Long Lost Page 72
’’Her blood was on the scene.’’
’’She said she tried to defend him.’’
’’Do you believe that?’’
Terese smiles at me. ’’I lost a daughter. I would do anything, anything, to get her back. Do you get that? You could tell me, for example, that Miriam had survived and was now a horrible monster. It wouldn\'t change that.’’
’’Carrie is not Miriam.’’
’’But she\'s still my daughter. I\'m not giving up on her.’’
Behind Terese, her daughter rises and starts down the hill. She stops and looks toward us. Terese smiles and waves. Carrie waves back. She might be smiling too, but I can\'t say for sure. And I can\'t say for sure that Terese is wrong here. But I wonder. I wonder about that blond teenager coming down the stairs to shoot me, about why I hesitated. Nature versus nurture. If the girl up on that hill had been genetically Matar\'s, if a child conceived and then raised by crazy extremists becomes a crazy extremist, we will kill him or her without thought. Is it different because of genetics? Because of blond hair and blue eyes?
I don\'t know. I\'m too damn tired to think about it.
Carrie had never known any love. Now she would. Suppose you and I had been raised like Carrie. Would it be best if we were simply destroyed like so much damaged goods? Or would some of that basic humanity win out in the end?
I look at Terese\'s beautiful face.
’’I wouldn\'t give up on your child. Please don\'t give up on mine.’’
I say nothing. I take her beautiful face in my hands, pull her to me, kiss her forehead, hold my lips there, close my eyes. I feel her arms around me.
’’Take care of yourself,’’ I say.
I pull back. There are tears in her eyes. I start back toward the path.
’’I didn\'t have to come back to Angola,’’ she says.
I stop and turn toward her.
’’I could have gotten to Myanmar or Laos or someplace where you would have never found me.’’
’’So why did you choose here?’’
’’Because I wanted you to find me.’’
Now the tears are in my eyes too.
’’Please don\'t leave,’’ she says.
I am so very tired. I don\'t sleep anymore. The faces of the dead are there when I close my eyes. The ice blue eyes stare at me. Nightmares haunt my dreams, and when I wake up, I am alone.
Terese walks toward me. ’’Please stay with me. Just for tonight, okay?’’
I want to say something, but I can\'t. The tears come faster now. She pulls me to her, and I try so very hard not to break down. My head falls onto her shoulder. She strokes my hair and shushes me.
’’It\'s okay,’’ Terese whispers. ’’It\'s over now.’’
And as long as she holds me in her arms, I believe it.
BUT on this same day, somewhere in the United States, a chartered bus pulls up to a crowded national monument. The bus is carrying a group of sixteen-year-olds on a cross-country teen tour. Today is day three of their journey. The sun is shining. The skies are clear.
The bus door swings open. The giggling, gum-chewing teens spill out.
The last teen to get off the bus is a boy with blond hair.
He has blue eyes with a gold ring around each pupil.
And though he wears a heavy backpack, he walks into the crowd with his head held high, his shoulders back, and his posture perfect.