A Court for FairiesBy: Lynn S.
The Death of Esteban O’Reilly
“My heartfelt condolences…words cannot express the depth of our pain right now…steady…be brave…”
Marissa played nervously with the charm on her golden necklace, caressing the locket with her shaky fingers. She tried, in all civility, to avoid bursting in front of the audience. They were not hypocrites. They were just creatures of social bearing, bound by etiquette to make their presence felt, to share the pain.
Many times she had been on that side of the curtain, making the best of rehearsed social graces. Each scripted moment allowing her to channel a bit of feeling without being offensive or intruding. It was the key to emerging victorious out of a forced situation. Though grateful for the kindness of acquaintances and strangers, the plates of food did nothing but distract her from the need to make herself useful, perhaps cooking something. It all freed her time to think, which was not good at all. Flowers, rose and hyacinth, her favorite, would always be tied to the smell of formaldehyde and cotton. Those present had no idea that they had ruined certain things forever.
It was not fair to blame them. Death cast the dice and waited for it all to fall. House lost a life and the game continued. Cruel fate was the only one responsible for her boyfriend’s untimely death at twenty-six.
Marissa waited for close friends to finish paying respect to the fine silver urn that kept Esteban’s ashes. While some of those present felt relaxed enough to ease into a cup of coffee and chat, she made her way to the second floor.
Esteban’s eyes followed her, step after step, in photo montages adorning the stairs; frames of childhood and adolescence.
She entered his old room, letting herself fall on top of the twin bed in which Esteban slept as a child, holding tight to a sham that adorned a pillow with patterns of blue, black, and green squares. The ensemble of the room evoked nothing of the taste of the man with love of sober, streamlined contemporary furniture, but at that moment, it all stood for him.
Marissa couldn’t conceive returning to the apartment after the accident, that nook in Brooklyn they had made their home for the last two years. Twenty-four months suddenly became an unbearable world of memory.
She was working in the city when the news arrived, and driving straight to her mother’s place in Queens, she crashed there for a week. She didn’t want to deal with rumpled sheets, or the toothpaste tube pressed in the middle, those little details that once vexed her now would only make her cry.
But she missed him. God, she missed him enough to try to find anything in that room to cling to, like the softness of that pillow that no longer carried his scent. She wanted to coerce the child, no longer there, to paint her a picture of the man she had just lost.
She must have fallen asleep, but the touch of a firm yet caring hand brought her back. Waking up startled, Marissa mumbled some apology while trying to fix her hair and runs in her make up. Two women looked at her, silent before her words, waiting for the young woman to catch a breath and forgive herself.
“No one will blame you, child. It has been a taxing day. We are all tired, some more than others. We are all grieving at the same level.”
Carla, Esteban’s grandmother, sat at the edge of the bed, taking Marissa’s hand, building a bridge between her and her daughter, Isabel, as Esteban’s mother stood, unmoved.
“Marissa, darling,” Carla continued, “Isabel and I have been discussing a couple of things. We know very well what Esteban felt for you. You were not the first girl he brought home, but you were the only one he insisted the family meet. Please don’t think we are about to place a burden upon you. In fact, we know you are young and meant, in time, to heal and thrive, and build another life. Though pain seems inconceivable, it will subside. But we cannot keep silent about the course of certain…things interrupted by the accident that took Esteban’s life.”
The matron looked at Isabel, letting her know that she had said her piece. Isabel let go of her mother’s hand and turned toward the bureau, taking a box out of the top drawer. It was then that Marissa noticed they had been talking in a darkened room. The light from the street lamp barely made it in a thin angle through the window and the patterns of the curtains threw long shadows over Isabel’s hands, making them look older, spotted in dark circles.