JUDITH by M Teresa Clayton
“When people talk of ghosts, I don’t mention the apparition by which I am haunted, the phantom that shadows me about the streets, the image or spectre, so familiar, so like myself, which lurks in the plate glass of shop-windows, or leaps out of mirrors…” -Logan Pearsall Smith
The shower felt so good against Judith’s skin. She felt as if something inside of her had died and the cold mist of the shower was reminiscent of another time… When was innocence lost? She wondered to herself, detached and broken.
Judith did not sleep at all that night so she slipped out early to grab some fresh milk and buttered croissants to share with Lily when she woke up.
“Did you hear the ruckus last night?” the clerk asked her as he swiped the items into the scanner.
“No. What ruckus?” Judith answered casually. She really didn’t want to stay here any longer than she had to, with Lily still asleep up in the apartment.
“They found an old man near the dumpster right behind your building. DEAD!”'
Her jaw fell open. “Old man?”
“Yeah, you know the one… the perv,” the young boy laughed. “He always pinched the waitresses over at Dunmore’s where you use to work. At least that’s what I heard.”'
“Murdered?” Judith managed to get the word out.
“Naw, they think he just keeled over with a heart attack, ‘least that’s what the officer was sayin’. He was all blue in the face, had a look of wide eyed terror… creepy stuff… hadn’t seen anything like it before is what the one cop said.” The clerk answered as he totaled the purchase.'
Judith handed the clerk the fifty-dollar bill and waited for her change. “I gotta go, Sammy. Lily is still asleep and I don’t want her to wake up and find me not there…” she just let the sentence trail off.
Sammy handed Judith her change as she picked up the bag and shot out the door.
As soon as she was back in the apartment she put the bag down on the table and sat down. Her head was spinning. Judith wasn’t the least bit sorry for Mr. Waddles. In fact, she was somewhat relieved.
Do not get used to it, Judith.
Oh my dear god in heaven! That voice!
'Judith ran down the hall into her bedroom and stood facing the vanity mirror. “Don’t get use to WHAT?” she demanded.
There was a long silence, but Judith was not going to budge until she had her answer.
He was a sodomist! And worse, I witnessed the entire act as it played out right here in front of me! You didn’t EXPECT it? I certainly did not EXPECT the insult to take place HERE!
The glass in the mirror was rattling with her angered outbursts. A tint of red appeared at the edges.
“Did you do something to him?” Judith was not sure she really wanted to know the answer.
He was trash. I took the trash out.
“Mommy? Who are you talking to?” It was Lily, her sweet angel-faced Lily, sweet innocence. Judith wondered how long she had been standing there.
“No one, honey… probably just talking to myself – you caught me!” Judith teased in return as she lifted the red velvet coverlet over the mirror. “Now I’m gonna catch you!” she continued as she changed the subject and reached out for a tickle.
Lily ran giggling down the hall and into the kitchen as Judith gave a playful chase. “Did you get us a surprise, Mommy?”
“Yes, I did,” Judith giggled back to her. Sit down and we’ll celebrate this morning with a cold glass of fresh milk and, ta-da! Buttered Croissants!”
The morning was filled with laughter and playfulness as they sat and ate their breakfast. Afterwards they went out to the park for some fresh air and much needed sunshine.
Judith sat on the park bench watching Lily play with the other children with a mother’s pride and feeling the countless blessings… woven with thoughts of a dead Mr. Waddles. What have I become? Is this what my mommy felt, after…?
A tear escaped from the tight mesh of her eyelashes and started to make its way down her face. But, before she had a chance to wipe it away she felt someone else’s soft fingers gently gather it from her cheek.