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January 30, 2023

Good Morning? 19

By Lydia Manx

"If that is what you truly wish, Esmeralda," it was softly decreed by the parish priest, Father Mike, to give in to my wish that I be left alone in my home after the funeral. The two policemen that had come with the priest to figure out what was to be done with me looked relieved that the priest had made the choice, and that they didn't have to schlep me off to some well-meaning family services group home for wayward orphans. Besides it wasn't like I wanted to be left alone at my family home, but there weren't exactly a ton of options for me after the folks had been killed, but the trio before me allowed me to dictate the terms. It also was the first taste I'd ever had of what adults did daily in their lives. I let the feelings wash over my soul and savored. I'd always known that it was a far different world for adults than kids, but to be given a peek into the other side was addicting.

After the priest agreed to my terms, it all seemed to work for all of us, as it was obvious that I didn't want to leave and the two detectives who more than likely didn't want to do any more paperwork than necessary. The next few days flew by and soon I was wearing some ill-fitting black dress; one of my neighbors had dropped it off, saying I could borrow it for the funeral, standing next to the graves of my adoptive parents. There were so many parishioners that showed up for the funeral, and then all the people automatically followed me home for something I'd never bargained on -- a wake. It seemed that my parents had been very popular people. But then the quickly-growing cynical side of me kicked in and I figured it was more like voyeurism was involved than true concern over the deaths.

The funeral director was nice enough to supply a car with a driver so I didn't have to beg a ride back from the graveside ceremony. My learner's permit was valid but I didn't exactly have an adult to ride along side and suck in air when I missed stop signs and clipped the curbs when I took corners. My sixteenth birthday was an approximate date since my biological mother hadn't left a note pinned to me saying when I was born much less if I had even been given a name. Ironically the day we traditionally celebrated my birthday day was the day after I buried my parents. I wasn't sure precisely how I'd even get my driver's license since the family car was totaled and I didn't know that many adults willing to get into a car with a teenager.

So after my adopted parents were buried, I got into the black sedan provided by the nice funeral director and was slowly driven back to the house by a quiet young man in a black suit. He held open the door and I began to walk towards my home and to my surprise there were already people inside and many others milling around outside standing on the lawn chatting and sipping at cups while some sipped from plastic cups. The double funeral had attracted a huge gathering. Some were parishioners who I vaguely recognized while others seemed to be from the fringes of our lives and I noticed when they'd come to watch the proceedings with odd looks on their faces. The somewhat shocked fear of death laced with almost a gleeful happiness that it wasn't them near as I could see -- survivors remorse with a bit too much teeth in my book. The wake at the house eventually wound down without my help.

Nobody knew what to say to me. I didn't know too many kids who had to host the post funeral parties so I was on my own. It wasn't like back then that the Internet provided the answers for that little challenge. The well-meaning folks had brought casseroles in foil pans, brightly colored Jell-O salads with a choice of fruit suspended or vegetables -- I don't know which was scarier the fruit or the veggies but either way they both made me queasy just looking at them -- and some assorted breads and crackers that were left with little condolence notes. I was utterly bewildered by the sheer volume of food left for me in the fridge and when I went to move one of the dishes that looked appetizing to the freezer I was stunned to see there were already many more containers of mystery dishes someone had thoughtfully shoved inside the freezer. I couldn't recall seeing anyone walking inside with bags filled with food but apparently it had happened as the evidence was all around me.

I grabbed a large trash bag from beneath the kitchen sink and began tossing paper plates of half eaten food and abandoned salads and appetizers that had been somewhat hidden around the house. The plastic cups came as another surprise when I sniffed a tea colored beverage in a nearly brimming glass. It was straight liquor. I continued to find cups and then beer bottles hidden in the landscape of my home that people had left for me to clean up. I took the full bag outside to the trashcans and was surprised to find the first one was full with bottles and plates and the second one nearly full. I know that my parents hadn't kept much alcohol around the house so the guests had brought their own adult beverages. Shaking my head, I finished cleaning the signs of the party top to bottom of the house before night fell. I was exhausted. I hadn't seen the detectives since that first morning after the accident but the priest had been by a few times with some nice ladies who had handled everything.

In fact the priest had been one of the last to leave, "Esmeralda, I am sorry for your loss. Please call the rectory if you need anything. I am going out of town for the next few weeks, but I think you know Mrs. Chandelle in the front office. She can assist you if you need something." He seemed unsure of what more to say and scurried out after patting my hand. I wanted to tug his hand and say, "Hey, Father Mike, can you take me to the DMV so I can get my driver's license?" But I didn't. Instead I had started my cleaning.

Once everything was put back in its proper place, I flopped down on the couch and wondered what I was going to do. I had been told by my teachers to take the rest of the week off and not worry about school or anything. Since I didn't have anyone to drive me to and from school that was an easy choice. I knew that there was an attorney due to visit the day after tomorrow, but nothing more.

I turned the television on just in time to catch the local evening news. The top story running was a shark attack and they showed the grotesque, colorful footage of the semi-mauled leg of a surfer who'd gone out in a known bull shark area and been reminded for his troubles that humans weren't apex predator in the ocean. Naturally the boy said he'd be back on his board once he finished rehab. Looking at the mess of his leg I wondered if he was doing physical therapy or drug rehab cause he had to be high to think he'd be even walking anytime soon. Then the weather gal got up and spun around looking pretty in her short shirt and low cut top while pointing out the obvious to anyone who'd stuck their head outside -- it was raining. It was followed by the next bit which was shown on the news and that was a cutaway to a solemn-looking man holding a microphone by his lips while staring intensely into the camera and standing in front of a courthouse with the promise of a breaking story after the commercial break.

Bored, I got up during the advertisement for a comfortable bed that probably cost more than a small car and wandered into the kitchen. I pulled out a chunk of cheese and sliced off a few slivers and put onto a paper plate with some of the crackers left by the guests. I found an apple and it joined my snack tray with some olives and celery. Looking at all the other containers in the fridge pretty much froze me dead in my tracks. There was just so much food. I made a mental note to see if I could donate the food to one of the homeless shelter without hurting anyone's feelings.

The commercials ended just as I was sitting down. The anchors shuffled papers in front of them to give the illusion they were hard-hitting reporters not pretty people just reading words supplied by others on the unseen Teleprompters that were just over the shoulder of the cameramen in the studio. Shuffling done, the woman nodded as if she found something and looked directly into the camera and said, "You are hearing this here first. We'll go right to Jim and he can fill us in on the latest in this ongoing local story."

The reporter that had been on before the commercials was suddenly filling the frame with a deep frown almost marring his perfect features. "Thank you, Tina. Today was a day of mourning for the Meredith family. What should have been a day of prayer and healing for a broken family leaving a local young high school student an orphan has become a further example of how money can hide anything."

Then to my further horror I watched stock footage roll of my parents funeral complete with the solemn car procession of the friends of my parents with the subsequent gravesite burial of the mourners. And to totally make me crazy, I saw me standing next to the graves of my parents bowing my head while Father Mike read a passage from the Bible. I hadn't even known that anyone was filming.

"This poor orphan girl has another hit coming. It was just reported that the man who ruined her childhood is getting out on bond and his lawyers are claiming that he blacked out and doesn't remember anything. So this tragic day has taken a turn for the worse. We'll keep you posted as we hear more." Then behind the reporter on the step I saw a man in a suit hold his hand up palm out covering his face from the camera while another man in a suit walked next to him touching his elbow guiding him down the steps. The reporter touched his ear then spun around saying, "And here is the man. Mr. Fletcher, do you have a moment?"

He made it sound like a sincere question while damn near smashing the microphone into Mr. Fletcher's face. I was stunned to see the man who'd done so much damage. His face was screwed up in a bitter scowl. His eyes were light blue, his hair tousled and looking to be sandy brown with some sun streaks accentuated by his deep tan. Taking a look at the man, I didn't feel anything. He was hissing something out of the side of his mouth to his lawyer. The lawyer stepped forward in front of the camera and said, "Mr. Fletcher doesn't have a moment. He has an appointment with one of the top doctors in the state to find out his medical condition. Please respect his privacy at this difficult time."

I may have bought the song and dance had I not seen behind the lawyer Mr. Fletcher's brief smirk pass over his face. He sickened me with that smile, and I knew why the reporter was so horrified. I didn't know much but I knew that man wouldn't see another night in jail. The few nights he'd spent during the time it took to bury my parents were pretty much it. He was rich enough to buy his way out of anything. I wondered why it had taken so long, but then it was probably something to play for the cameras.

I was shocked at how cynical I'd become in just a few days.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-01-28
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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