It’s been happening for some time. I’m on the Rock in Monaco and it’s the changing of the guard. From where I stand I can see the sea, the boats, all the structures, Monte Carlo, and far across the clear day the border of Italy. I go to a shop. So many things. The deep scent of lavender. I can buy lavender soap and lotion. I can buy a wind-up rooster. I can buy poker chips stamped with Monte Carlo. I can buy dolls. Eiffel towers in many colors with PARIS stamped on them. And then I go outside and a shop is selling t-shirts. THE FRENCH RIVIERA. Blues, pinks, grays.
That’s when you run off. You break my grip on you and you run off.
“Claire, Claire….” I’m frantic. Where did you go?
The police are called. Her name is Claire she is six years old. We are from London, England. Her father is in London. A banker. Remarried. It was my turn for vacation. It was my turn. I took her to Cannes, Nice, Monaco. We were heading for Monte Carlo and then Italy. It was my turn. I am her mother.
“Why would she run?” asked the female police officer.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. She wanted a doll from that shop. Do you see the shop? Maybe she went in there.” I was crying. Losing a child was like being ripped from the inside.
“We’ve looked. We got video. Your daughter wasn’t in there.”
I stayed. My ex-husband was called. He thought I killed Claire. A lashing out for the divorce. Idiot. I didn’t care about you. I cared about Claire. It was all a nightmare. I went to sleep and then you were in my bed. The hotel in Cannes.
“Claire…you came back.” And then we dressed and took the bus to Monaco. The changing of the guard. The shop. You ran away again.
It keeps happening. That same day. The same decisions. Over and over.
And then you speak. “Mama, you suffocated me with a pillow in Cannes. Don’t you remember? I never went to Monaco. You were mad at Daddy. Mama, I am no more. A corpse at the bottom of the sea. Why Mama?”
And then I remembered. “Because you were half him. Your own person but half him. I couldn’t look at you. Not without thinking of him. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
And then the days were orderly. The police were still looking for you. Your father arrived. Angry. Tearful. I said nothing and could barely look at your father. I remember you though. Beautiful. Brilliant. My princess whom I smothered. I packed you in a suitcase and dumped you in the sea. You were never in Monaco. But your ghost is there. I explore the Rock and can see your luminous glow. My baby. I’m sorry. It’s just…you looked like your father. If you had looked like me you might still be alive.