Authors: Keisha Orphey
She admired the pewter picture frame on the headstone and sat down on the long marble slab and gently brushed the dust that had gathered on the silk flowers in the marble vase. Edward replaced the flowers often. He’d kept the box of replacements in Sylvia’s old sewing room. Beyond Row G was vacant land --available plots – at least five acres. I don’t want to be buried here, Dawn thought. In fact, I don’t want to be buried at all. I want to be cremated and my ashes poured out at sea.
I want to be free of this world altogether.
“There’s so much I want to say—“ Dawn began, choked on tears, then shored up the courage to continue. “I’m so sorry you died. If I could’ve taken your place, I would have. But I know you’d never let me do that even if I could. I know you’re in better place and I hope we meet again. I want you to know I love you more than I ever said and I’ll love you always. Thank you for all you’ve done for me, and for being a mother to my children when I didn’t have the strength to. I know I wasn’t the best person growing up and I hurt you years ago, but if I could go back in time and change it, I would—“ Tears streamed from her eyes now. “I’ll never forget you and you’ll always have my heart.”
And as if Mother Nature had blew from her lips, a gentle breeze suddenly wisped against Dawn’s cheek in a kiss. A leaf tumbled across the marble slab and landed near her hand. She picked it up and saw that it glistened with lustrous pearlized colors of orange, red, green and black. What a beautiful leaf, she thought. Lovelier than the most beautiful flower she’d ever seen. Leaves were beautiful, too. Sylvia loved flowers, especially roses and before she was sent home to hospice care, Dawn sent a dozen roses on two separate occasions within days apart. She wanted to put a smile on her mother’s face in spite of the tears that lingered there.
She sat a moment longer, let the breeze dry her tears. She scarcely registered the clop of men’s shoes down the sidewalk toward her.
"Your dad told me I could find you here. I’ve been trying to call you all day--" Philip said.
New tears swelled her eyes. The wind lay still as if the graveyard listened. Waited for her confession.
"I’m sorry, Philip. I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you."
"And our wedding rings?"
Ashamed, her eyes found solace in the concrete. A tiny ant scampered on microscopic legs, carrying a miniscule particle in its jaws. "I pawned them. We needed the money at the time and I didn't want to worry you. You were always so frustrated.”
"Dawn, look at me."
She looked up with the saddest eyes, but somewhere he saw a glimmer of hope. And before Philip could even tell her that he wanted his wife back, Dawn had more important news.
“There was a lady on the escalator at the airport,” she started. “I watched her throw Amos Jones over the railing. I saw her kill him. To protect me. To protect us."
“That man lost his step and fell --“
She shook her head. “No. No he didn’t." She gave him a discerning look. "Her name was Elizabeth Greenwood. I had breakfast with her one night after work a few weeks before we left Las Vegas.” And what she said next frightened Philip. “She was murdered in 1992--"
“That's impossible.” His forehead creased with bewilderment.
"I kept telling myself the same thing, but I went to the library and researched the case. She'd testified against the cartel. The same people I testified against. She was killed and dismembered in her home right here in Eunice." Dawn's gaze remained still and unwavering. She removed a set of folded pages from her handbag and handed them to Philip.
He stared in disbelief. “How do you figure it’s her?”
Dawn took the pages from his hand and started reading an underlined section. “’Miss Greenwood is survived by her parents Armand and Althea Greenwood of Eunice, Louisiana’, and her son Todd Greenwood of Las Vegas, Nevada.’ Althea was my mom’s first cousin. My uncle Johnny said she had a daughter, too. Her name was Alisa --“
Philip became pale. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“– he showed me dozens of pictures of Elizabeth. Said he remembered when Alisa went missing and when Elizabeth was killed. Althea had to be hospitalized. She was beyond devastated.” A moment passed, then: “Wanna see their memorials?”
Philip followed Dawn with enthusiasm down Row G, up the crosswalk to Row D. He looked down at the slates set side by side. There were no coffins. No marble slabs. Just metal plates set atop slates of marble positioned at forty-five-degree angles.
March 12, 1965 – May 2, 1992
Beloved Daughter, Sister & Mother
January 5, 1985 – June 29, 1991
Darling Angel in Heaven
“I don’t know what to say, Dawn.” He never believed in angels or spirits or the dead visiting the living, but seeing what had to be the little girl’s memorial at his feet proved he’d been wrong about a lot of things. He found himself afraid, yet embarrassed to tell Dawn that he’d seen Alisa several times. “Do you think she was your guardian angel?”
She couldn't respond. Just nodded, mustering the tears. Desperately holding back the flood of emotion.
“Not her. God.” She gave him a moment to register what she’d said, then added. “After the trial was over and Amos Jones was sentenced to prison, I moved to New Orleans to put the pieces of my life back together. I worked night and day to keep myself busy and I used to jog in Lafreniere Park every chance I got. I remember driving back to my condo praying for comfort. For peace. For a man who would love me unconditionally. A few months later, you and I crossed paths during the Bayou Classic. God has always placed people in my path … to protect me … to teach me. But all I’ve ever done is hurt them as I’ve hurt you. I feel like he took my mom away to punish me for all the wrongs I’ve done --”
Philip gathered her in his arms, pressed his lips against her forehead. “I forgive you Dawn. And you know I’ll always be here for you. God has truly pulled us through some rough times, huh?” he chuckled.
She pulled away from him gently. “What I've been trying to figure out is ... why me? But it’s obvious. God places people and situations in our lives to prepare us for what He has in store for our lives.”
“You need to share your testimony with the world,” Philip said.”
His eyes were watching her. Through that window just above where the flat roofline of the church ended and a secret hiding place began -- living quarters of some kind or maybe even an attic or just a dark dingy closet. He was there and he was studying her every move.
Long sinewy fingers picked up the receiver and dialed. Anxiously. Almost elatedly he waited for the voice to answer on the other end of the line. No one gave him the credit he deserved and now he'd earn the boss' trust. Receive a pat on the back from the big man himself. Maybe even a reward.
"Tell me something good."
"She's here. In the cemetery. I’m looking right at her now."
Emilio’s eyes squinted with delight and a smile spread his lips as he looked out over the Serengeti, admiring the miracle of birth as a baby elephant was pushed from its mother’s womb.
Africa the beautiful!
And as if the animal, rambling across the plain toward the herd of elephants had come to welcome the newest addition, its long bushy mane flowing in the wind, the lion roared exposing its mighty teeth to the new mother.
“Take care of it.” He ended the call.
Without another moment wasted, the man balanced the butt of the rifle on his shoulder, strategically aimed the gun at Dawn’s head and looked through the scope. His heart raced with excitement. Quivered with anticipation.
Someone was climbing the stairs in the hallway beyond the closed door. The intruder was wearing heeled shoes; the heels clonking with each exigent step. He had to do it now. The consequences didn’t matter. Life in prison, even a death sentence couldn’t draw any fear. Wouldn’t tarnish the well-thought out plan. He’d watched her for months, waited for the perfect opportunity.
Besides, the boss’d given the word. Granted him a chance to prove his loyalty. He hadn’t considered locking the door when he’d entered. Why would anyone think to look for him there? It wasn’t but a dingy janitor’s closet with a yellow stained glass window overlooking the graveyard, littered with a ladder, discarded studs, brooms and other cleaning supplies. He smelled the stench of a dirty mop and saw the cacophony of cobwebs draping in the corner, dancing in the breeze like a wraith suspended there, cheering his murderous plot. A damaged statue with a grotesquely chipped nose and fading paint sat propped in the corner, its glassy eyes staring at him as if offering a sign of peace in the wake of the sin.
The old door creaked noisily as it was quickly opened behind him.
“No!” a woman’s voice screamed, pleading with urgency.
The gunman pulled the trigger.
COMING SPRING 2017
PSYCHOTIC: THE BEGINNING
COMING FALL 2017
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