Selma watched from a distance as they lowered the caskets into the ground. She scanned the faces, looking for someone she recognized. People had gathered at the graveside – neighbors, friends, the media. Such a lurid fascination they had with the words “murder-suicide.”
“–a terrible, terrible thing.” Selma caught snippets of their conversations. The mourners leaned on one another and murmured quietly among themselves. “Maybe now, they’ll be at peace.” Selma rolled her eyes. One by one, they turned away from the grave and, arm in arm, walked toward the line of waiting, black sedans.
Selma had no one to lean on, and no tears left to cry. Standing in the shade of a mausoleum, Selma closed her eyes and pressed her back to the cool, black-streaked stone.
“Where have you been, child?”
That was a voice she hadn’t heard in over a year. “Everywhere, Mother,” she said, softly. “Nowhere.”
“We looked for you. We never gave up looking for you. Why did you stay away so long, Selma Lou?”
“You know why, Mama.” You know why, and you drink to forget.
“But I don’t!” the haggard woman wailed. Her mother’s anguished expression was like a knife to the heart. Selma longed to believe her; it would make her hate her less. “Why’d you do it?”
“Why did I do what, Mama?” Why did I make him rape me and leave me for dead? Had her mother gone mad?
“Leave like that, without a word. Why did you just up and leave? We looked and looked–I swear, we never stopped looking! Your father–”
Selma looked up at her mother sharply. “Where is he?”
Selma forced herself to speak the hated name between clenched teeth: “Daddy.” The name rang hollow like ice cubes in a cocktail glass. Selma’s eyes bore into her mother.
“Oh,” said her mother, vaguely, as she looked around the cemetery. “I’m sure he’s over there, paying his respects–”
“No doubt.” Selma pushed away from the cool stone wall. Her mother reached out but Selma dodged her grasp and walked past her.
A little boy of about nine or ten ran towards Selma with open arms from behind the huge white wreaths that surrounded the open grave. “Selma Loulou!” he cried.
She blinked back hot tears as she knelt down, opened up her arms, and folded her brother into a fierce embrace. “I missed you so much, Little Bear,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. Can you ever forgive me?” Selma ran searching fingers through the tousled blond hair.
Barron nodded. “It’s okay, Selma Loulou. You’ll stay now? Promise?”
Their mother smiled absently. “Where is your father, I wonder?”
Can you really be that dense? thought Selma. “He’s not coming, Mother.” Selma imagined the scent of burning flesh and tried to suppress a smile.
“Of course he’s coming. He was right behind me…” Her mother’s voice trailed off weakly. “I don’t see him. Do you see your father, Barron? Go look for him–he’s got to be around here somewhere.”
Barron shook his head. “Do I have to?” he whispered to Selma. His red-rimmed eyes were wide and fearful.
“No, Little Bear. He can’t hurt you ever again.” Selma put a protective arm around her little brother and led him away.
Their mother, weaving her way between the headstones like the drunk she was, was too preoccupied to notice that the children were gone. “Jack?” she called. “Jack?”
Selma knew that her father and mother would be reunited, one day. When Hell froze over.
This is story #9 for the Story a Day challenge. It was inspired by the movie, “The Woman in Black.” I wondered what would happen if the child’s spirit didn’t want to be reunited with the mother’s – or the father’s…