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a short story by:
Angelica Hart and Zi
She stood there for a long while, listening to the wind, the occasional eruptions of drizzle and eventually walked to the edge of the grave. She bent her head. “Bye Dad. I love you. I am already missing you.” Before she could move her head back, a tear rolled from her cheek and splunked upon the coffin surface punctuating the dirt cross. Everyone else had left, but she wasn't yet ready, she needed time with just Dad, just her and the man who had been her rock all of her life.
After awhile, she retreated about forty feet away but was still in view of the grave. She watched the caretakers lower his coffin, and then cover it with damp earth. She imagined him being welcomed home. Some of the soil splattered against the engraved name of Emily Watkins, Cyndy's mother. She had been passed before Cyndy could remember her. It had been just her and Dad.
Cyndy Watkins started at the graves and cried. Alone.
Would she always be so? Nearing thirty and being attractive, she had her share of dates, but she never clicked with anyone, never found that special love. Her dad threatened quite often to set her up with a blind date. He had a lady friend, who had a son, a real nice man with green eyes and a gentle manner. His friend had met Cyndy once, thought her perfect for her boy. Cyndy didn't remember the meeting, and would always manage to avoid any parentally arranged dates. Funny she thought of that now. Then again, while in the final stages of cancer, he had so worried that that she wasn't settled, as he put it. "Oh Dad," she whispered, and felt her chest tighten with the throbbing ache of emptiness.
Once the final shovel-full of earth was moved and raked smooth, the sun as if cued, began to push itself through the clouds slowly turning the dull pall of the mid-morn rain into a beautiful spring afternoon, almost magical, signifying a new beginning.
Cyndy continued to sob gently, sucking in shallow, painful breaths, allowing hurt to express itself.
Like the slow, intrusion of the sun a few moments before, a man’s voice encroached upon her grief. At first it was just a low murmur, then as if the wind had deliberately turned direction, it picked up the voice and brought it to her like a gift. She turned, surveyed the landscape but did not see anyone though she still heard it. The voice. Where? It danced upon the air. Playfully. Though obviously male, she could not discern what he was saying, just that he sounded happy with the buoyancy of an entertainer. Drawn, like a child to a puppet show, she moved toward the theatrical tones and intonations.
Back to her, he knelt there, right on a grave. She took a quick step sideways and hid behind a tall monolithic granite monument. Watching. Listening. A man, clad in a green slicker with the hood up rose, his face still hidden from view. He sat upon a green and white blanket that had been arranged neatly. He didn’t notice her. The blanket was perfectly square to the stone he faced. A brown wicker basket squatted to his left. Open. Food occupied two plates before him while adjacent the plates, she spotted two bottles of water. “A picnic?” she muttered, shaking her head, brows knitting.
An occasional laugh interrupted his loud speech. A gesture or two marked many of his sentences. Again, playful.
She thought, how inappropriate and insensitive. This was a cemetery, for goodness sake! What right did he have to be so disgraceful? So disrespectful? She moved closer with all intentions of saying something in a scolding Sunday school teacher way. She was just in the right mood to scold someone, even though a small voice told her she shouldn't. The closer she walked the more she began to hear even though the breeze kept distorting the intonations.
He sat Indian-legged with a leather-bound briefcase setting in his lap. He read from the case. Laughing. Teasing. Gesturing. Talking to the headstone as if it were a friend and loved one. Showing moments of seriousness. Stopping for emphasis. Sipping some water. Eating a grape. Looking down at his portfolio, studying a minute then talking again. Turning the pages slowly. Entertaining the stone.
His actions brought her pause. They were so wonderfully personal. Private. She felt the pull of embarrassment because they were so private.
She crouched behind another stone, listened to his stories, becoming engrossed when he talked about a baseball game he saw and the foul ball that bounced two seats away. A genuine heart-felt humanity emerged when he talked about a calico cat that got into his home and hid under his bed for two days, tormenting his dog. He finally caught her and found her a home, and he wished he had known her better. The ‘her’ she first thought was the cat. Then she realized it was the person buried. More tears emerged when she heard his voice crack under the abrupt intensity of emotion. “I truly miss you. I wish we had had more time. When it was just getting good, you were taken. I have been blessed to have you, but hurt that you are gone.”
New tears streamed down Cyndy's cheeks.
He rose. Collected his picnic. Kissed two of his fingers, touched the stone and said, “See you next year. Don’t go anywhere. Okay!”
Cyndy smiled at his humor remarking beneath her breath, “What a gentle, caring man.”
He walked away without ever looking in Cyndy’s direction. She waited until he was gone then curious, believing that it had to be his wife, approached the headstone. She read it and saw that the date of death was the same as today, but many years earlier. She calculated date of birth and death. It was his mother. A flash of bonding with the soul and spirit of the unknown man formed, a bond, born in the loss of a parent on the same date. Their date. This man she had been about to scold became a distant, even though unknown, friend. May 12th connected them. Forever.
Her tears stopped. Cyndy somehow didn’t feel quite as alone.
A year passed, she had forgotten about the man, but not about visiting her parents' graves. Unlike the day of the funeral, it was a glorious day, truly spring with the promise of summer. She knelt before the tombstones and began a long discourse about her work, her life, her lack of romance.
Suddenly a man's voice interrupted. "Care for some water?" He held out a water bottle. "My name's Charles."
She looked up into kind green eyes and remembered the voice, the tender modulated tones from the year before.
At that moment something clicked, something solid and right. "Thank you," she said, and instantly knew in a strange warm wash of certainty that she'd never be alone again.
In the heavens, Charles' mother and Cyndy's father grinned at each other. They finally managed the blind date their stubborn children had once refused.
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Angelica Hart and Zi
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