The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 22
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 22 Anne (VI)
Anne was lying on the snow covered ground atop her father’s grave. She stared up at the lightly falling snow. Gently reaching up, she caught a snowflake on her gloved finger. So simple, yet so complex. She’d come here seeking an answer yet all Anne got was another mystery. That weirdo wearing her red hoodie had said the name Emily. That name. It agitated Anne. Burned in her mind. Why couldn’t she place it. Until she remembered. Seeing the gravestone next to her dad’s. When she’d come here on his birthday she’d seen it. For some reason it had disturbed her.
Brushing the snow on both sides of his grave as best she could. One side was an empty plot. Her mother’s maybe? The other side had a gravestone. The name on it didn’t bear the name Emily. Instead it was one Christina Rumbougher. 1897 to 1965. It had been a hallucination. What was happening to her? Frustrated, she collapsed against her father’s gravestone and sobbed. After a good cry and the cold air biting at her wet face, Anne raised the hood of her fleece jacket and lay down. At first, she’d just given up. Hoping the cold would take her. Her mind though wasn’t ready to let go. Turning over the name Emily again and again in her thoughts. Just when she’d almost grasped something. Pulling it to shore, it was washed away. Something was blocking the memory. Keeping it from her.
She sighed. Maybe it was better to surrender to the cold. Even now it nipped at her gloved fingers. Closing her eyes, Anne willed herself to drift away. She visualized herself sinking into the snow. Disappearing forever under a sheet of whiteness.
She slipped through the flakes into a space between the snow and the ground. Each snowflake floated around her. Each in its own orbit around her. The dead were here too, in this in-between. Floating through space. A galaxy unto themselves. Anne saw her father there. He looked young. Young, happy, smiling.
“Anne, you’re a ghost.” He said. Reaching towards her.
The soft crunch of snow under foot snapped her eyes open. The other world falling away. Sitting up Anne saw a flash of red as somebody ran off through the graves. Before she could chase after them something caught her eye. Sitting atop her father’s gravestone was a small metal horse.
“Mine.” She said. It was almost automatic. Anne had never seen the horse before. Yet it felt like hers. Grabbing it, she decided to try and catch whoever left it. Following a set of footprints, Anne went through the cemetery. Whoever had left the toy, they’d done a good job of vanishing.
It had to be them again. The one from the alley. They were stalking her. Why? Had they killed Carol? Was she next?
Anne looked down at the horse. Blood dripped from it, covering her gloves. Screaming she dropped it to the snow, blood spreading out across the snow. Looking at her gloves again, there wasn’t any blood. Nor was there on the horse or snow. Picking it up, Anne turned the thing over in her hand. There was something long-familiar about its feel.
“Hey! What the hell is all this shit?”
Standing a few feet away stood a wild looking man. His face was covered with gray stubble. His equally gray hair was long, pulled back in a ponytail. He wore dirty denim jeans and a ruddy winter jacket with fuzzy white lining. Tugging at his jacket, Anne could see the skin of man’s large hands were dried. His knuckles cracked and cut.
“Ye damn kids got no need to be here. Traipsing about. Coming here to do drugs and sexy things. I won’t have it.”
He must be the caretaker Anne thought. Or perhaps a homeless man. “I-I was just visiting my father’s grave.”
“Feh, don’t try to trick me missy. Old Ralph has heard it all before. Besides, I saw you chasing after your friend.”
Shit. “You did? Where’d they go?” Anne scanned the area.
“Ha! I knew it! Old Ralph knew it!”
Anne started back towards her truck. Ignoring Old Ralph. She didn’t have time for his nonsense. She had her own bullshit to deal with. It looked like they were long gone anyway.
She set the horse on the dash of the truck. She felt a sense of ownership about the thing. Which was strange since she’d never seen it before.
Anne drove home. Maybe there something about the horse would spark a memory. Her stalker seemed to know more about her then Anne herself. She considered showing it to her mom. Anne doubted she’d get an answer from her. At least one she’d trust in any case. Then again, if her mother did know something, Anne could gauge it by her mother’s reaction to the toy horse.
“I found this at dad’s grave.” Anne pulled a chair out. Sitting down, still in her jacket.
The horse sat on the kitchen table. Her mother glared at it over a coffee cup. “Strange.” She said. Her tone sounded uninterested. “What were you doing there?”
“I just wanted to see dad.” There was no way she was going to mention the rest.
“Oh.” By her mother’s reaction she didn’t buy it.
“Maybe somebody dad knew left it.” Anne studied her mother’s face. Looking for some hint she knew something. Her expression didn’t change at all. Remaining blank. Impenetrable.
“Probably just some kids playing around left it behind.” She got up from the table. Taking her now empty cup to the sink.
“Yeah. Probably.” Anne picked up the horse. The image of blood came to her again. This time she was ready for it. Holding her breath till it passed.
“You okay Anne?” Her mother asked. Drying the cup with a towel. “You’ve just been staring at that thing. Throw it in the garbage. Who knows what sort of grubby hands have touched it.”
Instead, Anne took it upstairs. Going to her room and shutting the door. She wanted to toss it, like her mom suggested. As if maybe casting it off like a bad penny would somehow restore how fucked up her life had become.
Just like the name Emily, there was something to this horse that refused to come into focus. Anne tried to frame the fragments in her head like a photo. Trying to hold the images in place before they splintered.
Photos. Anne looked at the horse. If it was something from her past, maybe it was in a photo up in the attic. She snuck out of her room. Her mother was still downstairs, and she didn’t want her nosing around, asking her questions about what she was up to. The attic was cold. The air was stale. The light left a lot of the attic in shadows. Even in her twenties the damn place gave her the creeps. Anne pulled out her dad’s footlocker. Opening it, she put aside her dad’s army hatchet and clothes. Underneath them sat four shoe-boxes of photos, plus another box full of old papers. The pictures weren’t ordered in anyway. Just piled into each box. She really needed to buy a couple albums to put them in. Anne felt her heart beating fast in her chest. Going through the boxes in secret, she felt like a child with a dirty magazine. Trying not to get caught by her mom.
So many memories were contained in the simple cardboard boxes. Small coffins holding a dead past. A picture of her dad relaxing on plastic lawn chair. Back when he had a mustache. Another photo with her mother putting up Christmas lights. The room looked unfamiliar. At first Anne thought it was taken somewhere in the house. But the walls were different. Her moms appeared a bit younger in the picture. She went through more pictures. One of her cat, Twinkles. Halfway through the third box of photos she found it. There in a photo of one of her birthday parties. Among the opened presents setting on the dining room table. The same metal horse. Anne wasn’t sure how old she was in the picture. Eight, maybe nine. Like the picture of her mom at Christmas, she didn’t recognize the room. She’d come across a few photos of this other place now. At first Anne thought maybe it was a relative’s place. But in most of the pictures it appeared they lived there. The more Anne dug into her past a large void opened up. There were large parts of her childhood that appeared to be gone. Thinking back, she couldn’t even remember the birthday party in the photo.
Her whole past was unraveling. And there was nothing there. She remembered meeting Sam. Remembered parts of her childhood. And then large blank spots. Determined to figure what was wrong with her missing memories. Anne grabbed the shoe-box of papers. She was fairly certain she’d seen her birth certificate in there once when she was looking for something else.
Digging, she found it folded up at the bottom of the box. Dogged eared and ripped in a couple of spots, Anne unfolded it slowly. Skimming the paper, focusing on the location of her birth. Pottersville. She had always thought she’d been born here.
Anne folded up the paper, putting it in her pocket. Pottersville. Maybe there were some answers there. It looked like she was going on a road trip.
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