My entry for Short Shots contest for September.
|Bessie stood in a field of wheat, her dark brown hair sweeping just below her bare shoulders as she wore the spaghetti strap shirt her mother had forbade her to buy, the wheat brushing her fingertips as she stood and stared off into the hazy distance. It was odd seeing herself in the fog, like a ghost, looking down at something that Bessie couldn't see from where she stood. She was viewing through a glass, a television screen, and felt so detached that she was positive she was watching her own spirit.
It was then that Bessie decided that she had died and that her body lay hidden among the amber waves of grain but try as she might, she couldn’t reach the Bessie surrounded by angelic light and therefore couldn’t see her body. She longed to shiver but realized it was a dream and couldn’t. So she stood, her sage skirt brushing her ankles, her young feet barefoot in a vast, endless field.
She probably would have stood there forever watching herself. She probably would have tried to reach the distant figure again, if only for something productive to do, but she was yanked from the field and the spirit of herself by her mother’s intruding voice.
“Wake up, Bessie! Today is the day!”
Bessie tried not to think about it. She tried. But she knew that it was her father’s funeral. Her brother Todd had told her that he wished she had died instead. She could have just as easily. She was, after all, with him in the store when the man robbed it. Her father had shielded her small body behind his own. He had fallen on her when the man had shot him. She was the only survivor of five people. She could have died. She believed that.
Her mother had her wearing a long, somber black gown that had once hung in a dusty thrift store. It was at least two sizes too large and Bessie had to tie a black ribbon about her waist to give the sack some shape. She was nine but was fully aware of her lack of style. She was teased about it all the time. She could have used the ribbon in her hair but she just ran a brush through it and let it hang.
Her mother didn’t appear to have cried. She seemed quite angry, in fact. Todd stood apart from them, at the front door, waiting with his hands shoved into faded black jeans pockets and his hooded brown eyes full of hate. Bessie had apologized to both her mother and brother when the police had brought her home with the bad news. Something in her told her that they should be glad she lived but they weren’t and so she believed that something had gone wrong and the wrong family member had returned unharmed. She couldn’t change that, could she?
She slid into the back seat and listened as her mother told Todd of her plans for the sale of the house. Too many memories permeated their lives there so the sooner they moved the better. Todd agreed and though neither said it out loud, Bessie was positive they would like to be rid of her too.
She looked out the window at the small town that passed before her eyes and wondered if they would have mistreated her father had he come home and she had died. She’d like to believe they would have and that it wasn’t her they hated, but the gunman who had killed himself and could not be punished. She chose to believe that someday it would be all right and they would love her again. Someday.
They arrived at the church and her mother and Todd left the car without her. She sat in the backseat for a few moments behind the driver’s seat before her head turned and she saw a large field of wheat and girl in the distance, haloed in bright light. She slid from the car as if in the dream and walked toward the girl. No one called to her and she could hear the somber preaching of the minister at her father’s coffin. She didn’t look behind her but kept her eyes on the girl who looked nothing like Bessie beside the just-past-shoulder-length dark brown hair.
As the wheat brushed her fingertips, Bessie moved through the waving stalks and reached the girl at last, a thin fog caressing her with cold fingers, the black dress hanging loosely.
“Hello?” Bessie tried, her voice cracking slightly. The girl was looking down, just as Bessie’s spirit had in her dream, but even standing next to this girl, Bessie couldn’t see what held her attention. “Hello?”
“It isn’t the same here anymore. It’s so cold. I just want to leave.” The girl spoke with a wavering voice that sent chills up and down Bessie’s spine and the shiver denied her in her dream crashed upon her.
“Take my hand. I’ll lead you out.” Bessie said as she reached out toward the girl, half afraid and half hoping she would take her hand. “It’s not that big of a field.”
“What if he comes back and I’m not here?” The girl asked, not looking at Bessie, still looking at the ground.
“We can tell someone that you’re with me,” Bessie said. “And then they’ll tell him.”
“Oh no…” It was a moan really, a faded cry of dismay. “Oh no…”
The girl seemed to fade a little and Bessie trembled. This was nothing like her dream. It had been her, after all, dead and drifting, not some poor soul of a nameless girl that wouldn’t, or couldn’t, accept Bessie’s help.
“Let me help you,” Bessie pleaded and the girl lifted her eyes. Bessie felt cold. It was the little girl that had vanished from the park a month ago. “What were you looking at?” Bessie asked though she knew the answer.
“He buried me here. But it’s so cold. So very cold.” The girl reached out her hand toward Bessie who tried desperately to take hold of it, but the girl faded to nothing inches from touching her. The fog lifted. Bessie screamed.
They dug up Amber’s body that afternoon and her mother and Todd were irritated but Bessie didn’t care anymore. It was supposed to be the day to remember her father. She understood that. But Amber was cold. Bessie remembered being cold, she remembered feeling as though she couldn’t breathe, as though her life was leaving her. Then the weight had lifted and an officer had shouted, “This one’s alive!”
“I’m alive,” Bessie whispered but she felt hollow. Todd turned from her and went upstairs, slamming the door. Her mother didn’t respond. “I’m alive.”
Her mother did the dishes and left the kitchen as Bessie picked up an apple. She knew that Amber had something else to tell her but she wasn’t sure if she would be able to. Bessie opened the back door and left the house, heading for the cemetery and the field of wheat.
Amber was there waiting. The fog had lifted but Amber was less solid than before. “I’m leaving,” she said, her voice lifting in surprise. “soon.”
“Yes,” Bessie tilted her head. “I remember.”
Amber looked at her. “I’m so sorry,” she murmured. “I couldn’t run fast enough.”
“I couldn’t help you,” Bessie lowered her gaze. “Who did this?”
Amber shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s still here, though. There is nothing but sorrow here. Where I’m going…I can feel…love.”
“You were loved here,” Bessie said. “I’m sorry I forgot you.”
“You couldn’t help it. You were sad, I think.”
“Yes…sad.” Bessie wanted to hug Amber, the girl she had called friend, the girl she had forgotten. “Afraid.”
“He said he would come back. You shouldn’t be here. I don’t want him to hurt you.” Amber was fading and Bessie took another step closer.
“Will you forgive me, Amber, for letting my fear remove you from my memory?”
“I will always forgive you,” Amber was so faint now that Bessie could only make out her face from memory. “Bessie.”
The world crashed around her and blackness fell upon Bessie.
Bessie sat bolt upright in bed. How long had it been since she’d had dreams of Amber and her friend’s murder? Too long.
She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. 4:23 a.m. She sighed and looked over at her boyfriend, Rick, as he slept with his back to her. Amber’s killer was never caught. Her body had been found in a field of wheat, of course, but not by Bessie. She stood up and went into the kitchen. She would make some coffee. She would call her therapist. She would move on.
Outside, in the field of wheat beyond her house, a man stood, his hungry eyes watching the kitchen as the light came on. He could see Bessie move into view in the small window, making coffee, he knew. He studied her. It was only a matter of time before she was his. It was only a matter of time.
WORD COUNT: 1527