Writers tell stories. It is thrilling to tell stories that captivate your audience. I know very few, that can keep a listener spellbound. This is one of them.
I was teaching back in the day. We were assigned a paraprofessional. These were classroom assistants, with some college credits, who provided tutoring, and support for the children and teacher. My friend next door, and I shared a para. Val would go to the other room in the morning, have a lunch break, and assist me in the afternoon.
She was a young pretty girl, in her 20's. She had an adorable son, who would sometimes come with her to school. She was married to a successful and arrogant young man, a stockbroker. I met him at a school dinner. They were building a dream house, and she drove a black jeep. I did not know any more or less about her. She did not eat lunch with the kindergarten staff, preferring to spend her time with the special education teachers.
As the year progressed I saw less and less of Val. She found many excuses to leave work early, or skip the afternoon. I had very little recourse. I was a co-worker, not a supervisor. I just had to accept the situation. Her special ed friends were hearing a much more interesting story. She was in a very unhappy marriage. She was forced into this marriage by her religious parents, who hoped to insure her future, and separate her from a previous, bad boy relationship. She showed them pictures of her past love and dreamed of starting a new life with him.
It was now Christmas vacation, and I received a call informing me that there had been a school death. Val's husband had been shot and killed. Would I attend the wake? I could not, but much of the school did. Val and her husband were delivering presents to family in the projects. They were robbed by a masked gunman. Her husband resisted and was killed. The gunman escaped, but did not steal the wallet, gifts, or leather coats.
Val returned to school. The support and kindness were ample, as only a school can provide. She looked great. She had a new hairdo and had lost some weight. She quickly returned to her pattern of leaving work early, and now openly dreaming of her boyfriend. Teachers do love to gossip. They saw a young man pick her up each afternoon, in an expensive white jeep.
I finally had a conversation with my friendly Principal about my absentee para. He said " are you talking about Jack The Ripper"? " I am not crossing her". My friend the Principal was not joking. Police detectives began visiting the school. They interviewed the lunch crew, and staff. The husband's parents had grown suspicious, when she tried to cash a large insurance policy that was written under the son's name. The family called the detectives each week asking what progress they had made, solving the crime. Stories and pictures surfaced.
Eventually an eye witness came forward. The shooter, Val's boyfriend. She had masterminded the murder. She eventually turned states evidence against the boyfriend. He had started beating her- she had grown fat and angry. She received a sentence of 9-15 yeas in jail, he got life. The grandparents would share custody of the child.
Each time I tell this story, I am asked the same questions. Didn't I know she was guilty? Couldn't I tell she was a murderer? The answer is NO. She was a good mother, a sweet girl, and a terrible paraprofessional. Without the good white hat, and bad black, it is really hard to tell what demons lies inside any of us.