The Death of Lila Jane(10)

By: Teresa Mummert



I shook my head and headed back inside of the house, bypassing my uncle and heading straight to my temporary bedroom.

The book in my hand felt heavy as if it had a force of its own, begging me to flip it open and devour its contents. The memories, the tender slices of my past clawed their way to the surface of my heart as I flipped open the cover and sank down on the edge of the bed, skimming over my sloppy handwriting.

Etched into the paper in ink were the confessions of my broken heart when it felt like the world collapsed around me, suffocating me. My eyes immediately clouded over with sadness, blurring the words and I was grateful for the reprieve from the painful memories.

“Taylor,” her name fell from my lips as a sob wracked my chest. I gripped my hand over my mouth to try to contain the flood of emotions that was quick to follow, but to no avail. Everything came rushing back as the tears escaped. I could smell the vanilla in her hair and feel the gentle rising of goosebumps on her silky flesh as my calloused fingers explored the expanse of her back. Squeezing my eyes shut painfully tight, I begged for the memories to ease, hoping one day I would be able to think of her without feeling like it might kill me.

Flashes of dimples, marred by sympathetic tears assaulted me. I could hear her voice, but she sounded so distant now like my mind could no longer remember the ring of her laughter. I wanted to scream, to beg for those memories to be sharp as the day they’d happened, sharp as the knife piercing my chest.

I promised her forever and she was fading too fast.

Three loud raps on the door startled me, pulling me back into the present, even further from Taylor. If it were possible, I’d crawl into a dark memory of her and never come back out. But I knew that there was nothing else beyond this world. How could there be? What God would steal away someone who was so loved, in the prime of her life? So I was stuck here, without her, until I wasn’t and we both were no more.

“I’m busy,” I choked out, wiping the back of my hand over my dampened cheeks, embarrassed that I’d let myself be overcome with my grief.

“I just want to talk,” Daven spoke quietly as if he could see the cloud of turmoil that engulfed me. The door opened before I could protest further. His eyes had met mine before he looked to the ground between us, offering me a small window of privacy. “I know you don’t want to talk about her. You don’t have to.” He glanced up at me, nodding once to reassure me he would keep his word and not force me to relive the past. “But I think you and I have more in common than you realize. There was a reason ya’ mamma was okay with sending you here. She thought it might be good for you to see…” He cleared his throat and I could tell it was growing thick with pain. “To see that life goes on and the suffering gets easier. I tried to tell her I wasn’t a role model.” He laughed nervously as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other and I could see his internal struggle as he grappled with the thought of opening up to me.

Daven crossed the room, running his fingertip over the top of one of the crib railings before wiping the dust that collected on his fingertip onto his well-worn jeans. Daven was a country boy, not known for their emotional side but looking at him now, I could see he knew everything I’d been feeling.

“His name was Daven Allen Harken the second,” a ghost of a smile spread on his face before he shook his head and tears sparkled in his eyes. “My p'tit boug[31].”

“What happened?” My stomach tightened as I awaited his confession.

“His mamma, Julia, she… she was smart as a whip. Went to Tulane University majoring in child psychology when she was twenty-six. Met her at the Anba Dlo Festival[32]. She won my heart dressed as maw maw June, ya’ great grandmamma. She’d tell you she was the Bride of Frankenstein, but it was hard to tell the difference.” He laughed, scratching his forehead with the nail of his thumb as he let himself get lost in his memory. “She was somethin’ else.”

Swallowing, he looked down at his palms as if they’d held the answer to his pain as if the wounds of stigmata would appear from all of the sacrifices he’d made. “Never did make it to graduation. When she couldn’t hide her gros ventre[33] any longer, we moved up here to be closer to my family so I could take care of her and ‘da baby. I had no idea what the hell I was doing but she… she seemed so confident. She trusted me with… everything. We got married in Shreveport when she was seven months along. She glowed.” Lines marred his forehead as he rubbed his hand over his chest as if he was physically alleviating the ache in his heart.

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