Barbara picked up a crumpled envelope, hastily opened, from the old attic floor. It was addressed to Susan Baxter, her mother. Years ago, Susan had won the lottery, divorced her father and abandoned her at age five. Only three years later, did they finally hear any word of her again. It was to attend her funeral. She died in a car crash, what a stupid mistake. Barbara didn’t cry, not even that day 10 years ago. Susan wasn’t really a mother, just a necessary part of her birth. Susan became that when she left, a deadbeat mom.
A soft scent waved from the letter. It was the perfume her mother used to wear. It shook memories deep in her mind, just the smell of Lilac Fields…
It was a bright sunny day, a pretty day for anything but a funeral. You want the darkness to embrace you, and justify your sadness. If you were sad of course.
“Daddy, why do I have to come? I want go to Ruth’s house and play dress-up!” A young, and fickle Barbara whined. Pulling on her father’s arm, which swayed like paper in the wind.
“Because it is your mommy’s funeral, and she would want you to say goodbye before she went to heaven.” Her father replied, with dark bags looming under his usually bright, now dull blue eyes.
“I thought only good people go to heaven?” Barbara replied, with such calmness. Unaware of the darkness in such a comment. Her father only looked down, mouth open, looking for an answer, but none would come. How could an eight year old be right?
Together they walked up to the large, oak doors of the funeral home. Her father struggled to open the door, and was assisted another man in a fancy suit, with a bright blue tie.
“Let me help you,” He said calmly. Was he aware that this was a funeral? He was supposed to be crying, and she was supposed to be crying. Forgetting her thank-you’s, Barbara walked right up to small sandwiches on a lace frilled table. Before she could grab one, her father pulled her hand away.
“Come, we need to sit.” Her father mumbled. With that, Barbara gave off a small squeak of disappointment.
They sat two rows from the front of a large, open, painted red room. Large black curtains stopped the sunlight from entering the room that was in most need of it. The carpet was fuzzy, but not comfortable enough to lay on. Just for shoes. Shoes. Barbara’s shoes looked so nice against the blood red carpet. But they were a size too small, so the small buckle dug into her ankle. She would constantly fiddle with the buckle to maybe find a spot where it could sit without hurting her. This made her think about the tag of her periwinkle dress which tickled the back her neck. She would scratch at that, but never could quite get rid of the sensation that it was there.
“Barbara. Please sit still, your Second Cousin about to speak.” Her father hushed.
A large man she had seen only at Christmas stumbled to a podium, which proudly displayed a picture of her late mother. He spoke of how great her mother was, she was hard working, funny and trustworthy. That gave Barbara a small laugh. Even at age eight she understood that was a lie. The room stared at her. The man in the blue tie just looked at her in disgust. A child laughing at her own mother’s funeral. What could possess a child to do that? What demon has possessed her tiny body and ate her tiny soul? Her father was just staring deep into the jacket of the person in front of him until his name was called. He went to the podium. He moved like a wave, just being pushed by what was behind him, powerless. He was crying now. He just stood at the podium, looking out at all the faces. Looking, but not seeing. He must of thought he said something, because a few seconds later he was back in his seat beside Barbara. He didn’t speak much after that.
The seats were moved, and a coffin was rolled in. The lid was open, and people had to go look in. Maybe thinking that she looked much different than when they last saw her. It was true of course. Her face was much larger, lips fuller, nose smaller and her cheeks rounder. A large scar was across her brow, partially hidden by makeup, was prominent.
“Daddy? What happened to Mom’s face?” Barbara asked, tugging on the sleeve of his black suit.
“She got hurt.” He mumbled, trying not to scare Barbara. Yet, that just sent more shivers down her spine. Barbara got hurt all the time, so was she going to be in a box? Would people say happy things about her when they are sad? Would they look at her, thinking death would change her face so much they had to check?
“I don’t want to be in a box!” Barbara yelped. She backed away from the coffin, clawing at her brow, as if she had a scar of her own. The fear. The sadness. Not for her mother’s death, but at the thought of her own. What was happening to her mother now that she was in that box? It would be very dark, very cold. Would the dirt slowly enter the box? Would they dig her up one day? Would they forget about her? She wandered, her brow now too sore to touch, over to the lacy table and grabbed a peanut butter sandwich which was neatly cut into a tiny triangle. That distracted her from the fear that had come up upon her so suddenly.
More people came up to Barbara and said they were sorry. For what? She would answer. The adults only chuckled through their tears and said what an innocent little girl she was. But she knew. She was wasn’t sorry. Was that wrong? Should she be sad? What did people want her to feel? She wasn’t sad. She just wasn’t sad.
So indulged in the memory, Barbara neglected to hear the footsteps behind her.
“Barbara? There you are! What are you doing in the attic?” Her father bellowed behind her. The letter fell from her hands. It’s sweet essence now overpowered by the musty tang of the boxes around her.
“Daddy?” Barbara whimpered. Her cheeks were wet, and her eyes glistened.
“Oh Honey!” Her father whispered, as if he was the reason for her tears. He didn’t mean to hurt his little girl.
“Why didn’t I cry? I should have cried!” Barbara whailed, now burrowed in her father’s thin frame. His arms wrapped around her, protecting her from world.
‘What are you talking about?” Her father asked, holding her. She started to sway, her words now a jumble between tears and sniffles. Her father just remained silent. He just held her, his shoulder soaked in salty tears, his heart heavy.
Barbara cried now. She let herself. She believed that since Susan was such a terrible person, she would have been a terrible person to cry for her. It took ten years to realize, but crying was not for the deceased, but for the living.