Jeremiah 31.15-17



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Scene Title Jeremiah 31.15-17
Synopsis Delia finds herself at the mercy of a dream, as opposed to the other way around. There is hope in your future, says the Lord. But so are many other things.
Date April 6, 2011

In Dreaming

Movement blurs beyond a cardoor window peppered with a summery rain in fly away droplets that make pin thin streaks down the glass. One of those strange days, where the sky is just clear enough to let the sun through, and it makes the white monuments seen outside glow beneath its light, reflective with recent damp. Angel statues, and tooth-like gravestones, and crypts, and tombs, as far as the eye can see — the graveyard in Queens is an impossibility in its range, and they're only just coming up to the right entrance.

Delia isn't watching the driver, because Nick York is doing plenty of that on his own, in sideways glances out the corner of his eye that he probably imagines she doesn't notice— worst spy ever— and hopeful little beginnings of conversation that she allows to wither and die, more constant than the current sun. She is not a cold person naturally, but—

Newspaper crinkles between her fingers, a pen caught between fingers. She was doing a crossword, before the blur of the graveyard coming into view stole her attention. She does not dress in mourning colours, just sedate, pragmatic clothes against the warm weather, her hair cut shorter than usual and tied up and off her neck, offering relief. Thoughts about what she is about to do slide away from the topic as if greased, unable to broach it, or say a name, or conjure an image in her mind. Grief is numbing and muting today, and the weight of it feels like it's been there for months.

"Funeral today," Nick mentions at the sight of an empty hearse parked near the gravel road entrance they turn into.

A glance out the window rather than Nick himself gives the answer to 17 across. A nine letter word for yellow flower, buttercup. Such a bright and cheerful little thing that adds a delicate piece of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy place. Out of place if only because the caretaker cut a few corners in the mowing over the past few weeks. She can't imagine that their addition is unwelcome amidst the carefully designed wreaths and bouquets left by mourners on the markers of loved ones.

Pressing the pencil onto the newsprint, she begins filling in the first letter only to feel and hear more than see the lead snap off. The small squiggle that should have been a B is punctuated by a hole that the lead made when it poked through. "There's always a funeral, at least somewhere," she says quietly. Trying to keep her voice from quivering is the hardest part, not letting him see or hear, trying to maintain a stoic countenance like her father. He respects her father. "Today isn't any different than any other day, just one more person that's not going to wake up to any of this."

He makes that sound, the one she's grown accustomed to since— then. From most people. They tend to think it's neutral silence, but really it's an uneasy inhale, one that stops and holds the air high in his lungs before silent release, turned away. The car crawls into the parking space, and Nick is out of the car first before the crossword catches Delia's eye, delaying her own exeunt as the notion sets nervous hooks into her chest where her heart should be as an answer clicks too effortlessly into place. Blunt pencil, but she can imagine where the letters go. Nine spaces, ends with 'y', and the clue is a simple word in itself, 'origins'.


When the car door swings open as offered by Nick, it will wrench her back to the reality, of the two bright day, and the spotty little droplets of rain flinging inside and streaking the newspaper.

Twisting in her seat, she swings her legs out together, like she's seen in too many romantic comedies back when weekends meant something. Her footwear isn't peep toe stilletos, crafted to make her legs look longer and more shapely. Simple flats that crunch the gravel when they hit rather than making no sound at all. Their soles have worn thin, she can feel every pebble underfoot. Looking down at them, she silently laments her choice. She could have picked something a little nicer but these were the most comfortable option available at the last moment. Delia's never been one to prepare that well, always forgetting one thing. Today it was the shoes.

Her fingers curl around the faded shawl worn over her shoulders, pulling it together and clasping the small crucifix hidden underneath. "Perfect day," she comments, finally making the effort to start a conversation in earnest. Perhaps it's a little too late but it's better than never. "It's like the whole world is crying." Lifting her chin to look up at him, she gives a sardonic half smile and then back down to her feet.

"Let them do the crying," Nick finds himself suggesting, before his mouth twists ruefully, like he isn't sure he's right. She can note a flash of frustration glimmering in blue eyes before he forces it away, shakes his head briefly. "Come on, it's this way. I think— you'll like it. They did a good job."

The walk is downhill and winding, and beyond, Delia can see the spread of New York City, or the rest of it — the somewhat brokedown centre of Midtown, the otherwise thriving city and suburbs for all that it has its patches of decay. They walk quietly and in some ways alone, subdued by the heavy silence of the place, and it's Nick who stops first and points towards a modest, but pure white headstone that stands clean and apart from the grey granite around it — this one is marble, or at least, has a layer of marble.

"I can wait here," he offers.

Squinting at the small monument that looks so out of place, Delia's index finger hooks around Nick's in answer, "Okay." The verbal response conflicts with the small tug that pulls his hand forward while hers lags behind as she takes a couple of small halting steps forward. Something like a lamb or a calf taking its first shaky steps. The digits slip away from each other when she takes another and then one more, bringing her within touching distance of the stone.

Her hand smooths over the top, wiping away any dust that's collected from lonely days spent outside. It's wiped off on the side of her skirt, leaving a powdery handprint that'll likely stay until the garment is washed again. She pauses there and glances back at him, as though looking for reassurance that they're entirely alone. When she turns again, her eyes fall to the lettering. The dates first to make certain they're correct and then the name, to make sure that it's spelled properly. The epitaph is glossed over, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It is, after all, just a tidbit to allow strangers a glimpse into a life that they'll never know. An entire life that's summed up in ten words or less.

The name and date is easier to allow the eye to draw to — the epitaph is not, after all, ten words, it's a scrolling psalm imprinted into the glossy white and grey stone, almost difficult to make out, but the name and date is not.

April 12, 2012 - January 18, 2013

Beneath, the psalm inscribed for her rolls out in a curving alignment, but clear once the eye gets used to the imprinted scripture:

Thus says the Lord:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.

Thus says the Lord:

Refrain your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears;
For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord,
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope in your future, says the Lord,
That your children shall come back to their own border.

Familiarity is crushing, even if this is the first time since her tiny, tiny daughter, sickly as long as she was known, was put into the ground with a scattered funeral of family members, friends, terrorists and civilians both. The man shadowing behind her not present, but present now, as Nick gives into some internal decision and slowly approaches, trying to be quiet.

Not quiet enough, the soft sound of freshly cut grass being crushed beneath his feet gives him away and Delia turns her head to look at his shoes. "They did," she utters, swallowing a painful lump in her throat. The psalm, though so perfect in many ways receives a bitter grimace from Delia as her blue eyes flit over each word. Her hand crushes over the crucifix and pierces into her palm, the small measure of tangible pain relieving whatever's left inside.

She kneels, one knee touching the damp ground and soaking up the rain that's already fallen. The fingers of her free hand dig into the soil, staying motionless at first before a sound makes its way from the back of her throat and she rips it up. "I hate it. I hate it.. I want it changed. The color isn't right, the words… none of it's right."

For a few seconds, Nick stands mute and guilty, before he moves, then, hands go out to seek her's. "We can change it," he says, with the kind of steely certainty that comes with superseding internal uncertainty. He'd been so sure, not that long ago, that the words had been good, the stone had been good, it had been right. But fingers are uprooting the earth and whether she wants it changed tomorrow has no bearing on what she wants now and what he is willing to promise. "Red…"

His hands go to close over the hand in the soil, and gently urge her fingers into her palms with his broader, stronger digits.

Fingers stained with the rich color of the prussian green grass is trimmed by the burnt sienna of soil caught under her fingernails. Her other knee falls alongside the first and she crumples into a hunch in front of the stone. "I— I hate it… find someone for me. Find someone to make her better, please Nick, I know someone can do it." It's a plea she's made thousands of times before now to countless people. A plea that's been answered over and over with a shake of the head and a guilty expression. No mother should bury their child but it happens.

"It's not fair," she adds, fuel for her argument. "It's not fair, it can be me… I'll trade. I'll do anything."

"It's not fair," Nick agrees, and he has an arm winding around her whether she'd shake it off or not. "The sickness isn't fair, especially not with the little ones. I'm so sorry, Delia." It sounds a little like it's the first time he's said himself, to her, like this, but not the first time she's heard it. A lot of people have been sorry, Delia and she's the sorriest of them all. The rain nestles tiny crystals of moisture in her hair and makes the marble shine and the soil black, the day glary and random, and the result of a similar unfortunate lottery beneath them, marked before them.

By the time the sky has the decency to keep up with its own fall of water, and veil the sky with chiller overcast cloud cover to pick damp and cool at her shawl, they'll have been there for enough moments. Not enough to pay tribute to her, but for Delia to at least note the discomfort in her abdomen, the familiar strangeness that settles more tangible, more physical, than the weight of sadness she's otherwise carried since the last time.

The marker speaks of hope and the future, but the only thing written in stone is the past. Anxiety for what's to come is the last blossoming, fresh emotion Delia feels that carries with her to die away in waking hours, when summer sprinkles give way to dry, spring morning light.

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