Death is a precarious thing. And yet it is not. It relies purely on chance but when it’s the end of your tether, you are ripped from yourself.
My parents tether was far from finished but chance had it that they were to perish.
Was it fate, or were they just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
They swerved, to avoid hitting a drunken man stumbling across the road, and went over the side of a bridge.
Their lungs became respiration impaired. Many questions flooded my mind when the news was broken to me.
Did they panic?
Did their bodies spasm and convulse?
Was it peaceful, or did they suffer?
The shock never really came. I was sad yes, but I was more puzzled by what had transpired. Why were their lives taken at that particular time? Why did Fate chose that particular moment to rip my parents away from myself and my little brother, to rip a family apart?
Alexander, my little brother, was such a rarity.
I remembered the day he came into the world, covered in placenta and blood. He didn’t cry, didn’t make a sound. He was just there. A miracle in baby form. I was fascinated at how one human could bring another human into existence. Life was a wonder. The brain and heart working together to form a being. A thing that breathes and moves and makes sounds.
I remember Alexander the baby, Alexander the toddler, and now he’s Alexander the child. And still he wasn’t making any noise. If I had believed in angels, I would think my brother was one of their lot.
His shock of blonde hair stuck up at all angles and his bright blue eyes stared at me in complete understanding as I explained to him that mama and papa would not be coming home again. He understood the concept of death. I explained what had happened to our parents, as much as I could to not scare the poor ten year old, and he nodded, just a simple tilting of his head.
Alexander was like me, like our father. Different, as the label went.
My dear little brother didn’t talk.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t, he learned all his words and phonetics as a toddler, he just never wanted to. He once explained it to me, in his seven year old state of mind, “Too many people talk. Not enough people listen. So I will listen and speak when I have something important to say.” I was proud of him then, even in my fourteen year old self.
Now, three years later, he spoke again.
“Mama and papa will be missed.” He then hugged me. He didn’t cry, quite like myself, but he did show signs of grief. The furrowed brow, the downturned mouth, the sorrowful eyes, but no tears.
I wore green to their funeral, a bright harlequin dress to be exact. Alexander wanted to wear one of our father’s shirts, so I curled up the sleeves and pinned up the bottom of the shirt, it still swallowed him but it made him feel more comfortable. Our parents would have understood our peculiarities. They would have figured out that we were celebrating their life, and not mourning their death. My aunt just thought it was disrespectful. She scolded us for shaming their memory.
Alexander and I sat in the chapel, a place for both death and life, listening to the priest talking about how our parents had been great people, and that their memory would live on in all of us. I just stared at the high vaulted ceiling, painted with cherubs, while Alexander curled into my side and fell asleep. Our parents had been fantastic people, there was no doubt about that, but none of these people had seen them for what they really were. They were… just them. There is no describing them. My parents. Peculiar, just like me.
When it came time to say goodbye, I just stood staring at their faces. It was a useless endeavour saying goodbye to corpses, but I did it none the less. It was strange to think that I would never see them again. I’d never hear their voices, feel the warmth of their embrace. I’d never eat with them again. They wouldn’t watch me grow older. I turned from my parent’s open caskets, their faces full of makeup, and ran from the building. Alexander followed suit. I could see that their lips were still slightly blue and their skin was translucent, showing the veins. I still didn’t cry.
My parents had wanted to be cremated, turned back to the ash that they came from.
My aunt scolded us again in the car on the way to our parents’ lawyer. I didn’t care and neither did Alexander.
I wasn’t a stupid person, in fact I had a very high IQ, so I understood everything that was going on around me. People thought I was slow. Special, they called it. I was neither slow nor the type of special they were talking about. I was just silent and highly observant.
I could tell you each and every hue of paint they’d used to paint the cherubs on the chapel ceiling.
I could tell you a little bit about everyone who had camped out on the pews.
I could tell you completely irrelevant information about the land that the cemetery was on.
But I would not have been able to tell you why my parents left me and my brother to my aunt.
They left us in the care of the one human being who totally and irrevocably misunderstood us.
Alexander clung to my hour-glass frame like a leech, without the blood sucking, while my parents’ lawyer read their will.
Our parents had been rich, their wealth accumulating from my father’s genius inventions and his scientific breakthroughs, and from my mother’s writing.
The people, who stuck to the walls and chairs like truly bad art, were all there to see if Edith and Jack Beckett had been kind enough to bequeath anything to them.
They weren’t so lucky.
My parent’s loathed the people they called family.
Much to my aunt’s chagrin, my brother and I had inherited everything. Everything except our own lives. No, our mortality was put in the tender care of my mother’s sister. They might as well have announced that the devil himself, not that I believed in his existence, had adopted us. My aunt claimed to be a good catholic woman, but she was heinous. Unmarried and cantankerous. Not to mention the lust she had for our wealth. I was quite certain she had something to do with us being placed in her care, but I’d never be able to prove it.
Emotions were fickle. I did not feel them the same as so called ‘normal’ people did. But I could tell you that I felt a passionate loathing for the woman who had taken us in.
I spoke to the lawyer after the reading of the will.
“Can we not be placed with our grandparents?” I had asked him.
“I’m afraid not Elizabeth. You were originally to be placed with them, should anything happen to your parents, but one set is dead, the other lives in a retirement village. It wasn’t possible.”
I might not have felt things normally but I knew the bitter taste of disappointment when it coursed through my veins.
The lawyer gave me his card before we left; with the instruction to call him should anything bad happen.
Things were definitely never going to be the same again.