By Susannah Farrell
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Note to the Reader
A tear slowly slipped down Emily's cheek as she stared blankly at the coffin being lowered into the ground. Still, she didn't notice the presence of this tear. All she knew was that she was confused. She didn't know what to feel exactly. Emily didn't know if she should feel angry, frustrated or sad. The only thing she felt was a hollow emptiness somewhere deep within her, but she felt somehow obligated to feel more than that.
Her father had died, but she felt she wasn't reacting the way people were supposed to when someone close to them has passed on. Some part of her knew, or rather felt, that she should be crying. Maybe not everyone cried when something bad happens, but it wasn't sadness that she felt. For some unexplainable reason, Emily was angry. Why did he have to die leave her and her mother all alone? Her mother had no job, no means to support the two of them, let alone continue paying for utilities and the bare necessities.
He left without leaving them any money, and had actually left most of the bills for them to pay off. Charles Brown had never been one to plan or think ahead. He had been sixty when he had died and he had continually squandered all of his savings on alcohol and bad investments. Emily could still remember some times when her father had spent his whole paycheck on booze and forgot to pay the bills. The electricity would be shut off, and the little bit of food that they had in the fridge would go bad.
Emily turned to her right. A familiar knot formed in her chest. Her weeping mother could barely stand on her two feet. Emily reached for her hand and squeezed it lightly. She felt a bit reassured when she felt a little pressure in return. It hurt her deeply to see that she couldn't do anything for her. She wished that she had the power to take all of her mother's pains away. Helplessness filled her every bone. Another tear left a glistening path down her cheek, and it finally dawned on her that she was really crying. But why?
"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust..." The priest's words had barely registered in her mind, for all she could worry about now was about her mother's well being. Emily knew she had to take responsibility, and it wasn't the first time she had to do so.
Ever since Emily was old enough to form coherent sentences, her father had forced her to do most of the housework. Most of her childhood wasn't spent in the playground. Instead, it was spent cleaning, cooking, mowing the lawn, and doing whatever her father wanted her to do. Whenever she wasn't doing her homework during her teenage years, she spent that time holding part time jobs in order to pay for her books and sometimes even for the groceries. She knew she had a responsibility. She had to take care of her mother.
After all of this time, Emily only now realized why she didn't care for her father that much. She resented him, because he had never let her have a childhood. She never even had a decent adolescence. She had never made any friends, and the few times she had actually come close making one, she felt too different and ended up pushing them away. She told herself again that she didn't love her father, but another tear followed the other, tracing the same wet path as before.
Even after all the pain he'd caused her over the years, Emily couldn't help feeling sad. As she tossed her flower into the grave, she finally realized that some part of her always wished that she and her father could come to terms with each other, and maybe get along. Now that he was gone, they would never have the chance to mend their relationship, and that was what saddened Emily the most.
The burial was now over, and everyone was in the process of leaving; yet Emily still stayed behind. An odd sensation coursed through her body when she watched the coffin being buried. As the last shovel-full of soil was put on the grave, Emily felt the tight ball in her chest loosen a bit. She vowed to herself from then on that she would move out of the house and leave the place that had given her so many bad memories. But then, she thought back to how devastated her mother was. It tore her heart out to know that she had actually considered leaving her all alone. She knew it was impossible and selfish of her to want to leave home. She had to stay for the woman who brought her into this world and the only source of love that she had ever had.
"Honey, I have something to tell you," said Alice.
"What, mom?" Emily was curious about what her mother had to say. It had been a couple of months since her father's death, and her mother seemed almost fully recovered. The first few weeks were hard on both of them, but especially hard on Emily's mom. Alice barely spoke two words during that time, no matter what Emily did to try and cheer her up, nothing worked. It surprised her to see her mother trying to initiate a conversation.
"Do you remember grandma Brown?"
"How could I forget? She was so kind. She actually used to listen to the crazy stories I made up.” She made me feel safe.
“Her lawyer called after your father died and I know I should have told you this sooner, but...”
“Well, it was so soon after your father died, and I didn’t want to see you go…”
“Go where?” Emily prodded.
“Anywhere but here.”
Emily merely stayed silent. She would not go. Her mother needed her here. Why on earth would she want to leave home for anyway?
When Emily didn’t answer, her mother continued, “Your grandmother has left you her estate and her money. Apparently, she secretly put in her will that you should get her estate only once your father died. Why, I don’t know.”
But Emily knew why. If her grandmother had given Emily her fortune when her father was alive, he would somehow manage to lay his filthy hands on the money and spend it all on useless things. Fortune? What was she talking about? Grandma Brown wasn’t rich.
“You see, Emily, your grandma had saved a lot of money when she was alive. She also made good investments. So now, the money has been left to you, but apparently, your grandmother made several restrictions. In order for you to gain access to the money, you have to leave here and live in New York for awhile. You also had to be at least twenty, and your father had to be… gone. “
“But I can’t go. You need me here.”
“Emily, honey, you and I both know that we don’t have enough money to pay for the bills here. You have to go.”
“Then come with me,” she pleaded.
Her mother did not hesitate to answer, “You need to spread your wings, honey.” She smiled wistfully and continued, “I wish I could come with you, but my place is here. You could always send me a check or two once a month. Besides. I’m getting a new job and I’m starting it next week. It pays much better than the one I have now.”
“Emily Brown. You are a young woman. You have dreams don’t you? Didn’t you dream of becoming so much when you were younger? I know your father prevented you from following your dreams, but now’s your chance to make them come true. Besides, if I don’t let you go, I’ll be preventing you from following your dreams. I don’t want to screw up your life anymore than I already have.”
“What are you talking about? You haven’t.”
She merely looked at her daughter. So quiet, so graceful, so beautiful. So deeply scarred because of her own mistakes. She couldn’t let Emily pass this chance up. She had to go. It would hurt for a bit, but Emily wouldn’t be gone forever.
“You know I have, but just do me this favor. Take this chance and live your life like you’ve always wanted to.”
“But mom!” Emily had tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to leave her mother. Ever. She needed her. Her mother needed a protector. She needed Emily.
“No buts about it! You can always visit, you know.” She plastered a determined look on her face to hide the pain that she was already starting to feel.
More tears threatened to fall from Emily’s face, but she took a really good look into her mother’s. She looked at the sparse furnishings left in their home, and remembered that the phone had been disconnected long ago. The lights were off, so that they could save money. She thought of the supper they had shared the previous night. Cold chicken. If this kept up, they would lose the house. Emily finally realized that her mother was right. She needed to go. Not just for the money, but for herself.
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