This week we have special series of posts. We’ll be running a three part short story that was developed in the writing class. A new chapter will emerge on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week. Stay tuned for the upcoming chapters.
Frozen in stillness, like a miniature statue, cemented in place. Her head bowed, eyes closed, she was reverently posed, as if in prayer.
I need to move, she thought.
She couldn’t seem to connect the thought with any action.
She stepped out the car and leaned into her abandonment, curbside to the entrance to Detroit Metro Airport. As she turned her head and watched the taillights of the old brown rambler disappear, she felt strangely relieved.
A frenzy of activity buzzed around her. There were people stepping out of taxis, walking with authority; there were voices booming from overhead speakers, luggage on wheeled racks scurrying about like urgently deployed soldiers.
In one hand, she clenched her old Holly Hobbie suitcase, and in the other, she held a stuffed monkey (named Henry) close to her chest. Her Papa had proudly won Henry for her at a local fair years ago. At that moment, she wished she would have packed Henry in the suitcase. She imagined how silly she must look, clinging to an old stuffed animal. She was eleven, after all- much too old for such a childish indulgence.
The night before, she had to determine which of her worldly possessions she would take with her. She didn’t have many to begin with. Late into the night, she removed and added nominal items from the small suitcase, unsure of what to pack for this journey.
She decided on: various items of clothing, her fluffy pillow, a pink polka-dotted piggy bank (holding $26.23), a few photos of her Papa and brothers, her secret book (a diary), and a bottle of of perfume her Papa had given her for her last birthday. It was expensive and very grown-up- Chanel No. 5. The night her Papa died in a car crash, her mother had taken the perfume from her room and placed it upon her own dresser.
The little girl decided in the darkness that it was worth the risk to sneak into her mother’s room, clinging to the shadows, and grab the bottle. Luckily, in the morning, her mother had not noticed it was missing.
Standing there, alone, outside the airport, she was filled with questions about how she would survive… how it would feel… what she would do. Fear began to embrace the girl tightly. She bit her lip; this is how she held back tears. The taste of salt and sharp pain always helped her not to cry.
She could see rows of connected plastic chairs through the glass doors. She told herself to walk through the doors and sit down. Then, she could decide what to do next. She took a deep breath, mustered all the will in her small body, and took one step forward.
She freed herself from the invisible chains which held her in place. Over and over again, she took a deep breath and then one step forward, a deep breath and then one step forward…
She didn’t sit down in the chair so much as collapse in it, like a clump of snow too heavy for a branch to hold it any longer. She was not merely shivering now, she was shaking uncontrollably. Her teeth chattered and she felt nauseated, even though she hadn’t eaten anything that day. Tears began rolling down her cheeks; she could no longer hold back the torrent of emotion.
She had not wept since learning of her Papa’s death four days earlier. Not even when her mother had forced her to look at him, lying in the black lacquered box lined with white satin. Her mother had told the keeper of this place of death that the young girl had insisted on seeing him.
That was a lie.
Her mother lied a lot, but the girl knew better than to say anything.
They stood in front of the casket, the little girl’s body rigid in front of her Papa’s body, so close she could have reached out and touched it, looking off to the side to avoid a sight she most definitely did not want to see. Her mother placed a hand under the girl’s long dark hair, clutching at the nape of her neck, long nails biting into the skin. She leaned in close and whispered, “Look at him, you little bitch.”
The young girl had known she had no choice and turned toward the coffin. She was expressionless. No cringing and no tears.
She had learned a long time ago that crying only made things worse.
Part 2 to follow on Wednesday.