Remembering Opal

By Opal's brother Garrett Mills

October 9, 2002 Garrett and Opal Mills

I spent the weekend trying to face the past.

I drove by the homes where Opal and I grew up and walked in the parks where we used to play.

Then I went to her old elementary school, where I remembered her chubby little face so proud of her "Care Bear" lunch box on the first day of kindergarten.

I walked along the same route that we took to school, this is where I promised her that I'd never leave her and I would never let any one hurt her. I scooped up the dirt with my hands and then left a rose at the same swing set where we used to sit, and dream about our future. Little Opal talked about the children she would have someday, naively claiming "they would all be happy " She talked about being rich someday so she could take care of our Mother, and buy her a big house. Even at age 7, she cared about others more than herself.

The kids at school teased her about her baby fat and chipmunk cheeks.

While sitting on the swing set, I ate the biggest donut I could find in honor of her constant concern about her weight.

Next I drove over to the Junior high school we attended together. When I went to junior high she transferred there too.

I remembered the tiny little "Peanut" with braided pig tails who was tougher than her not yet developed, awkward older brother.

I remembered how people used to pick on me us for being multiracial ... Klan jokes, chasing me, shutting me out. I even pretended I wasn't her brother so she wouldn't be ashamed of me but she never was.

She always said "That's my brother and you better shut your mouth or get a knuckle sandwich!"

It didn't matter if it was a 6' jock, her face would redden as she'd put up her tiny fists, ready to square off.

I remember us going to school hours before any one else, to dance in the school cafeteria with the juke box. For those few hours we were happy, free from ridicule and worry. When we would tire out, we would talk about the future, as usual, and all her big dreams.

I remember driving over to pick her up, she brought all her friends over to see her big brother.

Years later a school official would say to a reporter, "Opal's pimp would pick her up"-- the "pimp" being me. That rumor circulated and the police followed me every where. People at highschool said I was a drug dealer, a pimp... etc ... All the while, I was just a gangly, insecure kid who played saxophone and had two pet guinea pigs ... a long shot from being any kind of pimp. The rumors and lies took on a life of their own. I still meet people that assumed it was true because the police asked them about it.

The thing that pains me the most, is they thought I actually had something to do with the killings.

People will always choose to believe what they decide to, but I believe the upcoming trial will open some eyes.

I recently went to my 20 year reunion. Some of those mentioned above, who had hurt us in the past, told me that my family was in their prayers.

I wish Opal could of been there for that .... or that I would of heard those words when she was killed.

Then I drove down to Green River. It felt strange. There were two fisherman standing on the bank where she was found. Families and couples in love were walking, laughing, being happy, maybe talking about their dreams of the future.

Amidst all this I sat on the bank and cried.

I cried about what Opal went through while she was alive.

I cried for my Mother who never got to see her daughter grow up.

I cried for my own young daughter, worried about her future in this scary world.

Mostly, I cried about letting Opal down, and breaking my promise about never letting anyone hurt her.

The fishermen glanced towards this "crazy crying man." Takes all kinds they probably thought to themselves.

I left a rose and two donuts on the bank.

I blew Opal's spirit a kiss and hurried home for dinner, mentally exhausted and missing my family intensely.

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Copyright Garrett Mills 2002-2003

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