"Honey, it's not good to hate."
Torn Dust Covers
She ripped the dust jacket off the book as she always did, annoying me to no end. It was the manner in which she tore it that was annoying. She pulled at the corner near the spine, slowly, with her narrowed eyes locked onto mine—deliberate. But it was the reasonthat she ripped it with such malice that kept me from scolding her. I knew that even at the age of eight, the feeling of loss cut through her like a laser.
“Why did you do that, sweetie?” I asked my granddaughter.
“Because I hate it…and I hate him.” The acid dripping from her words was a stark contrast to the innocent face framed with golden curls.
“Honey, it’s not good to hate.” I used my soothing, grandfatherly, voice. “Someday you may come to understand the reason why some people act in a way that hurts others. Someday you may even find a way to forgive.”
“I’ll never forgive him, I don’t care if he dies!” She ran off to her room in tears and slammed the door.
My wife knocked softly at her door, but it didn’t open. Tears ran down her cheeks as she walked back into the living room.
“We need to do something for her, Gary.” She used her apron to dry her tears. “This new therapist doesn’t seem to be helping.”
“Maybe she just needs more time, it’s only been three months.” Only three months? It seems like so much longer than that. I remembered the day he left.
“Can Ellie stay with you and mom?” Paul had asked three months ago. “I need time to sort out my life.”
“Sort out your life?” I realized I was shouting and lowered my voice. “That little girl needs you…losing you wife is terrible, but she lost her mother, Paul, and at her age it’s worse for her than it is for you!”
“All the more reason she needs you and mom,” he countered. “She’ll have a stable home here, she loves you both, and don’t worry, I’ll send money for her support.”
“It’s not the money that concerns me Paul.” His two published novels provided a handsome income. His third novel had just been released, and a lucrative contract had been signed. “Not having you, her father, and what it will do to her is what does concern me.”
“Dad, I can’t take care of her.” He spread his arms. “Look at me, I’m a mess.”
He completely fell apart when Meredith died. He didn’t sleep, he wasn’t eating—he wasn’t writing. Before Meredith, writing was his life. Now that Meredith was gone he felt like he had nothing to write about.
“I know you need time, Paul. Meredith’s death rocked everyone’s world, especially Ellie’s. Mom and I are willing to care for both of you. Paul…Ellie needs you now more than ever.”
“And I need something too, dad. I don’t know what, and I don’t know how long it will take to find it, but until I do I need you and mom to look after Ellie.”
Paul left early the next morning, before anyone was awake. Ellie didn’t speak a word for the next three days. The loss of both parents was more than any eight year old should have to endure. She withdrew into a world of silence, only coming out to express hatred for her father.
And now, the day after I bought Paul’s new book, she tore the cover off of that as well. She was hurt, and my wife and I were powerless to ease her pain.
Another three months had passed. I stood in the front yard surrounded by all of spring’s fragrances. A smear of yellow at the corner of the house announced that the Crocus’s were in bloom. The heavy scent of fresh turned earth reminded me that vegetables would soon be growing in the garden. The happy chirps of birds, recently returned from their southern home, signaled the end of the cold winter. Ellie's infectious smile, the one that made her blue eyes twinkle, had returned a month ago. Our home was happy again, and so was Ellie.
Ellie was getting better.
I felt the heat rise in my body when Paul’s car crept to a stop in the driveway. He sat there without moving for a minute before he got out and waved over the top of his car.
“Hi, Paul,” I said, “what are you doing here?”
He didn’t answer right away. His eyes jumped from the me to the house then back to me again. “How’s Ellie?” He came around the car and walked to where I stood on the lawn.
“She’s doing better, much better.” I couldn’t move. My son stood three feet from me, I hadn’t seen him in months, and I didn’t know if I wanted to welcome him or ask him to leave.
“I’m glad, I’ve thought about her every day since I left.”
“And she has thought of you every day, too.” My face was hot with anger. “What are you doing here…what do you want?”
“I missed her dad, and I missed you and mom too. I know now that what I was looking for, what I want, is right here.”
My wife opened the front door and stood, frowning, as Ellie poked her head around her grandmother and saw her father. Her smile disappeared.
“Ellie!” He called to her. but she didn’t move. He turned and took a step toward her and I grabbed his arm to stop him. “It’s okay, dad…I won’t ever hurt her again.”
Ellie took a step toward her father, then another, and then she ran to him. Ellie’s tears sparkled in the early morning sun as she hugged her father. My wife’s smile brightened her face. My face was no longer hot.
That night as we watched Paul carry Ellie upstairs to tuck her in, we knew that everything would be okay again. Ellie wouldn’t tear the dust covers from her father’s books anymore, and she wouldn’t hate anymore.
It was going to be a beautiful spring.
Writer’s Cramp entry June 21, 2011.
Word Count 993