State of Innocence


by S. K. Mason & Debra Scacciaferro

Becoming a child therapist has been a dream-come true for suburban wife and mother Kimberley Mason. Happily

married with three children of her own, Kimberley Mason starts a new job working with low-income families at an inner city clinic. One case captures her heart—grief therapy for a troubled little girl traumatized by the tragic loss of her eight-month-old brother to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Having lost a baby herself, Kimberley believes she is uniquely qualified to help Alexia Mackenzie, her younger sister Jayleen, and their family work through their loss. But Kimberley slowly discovers lies, secrets, and deep cracks in the foundation of parents Connor and Isabella Mackenzie’s lives. Alexia begins to remember what happened the night her brother died—a secret that threatens to tear the family apart.

Thrown into an emotional cyclone, Kimberley faces an impossible choice: will she fulfill her legal and moral obligations and put her own family at risk, or stay silent and risk the lives of Alexia and Jayleen?


Chapter One

Alexia Rodriguez-Mackenzie had never been to a funeral before, so the five-year-old didn’t realize that her baby brother was dead. All she knew was that Lando had gone to visit Jesus in Heaven, and for some reason, Daddy blamed it on her.

She stood in the snowy cemetery, her hand clutching her grandmother’s gloved one, while Father Estanzia droned on and on and on.

“This precious baby, Orlando Rodriguez Mackenzie, not even a year old, now dwells in the house of the Lord. Commend his spirit to you, Oh Lord, on this day, the Twenty-Third of March, in this year of the Lord 2010.”

Abuelita?” Alexia whispered, her teeth chattering. “How much longer?”

“Almost over.” Her grandmother gave her hand a quick, reassuring squeeze.

Alexia nodded and shivered again. Even with her warmest black tights under her dress, her legs were numb. The sky was winter gray, heavy with clouds. Her mama sat in a metal folding chair, crying, her nose red, her pretty brown eyes smudged with tears. Daddy stood next to her, holding Jayleen, who buried her face in his shoulder.

It wasn’t fair. “Abuelita, how come Jayleen gets to sit with Mama and Daddy, and not me?”

“Jayleen’s little,” said her grandmother. “You’re a big girl.”

Alexia sighed.

“We pray to the Blessed Mary and the Holy Father,” the priest continued. “Please comfort him as his own mother and father here on earth did.”

Mama cried louder.

“And we pray to the angels in Heaven to love him as his sisters here on earth did,” the priest continued.

Alexia didn’t like that. Would the angels be Lando’s new sisters? It wasn’t fair.

Abuelita?” Alexia whispered again, her teeth chattering. “How much longer?”

“Almost over.” Her grandmother gave her hand a quick, reassuring squeeze.

“The Shepherd of lost little lambs has taken Orlando home with him to live in Heaven. Though he was with us for only a short time, Lando will be missed and remembered forever.”

And with that, Father Estanzia made the sign of the cross over the white box with the silver cross painted on it.

Daddy said Lando was sleeping in that white box. But how could he be, when Abuelita said he was in Heaven visiting the Blessed Virgin and Jesus? If she and Jayleen were very good girls, Abuelita said, God would make a miracle happen and they would get to see Lando again.

Abuelita?” She squeezed her grandmother’s hand, wanting to ask her about the miracle.

“Sshhh!” Her grandmother raised a gloved finger to her lips, then pointed to the white box being lowered into the grave.

Alexia turned to look back at Mama. A tall man dressed in a black suit was holding white flowers. He had a round face, with a sad smile. He laid one flower in Mama’s lap. He held one out to Daddy. Daddy wore black jeans and a tie and a borrowed black jacket from Mama's cousin, Carlos. Alexia had never seen Daddy dressed this way. She and Jayleen wore their Christmas dresses. Daddy put Jayleen on Mama’s lap, then took the flower and walked over to the big hole where the box was.

Alexia didn’t want to look at the box. Her tummy felt funny, like she might throw up. She started to shake all over. “Abuelita!” She tugged on her grandmother's hand. “Abuelita!”

“Sshhh, miha!

The man stepped over to them now, holding out a flower. Abuelita took one, but Alexia put her free hand behind her back. She wouldn’t touch the flower.

Miha!” her grandmother scolded gently. “What’s the matter? You have to put a flower on the grave for your brother.”

“No!” Alexia’s heart was pounding so hard, it scared her. Wrenching out of her grandmother’s grasp, she broke free, running as fast as she could.

She ran out of the cemetery toward the big brick church. When she got to the steps by the front door, the Monsignor stepped in front of her, knelt down, and caught her by the shoulders.

“Where are you running to, my child?” He smiled down at her.

Alexia stared up at him. She was breathing hard, each gasp of cold air making her chest ache. Her voice wouldn’t work right. The buzzing in her ear drowned out everything else. She began to shake all over.

“My poor child, what’s wrong? Have you lost your parents?” The priest glanced up, looking toward the parking lot. “Maybe this is your Daddy?”

She turned to look. A man with a bushy gray beard in a long black coat, his hands deep in his pockets, stared at them, grinning as if he knew her. Oh, but she knew him. She’d seen him before. The night all the bad stuff happened.

“No,” Alexia said, shaking her head. “No, no, no!” Alexia tried to run back the way she had come, but the priest held her hand, preventing her from breaking free, trying to question her further.

“Alex!” Daddy’s voice was sharp as he ran toward her. “Alexia!”

“Is that your father?” the priest asked.

“Daddy!” Alexia cried.

Monsignor let her go, and she rushed toward her father.

Daddy grabbed her by the arms. His face was angry. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Runnin’ off like that! You upset your mother. You can’t just run anywhere you want.”

“Sorry, sorry!” Knowing there was no way she could explain, Alexia hung her head in shame. But at least she felt safe. She glanced back, where the strange man was now talking to the Monsignor.

“Daddy. The bad man is back.”

Daddy looked over, too. His hand shook. “Goddammit!” He tightened his grip on Alexia's hand. “Come on. Funeral’s over. We’re going home.”

* * *

Much later that night, after all the sad relatives who had crowded into their tiny house left; after Abuelita tucked Jayleen and Alexia into their bunk beds; and after the light finally went off in Mommy’s and Daddy’s bedroom Alexia crept down from her bunk. Trying not to make a sound, she tiptoed over to Lando’s empty crib.

When the floor creaked, she stopped, heart pounding, listening for the squeak of Daddy’s bed, expecting any moment to hear Daddy’s feet hit the floor.

But the house stayed quiet. Carefully, she stepped up onto the bottom rail of the crib bars, hoisted herself up, swung her leg over, and fell over the side onto the sagging mattress. She folded her hands together, her eyes fixed on the framed Sacred Heart of Jesus picture on the wall, faintly lit by the night light.

“Jesus? Can you hear me? God bless Mama and Daddy and Abuelita and Jayleen and Lando and Floppy Dog. And can you please send Lando home when you’re done playing with him?”

She listened for a moment, wondering if she should say something else.

“I’ll be a really good girl,” she added.

She listened again, staring hard at the picture. She didn’t know what else to say that would convince Jesus.

“Doesn’t he want to ever come home?” Her chin quivered. “Doesn’t he want me for a sister anymore?”

Alexia’s eyes stung with tears. Her throat swelled up with sadness.

“Please, please, please!” she whispered fiercely, squeezing her hands in prayer so tightly that they shook. “If you send him back, I promise I’ll watch over him forever, and hide him in the closet if that Bad Man comes back here again.”


"State of Innocence" by S. K. Mason & Debra Scacciaferro


Amazon Kindle
Google Play



Women's Fiction

? Heat Level: 0