It was a gloomy day in late April, in late afternoon.
Charlie Harper stood in the cool winds in her dress, hands in her overcoat pockets, as she looked down at the grave in front of her. She took one hand out and wiped her nose and glanced around the graveyard before looking back down at the headstone. If anyone had looked at her usually vibrantly blue eyes today, they’d almost appear black.
“Was it a lovely service?” a woman asked, approaching,as Charlie turned to look at her, checking her watch.
“You’re almost two hours late,” Charlie replied.
“Like he was ever on time for anything,” the woman, her sister Miranda, replied, “…where’s Mason?”
“At the car,” Charlie said, “He left his coat in the car. I told him that it would be cold, but no, he has to prove the weather wrong. Just because the sky is clear one minute doesn’t mean it’ll be fine the next.”
“God help him if he ever winds up in the eye of a tornado,” Miranda said, making Charlie smirk, “So…what was it like?”
“…it was weird, man,” Charlie said, “Really…just…weird. It’s weird to stand there and watch people sob and grieve over a monster, and they all expect you to be sad too. People act as if death deifies you, absolves you of all your wrongdoings, as if you never did them in the first place. It’s so strange. What’s worse is everyone knew what a horrible person he was and yet they still reacted this way, like he was saint of some kind who deserved better.”
“Boy, I’m sure glad I was on time,” Miranda said dryly, taking out and unwrapping an energy bar from her purse, biting into it, “Did you say anything?”
“No,” Miranda said, “They offered me the option, but I didn’t take it. I wouldn’t have known what to say. You can’t talk about how your father was a monster at this funeral, that’s just sort of frowned upon.”
“She wanted to, but she was afraid to. Understandable, I suppose. I don’t agree with it, but hell, I wasn’t going to say anything either, so who am I to judge,” Charlie said, just as Mason showed up at her side, pulling the zipper up on his coat, smiling at Miranda.
“Hey Mandy,” he said, and she waved, “What’re we talking about?”
“Societal pressures regarding familial relationships,” Miranda said.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a bitch,” Mason said, sighing, running one hand through his medium length scruffy hair and putting the other hand in his coat pocket, “After my aunt Clarence died, I had to clean out her things because nobody else would and I thought that was strange, but once I got into her belongings, reading her thoughts and stuff from diaries and whatnot, I quickly realized why nobody else wanted to expose themselves to that toxicity.”
“And yet,” Charlie said.
“And yet,” Mason picked back up, “when it comes time to send her off, suddenly everyone is crying, singing her praises, talking about all the good she’s done, as if that cancels out all the terrible things she did. It was so weird to see. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Was it for public performance? As a family unit, are you supposed to love and support one another, but then in private you can turn right around and talk about what a scumbag Cousin Tom is? I don’t know. I still don’t get it, and I likely never will.”
“I remember,” Miranda said, eating most of the energy bar and handing it to Mason, who happily took and finished it, “being, I guess, like, fourteen? Yeah, that sounds about right. Anyway, I wanted to go out and see a friend of mine named Megan and dad wouldn’t let me go because it was too late at night. Now, granted, that’s understandable, but I snuck out and went anyway, and when I came back, he told me I had to sleep outside if I wasn’t going to listen to him. He started locking me out of the house at night and I had to sleep in the plastic playhouse we had in the backyard, remember that one?”
“God, that thing was to tiny, you must have been cramped,” Charlie said.
“It was awful, and then he started to claim I didn’t care about the family or else I would try harder to be allowed to come back inside, like living indoors isn’t an inalienable right to a child,” Miranda said, “Sick. The man was sick.”
“I remember mom gave me some birth control in my senior year, and I had borrowed a hammer from his work bench to put some posters up in my bedroom and he went looking for it in my room, and he found the birth control and not only was he upset, but he also told me I was worth less value now because I’d so easily ‘given myself up’. I never told him mom gave it to me. I didn’t want her to have to deal with that, because the way I saw it, she had to deal with his maniacal ass every day as it was, so.”
“I am so glad my parents didn’t hate me,” Mason said, “Hearing these sorts of things, it really makes me appreciate what I had growing up. This sounds awful.”
The three of them stood there for a few moments, feeling the light drizzle of rain starting to hit their faces. Mason sighed and shook his head.
“I guess the question really ends up being, do you let someone off the hook just because they’re dead, or do you always hold them accountable for their wrongdoings? I mean, it’s hard once they die because they can’t technically atone for anything, they can’t better themselves, you know? They’re dead. At least if they were alive, you have the possibility that they might try and get better, but who knows, I guess,” Mason said.
“I think it comes down to how you feel personally,” Charlie said, “I…I can’t forgive him. Maybe at some point down the road I’ll feel comfortable enough to, but not now.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Miranda said, “And frankly, I doubt he ever would’ve changed. He wasn’t the kind of person to change.”
“Hello,” a young woman named Aubrey said, standing behind the headstone, as they all looked towards her, surprised by her sudden appearance. She pushed her bangs out of her face and exhaled, looking at each one of them before adding, “Am I interrupting?”
“Not really,” Charlie said, “Can we help you?”
“I’m…I guess I missed the service but that’s okay, I don’t know how comfortable I would’ve been anyway. I read about his death in the papers and wanted to come,” Aubrey said, “I never got to meet him.”
“Did you know him?” Miranda asked, her brow furrowing.
“He was my dad, apparently,” Aubrey replied, running her coral fingernails on the top of the headstone, “Um…I never, like I said, I never got to meet him, but I felt like I should at least come say goodbye, or something. Are you guys related to him?”
“We’re his kids,” Miranda said, “Except for Mason,” she added, pointing at him.
“What was he like?” Aubrey asked, smiling, pushing hair behind her ear.
Charlie was hit with a sudden wave of nausea. What was her moral responsibility here? Cover up this mans awful behaviors to another young woman, or let her believe that her father was a wonderful man? She hadn’t met him. She could build him up into a hero for herself, someone to admire, aspire to be like, someone she really needed. Miranda opened her mouth to respond, but Charlie beat her to it.
“He was very smart,” Charlie said, “He was a very smart, disciplined person, very dedicated to his work. His coworkers all loved him.”
If she had to talk about him, why not sing praises that were actually true? At least she wasn’t lying.
“All my mother ever told me about him was that they were together one night, resulting in me, and that he had always wanted a daughter but didn’t feel like he was prepared to handle it. I don’t think they ever spoke after I was born. I think she thought it’d be better that way, for both of us.”
Miranda felt a pang of anger towards their own mother; why had this girls mother saved her from having to live through the abuse they had to endure? That wasn’t fair. But then, it also wasn’t fair to be mad at the girl, for she’d done nothing wrong than be conceived by a monster, and then given the chance to avoid his horrid abuse.
“He wasn’t really ready for us, either,” Miranda said, adding to Charlies truth now, “So, you’re not alone in that. We were going to go for some lunch, if you’d like to join us, we can talk about him more.”
“I’d like that a lot,” Aubrey said, smiling as they all started walking back to the parking lot. As they got further away from the graveyard, Miranda’s cell phone rang, and she fished it from her purse, answering.
“Hello?” she asked, stopping and letting the others go ahead of her so she could speak in private, “Yes, I’m just going to get some lunch and then I’ll be back to finish the presentation. I know, I’m sorry, I had some errands to run. No, no, it was nothing important. I’ll see you shortly.”
With that, she ended the call, put the phone back in her purse and headed to her car.
[this is a repost from a Medium article I wrote]