On a jade green bluff under the shade of a prickly ash, a Catholic priest mused on private memories and extended compassion to the small gathering. Christina lifted her gaze to the blanket of wild flowers strewn over the pine box. A horrible ache settled. Never would she see father again. God had snatched his life from her. With an enraged impulse she shouted, “Damn you, Lord! Why’d you take him? You should’ve taken me!” She collapsed, sobbing over the coffin.
Several people in the small gathering gasped, and Nicolette ran away crying. Marcel ran after her and brought her back kicking and squirming.
“It’s going to be all right!” he hollered to his mother.
Christina lifted her head in dismay. “Father’s dead! It’ll never be all right. God Almighty struck him down and he laid there in the mud.” Tears gushed from her eyes and down her cheeks.
Marcel walked to the casket and shook her hatefully. “Simmer down,” he muttered. “Mother’s got enough worries without you shooting off your big mouth!”
Marguerite rounded the casket with a look that made her shudder. Her voice was low and seething. “You killed him, not Almighty God. If it weren’t for you, he’d still be alive. You beat that horse right into the thick of the forest you witless fool. Why, on God’s earth couldn’t I have raised you to be like your brother?” Her eyes found Marcel.
“I was trying to help! I—” Christina watched her mother clutch Marcel’s hand, and knew right then and there all had been lost.
“Leave!” Marguerite demanded. “You have no place at this gathering.”
The words slashed Christina, and she wanted to shout her pent-up anger, void herself of all the injusticesbut mother quickly turned and walked away hand in hand with Marcel and Nicolette, and no more was said.
Christina ran back home, collapsed onto her cot and crawled under the blanket wishing the world would go away. She lay awake that night tossing and turning reliving the last several days. She could see that her mother’s accusation would never pass from her head. They never did when it came to father; it was as if mother was jealous of the attention he gave her, scarce as it was. She wondered if he was aware of what happened, and what he might be thinking and if he knew it was an accident. Her eyes went to the tattered window screen and watched as it flapped in the hot breeze. She felt her father cloaked in the night wind, and his love was with her. He had promised that nothing would ever come between them. That he would always protect her from lightning storms and all of those black goblins that jumped out from the shadows. She realized she depended on him forever; his strength, fortitude, and his insight to the workings of the land. It was not yet believable he left her alone in the world. How could all of this be possible? She felt breathless, stunned and buried her face into her pillow and wept.
“I miss him, too.” Nicolette rolled over and stroked Christina’s hair. “Remember when father said all we ever needed was a bit of luck to make it through something bad?”
Christina sat up and wiped her cheeks with her palms, struggling with words. “Only one thing you can count on and it’s not luck, Nicolette, it’s yourself, nothing more, and the sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be.” She took Nicolette’s hand and walked her out to the porch and sat on father’s old ladder-back rocker. The wind gave way to the stillness of the rural countryside. An occasional cricket chirp brought a measure of tranquility. Together, they searched the sky beyond the stars into the midnight blue of the universe and watched a brilliant light burst forth and vanish as suddenly as it had appeared.
Nicolette took her father’s luck piece from her pajama pocket and toyed with it before Christina. The sight of it pricked Christina. Father must have given it to her, she thought. The ache in her heart would never go away. She still felt the spirited words she often mumbled beneath her breath regarding the hopes and dreams the luck piece might grant father. She had pitied him. And nothing had changed.
She looked through the window at the scarlet ribbons tacked on the wall. For her sixteenth birthday father had given her the Legion d’Honneur medallion, which was awarded for bravery, and the distinguished merit medal he received during the war. She saw him as a hero for the first time full of confidence and strength. He shared his poetry and history of Germany and France, the operas of Austria; songs he encouraged her to sing so that someday she might prepare for the Vienna opera as he had. Why didn’t she practice her voice lessons? Why had she taken his advice and efforts so lightly? Her thoughts strangled with questions, more questions than she had answers for. In exhaustion, her head fell upon Nicolette’s shoulder and soon they were both asleep