Lily of the Valley
Word Count: 804
She’d started walking every morning. Waving to this or that neighbor idly, not with any energy. She wore her sadness on her face and no one stopped to chat.
Most turned away, afraid to see.
Her name was Lily which was fitting. Lily of the valley her father would whisper when she sat on his knee. He meant love but his words brought death, a suggestion that the universe could not ignore.
A classmate she’d been close to, a mentor who’d seen her through tough times. Both of her parents. This or that pet, all fell before the unyielding hand of fate. Death followed her doggedly.
Not often. Not every year. The universe had its own timing; it didn’t confer with her. There was no discernable pattern, nothing anyone else could detect about these losses that troubled her life.
Only she could feel it, sense its impending tragedy. It pressed on her, increasing in intensity the closer the time came to the loss.
That morning during her walk there was no pressure. Death had come and gone and was a distant memory weeks in the past. It left her feeling empty.
The world knew they were missing: her four children. Missy, Lena, Jacob, Dixon.
Only Lily knew the truth. The universe had taken them. Its twisty fingers had wound around hers and darkened her heart–just for a moment, just long enough to steal her love away from her and right now each body slumbered in the woods, one boy and one girl in each grave.
Her house was empty. The silence shouted at her, cried out its accusations and as soon as she awoke each day she filled her coffee mug and she walked. Up and down the streets and all through the neighborhood. The labyrinth of the McMansions similar to the labyrinth in her mind. Sometimes her thoughts backed her into a corner but more often than not her mind was a long blank passageway.
She had no friends, not one soul who cared for her. Her days were empty of conversation. There was no one to see her close her eyes at night or watch them open in the morning. Or care whether they never opened again.
The neighborhood knew her as That Poor Unlucky Woman. They couldn’t truly know how unlucky because they only knew the end of her story. They knew that soon after her last child’s birth her husband Gerald had left her alone to raise all four of his children. Left her and never came back. Tut, tut, such a shame. She’d let slip that he’d returned to his Louisiana roots, chasing real estate dreams. (It was a lie that mocked the truth.) Or perhaps not.
Her neighbors whispered: Now his children were all missing and That Poor Unlucky Woman walked their valley. See her through the window? Poor dear.
She had enough to live on in their account. In two more years she could file for abandonment and then the insurance would kick in.
She gave that very little thought.
Today her path took her to the woods. Branches scraped at her arms. She lost her balance on uneven ground, stumbling against the bleach white trunk of a birch tree. Steadily she plodded along, undeterred. Leaves and twigs snapped underfoot, unnoticed. At an unmarked spot she stopped.
She filled the silence with her voice, soft and sweet. She told Lena she had found her spelling test under the couch that morning, congratulated her on getting a B. She told Missy how much her laughter was missed. She sang Jacob his favorite song and assured Dixon his toys were right where they belonged; she wouldn’t throw them away.
She swore to them that none of this was their fault, her innocents.
She moved away slowly, sidling over to a new spot nearby. The dirt was sunken here, diminished. This spot was years older than the others.
She stood in silence for a moment.
“I don’t miss you anymore,” she said. “I know you are with our children, and that gives me peace and saddens me both. At least they were greeted by your open arms.” Tears flowed down her face, and she sank to her knees. “Thank you, my love, for being the first sacrifice.”
She sat back in the leaves and shivered a little from the loss. She took a deep breath and then whispered so softly only his soul could hear, “I’m isolated now. Alone. I interact with no one. When the time comes, and let it be soon! only I will fall for I am the only one left that I care about.” She sighed deeply. “The universe must choose me, make me the final sacrifice.”
She closed her eyes. “Then, we shall all be together.”