his jacket pocket and shot the barn, the large metal building with the overhead doors, and the storm shelter humped like a poorly buried culvert. After he'd filmed the house inside and out from several vantage points, she returned him to the University and drove home.
The remainder of the images from that day blurred into denial.
"They're probably funding raising," she decided when she saw the Highway Patrol car parked in front of her house. A shudder of uneasiness crawled up her back though. Bill and Rob would have taken I-35 to Stillwater.
"You must have the wrong house," she told them when the two troopers helped her from her car and onto her porch. "The William Bradleys live here." She stressed 'William' as if they had confused William with a Peter or a Samuel.
When they eased her into the foyer and past the reclaimed church pew that caught coats and clutter, she whispered, "You've made a terrible mistake," but her voice shook.
Then they seated her on the heavy couch that faced the fieldstone