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      A Stolen Life
R.D. Power

Incontrovertible. The evidence. I would never have believed it of him otherwise.

Six years, nine months and five days ago. So many emotions; shock predominating at first. Then denial: No! There must be some mistake. The man I love would never do that. Finally heartbreak: I can't marry someone who would do that.

I met Glenn just as I was about to settle for Steven. Steve and I had been dating for almost a year, and he was hinting about proposing. I wasn't sure I would say yes; I wasn't sure I loved him. Every day I'd ask myself, "If he's the one wouldn't I be absolutely sure? Wouldn't I be awaiting his proposal with bated breath?" Fairytales!

Glenn. My God. I fell so hard and so fast I still find it hard to believe. This is what love is, I knew. Fairytales don't do it justice. To be with him was heaven; to be apart, hell. Two months. Engaged. He's mine forever!

Steven took the news very hard. Tears and supplication. I felt terrible. He deserved better, but what could I do? After a few hours with Glenn I knew I never loved Steven. I tried to break the news gently – 'Steve, I've met another guy' – but he refused to hear what I was saying. We had stopped dating for a month before he would admit to himself that it was over between us. He begged me to stay with him, but I couldn't. "I'm sorry, but I love him." He cried. I cried too, but nothing could change my mind. Except…

Tragedy! Bliss lost as suddenly as it came. Victim of a hit and run. Elderly woman killed. Glenn's car. Glenn's vehement denials could not overcome the irrefutable evidence. Damage to the front of his car; her blood on it. Witness swore Glenn was driving. No alibi: in bed asleep at his place, Glenn insisted. In desperation, he asked me to lie, to say he was with me at the time. I couldn't. That convinced me he was guilty.

Quick trial. Again and again Glenn screamed, "I was set up!" but he offered no proof. Open and shut. Manslaughter. Guilty! Ten years in maximum security penitentiary. Ten years! I wouldn't wait for him. Not someone who would do that. How could I spend my life with such a man? More tears as I handed his ring back. I still weep when I think of it. Devastation!

One visit; only one. Two months after he went to prison. I had to tell him in person I was to marry Steven. Went back to Steve right away for comfort and security. The pain of that prison visit still lingers. Glenn was terribly bruised. Beaten. And his eyes were different. Where there had once been a benign gentleness there was now rage and even malice. With a leer that I would never have believed him capable of, he warned, "When I get out of here I'm going to kill your husband and any children you have right in front of you; then I'll finish you."

Traumatized! I couldn't utter a syllable. So frightening was his sneer, I believed him. How could I be so wrong about someone? I had only known him for two months. I'm so naïve, I thought. No such thing as fairytale love. "Dare I tell him that I'm pregnant with his child?" I asked myself. Would that change his mind? Would he at least spare his son if he intended to follow through on his threat? Or would the news infuriate him more, knowing another man was raising his son while his life and his soul were being wasted away in prison? I couldn't tell him. I should have.

Six and a half years. Probation. No one told us.

The middle of the afternoon; a Tuesday like any other. Working from home as always, I heard the front door open. Who could that be? I wondered. Oh my God! Glenn! Holding a gun on my husband! I never told anyone of his threat. Didn't want to believe he would carry it out.

Why didn't I tell the police?

I pleaded, "Please, Glenn, don't hurt--"
"Shut the fuck up!" he bellowed.
There was only darkness in his eyes. Malevolence. Capable of anything. My children!

Does he know about them? I asked myself.

My husband was apparently thinking the same thing. "Leave Liz out of this. This is between you and me. Let's go for a ride and talk about it."
"We're staying put. The truth comes out today, and debts get paid."

I started crying and praying.

Glenn motioned with his gun for us to go to the dining room. We obeyed. He ordered Steven to arrange two chairs facing each other, and for both of us to sit. "I've been watching your little family for two weeks, and I know the routine." My stomach fell through the floor. "Today your neighbor picks up the kids and drops them off at about 3:45. Today Uncle Glenn will meet them at the door, and unless you tell your wife the truth about what happened seven years ago, I'll blow them away. Do you understand?"

Steven nodded.

Glenn reached into his backpack. Took out a rope and a roll of duct tape. Putting the gun on the table with a menacing glare at Steven to stay put, he tied me to the chair and taped my hands together. My mind was racing: Should I tell him about his son? That could save his life at least. But Steven doesn't know. He believed me when I told him the baby was premature.

Glenn tore off more tape. When I realized he was about to tape my mouth, I screamed, "No Glenn! Tommy is…mmm!" Panicking that I may just have cost Tommy his life, I tried hollering, Tommy is your son! but it emerged as a pathetic muffle. I should have spoken up for Tommy. Why was I silent?

"I had a long time to figure it out in prison, Steve. Tell me, Liz, did he still have a key to your apartment when we were dating?"

I thought back. I nodded.

"That was the missing piece. Steve took the extra set of keys I kept at your place and borrowed my car. He must have known-- maybe you even told him--that every night before I started a 6 AM shift, I slept alone at my place and went to bed early. No alibi. After the hit and run, he returned the keys." He turned to Steven. "You were the only one with something to gain. Stand up!" Steven stood. Glenn pointed his gun at my husband's crotch. I gasped. "Tell her; tell her or I shoot them off!"

"There's nothing to tell!" claimed Steven.

Bang!
Jesus!
Steven screeched. Fell to the ground and writhed in pain. I stared at my husband in horror. Bullet hole in his upper thigh. Bleeding freely. Blackness filled my eyes. No! Stay conscious!

Glenn hovered over Steven and exclaimed, "One last chance. Tell your wife what you did."

"I don't know what you're talking about," grunted Steven.

Glenn pointed the gun at Steven's forehead. He started pulling the trigger.

"No! Wait." Steven lowered his head and his voice and said, "I took his keys." I opened my eyes wide as tears streamed down my cheeks. "It was the only way… the only way to have you, Liz."

The ceiling and walls began closing in. The iniquity. The enormity. Unbearable! Glenn's life stolen. My life stolen. By my husband. My husband! Fury. Revulsion. And Glenn: sorrow.

"So you killed the old lady?" Glenn asked.

"It was an accident. The plan was to run down this conman I knew who faked accidents to collect on insurance. He was the man who testified you were driving. I was taking my run at him when the old lady crossed in front of me. No one was supposed to get hurt. I'm sorry, Glenn: I thought you'd get a few months in jail for hit and run and--"

"Apology accepted," Glenn said as he shot Steven in the stomach. His shriek went right through me. Glenn wacked him in the head with his gun, silencing the screaming. Small mercy.

I almost blacked out again, but a new wave of panic washed over me. My children! Any minute they’d be home.

Glenn said, "So you see, Mrs. Ryan, things are just as I said they were. I was set up. But you refused to believe me. That finished me."

I tried to convey my remorse with my weeping eyes. My children’s lives depended on his forgiveness, but I saw nothing of the sort in his fierce and determined expression.

“This is a nice house. You’ve made a comfortable life with Steven.” I closed my guilty eyes for a moment. When I opened them Glenn’s face was within inches of mine. I started back. “Did you once, even once, give any thought to me and what my life has come to?”

"Yes," I nodded.

"While you were marrying him? While you were fucking him? While you were having his children? While you were enjoying life and doing whatever you wanted? Did it occur to you once that the man you promised to marry was locked away in that hell hole?" I nodded solemnly. "You abandoned me and left me to rot in that prison." Tears rolled down his cheeks.

The doorbell rang. My children!

Glenn screwed a silencer onto his gun. I cried out but the gag stifled my plea. Enforced silence. He walked down the hall to the front door. I strained to listen, petrified over what I might hear. Heard the door open but nothing else. Terrifying silence. Pounded the floor with my feet. Hear me, Mrs. Parsons. Don't leave my children with him! Hear me, God! Save my children! Front door closed. My heart sank.

Two pops, soft like someone spitting air. Almost silent. The most horrifying sound ever heard. No! Please God! No! Oh sweet Jesus, no! Hopeless. No God. My life over. If he doesn't murder me, I'll kill myself.

Glenn returned, unscrewing the silencer from his gun. It was smoking. My entire being shuddered with grief. Couldn't see through my tears, but glowered at Glenn with loathing. He said, "Now you feel the hatred and rage that consume me; now you finally understand. This is what your silence did to me." He put the gun in his waistband and walked out.

Too numb to feel anything else. My life over. Everyone gone. Death welcome. Come for me soon. Can't live with this pain.

Sirens. A moment later the front door crashed open. Policeman jutted his head around the corner. Looked at Steven in pool of blood. Unconscious or dead? I wondered where my children's bodies were. Didn't want to see them. Wanted to remember them as they were. Perfect children. Gone now. Oh God! Unbearable agony.

"All clear," exclaimed the officer as he came in. He checked Steven and radioed, "Shooting victim. He's alive. Get the paramedics in here now." Turning to me he removed the tape from my mouth and hands, and asked me something, but I didn’t hear. Blacked out.

When I came to I was on the couch with a paramedic tending to me. Steven had been taken away. I started crying again. "My babies!" I moaned.

"Bring them in," an officer said into his radio.

"Mommy!" cried Tommy. He ran to me and hopped onto my lap. Behind him, Conner; he joined his brother. Not dead? Not dead! Joy!
"Mommy I can't breathe." Hugging them too tightly. Couldn't let go. Never let go.

Glenn had told Mrs. Parsons he was holding me and Steven hostage, and told her to take the children away. Still some good in him.
Steven lived, but our marriage died. His trial is approaching. I won’t be silent.

 
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