Murder Once Removed
Murder Once Removed
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When Sam Anderson meets Celeste D’Angelo in 1969, he charms her with his virile magnetism. Once the ring is on her finger, she discovers she married a “red-neck control freak” who is driven by “testosterone crazed” behavior. Sam uses emotional blackmail to control Celeste. Celeste wants to pursue an education and a career more than her marriage, but Sam is determined to continue the Anderson name and have a son.

After four years of marriage, Celeste feels trapped and betrayed. She decides it’s time to hit the road; she packs a bag and writes a note to Sam saying that she’s leaving. Before she can escape; however, Sam returns home unexpectedly--and Celeste disappears.

When Celeste “turns up missing,” in Sam’s words, Detective Doyle Holiday is wary from the beginning. Sam no longer controls Celeste nor himself. Is he a victim of circumstantial evidence or a mastermind of deception? Something just doesn’t sit right with Holiday. Holiday is torn between Sam’s story and his suspicions as he doggedly pursues a hunch in this Texas thriller.

The following week in Dr. Hargrave's office, Celeste began, "I realize now that my safe, secure world I had planned for myself’s exploded all around me. I had this dream. . . . To meet the right man, fall in love, and pursue a career, but most of all to get a degree. It's what's in your head that will carry you as far as you need to go. I want to have a college degree. Nobody in my family ever graduated with a four-year degree. I'm so close, I can't quit now. I want to become a marketable commodity," Celeste finished, with a faint touch of reproach.

Dr. Gloria wrote in Celeste's file: Resourceful & humorous; she'll make it. She doesn't know it yet. She asked, "What's missing in your life?" Dr. Gloria spied her Cigarillos under a pamphlet entitled Ten Easy Steps to Stop Smoking In Thirty Days, Guaranteed, and smiled, then returned her attention to Celeste.

Reflecting on the missing element, Celeste dropped her chin, stared sullenly at the floor for some time, then answered in one word, "Companionship."

Dr. Hargrave knew by the solitary answer that Celeste had other pressing matters in mind, and she allowed her patient the freedom to lead the conversation.

"College is a lot tougher than I thought," Celeste related, as she stabbed out her Cigarillo in the already over-full ash tray. Her brown-gold lipstick stained the butt. She continued, "Nobody ever allowed me to make my own decisions and to be my own person."

"Do you see that as a problem?"

"I see now that I needed that problem-solving period of my life on my own that would have let my self-confidence and self-assuredness the opportunity to develop. I need the opportunity to make decisions that’ll allow me to fall flat on my face or ride high. I have permitted Sam to treat me as he has."

Dr. Gloria reminded herself to be totally professional and not let her emotions get in her way because Celeste's statement made her angry. "What's most difficult?"

Celeste sat across the loveseat with her back propped with a small pillow and dropped her shoes on the floor. She continued, "People who are too good to be true--"

"Usually are," the Doctor interrupted, completing the sentence for her.

"He has no emotion at times. He makes people see him as he wants to be seen." Celeste jumped up pacing in her stocking feet. "I've wept until I have no more tears. I'm tired of feeling like I'm nothing more than a sperm receptacle. It's wrong to hate because hate is a wasted emotion that only leads to self-destruction. I'm gonna write a paper on that tonight. Since I don't want to destroy myself, I don't allow myself the option to hate even Sam, yet I will destroy him," she paused, "on paper."

Dr. Gloria moved closer, as the two stood seemingly motionless, "What recourse do you have?"

"There you go again, asking questions when," she paused, "what I came here for is answers," Celeste said in mock anger.

"You already know the answers, you just have to be asked the right questions." Dr. Gloria replied with mock agitation.

"When I spoke to my instructors about taking my finals early they agreed, and I take my last finals tomorrow. I told my instructors that I have some pressing personal business that I have to take care of and at this point I would not drop my courses. All of my instructors agreed to test me within the next two class days. Finals begin next week, but I arranged to take my finals early. How's that for a start?"

"Start at what? What exactly are you talking about?"

"Start at taking control of my life. The only way I can accomplish that is by leaving Sam. I guess I've known it all along." Celeste could think of nothing more appropriate.

"Listen to yourself, Celeste. Your inner feelings will tell you what to do. We don't listen to ourselves enough. Go to the mirror. Is this what you want for the rest of your life?"

Celeste did not look at herself.

"You have revealed more of your inner feelings today than ever before. You have really made progress."

"Thanks, Doc." Celeste examined the doctor's astute face, "I guess I had to come to the end of my rope before I could tie a knot in it."

"Is your life now what you want for your children one day? Make a plan. Life offers you different paths. You have to make your own choice, but make one you can live with the rest of your life."

Celeste slowly walked to the oval, beveled-edged mirror hanging on the stark white wall. At first, everything behind her focused in the mirror. As she moved closer, her image took over and all the objects that had held prominence in the room became secondary. Celeste was the center of the oval, the central character in the arrangement of life. She tried as hard as she could to keep the sickening dread in her stomach from climbing up her throat.

Examining her face as if she had never really scrutinized it at it. Celeste said slowly, "I try not to regret anything. Regret is a waste of time." She pivoted toward the doctor, with her best I-don't-care-smile pasted across her face.

Celeste had ultimately reached a decision for her life. Decisiveness felt good. She stood taller, more sure of herself. She was self-confident she had made the right choice for herself and her life for the future.

"If I leave Sam this week, I will not be in for a while, and you won't hear from me. Don't be alarmed. Remember, you won't hear from me," Celeste repeated. "If Sam finds out that I know you and starts harassing you, you can honestly say that you don't know where I am. I haven't decided exactly what I'm gonna do, or how I will handle Sam," she walked to the doctor. Celeste drew the doctor to her and held her very tightly for a moment, just a moment. Then she put her away from her and kissed her on the cheek. The hug and kiss were something Celeste had never done before.

"I have decided that something has to be done. Since there's no way in hell that Sam will change, it's totally up to me. I've got the solution this time. I'm leaving. I'll be the one in control."

"If you'd like, we can leave your appointment set for Wednesday after next, and if you're not here, I'll know why." The doctor had a feeling that she would never see Celeste D'Angelo again. Dr. Gloria, satisfied with Celeste's decision, realized Celeste no longer needed her.

"Yes, that sounds great," Celeste chirped with a new sense of independence and self-assuredness.

The doctor watched as Celeste matter-of-factly slipped straight through the door, through the courtyard and straightforwardly to her car, not wavering in her glance, as gritty dust devils danced on the sidewalk behind her. Normally, the conquered creature took her time, lingering as long as possible, looking at the plants and any other distraction to kill time while making her exit. An unprecedented change of attitude would carry Celeste away from her life with Sam.

Dr. Gloria celebrated in Celeste's emancipation by saluting her.

Carolyn Mello is from Orange, Texas. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University and a master’s degree from McNeese State University. The author of several articles, she also wrote, produced, directed, and performed in The Misadventures of Handsome and Grumble in London-land, which was presented at the Hampstead Brittania in London, England.

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