by Sammie Ham
Yet another prompt..
|It was with ice in her veins that she stood beside his bed. He had taken his final breath, yet all she could do was stand there, staring at the angry looking corpse of the elderly man lying on the bed. His skin clung to his skull; his lips were pursed. He always looked that angry, even when he was just asleep. Tabitha wasn't even surprised he looked so ornery in death.
Cooper was well known throughout the community, and she guessed she could see why. That man had a silver tongue. Tongue, that word made her shiver whenever his name and the word tongue were used in the same sentence. Everything about him gave her the deep shivers. He was a creep. She didn't know how no one outside of their family saw that. She wasn't exactly sure how her Uncle Marion could live with himself having this man around. Maybe his newfound Christianity ran deeper than her 10 year relationship with God. Or maybe he felt that kind of love from his father was better than no love at all. Not Tabitha though. She would have much rather her grandfather forgot she ever existed. Many times before she had spent hour after hour scrubbing her body, trying to get that invisible trail of him off of her. Her jaw clenched at the memory of 16 years before, when it all started. She had been no older than three the first time. And though she didn't even understand exactly what he was doing, she knew it didn't feel good. It hurt. And he made her swear to keep it secret.
'I did,' she thought bitterly, still staring at him, 'for twelve long years I kept that secret. Twelve long years I endured him getting on top of me in the dark night while everyone soundly slumbered around me. While most kids were terrified of the boogeyman, I begged the boogeyman to come and steal me away.'
But the boogeyman never came- no one came to rescue her from him. Even when she got much older and finally told people what was going on, she was never safe from him. There was no escaping the lustful looks, the small comments, the way he tried to find any way to touch her. No one was there when he took her the long journey to her friend's house, trying his everything to hold her hand. He would repeat that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. He loved her and that made it okay. She begged him to stop, told him that it was wrong. Then came the question that still gave her chills down her spine.
"Tabbie," he would begin, still trying to hold her hand, "when your Nana dies, I want to marry you. I can give you a ring, maybe with a matching necklace and earrings. You can tell your mom and dad a boy at school got them for you. Would you like to do that, marry me I mean?"
He stopped the car at her friend's house, looking to her for an answer. Tabitha quickly grabbed her bag and ran out of the car. Without knocking on the front door- for she had been Cat's friend so long she no longer had to- she ran into the house, making her way to Cat's room and broke down in her best friend's arms.
'A thirteen year old should never have to carry that kind of burden,' Tabitha thought bitterly, wishing to punch his lifeless body. 'But you're gone now,' she thought. 'And I have given you my forgiveness.'
Weeks before she had come to see the dying man. She wasn't exactly sure why she gave him the courtesy of ever seeing her again after she had left the small town. Maybe in moving back home after all these years she thought something inside of him would change. Maybe he would admit the wrong he had done. Unsurprisingly, he did not. "I forgive you, you know," she said to him, unable to look him in the face. "I know you will never admit it, and I guess that's okay. There is no point now. Everyone would just say you don't know what you are talking about; it's the cancer, they will probably say. You and I know the things you did. And I forgive you for them. I will no longer carry the burden of what you did. That will be your load; you can go into your final days knowing that you are a monster." She then lifted her eyes to him, a few tears spilling down her cheeks. She then got up from the hospital chair and left the room. A few days later, he was gone.
She looked back the hospital bed, at the withered corpse in front of her, and fresh tears began to fall. The nightmare was really over; he was really gone. Tabitha wiped the tears that fell down her cheeks and turned toward the door. With her head held high, she left the room, never looking back.