The dead remains of autumn crunched beneath my feet, and I could hear the sound of laughter and screams ahead. I walked at the pace of a woman being followed by a creepy man in a parking lot late at night. The purpose of this was to break a sweat and burn calories without resorting to jogging, or worst of all, running. I never understood people who were into hardcore running. As a fitness professional, believe me I have tried running programs both on the treadmill and out in nature. Somehow, despite a proper warmup beforehand and stretching afterwards, I would find myself with shin splints, angry feet, and a renewed hatred for long distance running. I much preferred power walking, shorter bursts of high intensity cardio, and weight lifting.
So I continued power walking, always keenly aware of my surroundings for my safety and for writing fodder. I liked walking to the east, where my humble neighborhood transitioned into historic, stately homes. Up ahead in front of a large colonial style house with grand white columns, a little girl cruised around on her scooter. A young boy who I presumed to be her brother was hiding behind a pickup truck ahead. Their father was doing yardwork out front.
“Grrrowwrrrrrr!” The boy roared, running out towards his sister as her scooter rolled by, arms stretched and fingers curled. The girl screamed in that high pitched way that almost sounds like a whistle. The boy laughed and called after her, “I got you, I got you!” A few houses down, past a secluded Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpiece, the road began to descend, and woods emerged on both sides. At the bottom of the hill was a park with swings, a merry-go-round, a wild looking rope apparatus, a giant xylophone near a sandpit, and a zipline. To the right, the road curved up, still surrounded by woods on both sides, and that was where a small group of women who took walks around the neighborhood discovered the blood, and the body of Tabitha Birdsong. It could have been me who discovered her. Tabitha Birdsong had been stabbed to death by her husband.
A dark-haired beauty, she was described by her best friend as a sweet woman and a poet. She’d been a victim of domestic abuse for almost a decade and had an order of protection against her estranged husband, but he had tracked her down that fateful evening before the women found her remains early the next morning. I used to take a right and walk up that hill all the time just to take a glimpse of the castle-like gated estate at the top, but I cannot bring myself to any longer, at least not by that sorrowful and tainted route, where I imagine the birds’ songs now have a haunting quality about them after what they’ve seen. Instead, on this day, I took a left and trudged onward, past the bright eyes and shrieks of innocent children on the playground, hoping they would never be victims, though three women are killed every day in the United States by their partner, and 40-50% of women murdered are due to partner abuse.