Missy tripped down the winding path of the gloomy woods crying out for her daughter. This was her last chance. The trees thinned and the gale died when she heard a soft voice behind her.
Missy spun around. “Aubrey!”
She held out one hand to her daughter to pull her into an embrace, but Aubrey sidestepped out of her reach.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to give you peace.” Missy felt her ears warm.
“You’re wasting your time.” Aubrey frowned. “I’ll take you back home.”
Dead leaves crunched under their feet as they moved down the dirt trail.
“Have you made any friends, sweetie?”
Aubrey’s brown eyes darkened. “Phineas is my age. His whole house went up in flames.”
“He set the fire.”
An icy breeze blew around them. Missy shivered and hugged herself.
“Why are you friends with that boy?”
“We have a lot in common.” Aubrey shot her a cruel smile. “Parents who don’t care until it’s too late.”
Sharp stabbing pain pelted Missy’s heart. Years passed, yet Aubrey stayed the same–sharp-tongued and abrasive.
“He’s bad news. Use good judgement, Aubrey.”
“Like your little sister and you getting in a car with drunk strangers?”
“Mom!” Aubrey crossed her arms over her chest. “You never let anything go.”
“You should have been more responsible.”
“You promised you’d drive us home.” Aubrey narrowed her eyes. “I called you to take Heather and me home, but you were too busy partying with your date of the week to pick us up.”
“I told you to call a taxi.”
“You’re blaming me? I’m 17. We didn’t have any money.”
Missy reached out to her, but Aubrey pulled away.
“I’m sorry. I just want to help you.”
“You’re too late.”
Aubrey turned away. Missy’s heart sank. It had taken her 34 years to get here. She had ruined this last hope squabbling over the unchangeable past.
“You’re right.” Missy wiped at her wet cheeks. “I’ll never forgive myself.”
Twilight shadows with dark crooked arms and spiky fingers stretched across the path. Black tendrils slid up Missy’s feet, wrapping around her ankles. Her heart beat a pounding cacophony.
Aubrey stomped her foot. “She’s not dead, yet!”
The shadows let her go and dashed back up into the trees. Missy leaned, panting, against a tree.
“This is a place for the hopeless.” Aubrey began to walk, fast. “If you despair or stay too long, they’ll keep you.”
Aubrey didn’t want her hurt. Then there was a chance. She caught up with her. “Do you talk to Heather?”
“Her grave is–”
“I can’t face her.” Aubrey voice was soft and strained. The bitterness gone. “It’s my fault she’s dead.”
“I know you hate me, Aubrey, but how you feel about Heather is the same for me with you.”
“I don’t hate you. I just want you to care about me.”
“I had you so young. I dropped out of school. No more parties or hanging out with friends. I became jealous of my own girls, thinking I deserved to be carefree, too. Don’t carry my burden, honey. You made a mistake, but I should have been there so you wouldn’t have to.”
They stopped at the entrance to Pearl Gate cemetery. A cold blast from the woods sent dirt and leaves spiraling into the air. Slender shadows rode the wind clawing at Missy’s clothes.
“Hurry.” Aubrey bounded pass the whitewashed walls of the cemetery with Missy close behind.
Among the graves, a suffocating silence descended. The overcast sky grew darker as if the sun sank at an accelerated pace behind the clouds. They stopped before her daughters’ twin gravestones where Missy’s body of flesh and bone lay unconscious on the ground.
“Don’t return again. Next time, you might not make it back.” Aubrey pulled her into an embrace. “I forgive you, mom.”
Missy sobbed in her eldest’s arms.
“Mom… it’s time. I can go.”
She looked up. There stood Heather, hand out to her sister, waiting. Aubrey ran to her. They hugged each other tight. Missy watched as the girls vanished into thin air.
A strong wind blew. Missy stepped into her body. Blinking her eyes open, she looked around. She sat in the cemetery. The sun shone bright and hot in a clear blue sky. She was back on the side of the living.
Salty tears slid down her face as her fingers caressed the warm gravestones in front of her. She’d done it. She brought them peace. Now maybe she could have a little, too.
A/N: Word Count: 759, Pictures 5
This is my second entry in the Monthly Simlit Short Story Challenge. May’s theme was Mom, Motherhood. Big thank you to Lisabeesims for hosting. Please follow the link to vote for your top 3 favorite stories in the Novice and Veteran categories.