This story is by ginger A. Summers and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My Happily Ever After
The leaves drift gently from the trees to the ground. The cemetery has always been a happy place for my family. I know that’s a strange thing to say, but it is a peaceful, serene place to visit. Whenever I enter Sunset Cemetery, I feel like I just arrived into my own private place of solitude. The headstones are elegantly carved from marble veined with many elements providing streaks of color. Some are red, and others are black. The stones are glossy and etched with curves, shaped into sculptures of reds, grays, and or pure white with lettering identifying family names and dates members were left to rest. The most majestic masterpiece is the huge pillared mausoleum at the center of a roundabout. It’s carved like a castle watch tower with Wharam imprinted on it in script lettering..
The cemetery doesn’t have a feeling of gloom and doom. Instead, it has an almost magical feel to it, like my own personal garden. I rarely run into many people when I walk through my favorite place.
I remember many times when I was a small child, I would walk with my mom through the gates entering this glorious piece of land. The air would be filled with leaves painted in vibrant reds, glowing yellows, with sunset oranges from trees that seemed to reach the sky. Autumn was our favorite season.
This cemetery is a place to relax and reflect, to ruminate on the lives of loved ones. We don’t have any loved ones in there, but we know people who do. When I was a small child, we would pass by the headstones of friends and say, “Hi Mrs. Johnson.” or “How are you doing, Mr. Otto?” We never expected an answer. We were just being polite and remembered each family friend or neighbor and reflected on how each enriched our lives as we walked through the beautiful scenery. Growing up across the street from this peaceful plot of land, I was living in my Happily Ever After.
This day would be different. I was fifteen years old when I was called out of class to the common areas in our junior high school. My mom was standing there, and I could tell that she had been crying. That made me afraid. I walked up to her and gave her a big hug.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She said nothing for what seemed like a long time. Then she finally whispered, “Granny died.” She squeezed me tighter.
I had lost my Granny. She was more than my grandmother; she was also my confidante and my friend. I could talk to Granny about anything. We did everything together. I remember the time we went shopping for a new game of Chinese Checkers. She picked up the box, and the lid came off. Marbles rolled everywhere on the floor. Without saying a word, Granny put the lid on the box, took my hand, and we walked out the door of the store. Then we both couldn’t stop laughing. Granny had to sit on the bench around the corner because she couldn’t see with all the tears flowing down her cheeks.
We would go shopping together, and that’s how I learned that dark bitter chocolate does not go best in chocolate chip cookies, even if it is healthier for you. Granny didn’t say a word. She just had a glimmer in her eye as we made an entire batch of inedible cookies. Then I thought of the time I sewed a sleeve in backwards in a dress I was making. When I put on the dress, one sleeve had darts going forward, and the other sleeve went backward. I almost cried. Granny said there was nothing wrong with the dress if I could learn how to twist my arm around for the next day’s grading in Home Economics. Then she taught me how to rip out a seam.
Granny was the most important person in my life. How was I going to get along without her? Mom didn’t know me like Granny did. Who would I be able to talk to? And bake and sew with? Who would I laugh with? We were silent on the drive home where Dad was waiting to give both of us a hug. I ran up to my room, and I could hear Dad and Mom talking quietly downstairs.
Once I stopped crying, I walked down the stairs with a pack of Kleenex in my pocket and grabbed my jacket. As I was going out the door, I called, “I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back soon.”
Mom called out, “Don’t be gone too long. It’s starting to get dark.”
“I won’t,” I said and shut the door. Then I went to my favorite spot, not feeling much like Happily Ever After.
I wasn’t paying attention and walked further into the cemetery than I ever had before. As I walked, I suddenly realized that the trees and shrubs had become denser, thicker and unkempt. I didn’t recognize this part of the cemetery at all. Plants and vines were deeply intertwined around the path I was heading down. Coming to an abrupt stop against a wall, I realized I was at the back boundary of the cemetery. I stopped. Searching up and down the wall, I tried to find a way to exit the jungle of undergrowth in the darkening twilight.
I moved a bit to the right and saw a break in the wall. Although the sun had already gone down, there was light, and in front of me was a beautiful garden, full of hyacinths and tulips encircling a grove of trees, neatly manicured grass that provided a fresh spring scent of roses and flourishing daffodils. The sweet scent of lilacs filled the air as I stepped through bushes with hues of pink, lavender, magenta and white. I spied a golden glow of light surrounding the garden. In the center was a silver ring of flowers, like bluebells hanging in the air. Mesmerized, I moved to the center of the ring and heard a voice I will never forget–my Granny’s.
“Sweet Pea, do not fear or be anxious about your future,” she said as I spun and searched for her. I couldn’t see her anywhere, but I felt her hug surround me. Her voice continued. “Take this time to grow closer to your mother. She has wanted so much to be your best friend; she has longed to have a close relationship with you. Give her a chance. She also needs a person to talk with and be close to, like she has been with me. She, too, is going to miss me greatly. Take this time to develop another Happily Ever After.”