(Sorry this is a day late!! :-/)
I have decided to do something. To post a novelette on my blog. In installments, of course. One chapter per post, once every four-ish days. Now, you may not care. You do not need to read these. But you may like it. So there you go.
(Small warning: this story does mention a case of rape at some point. Of course it is handled delicately (and it's not talked about in detail etc.etc.) but if you are younger than 13 you may want to ask your parents if they're ok with that.)
So, last time we ended with:
Oh, I thought, oh. He’s going to be at Church next Sunday. I felt a rush of anticipation and stupid joy. I couldn’t wait. I wasn’t nervous – he wasn’t the kind of being-nervous-around guy, so far as I knew. Maybe he was, once I got to know him better. I’d only exchanged about five words with him, or something ridiculous like that.
Of course I wasn’t in love. But maybe I was in like.
I thought I’d be my happiest self on Sunday, but then Miley’s mother died. I heard about it through Miley herself – she came knocking on my office door and she flew into my arms and just cried and cried. My heart went out to the poor girl and I cried right along with her. Tears are often more contagious than yawns or belly laughter and Miley’s definitely were.
I had no idea how she knew where I worked, but she stormed into my working day and cast a shadow of blackness over it. I didn’t ask her what was wrong. I knew it. Asking a mourning person questions really isn’t necessarily, particularly if the questions aren’t necessary. Avoid unnecessary questions at all costs.
Poor Miley. Poor girl. Only sixteen, and motherless.
I couldn’t imagine how hard the next year would be for her. Every time she would enter the kitchen, she’d remember her mother standing there and making lunch. Every time she would sit in the garden, she’d remember her mother sunbathing on the bench in her flowered bathing suit. Every time she would do the laundry, she’d remember how her mother used to do it for her. The sting would be in the air and it would fade slowly – so slowly that she would never feel it fading. It would only be after several years when she’d feel the fade.
I cried with her, and patted her shoulder. I took her to the cafeteria and I combed her hair and braided it while I made her drink a spice latté. I didn’t say much, and she definitely didn’t say much. I gave her a long hug and I said I would pray for her. She said, “Thank you” and “Too late” and left, pressing her hand against her mouth to silent the sobs.
I told her the next day, “It’s not too late. God can soothe you.”
“Don’t talk about God with me!” Miley cried. “Not now. I can’t talk about stuff like that.”
“Okay.” I nodded. “I won’t.”
The week proved to be a stormy one. Gayl found out through Facebook that Tim had a new girlfriend, something which made her very upset – and I just felt useless. My friends were so sad, and it was heart-breaking to watch. I went to visit them – Miley especially, this week – and just watching them cry was enough to make me feel their pain. Everything I said to Miley seemed to just make her even sadder, and everything I told Gayl reminded me of how happy I was and of how unhappy she was.
So on Sunday I didn’t feel particularly excited to meet up with my favourite familiar stranger again. The sermon in Church was about grief, and it was spoken ridiculously powerfully, which was entirely appropriate and made me freaking cry, so when Benjamin said ‘hi’ to me after the service, I wasn’t exactly a glowing bundle of happiness. To say in the least, a pretty picture. I looked like an absolute beast with weepy eyes and I was embarrassed about it.
“Oh – Hi,” I said. “Sorry. I – the sermon was touching.”
“I can see why it would have been.” He smiled kindly. “I’m sorry if there’s something that’s made you upset lately.”
“Not me. My friends. One of them broke up with her boyfriend, and I just feel so bad for her. The other just lost her mother, which of course is heart-breaking.” I sighed deeply. “The worst thing is that Miley – the one who just lost her mother – she doesn’t believe in God, so giving her comfort is extremely hard.”
“Oh.” Benjamin gave me a sympathetic nod slash smile slash frown. It was like a hug, but then without any touching. “I’m really sorry. That must be hard on you.”
“Don’t worry about me,” I smiled. “Anyway! Thank you for coming – I’m sorry to be so weepy!”
“Be as weepy as you like,” he said. “I can handle the stormiest weepers.” (He had the smile of bonfire nights and kitchens filled with ginger snaps and hot chocolate. I cannot explain the cosy happiness of Benjamin’s smile… it is BEYOND description.)
“I’m sorry if writing the message on the wall was creepy.”
“Stop apologising,” he laughed. “It’s fine!”
“Yeah, sorry about apologising.”
He was going to say ‘don’t worry’ when he caught the sass in my eyes and laughed at my lame joke.
Then we talked some. He said he boarded with someone in the village during the week, and usually went home during the weekend. He had three sisters and a younger brother. It felt so not awkward to talk with him. He said he worked in the Henffordd village music school and taught little kids how to play the piano. He played in the pubs in the evening sometimes. Suddenly I recognised him from the pubs – I’d seen him play Scott Joplin somewhere, I said, and he said yes, that was probably him. He was currently writing a musical about the Mad King George in rap-form, heavily inspired by the Lin-Manuel Miranda genius masterpiece Hamilton. We both loved the Wall, of course, and he said he sometimes also wrote down some random messages he liked in his journal.
After a while I went home, with this feeling in my stomach of wanting more.
Miley came to visit me some weeks after the funeral. I was surprised to see her on my doorstep, but of course I invited her in. I opened a box of Ferro Rocher chocolate because goodness knows she deserved a good dose of comfort food. She was wearing tons of make-up to cover up the sadness in the eyes, but I could still see the sadness all over her face. She was trembling and seemed overtired. I had no idea what to say.
“Look,” Miley said, as she took an envelope out of her handbag. “I f-found it this morning.”
I looked at the envelope.
Miley, it said. With a heart on the ‘i’ and a beautiful big curly M.
“My mum,” Miley whispered. Her jaw snagged and she clenched her teeth onto each other to force away tears. Everything made her cry and she probably hated herself for it. There was no way to soothe her troubled mind. I felt horrible for her sake.
“Do you want me to open it?” I asked.
“Shall I read it aloud?”
She nodded again. I took the envelope and opened it. The letter inside was long and the handwriting was luscious and girly. The letters were big and quickly filled up the paper. It seemed vivacious and filled with life – it was almost eerily so; filled with life, seeing as the writer was now dead and buried. I breathed deeply and started to read. Miley had her back to me so I wouldn’t be able to see her tears if she would start to cry. An old handkerchief was clenched in the palm of her hand.
“Dear Miley,” I read, “I don’t want you to cry. I know that’s a pointless thing to say, but really, try to be happy. This life is a short one and even though I won’t be there, you can make the best of it. You WILL make the best of it. Pretend I’m on a vacation in Cannes, without internet connection, relaxing and being happy. Pretend you’re on an adventure, trying to be independent without your mum.
Miley, you’re my only daughter and I love you to bits. You have no idea how much. However, there is something I must tell you. I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages (and no, you’re not adopted!) but I never seemed to get the words out of my mouth. I suppose it’s not THAT important, but part of me wants you to know. I haven’t told you ever. You know me. That’s why I wrote it on the wall, when I had cancer. I wrote it on the wall too, what I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages. That is, I told my nurse to write it on the wall, with hearts instead of dots so you’d know it came from me. I hope you’ve read it. If not, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
It doesn’t really matter. It’s done. It happened years and years ago. But still, I want you to know, and this is the way I’m telling you – probably not the best way, but it’s the only way I seemed to be capable of it. Don’t be sad about it. It is not your fault and it should not change you in any way at all. If you can’t find the message on the wall – it was probably not meant for you to know. I am not going to write it down now, in case not. I have not the guts to write it down. I’m sorry.
I know I do weird things sometimes. But remember the love I have for you and remember that I want above all, you to be happy. Loads of love, Mummy x.”
Well, that was the most confusing letter I’d read in a while.
Miley snatched the letter from my hands and read it through again. And again. “Typical her!” She suddenly exclaimed, frustrated. “She was always the most – confusing person ever. What does she mean, it was probably not meant for me to know and why in heck would she tell the nurse to write it on the damned WALL?!”
Miley was one of those nice sixteen-year-olds that never swore, so this was a spectacle.
“Let’s go and see if it’s still on the wall. It hasn’t rained in ages. It could be.”
“What does she MEAN?!” Miley cried. “What does –”
We went outside and stood in front of the wall. Our eyes scanned over the wriggles and random messages, searching desperately for hearts instead of the dots on the ‘i’s and the ‘j’s. Nothing. Miley was so frustrated she just couldn’t stop crying. I told her not to be sad, and that we’d find the nurse and ask her what it was.
“Maybe your dad knows,” I said.
“My dad doesn’t want to talk about Mama. He’s too sad.”
“Oh, I know! I have a – well, friend, who reads all the messages on this wall. He seems like a bright kid – I’m sure he’ll remember one with hearts instead of dots. I’ll ask him.”
Miley’s hands trembled as she wiped off black streaks of washed-off make-up from her face. “I’m so angry at Mum for being so confusing. Couldn’t she have imagined how hard this would be for me?! I miss her to death but I’m so angry at her right now! You have no idea!”
She ran home in tears. I didn’t even bother to follow her – I knew it wouldn’t help. Instead, I quickly wrote down a message on the wall for Benjamin.
“I need to urgently ask you something, Benjamin. This is Anna. I’ll be at the Yellow Bull at seven o’clock on Tuesday.”
I was at the Yellow Bull at seven o’clock on Tuesday, and Benjamin was there waiting as I came in. I could have hugged him for coming on time – I love not waiting for people. But there was no time for mushy stuff – besides, not that we would have if there was time – and I went to business immediately. I told him about Miley and the odd letter and asked him if he’d spotted a message on the wall.
“I did,” Benjamin said. “Yeah.”
“Oh, you’re a brick! I knew you’d remember! You’ve got the brain the size of the Atlantic.”
I squeezed his hand. Then blushed, because I was squeezing the hand of a handsome bearded fellow whom I secretly admired and who had music in his calm eyes. And whom I technically didn’t know.
“I remember it because it struck me as very odd. I actually wrote that one down. It had hearts as dots.”
“Well, what did it SAY?”
“It was a link, to a blog.”
“formygirlmiley blogspot dot com.”
“Oh.” I stared at Benjamin and made a face. “That’s odd. Did did you look it up?”
“Yeah, I admit I did.”
“So snoopy,” I smiled.
“You’d have done the same,” he snickered.
Then he turned all serious. “It’ll be hard for Miley to read. Very hard. There’s only one post, but the blog is filled with love for her daughter. It teared me up.”
“Basically,” he sighed, “Miley’s mum got – raped, when she was – I don’t know, however old she would have been when she became pregnant with Miley. She doesn’t go into much detail. Obviously extremely painful for her to talk about. And, what’s more, Miley’s father doesn’t even know about it. He thinks – that Miley’s his daughter. But Miley’s the result of –”
(Part 8 will be up Saturday the 21st of April) (There are nine parts, btw, so the end is in sight.) (Isn't Benjamin cute?!)