Think: Sunshine. Summer Day. White Corolla. Driving. — Yep, that’s when I wrote this.
I wore black. I wore black and I could feel it. It seeped into my skin, was absorbed by my heart and dripped from my eyes. It spread into the sky and whistled in the unforgiving wind. Leaves rained down, brown, dry, crumpled and cracking, dead. Dead.
Dead and cold. Silent and pale. Gone. Gone forever, until eternity. No laughter, no smiles. No bright blue eyes. Just dead and cold. Silent and pale. Six feet under.
And the preacher spoke. I could not hear him over the merciless gusts, the bare, swaying trees. His lips moved but no sound came forth. I closed my eyes and bowed my head. I wished myself away, away from the dark October sky, the screaming autumn wind. Away from the coffin, from the white cheeks and sunken eyes. I wished myself away. But when I opened my eyes, I hadn’t moved.
My skirt billowed around my legs, and the ribbons from my hat smacked at my cheeks. Mother wept into her handkerchief, and Uncle Robert had his hand around her shoulders. Aunt Becky held the little one, and Bobby silently clutched his little fists around her own black skirt.
And there he went, right into the ground. From dust to dust, there he went. Uncle Robert led Mother forward, and she stared for a long time at the ugly wound in the earth. He whispered something in her ear, stooped to scoop up a handful of dirt. As he was about to drop it into her gloved hand, she pulled away, burst into tears and sank to the ground. It was horrible.
The dirt blew up from its pile and showered dust on her crumpled form. Uncle Robert stared into the trees for a moment, his jaw clenched tight, before helping Mother to her feet. He held her as she wept into his chest. Aunt Becky cried, too.
Uncle Robert nodded at me. It was my turn. I knew that when I took that first step, it would all be real, and it would be goodbye. Still I took it. And I stared at the grave as Mother had. A worm crawled across the coffin’s lid. I looked at all the sad faces, the veiled women. Daddy was not the first. And we all wore black.
I sprinkled the cold dirt over the pine box and then brushed it from my black gloves. I don’t know how long I stood there, but Katie came forward and took me by the hand. She led me away, hugged me tightly. And the group retired to the house, to the warm fireplace and quiet parlor.
I sat silently in the hard chair and stared blankly at the floor. Eventually, I slipped away. I found refuge in the dark attic, in the musty books and dusty boxes. I stared out the dirty window and watched a spider spin its web.
They found me eventually, Katie and James. And we all quietly sat there. Just breathing, listening to the window rattle and the wind wail.
“I’m so sorry, Abby,” Katie whispered. She had tears in her eyes. James stared at his feet. I nodded, and she wrapped my hand in hers. She was warm and pink, soft and alive. Alive.
Daddy was not alive. Daddy was dead.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered again. We didn’t know what to say. I could feel the tears coming, and I fought them back. I clenched my jaw and stared out the window even as they filled my eyes and slipped down my cheeks. I ignored them and bit my lip from making a sound. I did not want to cry.
The dust clung to our black skirts and made them gray.