Sheila Maclain sat straight up on the cold steel chair. Across from her sat her lawyer. “We need to know the true story, Mrs. Maclain. Nothing you tell us will be held against you.” Her lawyer, Mr. Simms said. She shrugged. It really didn’t matter what she said. All she saw were all the offers to buy that monster of a house. People would pay so much for it. She also knew that Ella couldn’t inherit until she was eighteen.
Sure, Ella’s lawyer could plant a recording device in the room and record everything she said and use it as evidence, but it didn’t matter. Ella simply couldn’t inherit the house yet. Sheila sighed. She was quite honestly bursting to tell someone what really happened. So, she did.
I walked into the house at about 9:30pm that night. I was horrified to see that Ella hadn’t cleaned up her mess from the party she’d had! I strolled straight into her room, ready to shout at her, but she wasn’t there. I frowned. Of course, instead of cleaning up her mess, she went to sleep over with her little blonde friend across the street. I peeked into Marcy and Joshua, my other kids, rooms. The little angels were fast asleep.
I’ll admit Ella was my least favourite child. She was too much like her Dad. She was good at nothing, and she was always so informal. Don’t even get me started on her Dad. After I married him, I soon realized it was a mistake. He never wanted to go to dinner parties, or do anything normal families do. No, he wanted to go hiking with the kids and have snowball fights in the winter. When he died in that car accident, I felt a sense of freedom. I took all traces of him away, and planned to start anew.
I told the kids that we would have two weeks for mourning, and after the funeral, we would start our lives again. My two angels listened to my every instruction. Ella, on the other hand, started crying in front of strangers, and constantly mentioned him. I went to bed that night more angry than ever with her.
Ella didn’t come back the next morning, however, so I stormed over to her friend’s house, and knocked rapidly on her door. Chelsea opened the door. “Where is she? She should’ve been home by now.” I asked through gritted teeth. “Where is who, Mrs. Maclain?” Chelsea asked, flashing me a cheesy smile. “Ella, where is Ella!?” I said a little too loudly. “What do you mean, Ella isn’t here.” She replied.
I almost told her to let me in that she was lying to me. Then it dawned on me. “She’s run away, hasn’t she…?” I half said to myself. When Chelsea didn’t reply, I turned on my heels and went back home. I paced the floor, thinking of the best action to take. If I told people she ran away, they might think of me as the bad guy. But, if I got the police involved, she would come back. Which was worse?
I finally decided to tell people she left home, and push all blame on her. For weeks after that, bridge club didn’t care. Sometimes the girls would comment that Ella was always a weird girl, but no attention or blame was placed on me. That was, until the next year. In the summer of 1964, Patricia Banks joined the club. Everyone looked up to Patricia. She was the wife of the mayor, and she had an opinion for everything.
When the subject of Ella weaseled its way back into the conversation one night, Patricia’s eyebrows raised. “She never obeyed a word you said; to be honest I wasn’t surprised at all that she took off…” Sandra said. “Your daughter ran away from home, Sheila?” Patricia asked. “Um, yes… about a year ago…” I started, afraid of where this was going.
“You know, normally kids don’t just take off… That is, unless home conditions are bad.” She looked up at me. This is the conversation I had been dreading. “No, she- she just…” I couldn’t find the words. Patricia fake coughed and went back to playing. Around that time, my friends seemed to stop calling me. I wasn’t invited out that much, and I was spending more and more nights at home.
Then one day, Patricia called me. “Hello, there Sheila. It’s Patricia. We’ve had a vote at bridge club, and you’re officially out. You see, we don’t accommodate Mother’s that force their children out of house and home. Goodbye.” The phone line buzzed after she hung up.
Ella had just forced me away from my friends. I couldn’t let her get away with that. As I found myself at home more often, I ended up cleaning quite a bit. One day I went into Ella’s room. I felt my anger boil up inside of me. I tipped over her cupboard and smashed her pictures. I even tore up her pillows until I was too exhausted to be angry anymore.
To make it worse, even my own children started to turn on me. “They kicked me off the debate team.” Marcy said one day when she walked in the door. “All because the other kids Mothers are telling them we’re some sort of evil family.” Her eyes were red. I knew how much she loved the debate team. Joshua slumped in behind her. “Do you have any idea what people are saying about us around town? It’s embarrassing.” He said.
“I’m so sorry; it’s all Ella’s fault…” I started saying. “NO, it’s not. It’s your fault, Mother. Why can’t you just be a good parent?” He said before storming up the stairs. It was Ella’s fault. I knew it was. I just had to be patient and wait for her to slip up so I could catch her.
Then it hit me. Chelsea. I ran to her house and rang the doorbell. Chelsea appeared in the doorway. “You helped her, didn’t you, you little brat?” I hissed. Chelsea said nothing. “I know your Daddy’s rich. What did you do, give her some cash?” I asked. Still Chelsea remained silent. “Fine, don’t talk to me. Just know in your heart that you are an accomplice! I can sue you too.” I pointed at her before walking back home.
Sheila knew she had to play the game differently. The judge seemed to be leaning towards Ella, and she wouldn’t let that happen. Instead of being herself, over confident and wanting revenge, the decided to play the heartbroken Mother, only wanting the best for her child. “Mrs. Maclain, why didn’t you concern the authorities with your daughter’s disappearance?” Mr. Lawrence asked.
“I knew she left of her own accord, and I just, I just wanted her to be happy, even if I couldn’t be with her.” Mrs. Maclain sobbed heavily, and was very convincing. Ella rolled her eyes. “No further questions.” Mr. Lawrence said, through gritted teeth. Mr. Simms, Sheila’s lawyer approached her. “What exactly happened when you went to Elora, Mrs. Maclain?” He asked.
I checked the mail, and saw a letter from Elora, Toronto. When I read it I was ever so sad. My dearest sister-in-law had passes away. I knew I had to make it to the funeral, so I let the kids stay home while I travelled there. I went with a heavy heart into the town.
I felt so bad not contacting Roseland since my husband had died. I was just so upset that I couldn’t bear to see her. She just looked so much like him. I went up to the house where she lived; wondering if there was anyone living there.
I knocked on the door, and there was my daughter! The one I hadn’t seen in three and a half years! I gave my apologies that her poor Aunt Rose had died, because I knew how much she loved her. She didn’t show any emotion back, though.
I leaned in to hug her, but she told me to go away. She was practically shouting. I was a little taken aback by this. You see, I knew we had a misunderstanding in the past, but I thought she could put that behind her so that we could mourn together over this tragedy.
She slammed the door in my face, though. I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought I should tell the authorities, so I went down to the police station. Then I remembered that she couldn’t live there, not until she was eighteen, that is, if her Aunt Rose even wrote a will saying she was to inherit it.
I got in my car and raced down the hill. I burst into the police station and told them I had found my long lost daughter. I was literally crying tears of joy. When we went back to the house, Ella was sitting in a chair, just staring at us. The poor darling must have been delusional from grief or something.
The police told her she had to come, and she just shook her head no. “Now darling, the police just want to help.” I said to her quietly. She shot me a scary look, and stood up. She kept trying to shove a note into the cop’s hands, but they weren’t hearing it. “Please, just- just read it! It’s my Aunt’s will you can’t just take me from my own home!” She was screaming at them.
I’m not surprised they had to drag her out of the house. She was fighting them off like they were a pack of wild dogs. When they finally got her in the car, she was still trying to show them the supposed ‘will’. I sighed as I got into my car, and had to stop myself from crying as we did the long drive back home.
Judge Phillips rubbed his temples. He leaned back in his chair and yawned. A few silent moments in his office after that frantic day was much appreciated. Suddenly, there was a knock on his door. He sighed as two men walked into the office. Lawrence and Simms sat down in the chairs across from his desk.
“What do you want?” He asked grumpily. “Mrs. Maclain lied!” Mr. Lawrence started. “How would you know? Maybe your girl is lying!” Mr. Simms retorted. He knew that Mrs. Maclain was lying, but this case could get him some good money. “There has to be a way of knowing who’s telling the truth.” Judge Phillips said. He was getting frustrated with this case.
He knew a seventeen year old couldn’t inherit, so what was taking so long? He almost felt compelled to keep going, and even after the Mothers speech, he was still on Ella’s side. “There is a way.” Mr. Lawrence said suddenly. “The boy was there. He can tell us what happened as a third party.”
“What’s his name?” The Judge asked. “James Wendler, sir.” Mr. Lawrence answered.
Judge Phillips picked up the phone and pressed and intercom button. “Susan, get James Wendler down here by tomorrow. Okay, thanks.” He hung up. “We’ll get him on the stand tomorrow.” Judge Phillips yawned, and Mr. Simms bit his lip.