Brigit's Flame - December: Week 2
Word count: 1003
Intro: This is a fictionalized story based on a real event. It's probably pretty rough around the edges because of this but, as many of us know, sometimes the story chooses the writer instead of the writer choosing the story.
In memory of my step-dad, Jim.
Anya killed the engine, and was enveloped in soundless darkness.
It had been five years since she’d been there; five years since her life had suddenly changed. Everything looked different now, as though nothing had happened.
She sat in the car for several minutes trying to breathe slowly. There was a sense of nervousness and uncertainty about returning to a place that held significance; returning to a memory. Her eyes adjusted to the night sky, the same sky that had witnessed her visit five years ago. The moon had been a bright, full orb, gazing down across the fields saying, “I see. I witness”. Tonight, there was just a subtle crescent, surrounded by the tiny lights of a thousand brilliant suns that whispered, “We are gone too”.
Anya opened the car door and stepped out, looking at the silent silhouettes of the cornstalks that filled the field in front of her. The path that had been cut through them that year was long gone. The earth had recovered and life continued. Anya could still remember how it had looked after the accident; a straight path of bent stalks that disappeared into the distance. It ran on an angle that made it invisible from certain directions. A strange optical illusion that seemed to be appropriate for a place that had witnessed the mystery of death.
She ducked her head back into the car and grabbed her flashlight off the passenger’s seat. With a deep sigh, she steeled her nerves, closed the car door and headed for the cornfield.
The stalks grew over her head, blocking out most of the night sky. The leaves reached out, caressing her as she walked a path that now existed only in her memory. Without thinking, she reached out her hand and let it dance across the leaves as she moved between them. Corn fields had always held an element of mystery for her. She could remember running between the green stalks with her brother when they were kids. Now, as an adult, she found herself once again mesmerized by the maze-like mystery of them.
Her thoughts turned to memories of her step-father. When he’d first started dating her mother, Anya hadn’t liked him at all. She couldn’t stand the way that he always sided with her mother; the way he called her “smiley” when she’d walk into the room in a bad mood. At some point over the years, that had changed and they’d become very close. Anya still thought of him as her step-dad. He and her mother had never married, but they’d been a family.
She could see the edge of the cornfield now. She stepped into the open, seeing the tree for the first time. She had stopped at the edge of the field last time, unable to journey deeper. The tree's bark had healed but still bore the scars of the collision; a silent testament to what had happened. She crossed the short distance in a few strides and reached out to run her hand along the tree’s massive trunk. She’d wondered how far the truck would have gone if the tree hadn’t been there.
She still remembered getting the call.
“Jim’s dead,” her mom had said. It hadn’t registered at first. She thought that she must have misheard. “He didn’t come home last night. They found his truck. He’d gone off the road. He had a heart condition. They said that he didn’t suffer... he’d died from the condition, not the collision.”
Anya hadn’t known what to say. It seemed unreal; like the world was falling away around her. Nothing seemed to make sense. How could he be gone?
Suddenly, she realized how grateful she was that she’d made an effort to spend some extra time with him and her mom before moving away.
“The funeral is next week. Do you think you’ll be able to come?”
“I don’t know.” The sense of loss hit her in a giant wave. She’d been living in a remote community for two months and couldn’t afford the airfare that would be needed to get her home. She was never going to see him again. “I don’t think I can afford it.”
She had gone, thanks to the generosity of a friend.
Tears fell from her face now, just as they had five years ago. He was gone and she missed him more than she could say. There were rare moments where she could almost feel him hugging her again. He was always so happy to see her and the feeling had been mutual. He’d given the best hugs. They were the types of hugs that didn’t hold anything back. Strong and nurturing; filled with love, compassion and joy.
She wrapped her arms around the tree and whispered, “I miss you”. She didn’t bother wiping the tears from her eyes. She was proud of them. They were real and honest. She wept for all the things that she would never be able to tell him; the things that she’d never be able to show him. He would have been so proud of how well she was doing; how well her life was going.
“I’ve met someone,” Anya said. “I think you really would have liked him.”
She pulled a little sculpture out of her jacket pocket and placed it at the foot of the tree. It was the tiniest figure of a dog. It could easily have been mistaken for a cat or a goat or any other four-legged creature but she knew he would have loved it because she’d made it for him.
She took one last look at the tree before turning around and making her way back to the car. Tears still rolled down her cheeks but now she felt a sense of comfort. It was the feeling of comfort that often followed a deep, emotional release.
She got into the car, wiped the last of her tears on the sleeve of her jacket and turned the key. The engine sprang to life.