The Fight by Valeri Beatrix 

...an excerpt

Hands. Faces. Smiles. All attached to people she hadn’t seen in over ten years. People who probably wouldn’t recognize her if she hadn’t been introduced to them as Ray’s daughter. They wouldn’t have cared either. Only the mention of her name eased the somber disinterest from their expressions. Gazes narrowed as brains sifted through years of faces and names. Faces and names discarded until they procured the right file. For most, the picture attached was of a knobby -kneed teen with doe eyes, French braids and teeth that bucked against the braces attempting restraint.

For her part, she’d forgotten their names as quickly as they were spoken. They were all very nice or at least it seemed, but her life wasn’t here anymore. What good would it do to catalog people she’d never see again? Besides, none of them cared about her. They’d never cared about her father either, only what he could do for them. 

She didn’t remember their faces, but she remembered their begging. “Mr. Ray, my car broke down...”  “Mr. Ray, my brother is in the hospital…”  “Mr. Ray, my mortgage is past-due…” Their circumstances were different, but their sentences always concluded with a plea for money. As if her father’s income was theirs to dispose of. 

            “Well, that looks to be it.” Pastor Franklin said, cupping her elbow and bringing her back to the present. Back to the summer sun heating the fabric of her black suit and turning it into a portable sauna. Back to the near empty graveyard and the urn of ashes resting atop the make-shift altar like a morbid trophy. Leave it to her father to have a burial for an urn.

            “Thank you, Pastor. I appreciate every thing you’ve done.”

            “Don’t you worry ‘bout that. Your father did more for this church than all the members combined. You just let me know if there’s anything else I can do.”

She nodded. The remaining mourners stood scattered amongst the headstones, immersing themselves in conversations that likely had nothing to do with her father’s death. She scanned their faces and saw smiles. Saw eyes crinkled in laughter. Saw a smooth scar running from ear to chin.

A quick breath slipped through parted lips as Ariel lifted her gaze to find deep-set, hazel eyes concentrated on her face. Memories of soul-stirring kisses; of patched wounds and fists wrapped in protective gauze. Memories she’d packed away like old… 

A large woman with silver hair stood rambling in front of him, oblivious to the fact that his attention was elsewhere.  

Ariel adjusted the bag on her shoulder and headed towards him. She felt his gaze against her skin. Felt it questioning . Felt it hoping. Two strides were all that lay between her and his warm, caramel skin. She took them, and when she reached his side she took several steps more until they carried her past the cement markers and to the black sedan waiting at the curb.

(c) Valeri Beatrix