SEPTEMBER 30th, PRESENT DAY
The irony alone could make a mad woman out of me. When I think about how Jake believed he was saving me—he liked the idea of being my knight in shining armor, rescuing me from the rusty trailer park full of meth addicts and sex offenders and tucking me safely up in a tower like a fairy princess—while all along I’d carried her, harbored her within me like a virus, brought her into our home. Neither of us was aware of her, waiting in the shadows to burn our new fairytale life to the ground. Neither of us saw the darkness coming.
Our “tower” is a five-million-dollar condo in Sarasota, Florida, on a twenty-two acre peninsula called Golden Gate Point. The peninsula is a coveted waterfront community, once owned by the circus magnate, John Ringling. I find this ironic now, too, as my life has quickly spiraled into its own miniature version of a media circus. I’ve been reduced to gossip and speculation, the thing splashed over the internet which people pass back and forth over roasted chicken, fodder for armchair detectives. I am the news.
So where to begin? That’s always the hard part, isn’t it? You have to pick an appropriate moment, like finding the frayed end in a tangled ball of yarn, and let it lead the way. I guess I’ll start with this: My name is Alice Brown-Leininger. I’m a thirty-year-old mother of two, and I’m in deep, deep trouble.
They say there are two sides to every story and then there’s the truth. I can only give you my side and hope that it’s the truth. But who knows. I haven’t been present for large chunks of my life. How is that possible, you ask? Asking that question led me to the place where I am now … the forensic wing of Bayside Psychiatric Hospital.
Being committed and separated from my children has always been the thing I’ve feared most. When it came to pass, it was almost a relief. Like an exhale, a letting go. Knowing the worst has happened, the monster in my rearview mirror has me in its jaws and my only choice is surrender. Pretty freeing.
Of course, that relief has faded quickly. Now that I must inhale each new painful, bleach- and-urine-scented moment here at Bayside, enduring a lonely month-long evaluation. One that will tell the courts whether I’m fit to stand trial on charges of first degree murder and arson.
Either way, I must warn you, this story won’t have a happy ending. I will either be deemed incompetent to proceed to trial and spend the rest of my days within these walls, or I’ll be found competent and spend them behind bars.
I haven’t decided which fate would be worse. As it is now, I’m surrounded by electric barbed wire fencing and am housed in a unit with twenty other beds and group showers. I may have more privacy in prison. Maybe even coffee.
Either way, being there to tuck in my kids at night, pressing my face to their silky hair, hearing them laugh, watching them discover the world, this is all just a memory for me now. Moments blown away like dandelion seeds, a breath and a wish. My sweet, sweet fairytale life has dissolved into the darkness. All that’s left for me is grief. Of course, it’s probably what I deserve. Now that I’ve learned I was the monster all along.