“Darling, must we walk all this way? I am going to be late for my travels and have no time for your antics.” Rafael moaned, not even minutes after he complained of sore feet.
“This will take no more than a moment of your life,” Eliza responded while leading her husband down the paths she knew by heart. The soil felt like silk along her feet as she hummed the tune the wind was carrying.
“Are you sure you should be walking so far? You shouldn’t be moving so much while the baby is close.” Rafael poked while looking back at the town, which was nothing more than a speck from the hill they were climbing.
“This is far too important to worry about such things,” Eliza spoke, more focused on the destination than the nagging in her ear. The moonlight was dim in the early morning sky, but Eliza needed no light to find her way. On top of the hill and beyond the gate was a place she loved more than anywhere else.
“A graveyard? Why waste the morning air coming to a graveyard?”
“This land is a gift more than it is a waste,” Eliza kneeled down to pick a bouquet of lilies from a garden she tended to herself, the petals shining bright without the morning sun’s help. “It may be small, but it holds more meaning than you could ever comprehend.”
It was true; the grounds only held six headstones. They stood tall in a perfect line, laced with flowers and jewels worthy of a queen.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” Rafael gruffled. Eliza rolled her eyes before leading him to the first gravestone, its actual age shining through the cracks and ivory that adorned it. Eliza kneeled down and placed a single lily on top, easing into the cold stone feeling on her fingertips.
“My mother died young, but not before she could take me here and show me the horrors of our families’ past. Our names may be different, but our stories are all the same.” Eliza rose up to stand next to her husband, her stone-cold hands pressing into his own.
“Magda? The woman who drowned in the well is from your bloodline?” Rafael squinted to read the engravings Magda Vallon, ‘1625-1649’. “I thought she was nothing more than a myth the town elders told children?”
“She was as real as you are, and her tale was nothing of the joke as the elders tell it.” Eliza stopped to take a deep breath to fight the tears. The memory of her mother’s voice rings throughout her ears.
“Magda was born with a body that couldn’t bear a child, a shame that she carried into her marriage with a suitor picked for her. Once her husband discovered the truth, he beat her until she fled into the forest. Her cries attracted the attention of a witch who took pity on her. She cast a spell so that she bare a child. She gave birth to a beautiful girl, but that was not enough to ease her husband’s temper. Years after when his rage became to much, he took both Magda and their daughter and threw them down the well before leaving the town. Magda drowned, holding her daughter up, waiting for the townsfolk to hear her daughter scream.”
“Her husband killed her? The elders said she threw herself and the child down at her own will?” Rafael mumbled, peering at the grave of the woman he never knew. “Why do you dare to lie to me about such a tale?” He shook an accusing finger at his wife, who ignored him as she moved to the next grave that belonged to Alvera Gorgen, ‘1644-1668’.
“Alvera was left as an orphan to be raised by the town nuns. She was married to a merchant who promised her a life riches and happiness, a life she had dreamed of since the day she lost her mother. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl to which she raised herself as her husband travelled the lands. One unfortunate day he fell in love with a younger, more beautiful woman and decided to pursue a life with her instead. When he arrived home, he set his house aflame before disappearing with his new bride. Alvera died protecting her daughter from the flames.”
Rafael’s face steamed up in anger as his wife continued to ignore his claims of lies; instead, she placed another lilly before moving to the next grave that belonged to Bella Fianna, ‘1664-1688’.
“Bella stayed an orphan raised by her mother’s friend until she was married to the town blacksmith. She gave birth to a beautiful girl, and they were cherished as the sweetest family of the town that had nothing more than happy thoughts to share. His anger was never seen until a tool broke while the daughter was within reach. He went forward to punish her with his furnace until Bella pleaded for her safety. The husband then threw Bella into the furnace before throwing himself in after realizing what he had done.”
Rafael had quieted his voice, now more focused on the stories than his own infuriating voice. Eliza went forward and placed a lily on the gravestone that belonged to Sabrina Hohsin, ‘1682-1706’.
“Sabrina lived with the town priest until she married a handsome newcomer who was said to have ambitions to live a great life. Sabrina and her husband had a beautiful baby girl, to which she raised while her husband worked in the mines. He made a great sum of money but wasted his fortune drinking away at the town saloon. One day he came home without a single thought in his mind. He went forward to attack his own daughter before Sabrina stood forward to protect her. That was the night she died, bludgeoned to death from the very bottle he was drinking. He was executed by the townsfolk, ashamed of the crime he brought upon the town.”
It was silent for a long while. Rafael unable to come up with anything to say as Eliza stood in front of her mother’s grave. Willow Kolla, ‘1701-1725’. Eliza placed a lily on the gravestone before holding the side as if she were to hold her mother’s hand.
“Willow lived with the family that owned the saloon, over time falling in love with the young son of the saloon owner. They lived a joyous life, running the saloon while raising a beautiful baby girl. It was said that nothing possibly could go wrong until a young merchant came into town and stayed in one of the saloon rooms. Rumour went around that the merchant pursued Willow, and her husband was overcome with rage. He took his revolver and hunted the child they had created together, but didn’t take the shot until Willow went forward to shield her daughter. He couldn’t handle the aftermath of his crying child and dead wife, so he shot himself, leaving the young girl to be an orphan.”
Eliza ended her tale with a river of tears, leaning forward to embrace her mother’s symbol that was above ground. Rafael wanted to go on to comfort his wife, but his curiosity overtook that desire. There was one last grave, and he wished to see what name embezzled this grave.
The ground was open, fresh dirt surrounded the grave that was yet to be filled. A shovel laid to the side, the blade looking heavy. The headstone was smudged with dirt, covering the words that were carved. Rafael leaned forward and rubbed the dirt off, surprised to see a name that was all too familiar.
Rafael Dittmer, ‘1722-1747’.
“What is the meaning of this!” Rafael turned around to see Eliza there, now gripping the shovel with tears still in her eyes.
“Being without my mother was a poison that never stopped its sting.” She took a step forward, forcing Rafael to stumble back, closer to the grave she had dug. “It is my job as a mother to protect my child, and that is what I intend to do.”
Rafael pleaded for his life, but that meant nothing to the shovel blade that struck him. Little by little, she filled the grave to cover up the deed that had to be done. The sun was peering over the hills by the time she finished flattening the land. She placed the last lily on top of the soil before returning to her home.
Days went by before she cried that her husband was missing. The townsfolk worried about Rafael after he failed to return from his hunting trip, search groups coming back with no news that caused his wife to tear up more. They pitied for the pregnant widow, bringing her gifts and giving her work to feed herself and her future child. They would hold their hands over their hearts when Eliza wept at the church, praying for the best for her.
Eliza wasn’t alone on that fateful day, The neighbours and the doctor ran over when her screams filled the street. Eliza was told to keep pushing, so that’s what she did. It hurt more than a thousand knives. She could feel the pain of the mothers that came before her. She could hear the voice of her own mother, urging her to keep going. It was all worth it when she listened to the cries. Her head felt heavy, and her heart was fluttering, but that wasn’t enough to stop the smile on her lips.
No other joy in the world could compare to this moment, yes, when she first saw her beautiful baby boy.