Judas In Disguise, Part One
Themes of Depression, Death/Loss, Grief
Violent Content, Mental illness. Reader Discretion is Advised
A cold chill greeted the air of a suburban neighborhood, kissing and stroking the faces of any residents that dared to come outside and brave the snow. This neighborhood resided in the town of Flagstaff, Arizona, and it was not uncommon to see a few members of the community attempting to shovel the snow off the sidewalks and driveways in a tedious manner. There were others, in turn, that had to brave the snow for other reasons, be it going to work or school. This was no exception to a teen one year shy of sixteen that was being driven to school by her mother, silent and not willing to say a word to her.
The teen, Gretchen Williams, had had a decent childhood growing up and never thought much less of her parents. They were not among the upper class, or poor to the point of being homeless, but her parents always showered her with a rich abundance of love and taught her valuable lessons on appreciating the simple things in life. What was lacked in monetary riches, was given ten times more in affection and close attention to giving her the life her parents never had growing up. Whether it would be putting money and effort into the gifts she always wanted on birthdays and Christmas, or the occasional going out for ice cream if she had gotten a good grade.
Gretchen was adored and spoiled with unconditional love and a stable environment, and, in return, loved and looked up to her parents. But after she reached ten years old, she woke up one day to discover her father gone with no word or explanation. It was as if he had disappeared without a trace. She could vividly remember her mother in a frantic state, calling her father’s cell and everyone she knew, knowing her husband would never abandon the two of them. The police were dubious at first, trying to write it off as a runaway due to lack of the three days that a person would be considered missing.
Two days later a hiker noticed a dead and nearly mutilated body with multiple stab wounds. The body was identified as Gretchen’s father. Gretchen was putting her toys away, when she heard a pained, loud scream from her mother before she heard crying. Gretchen then knew before she could even hear someone’s muffled voice outside her bedroom door, most likely a detective, say the words, “We’re sorry for your loss.” Despite the good intention behind that phrase, her mother voiced her opinion and fury at the detective loud enough that not even Gretchen’s hands over her ears could block it out.
“You should have done your job! You should’ve listened to me the moment I told you that Brian was missing! Now his blood is on your hands! I could sue you and the whole goddamn police department for not doing your job,” her mother yelled as the detective sighed.
“Mrs. Williams, I know this is difficult and I cannot imagine the pain you are going through, but we need you to tell us if your husband had any known enemies. Anyone that could have had issues and would want to harm him,” the detective said in a calm tone, which earned a long drawn out silence from Gretchen’s mother.
Finally it was broken as her mother gave a deep sigh. “My husband never had problems, not even with anyone at his work. Now, please leave me to grieve and get out of my house,” she said with melancholy tone before starting to cry once more.
Ever since that moment, Gretchen knew it was only going to be her and her mother from now on. They were constantly moving; from their home in Phoenix, to Tucson, to Mesa, to Prescott until they settled on Flagstaff. It was over the years and constant moving that Gretchen fully felt that weight of grief and loneliness. After the many years of hearing her mother cry at night, Gretchen could feel her own heart break in the process. She hated her mother crying. Therefore she had an obligation to keep her happy while trying to heal on her own.
Given that obligation, Gretchen had to grow up quickly, be a “good girl”, and with that came the price of holding in her pain and grief. It took a massive toll on Gretchen over time, but she made sure to bottle up her pain for the sake of her mother. This went on until it left a wedge between them that not even moving for a fresh start could cure. It left bitterness in Gretchen’s heart that carried on to her teen years, as she was now going to be the new girl at her school once more.
“You seem quiet,” her mother finally spoke. Gretchen turned her head and gave her a brief glance, before staring out the car window, not making further eye contact. Her blond hair was in a ponytail, her clothing more than appropriate for the cold with black boots to match her sweater. Her green eyes were set in an expression that did not want to speak up by any means.
Her mother, who could literally be her twin aside from the youthful look of her daughter, gave a sigh. “Okay, be silent. You are going to want to do a lot of talking, however, for therapy after school. I already scheduled an appointment so no backing out this time, young lady,” her mother said as she glanced at Gretchen before looking at the road.
This earned a brief, annoyed glance, before Gretchen looked away once again. “Whatever you say Laura,” she said, and the silence became as thick as the tension between them. Gretchen only called her mother ‘Laura’ time to time as a form of rebellion; as a way of saying, “screw you” without cursing her out.
Her mother pursed her lips in a frown, before glancing at her daughter. “Look, I know you are going through a lot. I wish your father were here too. But you can’t keep punishing me like this. I just want us to heal and have a fresh start,” her mother said as she was once again met by a long drawn out silence.
If Gretchen had a penny for the many times that her mother uttered those words, or an extension thereof, she would be a millionaire by now. “Cool story,” Gretchen merely said as the school building came into sight, the red letters on the top corner spelling out ‘Baxter High’. As soon as they reached the school entrance Gretchen immediately got out, not wanting to meet her mother’s eyes.
“I love you!” her mother tried to call out before the car door was slammed shut. Her mother sighed and lightly shook her head. Gretchen glanced back before heading inside the building, knowing she would get a long lecture as consequence for that behavior, but at the moment she just wanted to start her day as a new kid. She also did not want to think about her father’s birthday looming on the horizon in a mere three days.
What had made it ten times more painful? Her father’s birthday was also the same day he was murdered. Gretchen could only think that it was going to be torture that her mother appeared to not want to recognize it, for reasons she would never understand. As Gretchen was bottling it up, her mother was doing the same in her own way. Was her mother that stupid, to think mere therapy would fix things?
Right now the thought did not even matter to Gretchen as she wanted the school and everything else to melt away. What Gretchen could not fathom, however, was that the day she walked in those doors would bring her into a dark place, as its blue-eyed bearer was conversing with friends about who he may score tonight. That bearer, in turn, could not fathom an experience that would change how he viewed people and life itself.
**If you or someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or has been experiencing severe loss or depression, call 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727), the national suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255), text CONNECT or HOME to the crisis text line at 741741, or call 911**