She’d been talking to one of her friends on the beach when it happened. Clara was her name, and they’d been friends since forever she could remember, except until they weren’t for a while. They’d grown up together, running around the grapevines playing hide-and-seek until her mother, fresh out of patience and everything else, promised an unkind end to her if she didn’t appear at the door NOW!
She smirked. She was used to that. They’d never once gotten along for as long as she could remember. And she remembered a lot for a very long time.
Clara looked at her, concern and fear in her eyes, “Barbara, you need to go. Your mother will…”
“Fuck my mother and the beast that bore her,” she said, her disgust spit with words and saliva into the ground in front of her. Clara’s eyes widened, then closed slightly.
“Don’t…just…” she lost the words for a moment, then recovered. “It will be better if you just obey.”
Grey eyes went icy. “Oh. Of course. Be obedient. Sorry. I’d forgotten.”
Barbara got up, brushed the hem of her dress of dirt, and went home. Clara sat there a long while, until the stocky shape became one with the shadows. “Goddess keep you…” she whispered.
She’d gotten married, arranged as it was, to a journalist. And then he up and died on her while their son was still a toddler. Her mother kept telling her how bad she was at being a parent. “You’re nothing like me,” her mother would prounounce haughtily. The words were in her head even as she cooed the lad to sleep after another night-terror had him bolt upright in bed screaming “I DON’T WANT TO DROWN!!!”
“It’s your fault he has these dreams,” her mother said. “You were a lousy child. And now you’re a lousy Mother.”
Grey eyes remained icy through every beratement that came from her mother, even as she wiped the sweat from her son’s forehead every night as he tossed and turned and thrashed and tangled himself in the blankets until he woke sobbing….sobbing…sobbing…and she held him and rocked him and said “It’s alright baby, I’m here. It’s alright. Mommy’s here. You’re safe. You’re safe. You’re safe…”
Her mother died of a slow, poisoning, agonizing disease that the Doctors had no name for. They buried her in the customary way. Clara was there, by her side, even though they’d not spoken since the day she’d walked away. Her son, now 18, stood behind her as she sat in the chair and listened to the priest intoning the Rite of Passage,
by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest,
bless this grave,
and send your holy angel to watch over it.
As we bury here the body of our sister,
deliver her soul from every bond of sin,
that she may rejoice in you with your saints for ever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord…”
They were the only three who did not say “Amen.”
“BARBARA! BARBARA! YOUR BOY!!!!!!!”
She’d snapped back into focus then, when Istvan had grabbed her arm as he tried to get her attention…and Clara’s face had gone pale, slack, eyes wide open and mouth miming words she’d only remember much, much later when she’d pray to the cross she could see through the window from her chair…when it didn’t matter anymore….even as another life bounced around.
László and Katarina were pulling him out of the water, the surf washing over him as if to cleanse him of…of…of what? He was an innocent, he was pure. He loved everyone…and he hung limp in their embrace like seaweed, pale, dripping…
She didn’t remember screaming “NO!!!!!” She didn’t remember Clara right by her side, her eyes brimming with tears and whispering something she couldn’t, wouldn’t hear. All she remembered was holding her son in her arms, his skin colder than frostbite, paler than the best white linen, and his green eyes shut forever.
Oh….how she sobbed…
She left shortly after that. Left and rode the sea with its waves and storms and natural hostility until she landed Elsewhere, in the “New World”. Did her best to make a living as a seamstress, one who sewed, one who could work a needle and thread like she was sewing water out of air into cloth into a garment made for the living and breathing that fit like it was their own skin. Had an affair with a married Musician and a girlchild was born out of wedlock. It didn’t matter. The Child had Grey-Green eyes, and was peaceful. She thought of Clara, and named her daughter Claire. She was happy for a while.
And then the Musician died a year later…and she blamed it on her daughter, crying, for once, during a storm.