On Friday, I commented on a horrible incident reported in the papers about a mother who stabbed her nine year old daughter to death. The woman was also approximately 7 months pregnant and stabbed herself, resulting in the termination of the pregnancy. A 14-year-old who called the police was also wounded.
I have been eerily fascinated by this horrible report and curious about the 14 year-old. Who was she? Why was she there? What happened? And how will this incident affect her? Here's the rough draft at a fictive account of the incident from the view of the 14 year-old.
You want me to say what happened. But it’s hard to remember. I know I went over in the afternoon at three to babysit. I am always on time.
I hate babysitting for Mrs. Shui. She is a small woman, very thin and she makes me think of a spider. I really hate spiders. I hate that part in the Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo is captured by the spider. You know a lot of people are afraid of spiders too, not just me – that’s why they use ‘em in movies and make them big. Everyone’s afraid of giant bugs – especially giant spiders. I read somewhere that the average human will swallow hundreds of spiders in their sleep over their whole lifetime. Mama tells me I am being irrational. “Use your head, Amy. Spiders can’t hurt you.” She just doesn’t really understand. I know spiders can’t really hurt me, but I don’t want any spiders crawling across my face at night and getting sucked down my throat as I am breathing in my sleep.
Mrs. Shui has spindly arms and legs, but a fat, swollen body – that’s why she reminds me of a spider. And she has mean eyes too I think. – and that’s like a spider also. She can look at you sharply, and her eyes narrow and you know she isn’t thinking kindly of you at all, but something mean and probably not even true. She’s very suspicious of people. But she really isn’t fat. She’s pregnant. I’ve seen lots of pregnant women. But Mrs. Shui is huge in her belly and the rest of her is so small and skinny. I don’t know how she supports her belly on that body. I would crumple if I had legs and arms so thin and weak and had to carry such a huge baby. I wonder if Mrs. Shui will ever have that baby. But I’m forgetting. She killed the baby, didn’t she? It died? I remember that. She picked up that knife in the kitchen and plunged the knife into her belly. There was a lot of blood, but that didn’t make a difference to Mrs. Shui. I mean, it didn’t stop her. She didn’t faint or even cry out. That’s what you want to know about, right? That’s what I have to tell you about – about what happened and how.
But I don’t understand any of this. She was mad at Lilly that day. And at me too. It was my fault I think. I’m sure of it. It was all my fault. I guess you want to know that too, don’t you? You want to know whose fault it is.
I’ve been teaching Lilly to cook. She is nine. No, I mean, I HAD been teaching Lilly to cook – and she WAS nine. But I’m not supposed to teach Lilly to cook. Mrs. Shui doesn’t really like me to do anything with Lilly. One time, I brought some craft stuff over to keep Lilly busy. We made masks with beads and feathers. Lilly’s mask was a rooster. We punched holes in the masks and ran twine through the holes so we could tie the masks across our faces. Lilly strutted all through the house, crowing like a rooster. But Mrs. Shui found some of the beads on the floor and the scraps of paper and feathers in the trash. “No crafts,” she told me. “Too much of a mess. Lilly can play in her room.” But it’s hard to make someone play in their room all afternoon. Besides, Lilly didn’t really have any toys. She didn’t even have crayons or paints. And I took a whole 4-week babysitting course before I started babysitting. You’re suppose to find creative things to do with the kids you babysit – that’s part of being a good babysitter. But Mrs. Shui didn’t think so.
Mrs. Shui’s house is immaculate. And she doesn’t like anything to be disturbed. When I first started babysitting, she taught me how to fold the laundry exactly the way she likes it. Mrs. Shui showed me how to fold Lilly’s cotton T-shirts. I even have to measure the folds with a ruler.
Mrs. Shui is unhappy. She was unhappy with Lily all the time. I don’t really know why, but they were always arguing. Well, Mrs. Shui calls it an argument, but Lilly doesn’t talk back, not really. Mrs. Shui says Lily can’t pay attention, that Lily ignores her all the time. But I like Lilly even though I think she is not too smart – she doesn’t catch on quick. When we made the rooster mask, I had to watch Lilly very carefully because she kept trying to eat the glue. Kids her age don’t eat glue- that’s something really little kids do. Maybe it’s stuff like that that upset Mrs. Shui so much. I think she’s embarrassed by Lilly. She doesn’t like me to take Lilly outside either. “Neighbors will gossip.” Mrs. Shui says.” Keep Lilly inside.” I wonder what the neighbors are saying now. They saw the ambulance, didn’t they? Mrs. Shui won’t like that.
I think Mrs. Shui is only just as old as my mother, but she looks used up, tired, as though she is a worn-out shoe, or an over-used sponge – you know, a yellow sponge that is getting dingy and has stains on it and really should be thrown out, but because you are trying to save money, you keep pouring bleach over the sponge to make it clean and though it does come clean, bits and pieces of the sponge fall off because the bleach eats away at it. Sooner or later, you have to give it up – forget about using bleach to make the sponge last longer – because it just starts to fall apart. Mrs. Shui is like that. Her house is perfect, but she is falling apart. She has big shadows under her eyes and her lips are thin and always pursed together. My mom’s lips only purse together when she is upset – and that isn’t really all that often. Or when she thinks I’m being irresponsible. That’s sort of often enough I guess though I am not really irresponsible. I get good grades and I babysit all the time for Mrs. Shui. The money I earn is in a large mayonnaise jar. I’m saving that money for something big and important – though I don’t know what yet. Mama cleaned the jar out for me and it sits in the cupboard above the refrigerator. I babysit for other families too in the neighborhood, but not as often as I do for Mrs. Shui. I don’t think anyone will have me babysit anymore – not after all this. I am really responsible even though everything that happened is all my fault.
I started to teach Lilly to cook a little. That’s why this is my fault. If I hadn’t taught Lilly how to cook, none of this would have ever happened. But I was really just trying to do a good job. Mama says you must do a good job, even if you don’t like your job. You must be good at it. But I am a good babysitter even though at the end I didn’t take good care of Lilly. When you babysit, when you are responsible for someone younger than you, you’re suppose to protect them. I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that.
But I’m to remember what happened. It’s not that I can’t remember what happened, but I don’t really know how – or why. And I’m not sure what happened when – the order of things. I should know this, I know. If I was responsible, I’d know how it happened.
I came over to babysit and there was no answer at the door, but I could hear Lilly crying. I knocked louder and finally Mrs. Shui opened the door and let me in. She was upset. Her eyes were super narrow. Her face looked grim. And grey. When I came into the kitchen, I could see why she was upset. Lilly had been trying to cook. “This is your fault.” Mrs. Shui told me. “I have told you, no cooking with Lilly. Now look at the mess she has made all because she wanted to cook for you.”
The kitchen was a mess. The counter was covered with bowls –Lilly must have used almost every bowl in the cupboard and they all had some sort of goopy, batter-like mess in them. Eggshells and flour and sugar were scattered all over the counter. Dirty dishes – more bowls – small ones – and spoons with dried up batter on them – were in the sink. Lilly had peeled oranges. The sections were all in a pile near the sink, and the orange peel was on the chopping board. Lilly must have been trying to dice up the orange peel, but had cut herself, for there was blood on the board and Lilly had a gash on her finger. It was bleeding. I don’t know why she tried to dice orange peel. I had showed her how to rub the orange on the grater to get orange peel for cookie batter. You put the grated orange peel in the batter and it makes the cookies taste like just the hint of orange. Lilly really liked that.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Shui.” I remember apologizing. “This is all my fault.” I said. I told her I would clean everything up though. And that I’d take care of Lilly - wash her cut and put a band aid on it and then clean up the kitchen. I kept saying, “Don’t worry Mrs. Shui, I’ll clean everything up.”
“The cut is too deep for a band aid.” Mrs. Shui said. “She will have to go the emergency room. The cut is too deep.”
I moved over to Lilly and looked. The cut didn’t seem too deep to me. Before I started babysitting, I had taken a whole first-aid course. I studied very hard and got an A on my first aid test. The cut seemed pretty small to me. “Oh, Mrs. Shui – Lilly will be fine.” I told her. “Look,” I told her, “it’s already stopped bleeding and it’s not very deep at all.” I held out Lilly’s finger to Mrs. Shui. I wanted her to see that it would be ok.
“That’s not the point.” Mrs. Shui said sharply to me. And she kept on scolding. And I know she was right – I know I deserved the scolding. “You are a bad girl. You are a bad babysitter. If you hadn’t tried to teach Lilly to cook, this mess would never have happened.”
Mrs. Shui’s voice was sharp and shrill. But I know she is right - it is all my fault. And Lilly started crying even louder – her crying got as shrill as Mrs. Shui’s scolding but so much louder.
“Shut up Lilly! Shut up!” Mrs. Shui shouted. I had never heard Mrs. Shui raise her voice before. And it just made Lilly cry harder and louder. I wanted to run out of the kitchen – everything was so loud. But didn’t. I was suppose to babysit and I knew Mrs. Shui would be even more upset if I just ran out. And that’ s not good manners any way.
I just wanted Mrs. Shui to leave – to go out. If she would just leave, I know I could have calmed Lilly down. I kept promising to take care of everything, but Mrs. Shui just seemed like she wasn’t listening, or she didn’t care. Or maybe she just didn’t trust me. But I had to try and convince her. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Shui.” I tried to talk in my calmest, most polite voice, so Mrs. Shui would see that even though I had made a mistake, I was competent and could make things right. “I’ll clean it up and I’ll get Lilly quiet and calm. You go ahead and go out. When you come back, everything will be perfect. I promise, Mrs. Shui, I promise.” I really thought that would work. But it didn’t.
Mrs. Shui looked at me. She looked at the mess. She looked at Lilly. “You are both bad,” said Mrs. Shui. “Irresponsible, thoughtless girls.”
I remember a lot of screaming. Lilly was screaming, her scream so high-pitched, so loud I put my hands over my ears. But that didn’t help at all. She just screamed and screamed. And then I saw Mrs. Shui take a knife from the counter. Or maybe Lilly’s screaming started after that. But I remember seeing the knife go into Lilly – over and over again. And I should have done something. I know I should have. She had Lilly by the arm, her fingers digging into Lilly’s arm and her other hand with the knife coming down over and over again. I don’t know how many times she stuck the knife into Lilly. If I had kept my head I would have counted. Then I could tell you. Mama always tells me it’s important to keep your head in an emergency.
When Mrs. Shui let Lilly go she just fell to the floor, like a puppet you know – as if all the strings that made her move had been cut. That’s when she stopped crying and I think that’s when I finally stepped in between her and Mrs. Shui. But I think it was too late then.
That’s when Mrs. Shui stabbed me. I can’t remember if this was before or after she started stabbing herself. But she was crying now too and that seemed strange, because I had never seen Mrs. Shui cry. She just never seemed like a person who would cry – I bet she didn’t even cry when she was little girl. And I think it made her angry that she was crying, because her whole body shook and her face turned so red. I don’t think she really could see what she was doing. That must have been after she stabbed herself. I think she was crying because she stabbed the baby. She was so upset, she didn’t really get to me too much, only a few stabs and the doctor says I’ll be ok.
Everything happened so fast. There was so much blood and Lilly was screaming and Mrs. Shui was quiet but her face was so grey and her lips clamped down together. And then she was crying and Lily was quiet and there was blood all over the floor.
I don’t remember too much else. Except when that other policeman and my mother looked under the kitchen table and found me and Lilly. I don’t know how we got there. I was holding Lilly. Her eyes looked like the eyes of a dead fish. And then my mother was on the floor next me. “Come here baby,” she said. ”Come here.” Her voice was soft and low – she talks like that to me when I’m sick, not when I’ve done something wrong, not when I’ve let her down. I guess she thinks I didn’t do anything wrong, but I don’t see how anyone can think that. It all started with the cooking. But I remember Mama telling me that I couldn’t do anything more to help Lilly. “You can’t do anything more for Lilly, baby. Just come here.” But she doesn't know – I didn't do anything at all for Lilly. It's all my fault. But I crawled away from Lilly anyway and into my mama’s arms.