|Photo by Delores @ thefeatherednest|
Cold Stone Angel
Eva stood behind her parents with her face tilted up to the sun. She hated this place, god how she hated this place! Yet it was the place she had been every week, and on every holiday, and every birthday, and any other time her mother thought it necessary for nearly fifteen years. Soon, though, very, very soon, Eva wouldn’t be coming back here, ever again. That thought warmed her even more than the early spring sunshine.
Her memories of her older sister, Catherine, were vague at best. She was no longer sure which fragments were actual memories and which had been ingrained in her very being from living a life in which all things were a shrine to Catherine. She had been three when Catherine, who was eight, died. Catherine had been hit by a car while crossing the street. Eva was told she had been killed instantly. She didn’t remember much about that day, or the days immediately following.
Eva wasn’t sure if it was a real memory, or something she’d been told, but she thought Catherine might have been crossing the street to catch up with her when she had wandered off. Eva wasn’t sure, and she didn’t want to be, so she had never asked. It was clear enough to her that if given the choice her mother would have preferred to lose Eva rather than Catherine. Eva didn’t need to know more than that.
Catherine was the golden child in every sense; she’d had bouncing golden curls and big blue eyes. Everyone who spoke of her remembered her as being beautiful and vivacious. She seemed to have been an angel come to earth for just a short time. So of course it made sense that her parents had commissioned a stone angel for her grave. Eva wasn’t sure if the angel was meant as a depiction of Catherine the golden child, or if the angel was intended to keep watch over Catherine. Either way, it served to inform all who passed that Catherine had been heavenly.
Eva was decidedly not heavenly. Sometimes she wondered if her very existence made the world a worse place. If not for her, there was a possibility that Catherine would still be alive. She was also aware that she added to her parents’ grief over losing Catherine; they looked at her with such disappointment, Catherine had been beautiful, outgoing, and smart. Eva was just so average. She knew she would have spent her life in Catherine’s shadow had she lived, but Eva was certain that life in the shadow of a live sister was much brighter than life in the shadow of a dead sister. You were allowed to resent a live sister, but you weren’t allowed to resent a dead one.
Eva shivered, despite the warm sunshine, as she recalled the one time she’d asked to skip visiting Catherine’s grave on her birthday. It was the year Eva turned ten; she had wanted to have a normal birthday, like all of the other kids from her class. Their birthdays didn’t begin with an early morning pilgrimage to a grave. It had seemed like such a good idea, and possibly the first step to living a normal life.
Her mother had screamed at her for what felt like hours, telling her that she should be grateful to be alive, and to have a birthday, and that she shouldn’t begrudge a few minutes of her birthday to her poor dead sister who didn’t get to have her birthdays anymore. Eva didn’t have a birthday party that year. She was too afraid of asking for or saying the wrong thing. Eva’s best friend, Lana, had told Eva that year that all she needed to do was wait until she was grown up and then she wouldn’t have to go to Catherine’s grave. That thought quickly took root; it became Eva’s mantra and her sustenance.
Eva never complained again about visiting Catherine’s grave, instead she thought of the time when she would be grown up and wouldn’t have to go. Every birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every other visit brought her one day closer to the day when she would no longer have to go. They brought her closer to the day when she could live her life in the sunshine, free of the shadow cast by a dead eight year old girl.
Eva understood that her parents were entitled to their grief, and that they’d done the best they could. She also understood that she was entitled to her life. She really did have the right to live without tiptoeing around the shadow of her dead older sister, and that’s exactly what she was going to do. She had been accepted, on a full scholarship, to a college on the other side of the country. That ought to be far enough way from Catherine’s grave for her to live her life free of shadows.
So she stood there in the warm spring sunshine, staring at the stone angel, which for her had nearly come to depict hell more than heaven. This was the next to the last time she had to come here; there was one more holiday to get through, and then she’d leave for college. After that she would never come back, and never again have to stand in front of the cold stone angel.