One hundred and seventy-three days ago, I buried my four year old daughter Halliegh. This morning, my beloved daughter returned to me. I’d always told her to stay away from our in ground pool. You see right before she died we moved into our home with my new husband, her step-father Eric, and she couldn't wait to go swimming in her very own pool. So she would play around the 10 foot deep, empty hole counting down the days until it would be filled with cool blue water. My Halliegh fell into that empty pool all those days ago and broke her neck and her right leg. But the broken neck isn't what killed her. They found water in her lungs. There were a few inches of rainwater that had accumulated on the bottom of that empty hole, and it was the water that killed my poor baby. Because she had a broken neck, she couldn't lift her head from the dirty water and she drowned.
I had nothing more to live for.
My wonderful husband Eric took a sabbatical and stayed with me, caring for me, wiping my tears, getting me through the moments that I had longed for death to relieve me of my grief. He kept me from taking my life.
Shortly after I awoke this morning, I looked out of our bedroom window and saw Eric swimming in the pool. That cursed hole. I went to the bathroom to confirm my suspicions. You see, I had a feeling I was pregnant. I used the pregnancy test, waited two minutes and found out that I was pregnant. It felt like a betrayal to Halliegh. But she would have enjoyed a younger brother or sister, so I took joy out of what I thought would bring her joy: a sibling. I ran from the bathroom, rushed to the top of the stairs to let Eric know that we, he and I, would be having a child. As I carefully descended the stairs, I saw a figure standing at the bottom. It took only moments to realize what I was seeing. Halliegh! As I had seen her lying at the bottom of the pool: her neck craned unnaturally to the left, a small bone jutting out just below the knee in her lavender and black dress that she had always loved. “It makes me look like a princess, Mommy!” she would say. Her skin was worst of all: in the place of the rich honey brown complexion was a sickly pale and ashen tent that made my breath stop and my stomach turn.
“Halliegh,” I whispered.
Her lips moved, but no sound could be heard. I watched as her right arm slowly began to rise as a plea for me to come near to her. I took one step toward this thing that looked so much like my dearest Halliegh and froze as it moved to come closer to me. I could hear the water trickle from the bottom of her dress. “It makes me look like a princess, Mommy!” is all I could hear echoing in my memories.
As she continued to walk toward me, my mind screamed for me to run. But I was frozen. And as she stood just inches from me with her hand still reaching, she made contact. Its cold hand rested on my belly and I fought my instincts and stood my ground.
But in that instant, she and I weren't standing at the bottom of the stairs anymore. I was sitting by the pool in Halliegh’s dress. My dress. I looked down and saw that my body was no longer my body; it was my daughter’s.
“Halliegh?” I heard a voice say. “ Didn't your mom tell you to stay away from the pool? Come and sit with daddy.” Eric said in a sweet voice. “Wait, I’m not your daddy. And you’re not my daughter.”
I could feel the confusion on Halliegh’s face, my face.
“You see,” he continues, “Me and your mom are going to have babies. The kind that belong to the both of us,” he says.
Enough with you. He says with malice. But his lips aren't moving. Oh God! I could hear his thoughts. She showed me everything! Even a glimpse of his vile thoughts. You could never be a part of the family that your mother and I will start. You will be a reminder of what was. A disgusting past that will always taint and cloud her thoughts.
Run Halliegh! I thought, willing her to get away from him. But he is much faster. From behind I feel his hand connect to our back and then a firm push, and down, down, down we go as our dress poufs out in front of us. “It makes me look like a princess, Mommy!” is all I can think before there is pain and I hear a ghastly crunch and crack as our neck and leg breaks. But that’s not the worst part. There is water and there things floating in the water. Things that invade our mouth and nose and ears.
As I come out of this trance, this vision that my daughter showed me I feel the stairs beneath my body and I jerk forward coughing and spiting wishing I could pull her free of the water. But there is no water now. And there is no Halliegh. Just me filled with rage, lying on the stairs trying to catch my breath remembering that he has infected me with his murderous seed. This baby that belongs to us! How can I have this child knowing that it’s father…
No. No time to sit and wait to figure things out. I stand and I run to the mudroom to grab Eric’s baseball bat. I will beat him until he can’t move. Then I will let him drown. As my body moves to that God-awful pool, my hands and arms already begin to tighten and brace for what I was about to do. And as I rounded the corner to see Eric pulling himself out of the pool I began to scream, “You murdered my baby. You killed my daughter.”
“I-I didn’t mean-. It happened before I knew…” he sputters.
And before he can resist, before I can swing the bat, I see my darling Halliegh standing behind him. I pause and the look in my eyes makes him turn. He sees her. Bent, broken, ashen and smiling. Before he can scream or run she wraps her arms and legs around his body and they fall into the pool. Her arms and legs begin to grow and twist, wrapping his body in tendrils and I can see him screaming in the water. She’s making him feel the horror that she felt in her last moments of life with things floating in the water; a perfect ‘O’ of his mouth as bubbles skip from his lips and vines of what appear to be Halliegh’s arm invade his mouth and nose and continue to choke the life out of him.
The both of them lay there on the bottom of the pool jerking and bending as he tries to pull free. But it’s no use. She has him and she keeps him. As the life left his body I watched as she disappeared and his body floated to the top. And there she was, smiling and standing beside me, as I sat there on the side of the pool, smiling back at her. She reached her discolored hand to my face and disappeared. I got up and walked to the phone.
“There’s been an accident,” I say trying to stop myself from giggling, feeling the madness course through my body as the memory of Halliegh and Eric at the bottom of the pool find a permanent resting place in my mind and the lunacy that reminds me that his child is now growing in my belly. “Please hurry.”