Authors: Joel M. Andre
By Joel M. Andre
© 2015 by Joel M. Andre
All Rights Reserved
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For Sage – 7 years later, you remain the greatest mystery of all.
A strong winter wind blowing outside had Trisha Haviland looking up from the scratcher ticket in her hand. The empty braches flowing like tiny hands clawing at the sky in agony, captured her attention. There were times she would sit there and debate whether or not the wind was nothing more than lost souls barreling across the land in a last attempt to escape death, before they finally went to their final destination.
If this was the case, the howling, the sudden chill and the feeling that icy claws were grasping at the skin would make sense to Trisha. As the wind blew harder, Trisha could feel her chocolate brown eyes open just a bit wider and her pulse jump a few beats. There was another reason why she didn’t like the wind.
To embrace the wind also meant that she had to leave the comfort of her home. For the last three years, the world seemed dangerous and uninviting. The change wasn’t all of a sudden. It just seemed to happen over the course of time. People seemed to go from being warm and sweet, to darker souls that were focused on consuming and dealing out negative situations. Their words would burn at her and their cold, soulless looks would focus on everything that was wrong with her.
She could feel their eyes cutting through her weight and she could feel their silent judgmental words.
“Look at the lumps of fat and flesh on that cow.” The silent voices would call. “Has she ever heard of a gym? Maybe if she tried to eat a salad instead of chips she could lose a few pounds.”
They didn’t need to speak a word to her, she knew exactly what they thought and said. Frankly, it was easier for everyone if she stopped coming out. So that’s what she did. She could deal with the disapproving looks of the mail lady and the disgusted looks of the delivery drivers, but what’s done is done. She was okay with it and this was going to be a better choice for her in the long run.
As the tears trickled down her soft white skin, she wiped it away. Pushing back on the chair behind her computer, Trisha stood up and tried to regain her composure. Walking to kitchen, she tearfully turned on the light and hurried over to the fridge. Looking through the contents, she found the last bottle of water and grabbed it.
The cool plastic felt good against her skin and she closed her eyes and pressed it against her neck. She knew she was getting herself worked up and knew it was time to calm down. Slowly, she inhaled and opened her eyes and exhaled.
“Get it together Trisha!” She snarled at herself.
Grabbing the hard plastic cap, she unscrewed the bottle top and put the small plastic opening to her lips. Then tilting the bottle back she felt the cool water flow down her throat as she chugged the water from the bottle. With the bottle done, she walked over to the trash and tossed the empty bottle in and caught her reflection in the stainless steel fridge.
“You are a disgusting 150 pound cow!” She hissed at her reflection. “Eat a salad sometime!”
Her words were harsh and unrealistic. The image of obesity in her mind was far from the reality of what she was.
For a moment, her eyes shifted across the room. Shelves full of mementos of her childhood she clung to were covered in dust. Old dolls that were once vibrant were caked with dust and in disrepair.
A photograph of an old B movie actor she once loved, was fading on the wall. The glass was dirty and was in desperate need of a cleaning.
Like the rest of her life, Trisha had allowed her living space to become cramped and crowded with memories of the past. These memories would go on to haunt her for a lifetime.
Turning to go, she sank back down in front of her computer. Pulling out her keyboard, she watched as a tiny scratcher ticket slid off of it. Curious, she picked it up. The front of the card was black with a golden skull on the front. Red sparkling letters at the top read, “Lucky Damnation”.
“I don’t gamble though.” Trisha whispered. “I wonder if Marisela left it here.”
Looking around, the wind outside the window was still blowing hard and howling. Standing up again, Trisha grabbed the ticket and pulled it in tight to her chest and begin to look around her home. An uneasy sense had come over her and she knew that she wasn’t alone in the home. She knew there was someone there watching her. A part of her told her to step out in the wind and take her chances with the world, her fate in the home was more damning that anything the world could offer her. But the front door was a prison gate that she couldn’t muster the courage to open.
Walking down the hall, she clicked on the light switch and the soft light flickered to life. As she peered down the hall, she opened her mouth and called out.
“My…my husband is on his way home. He’s, um. He’s a cop and he’ll shoot you. Graveyard dead, buddy. Let’s just put this behind us. You can leave and I won’t tell him you dropped by.”
Trisha silently hoped to herself that whomever was in her home didn’t know the truth. She had never been married. She did date a cop a few years ago. But he let her know that she would never be good enough for him, let alone any other man. So she spent time trying to make herself into someone a man would want. But that never seemed to happen. Her mother said she needed to break free of the emotional abuse the cop had dealt her. But her mother was supposed to tell her how beautiful she was. After all, what kind of mother tells their own child they’re fat and ugly?
The soft silence that surrounded her seemed normal and Trisha shook her head. Maybe her mother had dropped off the ticket at some point to give her a few seconds of hope that something better could happen to her. Well, she was going to prove it wrong. There was no way that she was going to win a thing.
Reaching into the pocket of her blue jeans, Trisha fished out a quarter and pressed it to her lips. “From my lips to God’s ears.” She whispered. “Let this be my time”
Pressing the edge of the quarter to the ticket she slowly began to scratch away at the coating. Her heart began to beat harder as she quickly sped up and blew away the metallic curls that were left behind. Beneath them the words, “Congratulations” were written. It felt like someone hit her hard in the stomach and her eyes began to sting with tears.
Finally, life was going her way. Her body shook hard and she began to breathe heavier. She was overcome with the joy and emotion that surrounded her. Shaking it off quickly, she had to make sure it wasn’t just a dollar winner. She needed it to be that big ticket item she could shove in her mother’s face. With her hand quivering she continued to scratch away at the rest of the ticket, dropped the quarter, and heard it thump hard on her desk.
Her heart stopped for a moment and she gazed at the card and felt time stand still. She was able to look up for just a moment, before noticing outside the window, a gun pointed at her and firing. Falling forward her head hit the keyboard. A trickle of blood seeped from the wound and slowly beneath the scratcher ticket. In crimson red letters, the words “You’re Dead” were in bold. For once her fate was in the cards and this time it was accurate.
Marisela Gomez blinked her big brown eyes from behind her black veil as she sat somberly in the back of an old church. Her long black hair was pulled back in a respectful ponytail, while her long flowing black dress was plain and a respectful length for a funeral. She glanced at the tiny sliver watch her grandmother had given her. She liked the way it blended with her cinnamon colored skin.
The air was heavy with sadness and the scent of smoky incense. The old oak pews of the church held few mourners to celebrate the life of a young woman. One that had been brutally murdered in cold blood, and she was such a sweet woman too. While Marisela only knew her from a few interactions at her old job, she was always fond of Trisha.
It seemed so strange to think that inside the soft brown willow wicker casket in front of the church, a life of promise and a strong future had come to an end. Marisela could recall the girl’s history and background. She was a 31 year old woman who had just graduated from Mingus Community College with a 3.4 GPA, and had a very promising career as a reporter for the Mingus Mountain Independent in Cottonwood. Everyone who knew her couldn’t help but stare at her. She was stunning and certainly turned heads before the jackass cop broke her heart, and then she went into hiding. It was almost as if her life went turned into a harrowing novel that a writer just discarded in their trash bin.
Looking around, it was disheartening to Marisela to find that today’s attendance of nine people, including herself, was all the poor girl would have to say goodbye. Of those, they seemed to be nothing more than family members and an odd little man that Marisela herself had never noticed before. All of them sitting and waiting patiently in the uncomfortable wooden pews as they seemed to be lost in the thoughts of what they were going to do as soon as this inconvenient event finally ended. It was in this moment that Marisela noticed no one was there to mourn the woman, and instead, eyes remained dry and there were no weeps of sorrow.
Trying to ignore the obvious, she turned her attention to the large cross made from a blend of cedar, cypress and pine hung over the altar. The large wooden piece was outlined in gold and on its own it would have still made a considerable statement. Her big brown eyes cringed slightly as they fixed on the image of Christ as he had been immortalized in suffering to remind the world of the ultimate sacrifice he gave to them. While she loved the symbol of the cross, she always felt uneasy and saddened by this image. Marisela could feel the pain and sadness of Christ’s eyes as they met and she wept softly for a moment. All of this pain seemed too real and more than she could handle on her own.
Moving her head to the side, she knew she needed to focus on something else, to take her mind off the pain that was growing in her soul. Looking at the altar, she saw the Bible open and on display, sitting on top of an ornate runner. Tassels of gold and crystal lined it and it was a truly stunning sight to Marisela. Just behind the altar was the Eucharist held in the solar monstrance. Made from gold and resembling the sun, with the Eucharist in the center, it was an ornate beauty that managed to give off the beauty of God.
Marisela, again, was moved. There was so much spiritual significance in the moment and she felt like God was watching over the room and knew that he was being honored, while the girl in the casket was of little importance to the patrons in the church, even though on the surface they were respectfully mourning the dead. This was unlike the funerals portrayed in the movies with people breaking down and throwing themselves at a highly ornate coffin, as innocence lost was getting its last recognition before being tossed into the Earth, only to be reclaimed by the Lords of the dead. Along with underground scavengers that would turn the young woman to their meal. A collection of worms, ants and beetles munching on her remains as she slowly decomposed, returning to the dust that once held life.
From behind the altar, she heard the pastor clear his throat and walk out as the organ played a solemn song. Marisela collected herself and stood with the others in the church and she looked on at the man dressed in white. She knew for him it would be a celebration of the woman’s return to Heaven and that the afterlife would welcome her with loving arms.
It was time, Marisela knew, and she looked up to the wooden beam ceiling and expected a powerful light to hover over the casket and to beam up the woman’s eternal soul. But nothing happened. Instead, the ceremony continued and aside from the last rites and amen being offered by the attendees, nothing extraordinary happened.
Unable to handle much more, Marisela decided it was time to go. She stood from the pew she was in, straightened out her black dress and lifted a finger to wipe the tears from her eyes. She anticipated the tears to feel warm when she wiped at them, but they surprisingly held no feeling at all. Arching her back and trying to remain strong, Marisela closed her brown eyes and gathered herself for a moment. She was ready to move forward.
As she walked to the back of the church, no one turned to look; no one took notice that one of the few attendees was making her escape. She chose not to look around or to worry about the world around her any longer. She needed to get beyond this madness. She couldn’t understand why there wasn’t more pain. As she reached the church door, she looked into the tiny parking lot.
Walking to her old beat up white truck, she paused for a moment and looked back at the church. A part of her felt guilty that she was leaving and she felt like she should be respectful for the dead. However, another part of her figured that Trisha wouldn’t even know whether or not she was there. She wanted to believe that when you go to heaven that everyone forgets the pain of the world, that no matter if you had nothing more than a pastor saying a few prayers for you, or if thousands attend your funeral, that your life matters only in that moment.
Jumping into the driver side of her truck, Marisela threw the truck into reverse and decided she had had enough for one day. As she peeled up, she noticed the door to the church was pushed ajar and the old man she had noticed was waving a shameful finger at her. Turning her eyes away from his image she shivered and tried to pretend like it never happened.