His face in the photo album reminded her how gone he was. Now she understood why people cut each other’s faces out of pictures. It wasn’t that Bethany wanted to forget her father. Whenever she tried to picture him another detail in his face seemed to blur a little more. It grew harder to remember his faded and stretched out sweatshirts or what kind of shoes he wore. Those photographs remembered everything that Bethany could not.
But there were plenty of things she did remember. Like the way her father had looked in his hospital bed, hooked up to a million sighing and buzzing machines. The shameful tone of his voice when he called from the hospital saying, “It’s my damn liver…” The way her mother seemed to disappear along with her dad; all that was left was a walking and breathing corpse who also ate enough to feed the block. She remembered, she remembered, she remembered…
Bethany had thrown away the letter he wrote her. She’d thrown away all the letters that came after as well; ignored the phone calls that provided the only noise in the house. Her father’s letter was scrawled on the back of a napkin, just a few lines that seemed engulfed by white and a couple purple smudges from the hospital juice. She knew it had taken him hours to write that much. She had no desire for anyone else’s sympathy or kind words and so the letters all lived in her wastebasket. She did not empty the bin. Perhaps a small part of her knew she would one day want them back.
“This is why I wanted a sister,” Bethany said out loud. A sister would have held her hand at the funeral. A sister would have found a way to cheer her up and convince her to leave the house or at least put on real pants. Maybe Bethany would have been the one comforting her sister. Sitting with their mother while she moaned and threw herself around the master bedroom.
But she’d never learned how to do those things. Or how to accept them from others. No one would say that her parents hadn’t loved her and that they didn’t try to give her a beautiful life. But it was their idea of a beautiful life, distorted by reality and Bethany’s conviction that they’d never once asked what she thought. And now her mother was turning into a whale and Bethany a vengeful hermit and her father was dead. Maybe he was the lucky one. Each had tried to be something to the other but in the end, their relationships were paper thin. Their common blood formed an obligation to each other, but nothing else. Everything she did to grieve for the loss of her family felt forced.
It didn’t have to be that way. They could love each other for their quirks, for her father’s obsession with Ancient Egypt and her mother’s collection of WNBA cards, and Bethany’s self- deprecating handwritten comic books. “We could start over,” Bethany called to the silent house, “This could all be new.” There was no response so Bethany padded down the hallway to stand in the doorway of the master bedroom. “I want something better,” Bethany cried to her mother’s shape under the covers. Her mother sat up. “I’m pregnant,” her mother cried to Bethany. It was a brand new day.
Got anything to say? Go ahead and leave a comment!
Clothesline on Twitter
Wanna be on Clothesline?
- Awesomepreneurs We Love: Erik Stonikas | Awesomepreneur - Work With Heart on Stories of the Apocalypse: Fall Back, Move Forward
- tbuckley3 on No, Really, This is What I Do
- Erik Stonikas on Call for Submissions: Springboard
- Rachael Kay Albers on Call for Submissions: Springboard
- melanie on Stories of the Apocalypse: Fall Back, Move Forward