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“Gemma, are you nearly ready?”
“Coming, mom. Just give me a second.” The reflection staring back at me in my vanity is a bland young woman with minimal makeup, nicely braided hair, and pearl earrings my grandmother bought me in Italy. I quickly throw on some socks and rush downstairs to meet my mom.
My mom has tears rolling down her cheeks already, messily braided hair thrown into a black hat, and her formal, black dress. “You look nice, sweetie. Remember to wear a jacket, it’s chilly today.” she stifles to say between whimpers.
I throw on my black woolen jacket with big buttons lining the front. A perfect accessory to my black shift dress. The only thing recognizable on me is my black oxford shoes that I wear mostly everyday.
“Gemma, can you drive?” my mother asks.
“Yeah mom, I’d be happy to.” Truth is, I am not about to let my mom drive in the state she’s in right now. Her mascara is running down her cheeks; I told her to avoid makeup or else the tissues she uses to wipe her tears would smear her made-up face. But today is not the day to correct her, her heart is not in a good place and can take little criticism at the moment. I despise seeing my mother so upset; our lives have been different ever since my grandmother fell ill two years ago. Parental roles reversed and I began caring for my small family. I fear my mother will never return to normal.
The drive to the cemetery is dreary. The early morning fog still covers the vast cornfields that appear to have no end. My mother’s silent wails are covered by the sound of a light drizzle hitting the windshield. I often zone out while driving down the winding road of 17 toward Burkittsville; something about this road is comforting. Perhaps it’s the tranquility of mostly silence apart from rain, or it’s the familiarity I have with this path since I seem to visit this cemetery often. I don’t have any friends at school, instead I talk to my friends beyond the physical realm; they understand me better than mortals. I treat this cemetery as if it is the school cafeteria, catching up with friends and discussing the latest news. Preston loves to joke around and prank everyone, Alice is egotistical and is found either combing her hair or decorating her headstone with pretty rocks and flowers, and Harrison is young and gentle, I bring him my old toys for him to entertain himself. My best friend, Alana, is buried next to her grandmother in the very back right corner of the grounds; her headstone reads, “April 1831-October 1845, In Memory of Our Loving Daughter.” She has beautifully curled short, black hair with a lavender headband that matches her knee-length puffy dress. Despite not having any color in her skin, I could tell she had rose-tinted cheeks in her past life accompanied by a gracious grin. I promise to visit her every weekend and we read the books I bring with me on the visit. She’s always excited to see me and I spend hours with her reading and playing. I almost wish I could spend the rest of my days by her side, but I dare not leave my mother alone; especially after recent events.
I turn on my left turn signal to alert the fog behind me of my intentions and I pull into the gravel trail that divides the graveyard and park the car. This old burial ground is the final resting place for less than 150 souls., many dating back to the 1800s. Father Henry, our church’s minister, standing over a casket overtop an empty hole where my late grandmother is soon to remain. I help my mother out of the car and we allow the rain to fall on us, I think of it as if God is crying with us in this moment of mourning. I hold my mom’s hand and we approach the casket and greet Father Henry.
“Hello Father.” My mother says as she grabs his hands.
“Maria, I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. She was a devout woman and an absolute delight to have in our congregation.” Father Henry gives a sympathetic smile and acknowledges my presence as well, “And for your loss as well, Gemma.”
The burial ceremony occurs with no other visitors apart from the murder of crows perched upon the bright, red oak tree next to my grandma’s casket. They’re more vocal than my mother and I, cawing at the Father’s message and flying over the cemetery. Once the ceremony is over, my mother thanks Father Henry and he departs in the hearse that brought my grandma over from the mortuary. My mom and I kneel on the ground next to the casket before the gravediggers bury my grandma.
I glance away from the casket and look over my shoulder where I feel the cold touch of something unnatural. A translucent hand with perfectly painted red nails is resting upon my shoulder and I continue to stare up the arm to see whoever it belongs to. “Finally” I whisper. My grandmother is standing over me in her typical outfit: a knee-length black pencil skirt, a tucked in white puffy blouse, and her signature black stiletto heels. Her expression is calming and content, I knew she’d been waiting for death to free her from the physical constraints of pain and weakness. I stand up to face her, she’s still beautiful一even in death. I see Alana come over and welcome my grandmother into the family she has made in this graveyard. My mother cannot see ghosts, which is why she believes I’m lonely most of the time, but behind Alana stands her grandmother and the others buried here all greeting my grandma and assuring me they will treat her well. I smile at them and walk back to my mother before she questions my sanity.
I help my mother up off the ground and bring her to the passenger seat of the car. “Thank you for being with me, Gem. You’re all I have left, I never want to lose you.”
“I’ll always be with you, mom. Grandma is with you as well, even if you can’t see her.” I assure her. I wish my mother knew about my abilities, but I fear it would mentally break her fragile psyche. Ghosts are comforting entities, but I don’t know if my mother would agree right away.
Back at home, my mother vanishes into her wing of the house while I make my way up to my bedroom. I change into my nightgown and prepare myself for bed. I eventually fall asleep and dream about the cemetery and when I can see my friends and grandmother again; hopefully I can go tomorrow. I abruptly awaken to the sound of the grandfather clock downstairs striking the third hour. I decide to get a glass of water and check up on my mother. When I walk into her bedroom, I see clothes scattered everywhere, a bottle of red wine next to her bed, and she’s passed out on top of the covers of her bed in the clothes she wore earlier today. I immediately tear up at the sight of my mother sprawled across her bed passed out from crying and drinking. She deserves to live a blissful life, but I believe this recent death has thrown her into a deep depression she will never unbind herself from. I go to the kitchen to pour out my water and collect something Alana taught me about several weeks ago. My mom keeps fentanyl in the bathroom since it’s a potent pain reliever. Alana told me how she used it to completely free herself of pain. I return to my mother’s side and sit on the bed with her. I grab the washcloth I picked up in the bathroom and douse it in the fentanyl concentrate. The odor is particularly strong and reminds me of the doctor’s office. She remains in a deep slumber while I stroke her hair and stare at her remembering all the details of my mother’s beautifully crafted face. “I have the perfect accessory to make you feel whole again, mom”, I whisper between silent sobs, “You won’t ache anymore.” I place the pearls I wore to the funeral into her lobes to complete my mother’s final outfit. Gently, I kiss her cheek, a tear falling upon her skin as well, and I place the cloth drenched in fentanyl over her mouth and nose. After what seems like a lifetime, I cry a little harder and look upon her lifeless face. “I’ll see you and grandma soon.” I promise.

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