uza invited the family and a few friends to the house for something to eat. Of course, her home—a small Colonial nestled under a hulking black willow—was as familiar to me as my own. They had their Black Hills spruce lit for Christmas, a sad and yet glorious sight amid the purple crape myrtle shrubs. The witch hazel bush on the other side had bloomed in early fall, but only a few of its bright and fragrant yellow flowers lingered on the branches. It reminded me of Angie, as I’d expected everything would, especially in a place I had held dear since childhood. The lightly wooded lot behind her home was a place where we had picked the prettiest blue forget-me-nots that bloomed in springtime.
Everyone filed in through the back now, through the garden, which in six months would be full of flowers, including a wall of apricot roses that lined the side pathway to the yard. Angie would have picked the yellow gerbera daisies from the garden, her favorite, and then arrange them in vases. They’d have calla lilies in white and gold, irises in a bluish purple with flecks of yellow gold, and shrubs of blue hydrangea. This yard had always been a peaceful place—rapture for the birds who visited the little barnwood birdhouse. We had all played here while my father sat on the gated metal bench near the back kitchen door, chatting with my Uncle Dom. Ordinarily, there was an aroma of something delicious cooking or baking when you entered the house. The kitchen was a cozy, sun-filled room with wide floor planks of tan hickory hardwood.
We gathered in the living room now, where a real pine tree heralded the occasion. It was always a real tree at Zuza’s, with a candlelit angel at the top. The angel’s shimmering dress and feathered wings managed to shine with more mesmerizing beauty than the star on top of our tree.
It was a comfortable place—everything from the upholstered floral sofa with the embroidered pillows to the padded rocker always draped with the softest fleece blanket. It was alive with plants in urns. Zuza loved red roses. I had given them to her on special occasions, and I’d watch with deep admiration as she rushed to fill a teardrop vase with water, looking happy and contented as she arranged them. My mother said plants and flowers were for dead people, and my grandmother agreed. Here, Angie had decorated the cast stone fireplace with a mound of pinecones. I knew because I had walked with her through piles of leaves to gather them.
My favorite little birds lived here, a set of song canaries that were a combination of yellow and green. There was a gray-and-white tabby, too, and, of course, the dog—Angie’s German Shepherd puppy. This place was alive with critters, while I had always wondered what it would be like to have a dog. My father would have loved it, but not my mom. I felt sad for Angie’s dog now, knowing how much he would miss her.
My fond memories of this place included Christmas mornings when Zuza made zeppole and holiday cookies. Uncle Dom had played the same Christmas songs we’d play at home, and we were all happy and excited to exchange gifts.
I could still hear my Uncle Dom asking back then, “How’s your singing? I know you love to sing.”
“She writes songs!” Angie had told him.
His smile was wide. In his eyes, I saw mirth and captivation. “No kidding!”
“She’s going to be a famous writer, singer, and actress,” Angie would say.
“Wonderful!” he’d respond.
“I hope you will remember us,” Zuza gushed. “You’ll still come visit me, I hope. I’m gonna be so proud of you always.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d felt safe here, and loved seeing myself through my godparents’ eyes—just a normal, appropriate, and acceptable child who could easily make people laugh and smile. Granted, they didn’t have the responsibility of molding me into a person who could lead a normal life and be happy, as Zuza had said, but their genuine interest in me touched my heart. I felt welcomed in their home, truly cherished, as if I was, perhaps, the most loved little girl in the world. It was unfair that they had lost their son, and now their daughter. Nothing anyone could say would help me understand or accept that.
“There’s food on the dining room table,” Uncle Dom told everyone now. “Come, eat!”
They had inserted the leaf in the long cherry wood table where there were six Queen Anne chairs. People had brought fruit, pastries, and casseroles. In addition, there were platters of cold cuts, along with potato salad, rolls, and condiments.
I went to Angie’s room for one more gaze at her cherry wood sleigh bed dressed in her favorite quilt, and I touched the things she’d loved—stuffed bears and a furry white kitty holding a big red heart that said I love you, which I had given to her on her birthday. Then I sat on her bed and I cried.
Zuza came in and sat beside me. “Do you remember when Dom Jr. died?” she asked. “You told me you were sorry I’d lost my baby.”
I nodded, the tears falling.
“He was crazy about cars,” she mused. “On the way to school, he noticed every car, what make, what model it was, and he’d stop. I’d have to say, ‘Come on, Dominic, we’re going to be late!’ And he loved Grandma. He wanted to go see her all the time. Angie loved your grandmother, too, you know, and your mother. Most of all, she loved you.” She clasped my hand in hers. “I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe we lost her.” She gave my hand a squeeze. “My little Dominic will take care of her now. And she was my little girl—my baby girl. I don’t know what it’s gonna be like without her, but we’ll face it together. Somehow we’ll manage.”
Snowflakes fell, as if from the Heavens, that day and the next. It didn’t amount to much, but Angie would have liked it.
On the morning of her funeral, we rode in limos, heading north on Sturgeon River Road and proceeding along Hebron until we turned left onto Sycamore Street, then left again onto New London Turnpike. There was something beautiful about this morbid procession, the celebration of life and death. I felt a sense of pride in being part of this entourage, but I’d have given anything to make it all go away and have Angie as she was before all the terrible things had happened.
I kept thinking about her—how easy it was to make her laugh, and then all I had to do was look at her, and she would laugh again. Her smile was sweet and shy—guileless, vulnerable, endearing. If anyone sought to hurt her in any way, I wanted to fight for her. I felt it was my duty to protect her, and I had failed. I thought now about her advice to me, about following my heart. It made me smile because I could picture her floating above in a big bubble like Glinda in The Wizard of Oz waving her glittery wand.
There was beauty in the ritual of walking forward as a family now, nestled close to one another, arm in arm, with people reaching out from the pews, the sorrow and compassion in everyone’s eyes, the smiles of recognition, and mourners sobbing or silently tearful. At some point, I heard bells ringing and then the priest’s bellowing voice. “When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”
My eyes fell upon the casket with its spray of daisies, roses, lilies, carnations, and larkspur.
“This celebration is to welcome Angela home into the loving arms of her father,” he said.
There were faint sounds of weeping. I saw Zuza lower her head to cry and Uncle Dom’s arm slip around her. I heard agony and anguish when my grandmother cried. At one point, my father escorted her from the church, likely to console her.
An hour later, we prayed over what was to be Angie’s grave. A red-tailed hawk soared above, weeping in the form of an ear-piercing cry—a bitter lament. Crows and ravens circled overhead. Sparrows and blue jays perched in trees. There were herons from along the coast. Squirrels and pigeons loomed on rafters, in steeples and eaves, or frolicked between the graves. So much life and so much death, and, as such, we had gathered. Angie would have an oval gray, granite gravestone with an engraved cross, and she would be buried alongside Dom Jr. The funeral director handed us daisies and lilies to toss on the casket, now covered in white and gold cloth, and we said goodbye.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.