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 One Step at a Time, [Solo]
Cora Birchwood
 Posted: Jan 8 2018, 04:39 PM

There was very little that could get Cora down. The young woman was a perpetual ray of sunshine. If something could cloud her day, it had to be a really, really bad day. Like, woke up, stepped on a nail, tripped down the stairs, burned the roof of your mouth, someone broke into your car and stole the steering because they’re freaks, kind of day. Cora had one or two of those in her lifetime but she always managed to make it through in the end. However, on this particular day, it wasn’t a series of obstacles that dimmed the shiny light in her eyes -- rather it was visiting one place in particular.

The Lochland Grove Graveyard. It wasn’t Cora’s favorite place to be but, still, she forced herself to come here every couple of weeks in order to pay her respects to the last of her family. If it weren’t for her grandmother, Tess, she never would have come to Lochland Grove, and certainly wouldn’t have the home that she did. Since she didn’t get to know more of her, she figured that the least she could do was visit her grave at least once a month. She owed her at least that.

Still, she didn’t care for the sadness that seemed to sweep across the grounds. She could only hope that this time it wouldn’t be as bad.

As her car pulled up to the side of the road, Cora took a few steadying breaths to keep herself from feeling overly down. She didn’t like to feel down but sometimes, trudging around the expensive cemetery was like trudging through the Swamps of Sadness in “The Neverending Story”. Each step she could feel the light die down just a little bit more. But not today. She was having a good day and she wouldn’t let this trip weigh her down.

Stepping out of her tiny car, the young woman with the head full of curly hair, strolled towards the grounds, dressed casually in rainbow-hued jeans, her patented bright yellow jacket, and a scarf around her neck. Her clothing was thick to prevent a chill but still tight enough that her shape was fairly discernable. She wasn’t overweight by any means, but the young woman definitely had curves in all the right places. But she wasn’t dressing to impress here, it was attempt at bright clothing to help combat any depressive thoughts. Best of luck there.

Cora had only crossed the threshold of the gate when she stopped and looked around. It was a beautiful day out but the sadness hung over this place like a dome. Her head lifted as she peered around, falling from tombstone to tombstone. She remembered the first time she came here after her grandmother was buried. She couldn’t find the blasted memorial. She found it the last time but that was easy when there were mourners and people working to bury the casket. But the day after? Forget it. It was looking for a needle in a haysack.

Or, in this case, a tombstone in a cemetery.

But, all morbid thoughts aside, Cora managed to push through that little challenge. Eventually she found her grandmother’s gravesite and each time she went, it became progressively easier. And yet, even as this thought crossed her mind, Cora came to a stop when she reached a certain tombstone that she thought was familiar but now, in fact, wasn’t. She lifted her gaze, looked left, looked right, and then sighed.

”Fucker,” she said with a sigh. She was lost again. She was about to turn when she looked at a nearby tomb and spotted the Christ figure etched into the stone. Her cheeks flushed. ”Sorry,” she mumbled. She would have to retrace her steps to find her grandmother’s burial spot.

Cora Birchwood
 Posted: Jan 8 2018, 04:40 PM

Honestly there was no reason for her to get lost. Cora didn’t have the greatest sense of direction but once she had done something enough times, she usually figured things out. That was how she ended up being so good at baking, after all. How many cakes did she burn? How many cookies did she forget to put flour into (I know, right?)? How many times has she accidentally left her oven on all night and woke up sweating, thinking she was going to die of malaria? Cora forgot things, yes, but with practice she eventually learns the lesson, it has never failed. And yet, when it comes to her grandmother Tessa’s grave, she always manages to get turned around. Honestly, she can’t figure it out.

But persistence was key. Besides, she wasn’t going to take home the bouquet of flowers she currently had sitting in her hand. If she threw them away, it would be wasteful; if she kept them, it would be morbid; and if she left them on someone else’s grave, that would be disrespectful. Nope, for her own sanity, she needed to take these flowers to her grandmother’s grave. If only she could remember where the fuck it was supposed to be.

Cora wandered and briefly began to surmise a completely illogical plan in which cemeteries rotated out graves and bodies, swapping them like a giant game of checkers. How they did that overnight, well, her only running theory involved several excavators and temporary sound-proof fencing but the idea was beginning to get just a little more ludicrous with every passing second. Still, it was an interesting idea, one that she would have to sell to a writer friend of hers.

But that was way off topic.

As she walked, she came to a stop next to a tree and found herself staring at it. It was familiar. And then, it struck her.

”OW!” she winced, rubbing her head as she looked up. The tree had ornaments all over it, weathered with age. One of them fell and bopped her on top of her head. She looked down, finding the small, disc ornament, kneeled down, and picked it up between her fingers. It was in the shape of the moon and said ’We Miss Daddy 2014’. She frowned and started to remember.

Several months back when she came to this cemetery, she was wandering, just like this, and found a middle-aged woman and her tween daughter. They were tossing a pair of ornaments up into the tree but they kept falling off. When she inquired, the daughter said that her father disappeared while working on an off-shore drilling rig. They said he was trying to fix a pipe when he was swept out to sea and lost among the waves. With no body to bury, her mom still wanted a place to remember him and so they took to hanging ornaments from this extremely tall tree. It touched Cora to hear this and, of course, helped until the pesky things finally stuck.

She inspected the one that hit her. Weather had made the ribbon frayed and tired looking. No wonder it snapped. Carefully she tied it again, walked up to the tree and managed to reach one of the low-hanging branches. There she carefully slipped it onto the branch and tucked it behind so the weather wouldn’t get to it as bad. It wasn’t going to last, but it was the best she could do.

And, best of all, she suddenly perked up as she turned and looked north. That’s right, her grandmother’s grave was this way. She knew that because whenever she passed this tree, she would remember that incident and turn north, towards the mountains. So it looked like she was headed north now.

Cora Birchwood
 Posted: Jan 8 2018, 04:40 PM

Cora was right. As she trudged up the tiny hill, things looked more and more familiar. The tombstones were making sense, the designs were getting more intricate, and then she finally noted the weeping angel one that kind of inspired her and kind of freaked her out at the same time. But, again, she needed to be respectful so she quietly passed it until she came across that one lone grave with the black marble tombstone and the name “TESSA BIRCHWOOD” engraved upon it. She took another steadying breath as she stopped and stared at it. It still felt so cold up here that she felt a shiver roll down her spine. But, as always, she would persist.

She marched slowly up to the lonely grave, pulled out her blanket from her bag and unfurled it onto the ground. Once it was flat, she sighed as she stepped onto it and dropped to her knees. A small, sad smile stretched her lips as she pulled her tote bag in front of her and pulled out the bouquet of flowers that she brought. She began to hum a little, reaching over and pulling off some of the stray wilted flower petals that were still in the stand.

She scoffed a little.

”It’s funny. For the money you paid to be here,” she said teasingly. ”You’d think that the groundskeepers would do a better job of cleaning off the tombstones.”

She brushed off the last of the petals before setting the new bouquet into the stand. It sunk in and she sighed, leaning back to tilt her head and look at the arrangement. Reaching over again she changed places of the flowers, pulling one out that she deemed as being “too extra” and set it in her bag. The new arrangement made, she nodded her head approvingly and sat back on her legs.

”There. Much better, don’t you think?” She sighed, slipping onto her hip and keeping her legs curled behind her. Again she looked around, smiling a little wistfully as she felt a breeze flow through her hair. ”Beautiful place. I say it every time I come, but...I can see why you’d want to be here. It’s peaceful, quiet, and you know you won’t have any rowdy neighbors.”

She smirked, shaking her head as she picked at a piece of lint on her blanket. She knew that she was rambling but she couldn’t help herself. For every second she sat here, trying to make small talk, she just remembered that she didn’t really know this woman. She met her only a handful of times and that was after years of never knowing she existed. And then, poof, she was gone, leaving Cora without any family and a tiny house for her to live in or sell if she wanted to.

Cora could have gone back to New York. She could have sold the tiny house and went to resume her life in the big city, but she wanted to stay. She wanted this, to be here in Lochland Grove and learn a bit more about the family that she never knew, that her mother never spoke up. Grandma Tessa tried to explain what she knew but it seemed that Cora’s mother kept a lot from her too. All she had were names of families, the fact that Tessa disowned her, and spent several years looking for her in an attempt to make amends. And look where they were?

Cora sniffled and shook her head. It wasn’t fair.

”I don’t know you, Grandma Tessa,” she said softly, reaching up to wipe a tear from the corner of her eye. ”You spend so long out of my life and, you finally reach out to me only to disappear? And here I am, crying for you. Why?” She asked. ”You kicked mom to the curb. You kicked me out along with her. And why? Because she had sex before you said it was okay? Because she wanted to keep a child you didn’t approve of?” Another sniffle. A breeze picked up, washing across her face and taking a tear or two with it. With a deep breath she offered the ground a soft smile. ”Sorry,” she whispered. ”Let’s...Let’s just talk a little...okay?” She pulled a water from her bag and took a sip. ”One step at a time.”

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