Her cheeks were pale. The warm red flush that used to occupy her face was leeched clean by deaths' cold grip. My mother's face was decorated with her favorite make-up, red lipstick, a flick of mascara, and a dusting of purple eyeshadow that used to bring out her crisp green eyes, she looked like herself, but at the same time her face was a stranger to me. She didn't have her eyebrows hiked up in playful arches, her lips weren't pulled back to expose crooked white teeth, and her eyes were closed. Most people thought that everyone looked peaceful when they were dead, my mother didn't look peaceful, or calm, she looked mournful for her own death. Even though the mortician had spritzed my mother with her signature perfume, it didn't mask the sick smell of formaldehyde.
"June! What are you doing in here?" My father picked my up under my armpits and made me face him straight on, "I thought I told you you couldn't come in here!" He put my feet back on the ground and grabbed my hand. He rushed my out of the room where my mothers open casket resided. I glanced once more over my shoulder, half-expecting my mother to sit up, pull her lips into a smile and giggle, "Gotchya!" But she didn't. I left that room with the last image my mother I would ever see, cold, sad, and dead.
"Oh there she is!" My aunt Judith exclaimed. She grabbed me from my fathers grip and held my close to her body.
"I wonder how she got in there, I thought I shut the door," My father ran his hand through
his hair and stalked into the kitchen. He didn't understand that, even though I was only 7, I did know how to open a door. Especially a door that contained a room with my mother in it. My mother who showed me such compassion, a mother who would rather spend a day singing to me then work a full time job, like my father. Tears pricked my eyes. I missed my mother.
"Would you like some potato salad?" My aunt asked me. I shook my head, "This is a beautiful dress, did grandma make this for you?" I stared down at the itchy red dress that my grandmother had bought at Macy's for me. I shook my head again.
"Still not talkin' eh?" My Uncle shook his head and took a long drag from his cigar. My dad didn't approve of smoking in the house, yet Uncle George did it anyway. I stared at him incredulously, he was obviously talking down to me. I couldn't take any more stupid adults thinking they knew me. I bolted out of my aunts hands, out the back door, across our backyard, and to my favorite big tree with a swing attached to it, very close to the trunk of the tree. I sat on the swing and held my hand out to touch the rough old bark, staring into the forest in front of me. My breath came out in visible huffs, it was cold outside without a jacket.
"I miss her," The first three words out of my mouth since my mother had died two weeks ago. I'm not sure who I said it to, whether it was myself or the tree. But, when I did, the tears streamed down my cheeks, and I didn't care, I had been tough enough for my father during the hard time. He didn't cry when she had first died, but I noticed a collection of glass bottles in the garbage with foreign labels. He had picked up drinking. He started shaving the scruff on his chin, because my mother loved the scruff, but with her gone he preferred to be clean-shaven.
My dad found me about an hour later, after the wake was over. He carried me in, chastised me for being irresponsible, and set me on the couch in front of the fire place. I laid there for quite some time listening to him struggle in the kitchen. Opening and closing the fridge, exclaiming when he burned him self on a plate, breaking something glass, cursing, grabbing a bottle from the cabinet, and eventually stalking up the stairs, bottle in hand. I pulled my knees up to my chin and tuned out the world, falling into a dreamless sleep.