Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Autumn Twice Fell

by Jarrett Fontaine

Rain pattered against my window. Through the stormy darkness I could hear my daughter screaming and crying out for me again.
Daddy, I miss you.
A crack of thunder quickly followed. The midnight air was electric as I rose out of bed, being careful not to wake up my wife.
Help me Dad!
I stumbled blindly through the hallway, down the creaky steps. She screamed again.
No matter how many times I visited her grave and begged her to stop, I could always hear her voice.

I walked outside and into the yard barefoot, moist earth pressed against my toes. Our valley fog hung sickly low and damp, its silver-green glow enveloping most of the back yard.
Through winter storm and summer heat, the same familiar trembling presence called out to me. I walked behind the old shed out back, next to the tree with roots that ran like spiders over the grass. I patted the mound of dirt above where her lifeless body was buried.
I want to be free, her voice begged from beneath me, as icy blood flowed through my veins.
I sat down on the stubby grass, pulled my knees up to my face and cried.
Daddy’s going crazy, baby. Just let me sleep, one night for once.”
You can’t.
Just let daddy sleep please!” I pleaded again, rain-soaked and shaking. “I’m so sorry.”
Then tell Mommy what happened.
Guilt rushed through me as she spoke those words.
Tell her what you did to me!
No, no I couldn’t. It’d been a freak accident no one knew about, a secret between me and my daughter. I had spent so long covering it up. I told my wife our daughter had gone missing, hoping she couldn’t smell the alcohol on my breath. Schools were on lockdown, she called the police frantically while I kept it a secret. Lies buried upon lies.
She thinks you were kidnapped by a - by a very bad man,” the wind hissed all around me as I spoke to my daughter in jagged little bursts. “She thinks someone took you away…”
But I took too long getting ready that day.
You ran outside, after breakfast…”
Mommy was still upstairs. She was mad you’d been gone all night.
Yeah, I was late to work. I rushed to my truck.”
You didn’t see me playing in the driveway. I ran up behind you to wave goodbye.
Her mother and I gave dozens of interviews shortly thereafter. I made up fake leads to keep the investigators busy, saying I saw someone lurking around my daughter's school. Or that maybe my wife’s ex had kidnapped her. It took two bottles of bleach, a black duffel bag and the high-powered hose from the shed to clean all of her blood and blonde hair off my truck and the driveway. I dug the hole for her body in the middle of the night using the shovel my wife gardened with.
I remember being happy.
I patted the ground and smiled, “You were always so happy.”
I wish you would tell Mommy what happened.
I can’t tell her the true story,” I interrupted. “I just can’t.”
You have to, Daddy, to set us both free.
But your mother would never forgive me,” I said, shaking. There was a slight pause.
I forgive you Daddy.
A twig snapped behind me.
Michael, what are you doing out here?” My wife suddenly appeared.
I collected my thoughts quickly.
Uh, I thought I heard our neighbor’s dogs barking earlier. You know how once that Doberman gets started it never shuts up. And then I was just admiring the scenery.”
She frowned sleepily. “Well come back inside, you’re soaking wet.”
So we walked together back into the house, away from my dead seven-year old’s secret grave.
Dry off,” my wife said as she threw me a towel.
I dabbed at my clothes and looked her in the eyes.
I have to tell you something.”
Yeah?” she yawned while stretching her arms up.
I’m lucky to have you in my life.”
She came up and hugged me, arms around my waist, face pressed up against mine. “Just the luckiest.”
the end

Jarrett Fontaine is a 26 year-old freelance writer from Nebraska. Winner of several Scholastic writing awards and a 2008 graduate of Dana College, Fontaine enjoys playing the piano and is an avid concert-goer. You’ll find his work most prominently featured in MidStarz Magazine and The Omaha Reader.

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