Day 93 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Start with the line, “Who smiles at a time like this?”
Erin: “Who smiles at a time like this,” I screamed as my life was coming to a screeching halt.
“I’m proud of you,” my father explained.
“For what I failed?”
“Because you tried, and you didn’t give up. You gave it your best shot throughout the entire ordeal. If that doesn’t make a parent proud I don’t know what does.”
Shannon: Who smiles at a time like this? Definitely not a normal person, but me I know how to ruin any emotional moment. People are starting to stare, and I don’t even have a disease that makes me act this way, it’s just me. Sitting at a funeral, smiling. Probably looking like I’m happy that my friend died in freak accident, but the truth is I’m devastated he’s gone. I’m not smiling about his absence. I’m smiling because I’m remembering his presence.
I guess I do that a lot. I don’t like to deal with the sad, so I tend to live in the happy, even in moments where it’s healthy for me to be present. Right now I couldn’t, not while I was surrounded by all of these people. He wasn’t gone. Not if I could remember him, not if that memory could still make me smile.
Inappropriate emotional response? You Decide.
“Who smiles at a time like this?” she whispered harshly as we stood beneath the tree, rain pattering through the weathered leaves. When I put on a subtly frown and hugged my arms tighter around my midriff, she took it as a sign I wasn’t interested in chatting, “Come on, he was your father, or whatever.” Her dark eyes shone in the grey sunlight as she stared daggers into me, clutching at the expensive purse at her hip.
Finally glancing at the short woman I spoke in a rough, low tone, “Who are you to say that to me in my time of grief? Everyone handles this horrible business differently; I choose to remember him in the good times,” I lied through my clenched teeth. Turning to cough into the handkerchief my aunt had passed me at the ceremony, I snivelled in the damp, frosty air. Before us, stood a small cluster of jet black umbrellas covering a somber grouping of family members, church-goers and strangers; the parasols were loaners from the funeral service, and I suspected some of the visitors were on loan too.
When the woman beside me spoke up, her voice haggard, she sounded like she could have been crying, “I was his neighbour for the past eight years. I knew him very well, but I don’t you.” Sniffing, she started back toward the service, but I caught at her sleeve like a lost child.
“Ma’am, if you were his neighbour for that long, you know what kind of man he really was,” her eyes were daggers dipped in poison as she turned.
Jerking her glossy jacket free of my lax grip, she barred her teeth, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you seem like a pretty shitty step daughter to never visit him.” She stood her ground firmly, ready for a fight, as raindrops dripped in her tied-back hair.
I should have just left the story be; what did I care what anyone in this stupid town thought of me? But I couldn’t let him ruin anyone’s perception of my integrity or the reason I left. Smiling darkly, I took a steady step down the hill so I was a mere foot from her face, “You wanna know why I left?” I dared, letting her daggers fall flat on the uneven dirt, “My stepfather only married my mom for her money and because he heard she was dying. Everything was going to go to her only daughter, who was faithfully by her side day and night,” I began the tale as old at time of family commitments, greedy interlopers and betrayal most foul. “He seduced her with flowers and the promise of keeping me safe when she was gone; he conned a dying woman into giving him the keys.
“He counted the days until she-” as I spoke, my throat closed and my voice cut off in a sob. Breathing in a gulp of fresh air, I blinked away the hot tears angrily, “-until she passed. That whole time, though, he would starve her to pay off his gambling debts or go off on a cruise for a week and leave no money behind. And he, he would be-” halfway through the emotional statement, I changed my mind about my reason, “-be so horrible to her that I couldn’t stand it. When she died, I took what I was owed and went to live with my aunt and uncle five hours away.” In front of me, the neighbour was allowing silent tears to streak down the side of her face without caring to wipe them away. “I was a minor so I couldn’t claim the money; I let a lawyer handle my stepfather.”
No malice for me was left in the woman’s features, as she sighed, “Yeah, I guess he was like that, wasn’t he? But I don’t understand what you were doing here, right now,” her tone gave away the accusatory nature of the sentence, though I couldn’t tell from her blank expression if she meant it that way.
Despite wanting to stay calm, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, my shoulders tensed involuntarily and I could feel something hot and sticky flowing from my clenched fists. Carefully pulling my nails out of the soft flesh of my palms, I breathed deeply and smirked ominously, “This week is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I hadn’t been here to put flowers on her grave for almost a decade; not since her funeral,” furrowing my brow, I glared at a particularly green patch of grass intently. “I decided he couldn’t keep me away from her forever. Actually, I made the mistake of assuming he visited her all the time; being a five minute walk away.” Nodding more to myself than his neighbour, I could feel heat rising in my cheeks and madness burning at the edges of my sanity.
“I assumed, wrongly, that he would feel something, anything, for the woman he watched slowly degrade into dust,” I almost shouted, drawing the ire of the funeral company in silent mourning. Sucking in an icy breath, I continued at a lower volume, voice shaking slightly, “But when I talked to him, he said he hadn’t been there since the funeral, when he was drunk off his ass because my lawyer contacted him explaining how the will worked and he was pissed. If I hadn’t left that day with my aunt, I don’t know what would have happened to me.” Horrible rage had been replaced with a desperate longing for my mom’s comforting arms around me, reminding me that everything was going to be fine.
As I broke down, sinking to my knees in the soaking grass, I finally went to pieces; I’d been strong because I wasn’t mourning him, I was in horrible grief at the loss of my mom and any semblance of a normal upbringing. I was lamenting myself, how selfish is that? But the neighbour woman, who seemed to understand my side of the story thoroughly, took my breakdown as her cue to rejoin the company, leaving me to myself.
When she was safely out of sight, I breathed calmly, and struggled to my feet in the grass, leaning against the tree for support. But instead of walking down the hill, I turned and headed toward my mom’s grave; the person I’d really come home to visit. As I stalked, pulling a small bouquet of roses from my purse, I whispered to her spirit excitedly, “You waited so long, but I couldn’t risk arousing suspicion, mom.” I bowed my head at her headstone and dropped to my knees again, laying the flowers on the cold ground. “We finally got rid of him; I can come home now.”
Created to Write:
“Who smiles at a time like this?” Starry asks, looking at Proton-ess. She has a small smile on, with her eyes closed.
Jade looks to the team member in question. He then smirks, “They didn’t take her gloves off.”
There’s a snap and the now brittle cuffs are on the ground. Proton-ess moves over to the closest teammate subtly and works on Night Ghost’s handcuffs. “I hope the rest of the villains are this stupid,” Starry whispers as Proton-ess gets to him, “Makes are job easier.”