On the Beautiful Shore

fictional short story

People say I’m too young to be here. I shouldn’t be here, they say. I see the worry about what will happen to me plastered on their faces. Grandma said Uncle Sidney was mad at her for letting me come. He doesn’t understand I need to know what’s going on. Don’t they know I need to say goodbye, too?

     The long, drawn out sounds of the organ the lady is playing across from me is irritating, like cactus needles stabbing my chest. It sounds like it’s painfully crying. Please, someone tell her to stop!

     “Eve, are you still okay?” Grandma asks me again. Three times she asked me and three times I said yes, I’m okay. Her arm feels heavy around my shoulder, but in a way, I’m glad it’s there.

     I look up at mom. All I can see is her closed eyes, straight nose, and sunken cheeks facing the ceiling. I wish she would wake up. If Jesus was here he’d tell her to get up and she’d have to. Then we’d lock hands and run out of this place, run fast out of this place…and we’d listen to happy music…and I’d hear her laugh again.

     “Where are you, Jesus?” I whisper.

     “What dear?” Grandma asks. Her face is tear-stained and her eyes nearly swollen shut.

     “Nothing. My head hurts,” I say.

     Grandma gently pats my shoulder. I glance at her. She pushes a few hair strands behind my ear and leans in and whispers, “When we get home I’ll give you an aspirin. Then you can lay down, okay?”

I nod.

On my lap, I feel the heaviness of my purple Bible. I’m not sure why I brought it, except mom gave it to me a few days ago, and with her soft, weak voice she told me to always keep it with me. “Always keep it close to your heart.”    

I notice the tiny, white polka dots on my pink dress. I stare at them for a minute to give my head a break from the sadness I’ve put it through. Grandma’s words pop in my brain from this morning, “Not the right color for a day like today but you sure look pretty in it.”   

     Two days now have passed but it feels like two years. Two long years ago but it’s been only two long days ago. Suddenly, I feel Barry’s arms slip around my neck. I smell his chewing gum. My heart beats faster at knowing he’s finally here.

     “Please, sit with me,” I beg.

     He jumps the pew and settles in close to me. Grandma usually would get mad at this sort of shenanigans-but not now. Barry’s never been at my church, or church at all that I know of, so he doesn’t know about not jumping pews.

     He looks behind us at all the people in the sanctuary, packed in like human sardines. He glances at the pastor in his royal chair, and then at the ladies that sing on the stage- but never at mom. I don’t blame him because he loved my mom almost as much as me. I take his hand and wrap my fingers around it. We hold hands on top of my purple Bible. He smiles at me. I smile back.

To be continued…

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