This story is another written in 60 minutes piece for the writer's group I belong to with some old friends. I thought I would share it here.
I hope you'll all enjoy it..
I can't remember what her voice sounded like. I try and I try, but the particulars of it have already faded in the last two months. I remember things she said, but not how she sounded. Sitting in my office, trying to work on whatever it is that is laid out in front of me, I think I hear her. I strain forward, thinking I am at last waking from a nightmare. For a minute I believe hat she isn't gone, that I'll hear her call me "mother" again. That everything can return to the way it was.
And then, silence.
It all comes rushing back. My baby, the child I loved the most is gone.
I was an awful mother to her, short with her when I should have found the patience to have listened. If I had known how short our time together was going to be, I swear I would have spent every waking minute with her. I would have learned the names of her dolls. I would have played tea party or watched her ride that damned pony...
I was glad when I found out he shot it. If he hadn't, I might have.
I remember her first jump. The way she hammered on my office door, her small voice calling to me, "Mother, come and watch, daddy's gonna let me jump!."
I can recall most of what she said to me during her short life with perfect clarity, but I can't hear her. The words are just there, in my memory. I close my eyes and pray that in just one of my memories, I will hear her, really hear her. If I could just do that, I could find some measure of peace.
I remember watching as she neared the bar, for a second I was a little afraid. What if the pony threw her, I thought briefly. But, it didn't. She was up and over in an instant. I clapped dutifully, wanting only to get back to the books for the store. Since I'd foolishly parted with the mills, the store had become my focal point of interest. If I had known, if I had only known...
She was so proud afterwards. For a minute, she turned her attention to me instead of Rhett, demanding recognition of her feat.
"Did you see me Mother, I jumped!"
I did see. God in heaven, I did see, but I did nothing. Why would I? She was so happy, so pleased with herself. I laughed. After all, what was there to fear, she made her first jump with flying colors. I had no reason to think that she wouldn't continue to do so.
I laughed at happy she was. I laughed at how proud of her Rhett was.
How proud of her Rhett was.
Suddenly, the word 'was' breaks my heart.
That last morning, she spilled milk on the Irish linen table cloth that I had just bought the month before. She hadn't been paying attention; the day was beautiful and all she wanted was to get outside so she could practice jumping. I scolded her. She was sorry, I could see it in her bright blue eyes.
But I couldn't just accept her apology. I had to make a point. Rhett wasn't at the table, for once I would have the chance to discipline her and I seized it.
I don't remember what I told her exactly. Something about being careless and spoiling things.
She left the table, her small shoulders slumping a little. She left suitably chastised and I went upstairs, pleased that for once I was able to correct her behavior without Rhett interfering.
Brushing out my hair in my room, I felt a twinge of regret. I had been a little harsh, certainly more than what she deserved for so small an infraction. After all, it was only milk. It wouldn't stain. She didn't mean to tip over her glass, it was just an accident.
Then I heard her calling from the yard.
"Mother! Mother, watch me! Daddy says I can!"
They both looked up at me, father and daughter alight with the happiness of being together, outside in the sun. He smiled a little at me, and cautiously, I smiled back. No matter that the distance between us seemed immense. At least we shared one thing. Even if we couldn't find a way to love each other, at least we could both love her.
Her habit was terribly soiled, past the point where even Mammy could work her magic. I remember thinking I could bribe her with the offer of a hat to go with her new habit. She loved the cherry red gloves I'd bought her and had been begging for a new hat to match.
Those last moments are fixed in my memory. I can see her, sitting on the pony, her curls shinning in the bright morning sunlight. Thank God for the sun that last morning. At least her last moments were in the sun.
I felt sorry for scolding her earlier, so I called to her, wanting to make amends, "You're might pretty, precious."
And then, with a smile that lit up the world, she replied and I knew that she hadn't taken my scolding into her heart.
"So are you."
She was flying across the yard, her tiny cropping coming down on that damned pony's fat flank.
Then she cried out, the last words I would hear her say, the last words she would ever say...
"Mother, watch me take this one."