“She is beautiful,” he says in a coarse voice. He clears his throat. “It was not all for naught.”
“No it wasn't.” Long flowing locks drape over her tan trench coat. Her face is sullen as she gazes upon the cement street floor. She kicks a rock with the round tip of her black pumps, sending it clattering down the street.
At birth, Annabelle had a weak heart, and the medical doctors gave her a month to live. Dr. Kreveski administered his serum to cure her at the cost of Kingsford’s mortality. “A death for a life,” Dr. Kreveski had said through grinding teeth as if he didn't like having the cure. At the time, Kingsford didn't think much of the price, in fact he thought it was a perk. But after fifteen years without aging, people started to get suspicious.
One April evening, the town pastor pounded at Kingsford’s door with a slew of church followers cursing, waving flashlights, and calling him the Satan. He and Annabelle weren't safe, so he left her at a convent and led the mob out of their town and into the next neighborhood where they loyally followed. The mob grew so big that it took more than a month to ward them off. When he returned to the convent, Annabelle was gone. That was thirty years ago.
Kingsford narrows his eyes at Annabelle as she paces under a flickering cast-iron street lamp. “Do you ever regret it Jacoby?” he asks, still gazing upon Annabelle’s silhouette dancing back and forth with each pass in front of the light.
“No.” I reply instantly. “My Katarina lived an entire lifetime. She died at ninety-two instead of at three when she caught polio. She had children and grandchildren. She was happy.”
“Are you happy Jacoby?” Kingsford asks and turns slowly to face me.
His solemn expression is familiar; I have seen it in the mirror. Seeing my Katarina grow up without me, watching her grow older than me, watching her die, wishing there was a way to kill myself, believing I was damned - I was lost in this agonizing abyss for years. But these thoughts don’t cross your mind when your child is in your arms dying. All you think about, all you know, is that you’d give up your life so your child could live, at any cost. Eventually, Kingsford will realize that he never had a choice.
“I am happy enough,” I say somberly. “But we should leave before she sees us.” The old engine hums when I turn the key.
"Right," Kingsford sighs deeply. “Before she sees the devil.”