Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


I haven't shared a short story in quite some time, and I'm happy I finally finished this one, entitled Precipice. Thanks to all who take the time to read things I post here. As always, copyright applies.

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
©Veronica Randolph Batterson

She ran.  The meadow opened before her like welcoming arms ready to embrace, its colors beginning to alter as autumn waited patiently to paint the landscape with rich hues of yellows and reds.  Wildflowers and wheat fields swayed on the horizon, defying the inevitable change as if crying, “not yet, not yet” but gradually all would bow and sleep; the palette of fall would insure it.  The air was clean and she breathed deeply; she heard nothing but her own breaths and the inner turmoil that raged inside her head.
The image of her daughter strapped to a gurney and being rushed down a hospital corridor replayed, as it had done repeatedly for the last year.  Had it been a year?  The rawness of it made it seem like yesterday, and she wondered if it would ever ease.  The helplessness, anger and hopelessness vying to take over her life consumed her days.  Sleep had become her only release, yet even that small amount of deliverance was slipping from her grasp.  Her daily actions were no longer dictated by the hours on a clock, as somehow time slipped past without her knowing how.  Forgetfulness.
A dance of leaves just to her right made her turn, and she watched a hawk take flight from the branch of a nearby tree, soaring upward then dipping low in search of unsuspecting prey.  Its wings spread wide against the sky made her think of freedom for some reason; she envied and wished for that feeling within herself, of simply letting go and gliding, feeling nothing but peace.
“I can do it,” her daughter had beamed, when at age five she pedaled off on the tiny bicycle, minus the training wheels, wobbling down the driveway. 
“You did, you did!” she had exclaimed in response, clapping her hands with encouragement, yet fearful her little girl would crash before stopping.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” the child turned, looking over her shoulder after braking beautifully, with one foot balanced on the ground.
“Oh, just happy tears,” she replied, wiping one from her face with the back of hand.
“That’s silly,” her daughter laughed as she took off again, racing along the front sidewalk.
She’d give anything to shed those silly tears again.  Twenty years later, the tears were gut-wrenching and unrestrained, inevitably evolving into sobs at the slightest thing, smell, sound or memory.  Happiness wasn’t the source. 
“Mom,” the whine came followed by six sets of giggles underneath multi-colored sleeping bags strewn across the family room floor.
“That’s my name,” she’d replied in an attempt to sound cool to her newly-minted teenaged daughter, rather than reflecting her annoyance that the sleepover party wouldn’t settle for the night.
“You don’t have to be in here with us,” her daughter said, followed by the eye roll that came with turning thirteen.  A habit that nearly drove her crazy for years.
“I do as long as you don’t sleep. Early morning for the rest of the house,” she had said, hunkering down and crossing her arms.
And she had stayed until each rebellious little body gave itself up to the night.
The wind picked up, drawing her from the memories.  All she had to do was walk a few yards and let go, removing the pain of no one else understanding.  Time doesn’t ease anything; this too does not pass.  Forget closure and healing.  The door of unanswered questions remains open, bearing down and squeezing your heart and brain so tightly that reason and logic disappear; the ability to simply function is too great to handle because the only person with the answers is gone.
“Here, I made this for you,” her daughter had said, as she slipped the mixed compact disc into the car CD player for the two-hour drive.
“Who is it?” she had asked, hands on the steering wheel.  Empty nester, freshman college drop-off and an SUV packed to the gills with things her daughter had to have for the new dorm room vied to make her into an emotional mess, but determination to stay strong was winning the battle.
“Taylor Swift,” came her daughter’s reply, with the slightest lilt to a voice betraying her youngest child’s struggle to remain strong as well.
“What’s it called?”
“Just listen.”

I'm five years old
It's getting cold
I've got my big coat on

I hear your laugh
And look up smiling at you
I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch
And the tractor rides
Look now, the sky is gold
I hug your legs
And fall asleep on the way home

I don't know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today

I'm thirteen now
And don't know how
My friends could be so mean
I come home crying
And you hold me tight
And grab the keys

And we drive and drive
Until we find a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop
'Till I’ve forgotten all their names

I don't know who I'm gonna talk to now at school
But I know I'm laughing
On the car ride home with you
Don't know how long it's gonna take to feel okay
But I know I had the best day with you today

I have an excellent father
His strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother
Inside and out he's better than I am
I grew up in a pretty house
And I've got space to run and hide
And I had the best days with you

There is a video I found
From back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen
And you're talking to me
It's the age of princesses and pirate ships
And the seven dwarfs
And Daddy's smart
And you're the prettiest lady in the whole wide world

And now I know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side
Even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
Staying back and watching me shine

And, I didn't know if you knew
So I'm taking this chance to say
That I had the best day with you today.

They had driven in silence when the song ended, and suddenly her daughter said, “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too,” she replied.  With that sweet, wonderful song called ‘The Best Day’ the daughter had confirmed her mom had done it right.  With all the imperfections and even despite them, perhaps she had done okay.
She looked over her shoulder and there the car waited, ready to take her back to life without a daughter.  But standing before her release beckoned, beyond the precipice a wide-open space offered flight and quick relief; the turmoil within would be over and freedom would be hers.  Peace.
A gust of wind, a shadow across the rocks from the trees as the leaves rustled, then she heard it.  Faint but clear, meant for her ears only.
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too,” she replied, the words a breath, carried away from her lips toward the memory that was now her daughter.
She sighed and looked up one last time, then turned her back on the precipice that offered no answers.  The car was waiting.

©Veronica Randolph Batterson