I watched as Emelia knelt in the dirt and traced the letters in the cold, gray granite with her finger.
>>1973 - 1988
I know she's glad I'm with her today. She talks to me often, even though she's not always sure I'm around. I've watched her grow for almost seventeen years now, but she just met me last year. I'm glad she did.
She spoke softly. "I always used to do this on the letters on his sweatshirt. He liked it when I did that. I remember when he used to come into my room at night I used to do it on his pajamas. He'd be shaking all over and it would calm him down. Mom used to be so mean to him; she really hurt him.
He didn't have a middle name. I guess Daddy ran out of names." She stopped her tracing and picked up a stone. She examined it pensively until she threw it down and yelled, "Why did Daddy have to die? This never would have happened if Daddy was still here! Why do you let things like this happen?" I have no control over things like that, Emelia. I wish she could hear me. She has to realize everything on her own. The good thing about Emelia is that she does realize things on her own even-tually. Some people never do.
She looked around the silent cemetery and quieted down herself. "I didn't mean to yell," she apologized. It's okay, Emelia, yell if you have to. She spoke again. "It's just that things got so screwed up after Dad died. Mom went really crazy. She took out all her aggressions on us, especially Paul, because I think he reminded her of my father. Paul loved Mom, even though he was too little to understand why she was the way she was. All my brothers learned to hate her ...except Paul. He blamed himself for everything that happened. Everybody moved out of the house as soon as they were old enough; they didn't care about Paul and me.
"I loved Paul. I was the only one who did." She gave a frustrated laugh. "Hell, Mom certainly didn't. She was just crazy. Do you know what she used to call him?" Her voice had been growing louder and got louder still as she asked me, "Do you? A stupid little ungrateful brat, that's what! How come she was like that?" Her voice shook as tears come to her eyes. "He wasn't ungrateful. He thought he didn't deserve anything that he had. One time, I heard him crying in his room. Do you know why he was crying? Because he had had a good day and he thought he didn't deserve it. He really believed that he was nothing. He told me not to waste my time on him. He said he didn't deserve to be loved." Her tears began to fall. "He needed love so badly. More than anyone else in the whole world. He just wouldn't receive it."
She spoke to Paul now. "I know I said I couldn't forgive you, but I think I can now. I sort of understand why you did what you did. You wouldn't let anyone love you, so how could you possibly love yourself? I know you didn't want me to come here, but I had to. To tell you I forgive you." She had trouble getting the next sentence out. "You did it for me, didn't you? You loved me so much that you," She stopped, not being able to finish the sentence. Then she took a deep breath. "I know you didn't want to believe me before, but believe me now. I love you, Paul!"
I watched Emelia sit in the dirt as the silent tears slid down her face. I think he knows now, Emelia. He believes you. She sat there for a while, once again running her fingers over his name. "I'm going to go now. I know you want me to get on with my life. I hope you know that I'll always be with you no matter what." She started to say something else, but cut herself off. Then she said "So long, Paul."
I walked silently alongside Emelia as she left the cemetery. I wonder if she knew I was there.n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.