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May 1993


I couldn’t look. The long box she was placed in was filled with satin and the mound of yellow roses sent a sickly sweet perfume my way each time I took a breath. I was thankful when they finally closed the top. I wanted to think about my mom alive—playing games with me and my sister, drawing smiley faces in strawberry jelly on my peanut butter sandwich, reading to me every night and always in the best voices. She never said goodnight or goodbye without telling me she loved me—telling me I was her hero.

     I stood alone—my little sister Lena still in her room, just staring into space. She’d not said a word to anyone since that night. She wouldn’t get dressed. She wouldn’t eat. She wouldn’t come with us today, staying behind with one of our nannies. It made my dad angry. It only made me sad.

Stone-faced, I stared into the distance, my father never looked at me once. He didn’t care. I tried my best to be the man he told me I needed to be today. I dropped my head when the minister told us we had to pray, unable shake the vision of Momma from my mind. I thought of my hands on her face, her neck covered in blood—her body in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Everyone was praying. I couldn’t breathe.

The minister called out to God—my mind wandered back to where I found her. The floor had been cleaned, but I couldn’t walk through the house without thinking of her lying there—dead. Some hero I turned out to be. I couldn’t save her. I’d hated my father for everything he’d done. Now, I only hated him more.

     I opened my eyes and looked around while everyone prayed for my mother’s soul to be lifted to heaven. Everyone loved her, especially me. They all thought she had the perfect life—that our family was perfect. I knew the truth, even if my dad wouldn’t speak of it.

Turning around, I caught the eye of Cee Cee—my granddad. With tears in his eyes, he gave me a single nod and I wished I was standing with him on the other side of the casket.

     The prayer was over and I stood with everyone and watched men I didn’t know surround my mother. The minister explained to me yesterday what would happen next. They would lower her into the ground next to Grandma. They’d already dug the hole for her. It was where all the Winterbournes were buried. Momma had taken me there every now and again, to put flowers on my grandmother’s grave.

Just yesterday I’d watched the bulldozer dig the perfect rectangle. I wasn’t supposed to wander that far from the main house, but I didn’t care anymore. If Dad didn’t care about Momma, why should I care about him or the rules? Besides, no one was looking after me. Not now.

Dad ushered me to walk in front of him when it was over and I watched my shoes shine in the sunlight with each measured step to the car.

Once in the limousine I gazed out the tinted window at the people flooding from the old cemetery and caught a glimpse of my grandfather once more.

     “Cee Cee!” I shouted his name as loud as I could, hoping to get his attention.

     “Stop that, Win,” Dad hissed. “He has his own car home. Sit down and buckle up.”

     “Cee Cee!” I called out again, slamming my open palm to the dark window, praying he’d see me. I’d been quiet all day. I’d not caused a scene, as my dad had asked. I’d not even cried. But now I just wanted to be with my granddad.

     I couldn’t hold back my tears and began to sob, frustrating my father even more. Cee Cee looked to our car, walking to the curb to meet me. Jiggling the locked door handle, I wanted out. I wanted out now. When it didn’t budge, I beat on the car door with my fist, wailing at the top of my lungs. “Cee Cee!” I screamed, slamming my palm to the window once more.

     The daylight was leaving, but I could still see the tears in my granddad’s eyes as he matched my palm on the window with his own huge hand and gave me a single nod.

     My father didn’t care I wanted out. He simply looked to the driver as if he was being inconvenienced and said, “Let’s go.”

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