Editor’s note: The author offers this short story in place of her regular column this week.
As she swept the leaves away she let out yet another sigh. This wasn’t it either. She stood back up and shivered as the wind blew right through her. She continued on her journey, knowing she would never tire of searching, never lose hope. This was the fifth cemetery she’d been to this week. Each cemetery had thousands of head stones to sort through, so it was like picking dirt out of pepper, as her mother used to say. But she would not, could not rest until she found the one that said Molly Ingram.
She always checked the tall stately marbled ones first, certain that the marker she was searching for would be grand. Perhaps a dimpled angel with precisely carved wings, or two swans with their long graceful necks intertwined with each other. When those didn’t pan out, she’d steel herself for the smaller ones, headstones with hearts intermingling or lilies in full bloom. At this point, she’d even settle for billowing clouds. She didn’t know what to expect - only the name Molly Ingram.
As the wind whipped her hair across her eyes, it also blew the leaves and twigs across the cemetery, where they rested against nearly every headstone. Countless hours passed as each marker had to be swiped - some so dirty she didn’t bother to read them because they’d be too old. Earlier, she had nearly lost her balance when she found an ornate cross that was inscribed Mollie Ingersoll. That had been close. It nearly took the long wavy curls off her neck, except that the wind was doing a fine job of that already.
She noticed spits of rain hitting the stones, causing memories to flicker and wane. It had been raining the day of the accident, she recalled. It was her fault. If she had only stayed home that day, countless people would not be grieving. She could still smell the soggy street, hear the screeching tires, and see the sheet being pulled over …
She trembled. That was all she would allow herself to remember. She moved on to the next cemetery, frustrated that people couldn’t be buried in alphabetical order. All the I’s could be up on the back hill, making this task so much easier. She had no deadline to meet, her only objective being some form of closure. So again she headed for the grandest stones first, with her heart expectant and vulnerable. Towards the back, she came across the loveliest one she’d seen yet. A statue that appeared to be God himself, draped in the finest robe, which was fastened with an intricately chiseled cording and tassels. His arms were outstretched, his face tranquil. With shaking hands, she pushed aside the abundant flowers, teddy bears and ribbon trimmed candles to expose the name. A moan rushed from her mouth and mingled with the wind as her fingers caressed the golden letters. Molly Ingram. At last she had found it. At last she could rest. She drank in the beauty of the monument for a time, allowing the memories to float to the surface.
Suddenly the accident began playing out before her eyes as if she were in a smoky theater: a young girl on her bike who stopped to pet a kitten … the driver of the car, a young teenaged girl too inexperienced to be going so fast on still wet roads. Then she saw a boy throwing a rock that sailed through the air, hitting the car, and causing the young driver to swerve toward the little girl on the bike.
So it wasn’t her fault. Why hadn’t she remembered the rock during all this time? But how could she have seen it? She was bent over petting the sad, wet little kitten.
Feeling completely serene now, Molly took one last look around the cemetery, then walked into the open arms of the statue and disappeared.