Chapter 25: Prayers To The Past. ACT IV of VIII of Merry Christmas!
“SNOW! I WILL SET FIRE TO SUMMERFALL AS A SACRFICE FOR THE SNOW! IT WAS A GOOD SCHOOL! BUT THE SNOW MUST COME!” Madison shouts to the cloudless heavens, waving her arms frantically, and not fully realizing SummerFall Junior School’s fate was not hers to bargain with. But that did not matter. Snow matters.
“Someone really has to explain to her how the school might not like her concept of bargaining. Especially if she succeeds,” Susan states to no one in particular.
“Yes, but part of me is interested to see if it works. Because if it snows, then someone up there is really not a fan of education,” Cynthia says with an amused look.
“Now I am hoping it does work, to finally solve that question you, Susan and Collette always go on about, that whole higher power thing,” Clara states to Cynthia.
Laughs travels among the girls, with even Ilona joining in. But for her, it is a hollow feeling full of fakeness. For the last few days this is how she has lived, during the day with her new friends and during the night with her parents. Making the lie of being happy her norm. She is fairly certain no one notices, which gives Ilona the tiniest bit of happiness this Christmas season, since she does not want to bother them with her problems. Her talk with Clara did nothing to solve these issues, and her concentration is so bad she has not even touched the final Harry Potter book ever since her talk with Collette, with the characters still in limbo at Hogsmeade for her. Every part of Ilona seems to be on hold and she has no idea of how to fix it.
This should have been her happiest Christmas ever, but instead it is becoming her worst.
Madison continues her shouting match with the sky and the rest of the girls carry on with giving sideline commentary to the spectacle. Soon the bell rings and they all amble in.
The rest of the day moves by Ilona’s eyes with nary a comment from her. Ilona maintains the cover with her friends. She laughs when they laugh, she listens when they listen, and she is learning when they are learning, all to properly hide. The day ends with Ilona not feeling fully herself until she is safely behind the door of her apartment, staring at the walls, none of which seem to recognize or care about her predicament.
Her parents arrive home at their usual time and Ilona musters up enough fake happiness to make it pass their notice. As dinner completes, Ilona starts clearing the table, but is interrupted by her mother.
“Ilona, is everything okay? You are walking around like you are happy, but your father and I have noticed your seem distant. Even your friends are concerned,” Her mother takes Ilona’s hands as she speaks.
“My friends? How would you know? My friends?” Ilona sputters out.
“Cynthia called us today at work. She and your friends are very concerned about you. We can all tell something is different. What is it kiddo, you can tell us anything,” Her mother pleads.
“Nothing. It’s nothing. Nothing at all,” Ilona mutters and tries to yank her hands away.
“It is not nothing! You are hurting and we want to help make it better! What is wrong Ilona?” Her mother begs and grasps her daughter’s hands tight.
“Nothing that you can help with! Because… Because neither of you can fight the evil in the world… That is all around us…” Ilona fights tears as she whispers.
“Fighting evil?” Her father, on the other side of the table, exclaims, confused.
“Why do you have to fight evil?” Her mother asks, still holding Ilona’s hands tightly.
“Because… So much of it exists in the world! Collette is poor because her father was fired, all because he is black. Clara was made fun of, all because she is fat. And Susan, Susan is always careful because she likes girls. Why can’t my friends and their families be happy and who they are without someone evil coming after them?” Ilona babbles everything out in one long spiel and barely notices the look her parent exchange when she mentions Susan.
“Well, Ilona, evil has always existed in the world. It is simply a fact of human life. But we all try, not always successfully, to fight it and live the best lives we can. That is all we can do Ilona, try,” her mother explains, still clutching her daughters hands.
“But evil causes so much pain and hardship and everything bad. Is there no way to stop it entirely? To save everyone?” Ilona pleads.
“No Ilona dear, all we can do is try, and try our hardest. That is all,” her mother says, with sweat now forming in their clasped hands.
But… But… But… But…” Ilona stammers out.
“What is it Ilona?”
“Is something evil what happened to Arlene?” Ilona whispers, tears streaming down her anguished face.
Her mother’s hands tighten, squeezing Ilona’s and causing her daughter pain, a fact not even registering to either. Her father ‘s mouth goes wide.
“Why… Why would you think that… About her…” Her mother could hardly get the words out.
“Because we never talk about Arlene. Because we never talk about what happened. Because we never talk about what happened to us. Because we never talk about what happened to me. Because… we never… talk,” Ilona says with her head down.
Her mother raises their hands and loosens her grip.
“Ilona, look at me. I want to talk to you about something we probably should have talked about awhile ago. Arlene… passed away. It was hard on all of us. We had her for two beautiful months… two wonderful months… and we loved her… we all loved her… so much,” Her mother says through tears, “She was… is… our lovely little girl. She is our daughter.” Her mother turns to her father and smiles through the tears. He smiles back, tears staining his cheeks. “And she is your sister.” She turns back to Ilona, still smiling. “Her passing hurt us all. For quite some time. In so many ways. And we never talked about it with you. And for that I am sorry.”
“Very very sorry,” Her father says.
“I remember Arlene. I remember Arlene and how nice she smelled, how cute she was and……… I remember all the… turmoil after. How no one was happy… How money became even more of a problem… And how school became a blur to me,” Ilona babbles through the tears.
“Ilona, always remember the good things about you sister Arlene. You loved her and she loved you,” her mother tells her, still holding their hands in the air. “As for our many problems, they became worse after Arlene left us. We never did have much money, and after Arlene, we hired a lawyer–“
“A very very bad lawyer,” her father states, wiping his tears.
“Yes, a bad lawyer, which cost us a lot of money and got us no results, no justice, for Arlene,” her mother declares.
“So evil won?” Ilona whispers.
“Definitely not,” her father snorts.
“No… I would not say that… It was a… complicated situation that we wished had gone differently. We had to make a decision after awhile of what to do. A decision we stand by. Even now,” her mother’s tears have already stopped, her eyes now filled with determination.
“The case was going to be very difficult and made more so by our lawyer. And along the way, we noticed how it was affecting you,” her mother eyes beams love onto Ilona.
“You were never a good student. And in grade three, the stress of all this, took your marks even further downhill. When we were told you would have to repeat, we knew we had to do something. Your second time in grade three also meant you had to take extra tutoring in that special class. We decided,” she glances at Ilona’s father for a moment, than looks directly back at Ilona, “That we had to do something. We quickly moved on from the legal problems and focused back on you. We did not want for you to suffer from all these…” her mother searches for the words, “… adult issues. This is something we stand by to this day. And remember, do not blame yourself for any of this. We, your parents, made the call. Moving forward, thinking of your family, is something adults have to constantly do. Unfortunately, it took you awhile to fully recover. And the funny thing is, it was not special classes or your regular teachers–“
“That jerk Micheals can kiss my–” her father sneers.
“–That made you happy and a better student. It was your new friends. You smile all the time now, always reading, always dancing, always getting phone calls, and always getting straight A’s,” her mother interrupts Ilona’s father. “It was a trying time for us all. We miss Arlene still to this day. And in many ways, your pain lately tells me that maybe we never said our proper goodbyes,”
“How would we do that?” Ilona asks, her own tears finally starting to dry.
Her father speaks up while getting up from the table.
“Your grandmother had a great idea way back when. Go outside and talk to your loved ones in the sky up in heaven. Tell them you love them, miss them, and how your life is now.”
“That sounds wonderful. Do you want to try, Ilona?” her mother asks.
“Yes. That sounds nice,” Ilona replies.
Within minutes Ilona and her parents hustle outside, into the cold night air just outside their building. One street lamp basks them in it’s light as they stand, holding hands, taking turns telling stories of their lives to Arlene in the sky. When they finish, they keep staring into the cloudless world above them, feeling better, feeling refreshed.
Then they see it. Falling ever so gently, floating down almost on top of them, is three snowflakes. And they all smile.
Song For This Chapter: Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr.
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.