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December 10, 2012

by Sean Michael, August 2012

I wanted to write this while my mind was lucid. I wanted Annabelle’s story to be told while there was still a chance. The doctors have me on a lot of forced medications — Lithium, Thorazine, and some purple pill, I forget the name — that make it hard for me to think. And I won’t be here much longer. Every week before the orderlies exchange the bed linen, I tear a thin strip from my sheet. I’ve finally got enough to braid a sturdy rope and there’s a vent in my bathroom ceiling that should be strong enough to hold my 130 pounds–I’ve lost 40 since I got here last year. Well, this is Annabelle’s story. Let me tell it while there’s still time.

I close my eyes and I can still see her. Her raven hair and soft porcelain skin, her green eyes ( the deeper I gazed into her eyes, I saw that they weren’t just green, but blue, orange, and brown all woven intricately. I saw fire and ice, earth and wind, the oceans, the skies. I saw the world in her eyes.) The white spring dress she wore on our wedding day — “simple and pretty” as she put it. We were married in the valley behind our house in University Heights. I can still see her stepping gingerly down the path into the canyon, flowers in her braided hair. Silence had swooped down over the valley, I swear not even a bird chirped. A belle, indeed, she was.

Annabelle was the kindest, most thoughtful, beautiful person I’d ever met, a far greater person than I was or ever will be. Though we never attended church services, she often studied the scriptures, her favorite first Corinthians 13, the chapter of love. Everything my wife did was with love, She had a propensity for helping others and would go out of her way to do so. She believed it was the reason God had placed her on the earth.

Annabelle cared deeply for foster children, the homeless and prostitutes. Those people that society, including myself, often looked over without a second thought or glance. On Christmas my wife made donations of toys and clothes to the shabby group homes that housed the children who were waiting in limbo for love. She spent a lot of time with the homeless and prostitutes, listening to their stories, taking them out to lunch and sometimes putting them up in a hotel for the night. She started an online charity that received modest donations, and I didn’t mind the money she dug from our own pockets. I was making plenty of it running my business and it made Annabelle happy. I would give anything, anything in this world, to see her smiling face again, to hear her laughter and feel her soft hands in mine.

One night when I asked her why she put forth so much effort helping people who wouldn’t appreciate or remember her from one day to the next, she’d said: “Oh, but they do. Deep down in their hearts they do and that’s all that matters. I don’t help others for silly fame or praise. I do it because I want to. If only I can make the slightest difference.”

“The homeless will be back on the streets tomorrow. They’re probably using the room to do drugs…”

“And bathe and sleep comfortably,” she’d added.

“And the hookers are using the room to service their johns. You’ve saved them a few bucks is all.”

“At least they have a place to go that’s safe. And a few extra dollars for food.”

“And drugs. Annie, they’ve got pimps who are supposed to take care of these things for them. You aren’t pandering on the side are you?”

She’d slapped my arm. “That’s disgusting, William, please don’t say that. And don’t be callous, they are still people. And the children, don’t forget the children, William. They all appreciate the little I’m able to do for them. These people need somebody, you haven’t heard their stories.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I love you, Annie. You’re so much better than me and I adore you for it.”

My wife was  a giver, a helper, a lover. It was in her nature and I couldn’t and wouldn’t dissuade her. In truth, I never minded her helping people, not at all! I never thought she’d be able to make a noticeable difference in their lives, but none of that mattered to Annabelle, as long as she felt she was making a difference. The homeless and prostitutes got to know her well, from Washington Avenue to 70th and El Cajon Boulevard. The cops did too, and they usually stopped trying to make a bust when she was around. Another reason the street people loved her.

Every morning, my wife read the San Diego Union Tribune. One day she came across a disconcerting article about a 13 year old girl who had run away from home and ended up in a human trafficking sex ring. Less than a year after she went missing, her body was found two states away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She had been sexually assulted and murdered, then left in an abandoned house. I’d never seen my wife so angry, fire danced wildly in her eyes as she lamented for the girl.

“This! This is why I do what I do, William. There are monsters out there who will take advantage of a little girl’s body for a quick buck, then rape and kill her when she is no longer of use. Nobody’s protecting these girls! Not the pimps! Not the Johns! Not the Cops!

“This girl, only 13 years old, ran away from home and now she’s dead. Do you think she knew what she was doing? No, she was a child! She probably came from a broken home in search of love and this … this pimp, Lamont Wilkes, convinced her that he loved her and would protect her.

“This fucking piece of shit (my wife never cursed) was caught in New Mexico with 6 girls, 3 of them minors. They linked him to the murdered girl. She probably just wanted to go home and now she can’t!” Tears flowed freely from Annabelle’s eyes as I held her snugged up against me. “If only I could have done something, maybe if I’d known her,” She sobbed into my chest.

My wife became more impassioned and determined, almost obsessed.  One night she brought home a young girl and let her stay with us for two weeks before finally convincing her to go home to her parents. When she spoke to the women who were selling their bodies, she gave them directions to rehabs, women’s shelters and job training programs, and tried to convince them to get help. Some of the women she tried to help did indeed abandon their pimps and the street life. To the men who see these women as property and merchandise this meant less business and in turn less money. I swear Annabelle loved these girls but love would eventually be her downfall.

Annabelle was found slumped over the wheel of her car in the alley behind an auto repair shop on 70th and El Cajon Boulevard, a part of town rife with drugs and prostitution. She had been shot once with a 38 slug through the head. The shooter had fired from outside the car into the driver’s side window from close range. There were no prints or shell casings, no evidence to speak of. Known pimps and prostitutes were questioned but no one was ever arrested or charged with the murder of my wife. For a while, the heavy police presence disrupted the business on El Cajon Boulevard, but the strip eventually returned to its original plight.

Annabelle was buried at Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Oceanside. Some of the girls she had helped attended the service. I had found their numbers in my wife’s address book and asked them to attend. A great many members of her family were there. I’d stood somber and quiet while my mother-in-law read Annabelle’s favorite scripture, First Corinthians 13, then slipped away before the service was over. I did not want to see her lowered into the ground. I knew most wouldn’t understand this, but I was sure Annabelle did and I needed to mourn her in my own way. I still couldn’t believe she was even gone. I knew she was but still couldn’t believe it.

I hadn’t grown up in a loving home as she had. My father worked nonstop and my mother loved things more than she did me. They put me through school and made sure that the financial requirements of having a child were met but that was where their affection for me had ended. We rarely spoke throughout my childhood and even less so after I became an adult. Annabelle was the only person in this world I had ever really, truly loved.

I dreamed about her every night. I woke up hearing her voice and feeling her there beside me, only to be reminded that she was not. I began hearing her not only in my dreams but when I was awake. At first I thought it was just memories but it was more than that. We talked everyday like we used to, and for a while I was happy again. I had my Annabelle back.

An associate was running my business and I was still making plenty of money but none of that mattered anymore. All I cared about was hearing Annabelle’s voice. It was like she was really there and each day I became less sure of what was real. Then one day I woke up and she wouldn’t speak to me anymore. I’d lost my love twice and there was nothing that I could do about it. I walked dejectedly through the house and stared at her pictures.

A few weeks passed before I went into the bedroom and retrieved my 5-shot 38 special from the drawer of my nightstand. I went back into the living room and sat in my chair. I removed all but one slug from the gun and cocked the hammer back. I pressed the cold steel of the barrel to my head. I prayed and begged God that he would let me see my wife again, then I pulled the trigger.

I saw Annabelle. She was wearing the white spring dress she’d worn on our wedding day and stepping gingerly down the path into the valley, ensconced in a brilliant light. A gentle smile was on her face. She reached out for me…

A month later I woke up in the ICU at Sharp’s hospital with no memory of what had happened, unable to speak and barely able to move. I learned later that one of my neighbors had heard the shot and called 911. Miraculously, the slug had pierced my skull and lodged only partway into my brain and I hadn’t died. Everyday a nurse came and read to me and, when I was strong enough, walked me through the corridors of the hospital.

After about four months, I was transferred to Bayview Psychiatric Hospital. I’ve been hear for a long time now and have regained the ability to speak, though I hardly find the desire for conversation. Not since Annabelle quit speaking to me. I know she’s dead but… I can hear them coming down the hall with that rickety med cart. If I don’t take my medications they’ll force them down my throat, but if I do I’m sometimes able to regurgitate the pills before the time release coating dissolves or the protective seal on the capsule is broken. Then I can… I have to go now, they’re almost here.



From → Art, Short Stories

  1. my name is Annabelle, I live in Oceanside, and my life is about standing up for the trafficked, the orphans, the oppressed.

    finding this online was a surprise.


    • Wow …Annabelle! What a beautiful coincidence! I am so glad you found this story. I got chills on my back and tingles on my scalp. This story was written for you, little woman, and neither of us knew it until now. Bless your heart.


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