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My dearest Ella, I wish we would have had more time together, but we both know that we don't always get what we want...
Ella is consumed by grief when her Grandma Dorothy dies. Left with Grandma's ashes in an alabaster urn, Ella dreams of rubbing it like a magic lamp and Grandma suddenly appearing. But it's only a dream. To protect herself from experiencing this kind of heartache ever again, Ella pulls away from Trey, the love of her life. Better to leave him than to lose him, she thinks. Slowly Ella learns to live again as she reads the letters Grandma left behind one for every day of the coming year.
My dearest Ella, I can't believe that I'm writing the last note you will ever receive from me. By the time you read this, a whole year will have passed since my death. I hope my notes have helped you find your way...
Copyright 2015 © Buffy Andrews
Ella stared at the alabaster urn the funeral director had given her. It was hard to believe that Grandma had become nothing more than a pile of white ashes. She longed to feel her grandma’s thick arms around her and to smell her sweet perfume that hung in the air like an August fog. How does a cream puff of a lady become nothing more than a bag of dust, she wondered.
Cancer. That evil C word. The word she had lived with for almost a year. The evil thing that had devoured Grandma like a vulture devours a dead carcass, gorging itself until its crop bulges and leaves nothing but splintered bones behind.
It was so unfair, Ella thought. Grandma Dorothy was all she had. Now her beloved Dorothy was gone, off to an emerald city from which she would never return. And Ella was left with nothing but the sage alabaster urn Grandma had picked out before she died. Picked out like everything else.
The hymns that would be sung. The biblical passages that would be read. Even the flowers that would sit beside the urn on the pedestal table. She’d picked everything out as if she’d been planning a picnic, and Ella hated her for it.
Sometimes, Ella couldn’t stand Grandma’s optimism, and she’d escape to her room. She’d tell Grandma she had to study, but she never did. She’d lie on her bed, stare at the ceiling, and think, and remember, and pretend—pretend that Grandma was in the kitchen singing her favorite Doris Day song and making macaroni and cheese.
Ella could hear Grandma’s voice in her head. Whatever will be will be.
She started to cry. Screw whatever will be will be, she thought. What about what I want? Then she started to panic, afraid that Grandma’s voice would fade like her mother’s, and father’s, and sister’s. No matter how hard she tried, Ella no longer heard their voices.
They’d died when Ella was six. Killed in an accident on the way home from the zoo.Crash Kills Family of Three, the newspaper headline had said.
Ella could still remember that day, as if it was yesterday or the day before instead of eleven years ago. Ella had a stomach virus and was too sick to go. She’d spent the night throwing up and eventually fell asleep in her mother’s arms next to the white porcelain tub. Grandma had watched her while the rest of Ella’s family met her mom’s friend for their annual zoo outing.
Ella was so upset she couldn’t go that she cried the whole way through Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—her favorite movie. Even watching Augustus Gloop fall into the chocolate river and being sucked out by the extraction pipe, and gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde blowing up like a balloon, didn’t make her laugh.
Grandma promised to take her to the zoo when she felt better, but Ella still cried. She wanted to see the monkeys with Sissy. And the bears, giraffes, and tigers.
After her parents and sister died, Ella wanted nothing to do with the zoo. Grandma brought it up a few times. She thought it would be good for Ella to go, but Ella refused. She wasn’t going anywhere near the zoo and, after a time, Grandma stopped asking.
Grandma’s best friend, Maddie, put her arms around Ella. Everyone else had left after the funeral service—her best friend, Emily, even Trey. Secretly, Ella had wanted him to stay, but she kept pushing him away. She’d been doing that for months.
It was better that way, she thought. Everyone she loved she’d lost. Losing Trey would be too much. She had to protect herself from ever feeling this way again. And if turning away from Trey was what she needed to do to protect herself, well, then that’s what she had to do.
“Ready?” Maddie asked.
No, Ella wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to move into Maddie’s house. She adored Maddie. Loved her. She was like the aunt Ella never had, but Maddie wasn’t Grandma.
However, Ella had no choice. Grandma had planned everything. Just like the hymns, and the readings, and the flowers. Maddie, a retired school teacher, would become Ella’s guardian and see her through her last year of high school and college. That was the plan—Grandma’s plan. As much as Ella hated it, she knew it was the only way.
“I hope that even in the rain,” Grandma always told her, “you find the sun.”
Screw the sun, Ella thought as she grabbed her coat and followed Maddie to the front door. There was no sun in sight. Only a razor-blade rain that sliced her aching heart and chilled her to the bone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A journalist by day and an author by night, Buffy Andrews loves telling stories. Some of her fiction ideas pop into her head at the most inopportune times, such as during a sermon or in the shower or when she’s supposed to be listening in a meeting. She’s written all over church bulletins, jumped out of the shower more than once to write down an idea and turned meeting handouts into story boards.
When she’s not writing, she’s leading an award-winning team of journalists at the York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., where she’s Assistant Managing Editor of Features and Niche Publications and the newspaper’s social media coordinator.
She lives in southcentral Pennsylvania with her husband, Tom; two sons, Zach and Micah; and wheaten cairn terrier Kakita.