This continues the story of Agnes and Matilda. It remains untitled. I guess this would probably happen some time after Agnes and Where is Mama?. The other parts of the story include At the Airport, The Woman in the Photograph and Back at Henry’s House. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Especially since I’m not going back to previous sections and I’m sure there will be continuity errors. What can I say? It’s a first draft.
Carolyn looked at the little girl in her favorite pink princess dress. She was almost five years old now, still quiet and still always smiling. Carolyn was petrified of what the news would do to the poor thing. The little girl was so sensitive.
Matilda looked up from pouring “tea” for her dolls and saw her grandmother watching her from the doorway. She usually didn’t like when her father left her at her grandmother’s, but today it seemed alright. Her father wasn’t seeming quite so sad these days. And he said she had to stay with grandmother so he could go to an interview for a really good job. They might even get to move into a new house!
“Matilda,” Carolyn struggled to keep her voice steady. “We need to have a talk.”
Matilda set down her teapot and turned her full attention to Carolyn. She even placed her hands in her lap. Carolyn always marveled at how polite this small child was.
She entered the room and sat carefully on the floor next to her only grandchild. She urged herself to remain poised, calm, and to withhold all tears.
“Grandma, what’s wrong?” The girl was too perceptive. Carolyn looked at her pale yet intense blue eyes, the ones that looked just like her daughter’s. And she cried.
The tears fell uncontrollably. Matilda crawled into her grandmother’s lap and snuggled up to her. The two of them sat there in a hug until Carolyn was able to compose herself enough to speak.
“Darling, your father has been in an accident. Do you know what that means?”
Matilda nodded solemnly, “Did he fall and bump his leg? Does he need me to make it better?”
Carolyn shook her head slowly, “No Matilda. Not an accident like that. Remember how your daddy was driving to his big important job interview? Well, while he was driving -” She paused and took a few small breaths to calm herself. “While he was driving, another car drove into his and they crashed. Several cars crashed into each other. Lots of people go hurt. And your father – your daddy – was hurt so badly that he died.”
Matilda watched Carolyn for a long moment, and then a pool of tears released from her eyes. Carolyn wrapped her into another hug.
Matilda sniffled into Carolyn’s shoulder, “Daddy went away, like Mama? Away forever?”
Carolyn hesitated. She hadn’t heard the girl mention her mother in a long time. Now she was sorry David had told her Agnes had passed away.
“Oh baby, yes. Your daddy went away, like Mama.”
The little girl wiped tears from her cheeks, “And now he’s with Mama. Right?” Carolyn nodded. She had never agreed with David’s decision, to treat it as if Agnes had died, not disappeared. But she feared losing her last connection with her only child, so she’d gone along with it.
She held Matilda and they cried together for a while. Eventually Matilda quieted, and Carolyn realized she’d fallen asleep. So she picked her up and tucked Matilda gently into bed. She picked up one of the dolls and placed it next to Matilda, not wanting her to wake up alone.
Then, Carolyn went to the kitchen and started washing dishes. She had to do something, keep herself busy, maintain order. After the dishes and the laundry were done, after the house was cleaned and put together, only after she’d taken care of any task she could find to distract herself, only then would she let herself stop to wonder: what would happen to Matilda now?
Okay, so there are parts of that I like and parts that I just don’t feel went very well (and I realize I changed Matilda calling David to ‘daddy’. Papa wasn’t working for me, since that feels like a grandfather’s nickname to me.) Talking to children about death is hard enough, but how do you tell a child that her daddy has died? Especially one whose mother abandoned her just a few years earlier?
I thought about this scene a lot last night, and then I started rewriting it. I really don’t want to do a lot of rewriting until I have the bulk of the story down, but this was bugging me. I’m going to share what I started last night (It’s really short), but I would really appreciate some feedback on how to handle something like this.
Did I mention that people who comment on these posts are totally getting a shout-out in the Acknowledgements section when (okay, if) this thing gets published?
Does that make you want to give me some feedback now? (haha, is she kidding?)
Okay, here it is:
Carolyn stood in the doorway of her bedroom, watching Matilda play with a tea set that had once belonged to Agnes. Matilda was dressed in a pink princess dress that Carolyn had made for her fifth birthday party. David had told Carolyn the girl had barely worn anything else in the two months since her party.
At the thought of David, Carolyn felt herself about to cry. She went into the kitchen, where Matilda might not catch her grandmother in rare emotional form.
“Lyn?” She turned to her husband and a look of shock replaced whatever question he’d been meaning to ask her. “Lyn, what in the world – ? What’s wrong?”
Carolyn wiped her cheeks with her palms, “There’s been a terrible accident.” She lowered her voice, in case Matilda could hear her, “David’s dead.”
Ed was silent as he put his arms around his wife, and they let themselves cry quietly together for a moment.