The cruellest revenge

How could a love so special end so chillingly?

Published by: Laura Hinton and James Knock
Published on: 18 October 2012

A mum is every daughter's best friend. I can't remember where I'd read that, or who said it first, but for me, that was always true.
My adopted mum Alice, 71, had been right by my side ever since she welcomed me into the family as a toddler.
She already had two biological sons of her own, Gary, nine, and David, seven, but she was desperate for a little girl, and we were inseparable from day one.
Always pottering around in her garden, I'd help her prune the rose bushes, plant the spring bulbs... happy times.
When I moved 600 miles away, she sent me off with some cuttings and a promise to call her every day. But now, as I listened to the dialling tone, I wasn't just ringing for a casual chat...
‘Mum,' I sobbed, when she answered. ‘I really need to talk.'
‘You've got my full attention, love,' she said, gently. ‘Come on, what's up?'
‘Everything,' I sniffed. ‘Money is so tight, Robert hardly has any work, and our construction business is about to fail.'
‘Money isn't everything,' she soothed. ‘But it's taking its toll on our relationship, too,'
I sobbed. We'd only been married three years, but along with my daughter Ashley, 20, and son Christopher, 21, we'd been a happy family. Until now.
‘Everyone goes through bad patches - especially where money is concerned,' Mum soothed. ‘Be strong, it'll pass. You and Robert are made for each other.'
Feeling better, I promised to visit soon, and hung up as I heard Robert's car on the drive.
‘Hey honey, how's things?' I grinned, trying to hide my puffy eyes. But Robert, 52, looked grey and miserable - he didn't even notice I was upset.
‘Lost another client,' he mumbled, sadly.
‘What?!' I gasped. ‘But we've got bills to pay...'
‘I'm doing my best!' Robert screamed. ‘Really?' I spat. ‘We're going to lose the houseat this rate!'
‘Oh, just leave me alone!' he yelled, storming out of the house and slamming the front door.
My head span. Sinking on to the sofa, I looked at our wedding photo and remembered our wonderful, unfussy day at a small chapel in South Carolina.
‘Simple pleasures, like you and me,' I'd grinned as we cut the fruit cake my mum had made.
Things were so different now, so complicated...
It's not like we'd not had problems before. In fact, when I first met Robert, he'd been a heavy drinker with the mood swings to prove it.
‘Please give up the booze,' I'd begged, desperately.
‘Anything for you,' he'd promised, and grabbing his bottles of whisky, he held my hand as he poured each and every one down the drain.
Robert still went to Alcoholics Anonymous now. And he was such a great ‘dad' to my boys, taking them fishing, skating or just lending an ear.
Sitting alone as the sun began to set, I decided to go out and look for him, make amends.
But he wasn't at any of his usual haunts - the gym, the golf club, his office...
Then, walking past the bar at the top of my street, I froze. Was that Robert in there?
Hands shaking, I stumbled towards the figure slumped over the bar, the familiar silhouette - with his arm around an unfamiliar blonde...
‘Robert?' I whispered. He turned to me, bleary-eyed, holding a whisky glass with spittle on his chin. I don't
think he even recognised me.
‘Who's that?' cackled the woman he was groping. Humiliated, I turned on my heel and ran.
Later, as I lay on the sofa alone in the dark, salty tears stinging my face, I heard footsteps outside. Robert, a four-pack of beer in one arm, that tart in the other, turned up at the door.
Go away, please go away... I whispered silently, as he fumbled with his keys, I couldn't bear a confrontation, couldn't bear the thought of that woman in my house...
Thankfully though, Robert was too drunk to find his
keys and left. The next morning, he appeared unshaven and dishevelled on the doorstep, begging to be let in.
‘I swear I didn't do anything,' he sobbed, pale-faced and ashamed. ‘I slept it off in a hotel. I'm sorry, please forgive me.'
‘I love you more than anything in the world,' I cried. ‘And because of that, I will give you one more chance. Please Robert, don't ever let me down like this again.'
After that, Robert seemed to change overnight, arranging for us to move in with his mum to save money and working all the hours he could to try and get new clients. But over the next year, as the business continued to fail despite his efforts, the life just seemed to slip out of him.
‘Not going into work today?' I asked, seeing him sitting on the sofa for the third day in a row.
‘What's the point?' he barked, flicking on the TV. A month later, I knew things couldn't carry on the way they were.
‘Robert, I'm leaving,' I told him, gently. ‘Me and the boys, we're going to stay with Mum.'
‘Please don't go,' he begged.
‘I can't be without you.' But I was adamant. ‘I need some space,' I told him. ‘Get your head straight, and we'll work things out.'
Pulling up outside Mum's house later that day, tears in my eyes, I was relieved to see her friendly face and open arms, welcoming me in.
‘Cup of tea?' she smiled. ‘And I've got cake for the boys, too.' She didn't ask me any questions, didn't judge me at all. She just let me be.
Each morning, she'd wake me up with some tea and toast, and once I was dressed... ‘Shall we spend some time in the garden?' she'd smile. An hour would turn into whole days, the time slipping by as I helped her prune her roses just like when I was a child.
In the evenings, we leafed through old photos and shared memories over a glass of wine. Robert wouldn't let up, though, calling and texting each day, begging me to come home.
‘No Robert, it's over!' I cried down the phone one day.
The next time he called he was blind drunk. ‘I'll kill you...' he slurred. ‘Oh, grow up!' I snapped, slamming down the phone.
Reaching over gently, Mum unplugged it. ‘Let's watch some TV,' she smiled, leading me into the living room.
Soon, my tears had been replaced by laughter as we watched some old comedy shows together. ‘Thank you so much for having us here,' I grinned, pulling her into a hug. ‘You've really helped me figure things out.'
‘It's a shame about Robert,' she sighed. ‘I liked him. But maybe he will come right.'
‘You've always seen the best in people,' I sighed.
Suddenly, I heard a smashing sound from the back of the house. Leaping up, I ran into the hallway to find a brick had come through the back door. There was shattered glass everywhere.
‘Damn yobs,' Mum grimaced. ‘I'm ringing the police.'
But in the shadows, I was sure I saw not the figure of a sniggering teenager hiding in the bush, but a grown man, staring...
‘Robert?' I muttered under my breath. ‘Cops'll be here in a minute,' Mum said, coming back. ‘And I've called your brother Gary to see if he can come and board up the door.'
Even though I couldn't prove anything, I had an uneasy feeling. Would Robert really stoop so low? But I brushed it to the back of my mind.
The following evening,
I popped round to a friend's house a few streets away.
‘The kids are out so I thought I'd give you a break,' I smiled at Mum. ‘Right-O,' she grinned back. ‘Don't be late!' It was just like being a teenager again!
‘Love you!' I laughed, shutting the door behind me.
I'd only been gone about 20 minutes when I heard an almighty bang. It sounded quite close. Rushing outside, I realised what it was. Gunfire.
‘God, I'd better get back to Mum,' I cried to my friend, jogging back towards our house. I was worried she'd be afraid on her own. But as I rounded the corner, I was stopped by a barricade. Fifty police, armed, one yelling into a megaphone.
‘There's a hostage situation ma'am, you can't go any further,' one officer told me.
‘It's just my mum...' I started, then stopped, mouth open.
The police were surrounding a house - Mum's house. There was a gunman in there, and
Mum was still inside.
‘No!' I cried. ‘My mum! I've got to get to her!'
Pushing past the police, I ran towards the house but before I could get there,
I heard more gunshots, screams from the crowd, then rough hands on my shoulders pulling me back.
‘No! Mum!' I screamed, sinking to my knees.
‘This is for your own good,' a policeman told me gently, handcuffing me loosely and leading me to a police car.
I sat sobbing, praying, while the police tried to talk the gunman down. I wasn't thinking clearly, couldn't imagine who could possibly want to hold a gun to an innocent pensioner's head.
There was stalemate for four long hours, then police threw tear gas inside the building.
There was one last shot. Then it all went totally silent.
Everything after that was a blur. I filled in statements, answered questions, and although no one told me, I knew deep down Mum was dead. Eventually, a policewoman came to see me. ‘A man forced his way in, shot your mum twice. Once in the leg, once in the torso,' she explained.
‘Your mum was so brave, she dragged herself to the phone to call the police.'
But then she had laid on the floor, bleeding to death while police desperately tried to get the gunman to surrender.
Eventually, when they gassed the house, he shot himself in the head. ‘Who would have done such a terrible thing,' I cried.
‘It was your husband, Robert,' the officer told me, gently. In that moment, I froze. My whole world fell apart.
‘He came for me...' I sobbed, remembering his drunken threat on the phone. ‘But I wasn't there, so he killed my mum in revenge.'
Now I'd lost my beloved mum, and my husband, too. And it was all my fault.
‘You can't blame yourself,' the police told me. But my family did.
My brothers Gary and David refused to speak to me. I only found out about Mum's funeral from the newspaper, and I stood at the back alone.
Later, when Mum was cremated, they even refused to tell me where her ashes would be scattered.
For the next few months,I barely left the house. But one morning I woke up to hear Mum's voice in my head.
‘Pull yourself together,' she was telling me. ‘Move on.'
Then, it hit home that she wasn't around anymore. The one person I needed now more than ever was gone. But I had to learn how to be strong without her. I had to learn how to stand on my own two feet and start over.
Later, I took a rosebush from Mum's garden and replanted it at my new house. ‘I miss you, Mum,' I sobbed, tears trickling down my cheeks. ‘I'm so sorry for everything that happened. You didn't deserve it.'
Even though Robert had committed the most horrific act of revenge, I wasn't going to let him beat me.
Now, when I watch the roses grow each year, I'll be reminded of my caring mum and the love she gave me, not the evil man who took her life.
I will forever miss her and remember her as the most loving and caring person I knew.
Melanie Moore Smith, 40, Anniston, Alabama