An Unmarked Grave
This is something I got the idea for over a year ago. I've written at least five different beginnings for it, and finally come up with one I'm happy enough with to post up here. I wrote the beginning of this about six months ago, then forgot it, and only decided to continue it around a week ago, so you might notice changes in the quality or style of the writing at some point. Also, the paragraphs are very unprofessional. They're way longer than they should be. :P
Anyway, enjoy. :)
Also, I'm open to suggestions for an alternative title. I'm not happy with the current one, (But then, I'm never happy with the titles I choose.) and I'd appreciate any ideas.
Thank for reading. :D
The sound of a wire door creaking open was the first thing Lily had heard since her father’s departure almost ten hours ago. A broad smile crept across her face as she heard the familiar sounds of her father’s keys dropping onto a table in the hall, and his heavy footsteps clumping into the room. He smiled warmly and opened his arms wide as his eyes fell upon her, and she rushed forwards eagerly to embrace him and he wrapped his arms around her. She clung to him tightly, relishing in the feeling of relief that washed over her as the last of her dread began to seep out of her body. Her father seemed to sense exactly what Lily was feeling, as always.
"I'm sorry." He whispered. "I'm sorry I left you for so long, it won't happen again. I promise." He released her, and Lily nodded, not looking him directly in the eye. She could not bring herself to believe him, not again. It had happened so many times before, after all, how could he promise her that he would not leave her like that again? The lie hung in the air heavily, making the silence between them awkward and strange.
“Where were you?” She asked quietly. He did not avoid her gaze as he answered, a practiced liar.
“The car broke down, again. You know how it is; the thing’s in awful condition, it’s bound to break down sometimes.” Lily drew in her breath, and did not let it out. The same excuse, always.
“Ten hours, dad.” Was all that she said. He nodded.
“I know.” His words were soft, and his expression was so sad that she could not bear to blame him. She hugged him tightly; wishing he would never leave again, never climb into that stupid old car and leave her alone, not again. He held her for a moment, and then pushed her away gently.
“Come on.” He said. “Let’s go visit your mother. Be strong now, Lily.” She nodded, and quickly brushed past him, heading for the creaking door that lead into the small backyard of their house. It was locked, it had been locked all day, and she waited while her father took the key from its place by the door and fitted it into the lock, then swung the door open to reveal the secluded area outside. It was little more that a small patch of grass, surrounded by a fence that had been extended in height at some point over the years by her father. There had been flowers once, but nothing remained of them now. The grass was kept short enough, but it was completely strangled by various weeds and thistles that grew in abundance. There was one small patch of land, however, that was always kept clean, and even had clusters of carefully planted snowdrops growing around its rim. It was the only pretty thing in the house, but that was not why they come to see it.
Lily knelt down carefully beside the patch of grass, carefully brushing aside a small number of twigs and leaves that had settled upon the spot overnight. When she had been younger, she had not understood the importance of solemnity when she was around this place, but these days, the feeling came naturally. When she thought about it, she still did not quite understand why it was necessary to be so quiet and sad when she came here, but it did not occur to her to question what her heart told her was right. She placed her hand on the bright patch, twining her fingers through the fresh blades of grass, and brushing the brown earth beneath them lightly. This was the only place where she could be close to her mother, at least, until she came back. She had visited this place every day without fail, since her mother had left in the night. Lily’s father had always promised her that, whatever she said here, her mother would always hear her. And she believed him, forever and always. She was not sure how, but my some wonderful power, her mother could hear each and every word she spoke when she sat in this place. Whether she was merely rambling about her day, about her life, or whether she was begging through her tears for her mother to hurry back home, so that Lily need not be so alone anymore, she knew that her words must surely carry to a place far away, to the place where, as her father assured her, her mother promised to return from as soon as she possibly could. Her spirit seemed to draw in the sunlight that rested gently on her skin, adding to her sudden sense of peace and completion.
“Dad.” She said quietly, taking her time. “How long ago was it now?” She asked. She did not need to say anymore.
“Ten years, since your mother left us. You were only four years old then. I wonder, what do you remember about her?” Said her father.
Lily did not answer immediately, for she knew it was easier to let memories drift in and out of your mind in their own time, rather than to search and pry through your thoughts for them.
“I remember her touch, the smell of her hair, her breath on my cheek when she spoke to me, holding me close…”Lily smiled at the memories. “I don’t remember what she looked like.” She said, a little sadly. She wondered how it would be if she were to walk past her own mother one day, and not recognise her, and not be recognised in return. The thought chilled her to the bone.
“She was beautiful.” Said her father, and Lily looked up, surprised. Was he going to talk about her, for the first time in years? “She looked so much like you, you know. You’re a perfect image of her, your eyes, your nose, your lips…even the way you speak is so like her. Her hair was black, though, and straight.” He said quietly. Lily ran her fingers through her own hair, which was light brown and curled. She tried to form an image in her mind of what her mother might have looked like, of a woman with small brown eyes like her own, a heart shaped face that was pale from lack of sunlight, and heavily-lidded eyes. Somehow, the image felt right. As though she had known and loved that face once before, a long, long time ago. Suddenly, she felt a familiar wrenching in her chest, as though a hand was clasped around her heart and squeezing with all of its strength, choking her. She longed to be held in her mother’s arms once again, too look upon her bright, loving face, and say-“Mother…Mummy…I’m so glad you came home…I’ve been so lonely here without you.” Before she could stop herself, tears were streaming down her cheeks, and she was sobbing. She laid her head on the ground, so that her tears landed on the grass and flowed into the earth. Maybe, they would reach her mother, and she would know how much her daughter missed her. Maybe, just maybe, she would feel her daughter’s pain, and finally come home.
Lily’s father offered no words of comfort. For several minutes, she heard no signs of movement, and wondered whether he was watching her, or whether he was gazing at the square patch or grass, thinking of the woman that had left him. When she finally heard movement, it was the soft crunch of her father’s sneakers on the grass, and she knew he was going to leave.
She drew in a breath. “Don’t-” She choked, fighting to hold back tears. She heard him stop, and raised her head to look at him.
“Don’t what?” He said, quietly.
Her tear-stained eyes met his, and she held his gaze, pleading. “D-daddy? Please, don’t…don’t drink tonight.” The change was instantaneous. His features changed from soft and concerned to blank, vacant. His eyes still met hers, but they had become hard and impenetrable. She knew that he was battling with himself. Ready to tear her apart for daring to make such a request, or smile and tell her that everything was going to be okay.
Lily tensed, bracing herself for the anger that she had become so accustomed to, but her father’s features softened.
“Okay, Lily.” He said, his voice soft and calm once more. “I won’t tonight. I promise.” She gave him a hesitant smile. “Thank you, Daddy.” She said, relief flooding her body. She relaxed again, and watched as he stood and returned to the darkness of the house, the grass crunching beneath his feet as he left. Lily remained outside until the sun had set, and the cold began to set in. A chill wind was rising, and it was becoming almost too dark to see. She looked up, and saw that clouds had gathered overhead. She didn’t want to leave, but soon, her father would be calling her inside. She returned her gaze to the patch of grass that the darkness was slowly snatching away from her vision, and placed her hand on the grass. It was her way of saying goodbye to her mother. With her fingers, she pushed aside the shoots of grass, and dug her hand into the soil, feeling the roots brushing her fingers.
“Goodbye.” She whispered, and imagined her mother, in some faraway place, had heard her voice, and had bid her goodbye in return. Lily moved her hand, meaning to withdraw it from the cool earth, but stopped suddenly. Her fingertips had brushed something cold, and hard. Confused, Lily moved her hand until the thing was almost in her palm. Then, she curled her fingers, and lifted her hand.
It was a ring; a simple, gold ring. There were no carvings, no letters, and no decorations of any sort. It was coated in a thin layer of rust. She looked at it, wondering how it had gotten there, and what it meant.
“Lily?” Her father’s voice called her, quiet but commanding. It was time to leave. She slipped the ring into the pocket of her jeans, and stood, casting a final longing glance at the patch of grass, before going inside.
Lily made dinner for herself and her father, following a recipe from a book that her mother had left behind. Not that she needed to look at the recipes anymore, she knew most of them by heart, but she felt better when she was close to something that belonged to her mother. Her father was in the living room. She could hear the T.V blaring, and see the light it cast against the wall through the open doorway. A man’s voice was shouting through the speakers, but his words were so fast and distorted by static that she could not make out what he was saying. She didn’t mind that their T.V was so old. She had always preferred reading, after all. But she knew how much it aggravated her father. Whenever the reception was as bad as it was tonight, he got angry. But she was comforted by the memory of his promise. No drinking tonight. Tonight, everything was going to be okay. Lily turned on the stove, and placed a pot onto the element. Flames licked around the edge of metal, waving at her and vanishing again. The stove, like the T.V, like everything in her house, was old and unreliable. Lily stirred the contents of the pot, then went to talk to her father while it heated.
The scene that met her was not what she had expected. Her father was not watching the television, although it still blared loudly. He sat, his chest rising and falling rapidly, with his face buried in his hands. There was an empty bottle of alcohol on the table. Lily stopped dead.
“Dad?” She said, quietly. He drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. This was the only sign he gave that he had heard her. She took a step closer, tentatively.
“Daddy? Are you okay?” She asked. For a moment, there was no response. Then, he rubbed his eyes, and raised his head to look at her. He was crying. For a moment, he stared at her, as though trying to place her, then he spoke.
“You…” he slurred. She realised that he was drunk again. She blinked, surprised and hurt that he had broken his promise so easily, and began to back away from him.
“You.” He repeated. “It’s you.” He closed his eyes, frowning.
“Me? Me…what?” She asked. His eyes flew open, and she instantly wished she hadn’t spoken.
“It’s you.” She could hear the anger in his voice now. “It’s your fault. It’s all your fvcking fault.” He stood, and took a step towards her.
“No!” Lily protested. “No- please don’t!” She turned and tried to run, but had hardly taken her first step before she felt his hands around her shoulders. He turned her around roughly, so that they were face to face. She could smell the stinking alcohol on his breath.
“It’s your fault I see her every day.” He growled. “Your face.” He dug his fingers into her shoulders and shook her. “Your face!” He roared. “Why do you have her fvcking face?” Lily screamed, and pulled away, but his arms were around her again in a second.
“I hate you!” He roared, and then his screams of rage mingled with her own. She tried to form words, but found that his hands were around her throat. Suddenly, her lungs would not draw in breath. She clawed at his hands, trying to pry his fingers away from her neck, but he took no notice of her. His eyes were dead set on her face, as though nothing else mattered to him.
“Why can’t you change?” He growled. “Why do I have to keep looking at her?” Lily had stopped listening. Her head felt light, and her arms had dropped to her sides. She had lost the strength and the will to move them. Suddenly, his eyes flickered away from her face, to something behind her. The pressure lifted from her neck, and she drew in gasps of air. His hand moved, grasping her by the face and forcing her backwards. His fingernails pierced her skin and she felt blood burst from the scratches he was making. She screamed, trying to force his hands away, but he was driving her backwards as though her efforts had no affect on him.
“Daddy, stop!” She screamed, but he paid no attention to her cries. She felt something hard press against her, and suddenly he was twisting her, forcing her head downwards. She heard a crash, and suddenly there was heat on the side of her face. Only then did she realise what was happening. The stove; the element. Lily screamed, and tried to push him away from her, but it made no difference. The heat on her face grew worse, and suddenly she was screaming uncontrollably as her skin sizzled and burned. She thrashed wildly, but he was forcing the side of her face onto the stove. The pain pierced her skin like daggers and shot down her neck. She screamed for help, for mercy, for release.
“It hurts!” Tears streamed from her eyes and turned to steam in an instant. “Daddy, please! Please stop!”
Her father didn’t stop, and her screams died out long before the pain was over.