Lovely, Dark and Deep.

This is the story of Fawn Petty, a young girl who lives in a book shop.

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3. Chapter 3.

Chapter Three.
 
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
 
I knew before I was told. There were whispers between adults. People coming to the shop not to take, but to give. Give cards, give flowers, give condolences.
One day a woman came by with a hanger covered in a black plastic bag.  As I watched from the back room, I saw her lift up the bag to reveal a little black dress, the kind a little girl would wear to her mother’s funeral.

That evening when my father and I sat down to dinner he told me the morning after the bookshop would close. We had to go the church, and then in to the woods where the cemetery was. 
We went to bed early that night and just before I tucked myself into my cold bed, I heard a faint “goodnight”and turned to see my father standing in the door way. His shadow lingered around the walls of my bedroom.“Goodnight” I whispered to him. I watching him leave, I noticed a tear in his eye and just as he was disappearing I saw it roll down his cheek. Then he was gone, taking his shadow with him.
 
The next morning when I woke up, I ate breakfast alone. Then I went to my fathers room and opens his curtains. I wondered if at night, when it was dark, if he looked at the ageing man the window, and weather the man cried or smiled and told him things that he couldn’t figure out himself. I left my father room without waking him up, but I assumed the light would, and it must have because he met me at the front door an hour later.

In the hour between I had I returned to my room, where the black bag on the hanger was hanging on the outside of my wardrobe. I pulled the bag away and looked at the little black dress.
It was sad and faded looking. The back of the hem was darker than the rest of the dress, it told its age through mismatched shades. The only uniform colour was blue embroidered flowers, I wondered if it was done my hand.  I knew it was machine work but it was nice to think of an old lady holding the dress,caring for it, taking a needle to make every stitch, and I need the comfort that day.

I pulled the dress on over my head, it fell down over my body and the skirt landed bellow my knee. I had no mirror in my room but I could tell it was too big, the shoulder seems didn’t sit right on my shoulders. I picked my brown shoes up from the floor at the end of my bed, and pulled them on over the white sock I wore in bed last night. I knew it would be cold and I wished I could find the tights I wore last winter. I knew I should have worn  black  but those were the kind of details missed without my mother.

I noted that the dress smelt faintly of pepper when I tried to imagine the last little girl who wore it. Maybe she was sad when she wore it too. I bet it didn’t smell like  pepper when she wore it. Or maybe it had belong to a lot of little girls, but maybe some of them were happy when they saw themselves wearing the dress and they smile, or laughed and maybe, even if some of them were sad, they’re happy now. That dress was old and I thought maybe whatever was wrong with those little girls before, is okay now, and they grew up and they're not sad any more.
 
When I met my father at the shop front door, he took my head and led me in to the white streets. There was no sign of life on the streets. Curtains were drawn and doors were closed. I watch as our foot steps made trail in the snow. It reminded me of the time we had all gone to the beach together, my mother, my father and I. That time I was running, smiling. I was laughing and so were they. This time my mother was missing, and I was not smiling. We barely walked, it was almost a shuffle. We didn't want to reach the church and when we did it wasn't easier than I had expected.

The harsh wooden doors of the church were lacking the empathy I needed, as were the hard pews and stone statues. I began to feel a stinging pain in the back of my eyes. I could feel my father’s hand go limp in mine, and then he let go. I could still feel an attachment though, like there was an invisible thread that kept us together. I couldn’t leave his side.
I walk with him up the aisle.  I had read of girls walking up the aisle with their fathers but they worse  white dresses. I was tearing up and I walked slowly because I never wanted to meet my mother in front of the alter.
 
When we reached the black box where my mother was sleeping, I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to say good bye. I wanted her to wake up, to smile to say “Oh Fawn, I’ve missed you” I didn’t just want her to be here. Alive, I wanted her to come home, and say sorry, to say she’s missed me. And yet, I was afraid that if,in this moment she came to life, she’d turn away and leave again. The truth is, I had already lost my mother.

I found my mother again but this is not how I had pictured it. I had imagined in my head and in my dreams the day when she would come to the book shop, swing the door open and call “I’m back! I’m back! I’m sorry I left” She would pick me up and spin me around she would hug my father, and then we’d turn the sign bellow where it read “McBride and Son” and it would tell every one we were closed and then we’d dance to the records, and my mother would make dinner. We’d stay up all night and have a party.
I wanted that so badly to, be woken from this nightmare when my my mother came back. 
It’s like that felling –one which I was bound to encounter- the felling when you get a bit older and it’s coming up to Christmas, you want to believe in Santa Clause, you really do, but you can’t any more. You want it to be true, the world would be such a magical place if only an old fat man with a beard dressed in red would come down the chimney and leave presents under the tree for you the find the next morning. But you began to question things the year before and this year it becomes impossible to believe. You realise the truth and you want to run away. To hide, to go back in time and to try to believe every last drop of the lie that made the world, if only for one day in the year, and beautiful magical place.

I was not tall enough to in see into my mother’s coffin. I stood on the tips of my toes but I could just about see her noise. My father must have noticed me struggling then because he picked me up. I felt strange in my father’s arms, he had not held me since I was very young, it was uncomfortable, but he obviously thought I needed to see her, even though I didn’t  want to.
It's doesn't surprise me now but the first thing that frightened me about the sight of my mother was that she was so pale. I didn't want to touch her but I could tell she was cold. I could almost feel it from where I was in my fathers arms. 
Her face looked unfamiliar, she wore black oh her eyes and red on her lips, clothes I had not seen on her before. 
She was not my mother, she was nothing more than unfamiliar body.

Then people appeared, in small groups at first and then in bigger crowds. I didn’t recognise these people and I couldn't imagine how they knew my mother. There was a few, although not may, I could pass off as perhaps being regular customers of the shop who had found the name in the death notices of the local newspaper. 
Soon it began to feel like I was the stranger that had stumbled upon this party. I looked out of place, the small child in the group of adults. My father began to look angry and it made me uneasy.

The priest spoke in a monotone, and frowned without a hint of sadness in his eyes. In a cold voice he spoke about the loss of such a fine woman. He didn't know her though. She wasn't his mother. The prayers I learned in school were the last thing on my mind, I could never have kept up with the congregation of strangers anyway, church is not designed for a lonely six year old.
After what felt like a life time, there was music and people started to leave. My father pulled me up from the chair by the sleeve of my dress, and we hurried through the crowd until we were behind the coffin. Then our pace began to slow. And the crowd began to sway over and back as if we were somehow marching to our own death.
We walked through the streets to the edges of the town where we came to the entrance of the woods, and still we went on. 

When we reached the cemetery I tried to read the headstones as we passed. Some I could tell were new but most of them were obviously very old, the engraved writing on which names had been, by now had become merely unintelligible groves on a standing stone. 
We reached my mothers family grave where she was to be buried. It had been not too long ago, when her parents died. I doubt they expected that so soon, their daughter would join their bodies, to rot lie the withered flowers.

I watched as my father helped lower the coffin into the ground. I hadn’t the other men before but I recognised them from photographs. Our extended family wasn’t close, I knew I had cousins but I had never knew them. What a strange day to meet your family, the day of your mother’s funeral.
I watched as they threw dirt over the coffin it was quick work and soon she was gone. People around me started to cry. 
This was the fist last time they saw her, but mine happened months before in the back room of our bookshop. That was as good a last time as any, because it was hopeful, I thought I’d see her again and unlike a funeral, I assumed I would see her again soon. But then again it was too dissimilar,  she never said goodbye to me  then either.
 
Soon after it ended the crowd had dispersed.  My father and I couldn't leave though. We just stood there. No words, no tears. The wind whistled through the trees like it was mimicking the sound of a bird that had long left and flown away. I shuddered. My father looked down at me and smiled, but although it was unconvincing it made me feel better. It was a predominantly sad smile, but maybe, just maybe there was an ounce of hope left in it.
 
He took my hand then and lead me back though the trees, leaving my mother behind.
 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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