The Way Grief Talks

in #writing4 years ago (edited)

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Image: courtesy of @sad-dad

The snow covered their footprints as they distanced themselves from the car. They kept their heads low against the harsh wind and precipitation. Kerry was growing more and more uncomfortable, but didn’t want to complain to her mother about it. Her eyelashes were dusted in white by this point, her jacket growing stiffer with the cold.

Her mother hadn’t spoken to her, not since she had beckoned quietly to Kerry from the confines of her vehicle earlier that night. Kerry had climbed in, wordlessly, and her mother had given a little “Let’s go,” like some piece of her mouth was broken but she was attempting to talk through it anyway.

Luckily for Kerry, she was used to this ‘silent communication.’ Like when she’d scored the highest testing average in the state, back in elementary school, a vague impression on a thin-stretched life. Her mother didn’t need to say she was proud of her on that short drive from the school to the house. And when Kerry had been kicked out of college for poor grades and for desecrating confederate relics that had remained on school grounds well after the Civil War, her mother’s intent gaze on the road ahead was all it took to tell Kerry what she needed to know.

Now this.

The wind pressed upon them harder. Kerry drew her oversized coat to her chest, no longer able to consider the breath that escaped her lips in a ghostly plume. Her eyes were narrowed to slits, blurring the sidewalk ahead, a concrete-cake with a thick layer of snowflake-icing, into near obscurity.

She wanted to speak, but wasn’t sure she’d be heard. She hadn’t spoken to anyone in so long, she feared her voice would crack. With the wind, any attempt at conversation would be swept along their path, over the Gallow Creek bridge, and across the frigid lake that lay just ahead.

She wanted to tell her mom that she was sorry. It always seemed like the right thing to say, when people die. But, in her experience, no one really wanted to hear those words. “I’m sorry.” It felt weak compared to the Goliath that had stomped into her mother’s life.

Instead, she said “This weather’s ridiculous.” She gave a quick glance to her mother for any response or at least some recognition that she’d spoken, but she got nothing.

Her mother, Elizabeth Harding, was around 52 or 53 years old then. Kerry wasn’t sure. Her mom’s hair was turning an attractive gray. She wasn’t wearing a lot in the way of warm clothes, not in comparison to Kerry, who made sure to bundle up tightly against the frigid weather. Kerry’s silly pink parka stood in contrast to the industrial colors that surrounded them. Her mother’s face stayed glued to something in the distance. Kerry could tell her mind was off somewhere far from them, ranting at the sky or at circumstance, or at anything else that might listen.

It still amazed Kerry how, without a knife to her throat, this woman could get her to do just about anything, either by direct command or implied disapproval.

For instance, back in College, she’d broken up with two different girls all because her mother had been so vocal about how Gina’s family had “more nuts than a Delta airline flight” and how Lyia wouldn’t “pull her weight in a marriage.” Plus, they were both women, which her mother immediately took as a personal affront to her beliefs, rather than the mature decisions of a self-aware, sexually conscious woman. Hearing it in her own head though, Kerry started to believe her mother, and grew more agitated at her for affecting her romantic choices so deeply.

She tried again. “Are you mad at me?”

Kerry looked at her mom, whose breathing was inaudible in the aggressive wind. Even if she had responded, Kerry probably wouldn’t have heard it.

“Is this about Richard? Is there something in the lake that reminds you of him, or… or did you leave something there? Something buried?” She knew the trail they walked. It started parallel Highway 83 and ran all the way down to Lake Gallows. Kerry and her mother used to walk there in the spring, when things were actually alive.

“It’s not Richard.” And then her mother grew quiet again.

Kerry somewhat regretted spending her only hours with her stepfather in Hospice. She had only occasionally glanced up from her phone to see if he’d stopped breathing yet. But he was just an ugly old man. Sorry, Dead Richard. Even in the casket, it was obvious the mortician had a time stitching up his fat lips and tucking in his sagging grey skin.

Kerry assumed he was a good listener.

They came to a halt at the edge of the lake, water on the brink of freezing, the bank frosted and still. Kerry was glad they’d stopped walking, glad there was a point to being dragged out of bed into the God-forbidden tundra that Florence County had become, but a feeling of dread overpowered her slight relief.

Kerry looked at the woman next to her, searching her face for answers. “C’mon, what are we doing here?”

Her mother looked to her, eyes empty of light. “I…”

“Look, I’m sorry I couldn’t be there more.” Kerry burst out. Where had that come from?

Her mother grew silent at this, staring at her feet. “Why did you come home?”

Kerry felt her annoyance swell. “You ask this almost every day. I’m a little low on funds, okay? The last book didn’t sell too well.” She stared across the lake, at a tree that had been beaten nearly to the ground by the elements. Icicles hung on its limbs.

“Not even a phone call.”

“Mom…” Kerry rolled her eyes. “Mom, you know I’m bad at that stuff. It’s not that I don’t love you or anything, I just don’t call people. Or send letters. It’s different, you know? I’d rather just see you.”

“Me too.” But she was hurt. Kerry could see it.

“I’m sorry about your husband. I’m sure… I know he was great.”

“Not really. Men are the worst.” Her mom snorted, face growing red.

“Mom!” Kerry gasped, giggling in spite of herself.

“What? Richard would’ve agreed.”

“Well, he was a man, and he’s, you know, gone now.”

“Pushing up daisies?”

“Geez, I…”

“Bought the farm? Kicked the bucket?” Her mother was full-on laughing now.

“Yeah, Mom. All those things.” She tried to force a smile, but the absurdity of it struck her as vulgar. The one relationship to actually work out in both of their lives, and they were laughing over its burial.

“C’mon Kerry, he was an ass and a liar.”

“Was he?”

“He told me everything would be fine, and we’d be okay.” Her mom slapped her knee, gasping from laughter. The wind had ceased, allowing her mother’s chuckles to echo over the face of the waters.

“Oh, Mom.”

“Oh, Kerry. Lighten up. He was an ugly geezer that I married for his money.”

“He was rich?”

“Nah, but I’m a little richer now.” She performed a little dance.

“Mom!”

Then, without warning, hands pushed her into the lake. Kerry’s body tumbled down into the wet blackness. Frustrated, shocked, panicking, she pushed her way to the top, breaking the surface with a chilled cry.

“What the-?”

“Stay down there.” Kerry couldn’t make out her mother’s eyes, shadowed over, black.

“What?” Part of Kerry wanted to obey, like with Gina, with Rosy.

“Stay down there, Kerry. Die, like everything else in my life.”

“I don’t--”

“I know you killed Richard.”

“He was sick before I got there!”

“You killed him, and you would’ve killed me too.”

Kerry swam out of the water and walked up the bank, shivering, her clothes hugging her skin “That’s not true at all. You’re out of your head.”

“Whether you want to believe it or not, I can read, and yeah, I’ve read what you write. Murder stories mostly, a cruel mother, a violent death. Some lesson in that, huh?”

Kerry shivered. “They’re just stories, Mom!”

“Manipulative, cruel fathers who are absent. Relationships broken.”

“Are you quoting...?”

“I know what’s in your head, Kerry. I know you want me gone.”

“I do not want you gone, Mom. That’s grief talking.”

And then Kerry noticed the tears, the racking sobs, her mother’s small frame shaking under them. She walked over to her, wanting to hug her, but not wanting to share the soaking cold that she was wrapped in.

“Why did you leave? Was it me?” her mother cried.

“It wasn’t you. I love you.”

“I love you too. But I don’t believe you.” She turned, her eyes focusing back towards the car somewhere in the dark distance, and started walking again.

Kerry watched as her mother disappeared, robed in snowfall and night.

Why the lake? The question battered her brain, but no answer came. Something in her wanted to say the obvious--that the woman had brought her there to kill her-- but that kind of thing only happened in her stories.

Kerry shivered, realizing she could no longer feel her fingers. She debated leaving her heavy, wet clothes on, decided against it and removed her clothes, her coat, her shirt, down to her bra, and gathered the bundle in her arms.

The wind was bitter against her exposed skin, but it was better than trudging after her broken mother in heavy, wet winter attire.

She considered her breath, a halo that wrapped around the midnight moon and then faded against the black. There was no North Star shining bright, no bowl of stars to scrape some sort of existential sense of belonging out of.

Exposed and cold, Kerry hastily followed her mother back to the car, eying her footprints before they were dusted over by fresh snow.

~

Thanks for reading! This is my entry into the @gmuxx Art Prompt Writing Contest #8! I hope it spoke to you.

I don't have one of those nifty animations, but this piece couldn't have possibly been this good without the help from all the folks at the Writer's Block. They are incredible and want the value of Steemit (not just Steem Dollars) to really soar!

God bless, good night!

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caleblailmusik!! Thank you, your Post.

Thanks for reading!

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Really enjoyed reading this and workshopping it. Hope many others find it as inspiring!

Oh my gosh, thank you! I hope so too :)

I really enjoyed reading this! Well done! Upvoted and I'm following you now. I look forward to seeing more :)

Aww you're too sweet! Thank you!

This was good @caleblailmusik! I'm glad you entered the contest. If I haven't told you already... following.

Thank you! I can't remember if you'd told me that or not!

Beautiful use of words, I have to say!

Why, thank you! Words need a little loving like the rest of us ;)

Ooooooh what a great story! I could even feel the cold and it's 20°C here! The characters are amazing and the whole story is just exquisite!! Anyway, great story. Did I say that already?

Loved it.

Aww, thank you!! I'm glad you liked it :D

It is very good, I have paid attention to you, and then continue to pay attention to your dynamics, and I hope you will be able to pay attention to me.

I appreciate the attention! I'll definitely give your page a look-see ;)

Great story! Nice characterization. I want to know what happens next!
Would love to hear your thoughts on my story:
https://steemit.com/story/@jadegreene/short-fiction-surviving

I hate to say there won't be anything else to this story :/
But I'll check yours out! Thanks for reading :))

That’s ok. Makes me want to read more of your writing, so it’s a good thing! Do you write a lot? Participate in any writing competitions? I liked your style and think you definitely have potential!

I do write a lot! Maybe too much :O
This one was actually for a competition :P
I've been doing a lot of stuff with the Writer's Block recently. Mostly :P
Thank you so much, you're very sweet!

I’m not familiar with writers block... will have to look into it! I’ve participated in NYCM, Fiction War, Writer’s Workout, The Write Practice and have thought about a bunch of others... oh and thanks for resteeming my story!!!

Wow! You've gotten around! :D
And you're welcome ;)
The Writer's Block is super cool! If I knew how to give you a link, I would, but it's tricky. They're on Discord, and basically you post yourself in the queue and then everyone comments and suggests edits and revisions, that way you get the most polished work possible! And it's all free! You just have to participate ;)

Very interesting... I have a very strong writing group on Facebook and we do a lot for each other. Our members go far in these competitions. I would love to bring them to this platform, but the leaders of the group are pretty old school and this platform seemed “fishy” to them... don’t think they understand blockchain a or decentralization lol

Well, it's still very cool that you have a group! It's a good idea as a writer.
And I don't blame them, crypto stuff is bizarre, but it definitely pays off!

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