Beth didn’t go to school the next day, either. Her grandparents weren’t happy about it, but she managed to bargain her way out of having to go to school until the beginning of the next week. She still refused to eat anything, though her stomach was starting to hurt from lack of food. She made the excuse that it hurt too much to eat.
Her grandma had finally had enough of it and forced Beth to sit down at the kitchen table and drink some juice while she watched. It took her a while before she took a sip, but Beth finally managed to get the whole glass down, and then she started feeling hungry enough to eat something. She ate most of a sandwich, but her appetite hadn’t returned fully enough for her to finish it. Her grandma was satisfied enough with the results to let her go.
Beth stayed in her room mostly, only venturing out on occasion to go to the bathroom and get a drink. She tried to stay out of her grandparents’ line of sight as much as possible when she came out. She didn’t want to see them or talk to them, especially after hearing things they were saying when her door was closed.
“I’m worried about Bethany. She’s taking this whole thing terribly. I don’t want this to consume her.”
“She’ll get over it. Getting back to school will probably do her some good.”
“I don’t know. She’s always been so slow and had trouble keeping up with her classmates, I’m afraid this will make it even harder for her.”
“She’ll scrape by. If she doesn’t, there will be consequences. It doesn’t matter that her mother just died, that doesn’t mean she should be getting special treatment.”
Beth was sick of hearing her grandparents talking about her like that when they thought she wasn’t able to hear them. At one point when they were talking, she even decided to let them know she could hear by walking past just at that moment. It made them stop talking, but she doubted they cared if she had heard what they said.
On Friday night, she felt restless. She didn’t feel like sitting on her bed and doing nothing for once, but she didn’t know what else to do. She scoured through her room, looking for anything to occupy her mind. She found a paperclip on the floor and picked it up, looking it over a bit. With a shrug, she settled onto her bed and idly played with the paperclip. It was at least something for her hands to do if nothing else.
Her fingers worked over the thin metal, bending and pulling it until she could get it straightened out. It was no longer usable as a clip, and now it could only be described as a long, thin metal wire. She ran the sharp edge over her fingertips for a bit, lightly poking herself a few times. Then with a sigh she shoved the wire into her pocket and curled up on the bed. She made up her mind that the next day she was going to get out of the house and take a walk.
On Saturday morning she sat down at the table, being forced by her grandma to eat breakfast. She had made homemade waffles, so the breakfast was good, though Beth still hadn’t fully recovered her appetite and couldn’t properly enjoy it. When she finished, she put her dishes in the sink, then headed away toward the door. Her grandma stopped her as she was putting on her jacket.
“Just where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
“For a walk,” Beth replied, glancing up at her grandma with a glassy stare. “Am I not allowed to?”
Her grandma sighed and shook her head. “No, you can go. Some fresh air will be good for you. Just don’t stay out too late, alright?”
Beth nodded her head and left the house, breathing in the cool October breeze. It was chilly, but she didn’t care. The house felt stuffy and suffocating, so being outside gave her a feeling of freedom. She started walking down the sidewalk, focusing on making her legs move. One foot in front of the other. It was a strange sensation because for a little bit it felt like her legs were the only thing on her body, and she had to put great effort into making them move where she wanted them to go.
She didn’t really know where she was even going, and she didn’t really care. She decided to just let her legs carry her wherever they would. While she had to make the conscious effort to move them, they seemed to be taking her wherever they wanted to go. She hardly paid attention to her surroundings to figure out where she was going. All she was aware of was the cold chill of the air, and the heaviness of her legs as they moved.
When her legs finally stopped moving, she found herself in the cemetery that her mother was buried in. Beth just stood there for a few minutes, breathing and gazing at all of the headstones around her. It was unnervingly quiet. Her legs felt heavier than before, and this time she wasn’t sure if she could get them to move. She pushed herself forward and started walking through the lines of graves, searching for her mother’s.
She found the grave a ways back, between two other graves that had flowers placed on them. Her mother’s was not decorated as such. No flowers or wreathes or anything at all, even though it had been just days after the funeral. The earth around the headstone was still soft from where it had been dug up.
Beth slowly lowered herself down on her knees to sit beside the headstone, tracing the engraved words on the slab with her fingertips. There was nothing special written on the headstone like there were on others. Just a name and a date of birth and death. No nice messages on it, or even any mention about how she was a mother, or a beloved daughter. Nothing at all.
“Mom. Did you really hate me so much? And if you did, why did you take your own life? Why would my existence cause you to take away your own?”
Silence answered her. She gazed at her mother’s name on the headstone, and she felt a tightness in her chest. She always loved her mother’s name so much. Angela. She used to tell Beth that her name meant angel, except that instead of her being the angel, Beth was the angel to her. So if that was true, why would she say such horrible things to Beth in her dying words?
Beth felt a stab of pain in her heart and she pressed her hands against her chest. Why was it hurting her so much all of a sudden, after feeling so empty and hollow for days? It was like something was swelling beneath her ribs and getting larger and larger, trying to burst through them. She could hardly breathe. A lump formed in her throat and tears stung at the corners of her eyes.
And Beth started to cry for the first time after her mother died. She cried and cried and couldn’t stop. It all came flowing out at once, and she felt like she was dying with how hard she was sobbing. She collapsed in front of her mother’s grave and curled up, hiding her face in her arms.
Part of her was glad that no one was there to see her like this. Another part of her wished someone was there, someone who cared enough to come and comfort her. She figured if her grandparents saw her like this, they probably wouldn’t say or do anything remotely comforting. Thinking that just made the pain her her chest worse.
She didn’t know how long she was there, or how long she had been crying. At some point, though, she realized something had changed around her. She felt a warmth touching her, and there was a strange presence. She looked up slowly, managing to control her sobs for the moment.
There was a man standing over her behind her mother’s grave. He was tall, with long black hair and glittering amber eyes. Large black wings were folded on his back. Beth wiped the tears from her eyes and gazed up at him, letting out a shaky breath. He smiled at her.
“You look troubled, little one. Perhaps I can help you.”