May 1st 1917
“We are sorry for your loss, Shirley.” said some of my friends from school.
“Thank you.” I replied, something I had been saying all day, as I watched them walk down the church steps. Today had been Ralph’s funeral, more like a memorial, he had died on a European battlefield, afterall.
I stared sadly towards the cemetery. A place that Ralph should have been buried, but at old age, not at twenty-one. I felt a tear trip down my face so I quickly looked down at gloved hands, I didn’t want anyone to see this. I needed to be strong now that my parents seemed so weak and vulnerable.
“Shirley I found you!” exclaimed Bertha, who had just exited from the church.
“Oh, Bertha.” I said as I looked at her. She was dressed in plain black like everyone else who had attended the funeral, but for some reason she always managed to glow, even during the worst of times.
“How are you feeling?” she asked with concern as we sat together on the steps.
“I am feeling alright. Funerals are rather depressing, all the black. I most likely sound awful.” I said bitterly.
“You don’t sound awful. I rather agree. Let’s go for a walk in Central Park, before we go home.” suggested Bertha. I nodded, that would be nice I thought………… Really nice actually.
What had I done? I thought as I stared up at the ceiling. Bertha raised me almost, she watched over me when my parents couldn’t, she practically was my sister, and now I had ruined it thanks to my pride. I felt disgusted in myself, no wonder Henry was disappointed.
I wanted to make things right again, but it may be too late now, it had been a few days after our fight. But I needed to try. There it was again, my pride, I thought as I washed off thoughts telling me not to make up for what I had done went through my mind.
Quickly I jumped out of bed and got dressed, I needed to hurry before I would change my mind and think too much about what I had to do. I had to do it and that was final. Even though it may not work and Bertha and my friendship may be gone forever, at least I tried to restore it.
After an uncomfortable breakfast with Henry and my father(who had strangely decided to eat with us), I went upstairs where I found Bertha in her bedroom. I felt stuck. I didn’t know what to say, I felt so prepared earlier but now I couldn’t do it, so I turned around and headed downstairs. By then I realized how foolish I was. I now had to wait for another opportunity to speak to Bertha, privately. Thankfully Bertha did not seem to be too busy today, so soon enough I found another opportunity to speak to Bertha. This time instead of letting my pride get the better of me, I bluntly began to speak to Bertha.
“Good morning Bertha.” I said rather quietly, it was rather uncomfortable.
“Morning to you Miss. Shirley.” she replied rather cooly. This was going rather poorly, I usually was good with words but today they were failing me.
“Well.. Um.. It’s a pleasant day.” I said awkwardly, which made me want to shake myself.
“It is.” she replied, confused.
“Alright, I have been needing to say this for a little bit.. I am sorry Bertha.” I said awkwardly, but at least I had got it out. “And I apologize for being rather harsh and cruel a few days ago, I was neither considerate nor kind. I’m sorry.”
Bertha just looked at me, thinking a little, which made me more anticipated. Finally she spoke. “What you said to me was cruel but true. I should have told you, and so should Ralph, but I was scared, I didn’t want your parents to find out, especially your father. Ralph knew that this “secret” would destroy your family, and he also knew that I would lose my job. So we had to be cautious. But we made a mistake when we thought we couldn’t trust you. I accept your apology. But I also apologize to you for not trusting you, you have always trusted me.” she replied slowly, and sadly.
“I see. I accept.” I said kindly.
“But Shirley, I still want a little time to think over what I must do next.” said Bertha slowly. I knew this was coming, and I knew that Bertha’s dignity was still very much hurt, but I felt relieved though, Bertha and my friendship though damage was not lost, it was repairable.
“That’s fine. Please go at your own pace. Which reminds me I should speak to Henry.” I said with a smile. As I excused myself. My amends with Bertha inspired me to do something that I should have had done from the start. Now all I needed was Henry’s help.
“Henry!” I exclaimed when I found him.
“What is it Shirley?” he asked curiously, then I remembered that he was rather angry at me for the way I had treated Bertha, so this introduction was rather inappropriate for the situation.
“Well Henry, to begin with I am sorry about the way I treated Bertha, I even apologized to her in person. But what I am going to tell you is rather unrelated.
“Good, I’m impressed with you, but what are you going to tell me?” he asked, slowly.
We need to do something about our parents. It’s been too long, with them disappearing more and more in our lives. Mother never speaks to me nor acknowledges that I exist even. Father barely speaks with me, and when he ever does it is only when I request something or he requests something from me.” I explained.
“Yes do you think I don’t know. But that is very challenging and near impossible to change. Mother is far too weak…” replied Henry, pointing out the reasons why we should not do it.
“Henry… Did you know that they did not visit Ralph’s grave once after the funeral or memorial. This has to be mended or at least tried to be.” I explained, almost begging.
“Really, it’s not surprising though.. Well I now agree this has to be changed, but how?” he asked slowly.
“I have some ideas of course.” I replied.
“That’s a relief but we ought to start planning.” suggested Henry.
“Then let us get to it.” I replied, with an eager smile.
The next morning Henry and my plan was entirely finished, and ready to be put into use. I felt excited, maybe 1919 would be a better year. After breakfast Henry headed towar’s our father’s study and I headed towards my mother’s bedroom. In her room I saw my mother sitting on her rocking chair, her room was dark, cold and lifeless. So I quickly opened the blinds, I did not need my mother’s consent; she wasn’t speaking with me afterall.
“Good morning mother. I must speak with you.” I said slowly knowing that she had to respond in some way.
I was right. “Good morning Shirley.” said my mother quietly. It was nice to hear her voice again.
“Well mother, did you know that it’s 1919 now. So I have been thinking that you and father should visit Ralph’s grave.” I said bluntly.
My mother ignored me, which annoyed me. “Mother, speak to me. It has been far too long.” I said desperately.
“Is this what this is all about. Impolitely entering my room without consent, and asking me to visit Ralph’s grave with your father.” replied my mother angrily.
“This was the only way to get you to speak to me. We haven’t had a conversation in a long time.” I explained.
“Well if you want me to speak to you I am. Was this all your idea? Or were other people involved?” she asked curtly.
“Henry is involved. We both want to see you back on your feet again. You are not too ill” I said sternly.
“I thought Henry was finally beginning to see sense.” said my mother bitterly. Which was cruel but I ignored it.
“Mother. I miss you very much, things will never be like before the war, but they can get better. So please consider getting up today and visiting Ralph’s grave with father, for Ralph’s sake. Please… He wouldn’t want to see how our family is, he would want this to be mended” I begged, my voice breaking, as I took out some clothes out of my mother’s closet, and laid them on her bed. “Please consider mother.” I asked again.
My mother just looked at me, which meant she was thinking about, indicating I should leave and let her think. I quickly left her room taking deep breaths, I was feeling emotional. I wiped away the new forming tears when I saw Henry who had finished his conversation.
“How did it go?” I asked slowly, regaining my composure.
“I believe pretty well. Father actually thought about it and he even said that he would only go if mother was feeling ready for it.” replied Henry, happily.
“That’s wonderful! Mother was difficult but she’s thinking about it at least.” I said slowly.
“I think she really thought about it.” said Henry as he gestured for me to look forward. I looked, and I saw my mother, fully clothed in an outing dress. I rather gasped, I thought she wouldn’t do it, but she did.
“Where’s your father?” she asked, kindly, I pointed towards his study, where she gracefully entered. Henry and I just watched with surprise.
“I think we accomplished it.” said Henry after a little bit. I nodded in agreement. Today in a long time things looked much brighter, and more pleasant, I thought, feeling a surge of joy.