Petra stood by her father’s open grave site and thought, Damn – I hate this. Unconsciously, her right hip began to twitch. She pinched her lips, trying to suppress the nervous reflex she knew she could not control.
Why can’t I just cry like anyone else. Everyone would expect that rather than standing here looking like I need to pee.
So many wanted to expound on how great her father was, his impact on their lives, careers and the business he developed, a business she had inherited only four days ago. But his death had exposed a dark side of his life. It was the side that trafficked in young foreign girls one-at-a-time, kept in a safe house for his exclusive use until he tired of them and sold them to who-knows-where.
At least it’s stopped, and the worst news won’t go public for a while. But how could he? How could I have missed all this?
Her much-younger brother nudged her and leaned to whisper, “Are you okay?”
She looked up in frustration, bit her lip and leaned to whisper back, “Yes, but I can’t stand here. It’s too much to bear. Ride with Uncle Ernest and I’ll meet you at the reception.”
“Um – okaaay., but . . .”
Petra spun and walked through the crowd avoiding everyone’s eyes. Her pinched lips screamed ‘stay out of my way’.
She walked past parked cars. Walking helped calm and stop the twitching, but she both wanted to be back at her father’s grave site and never wanted to be there ever again. Am I just humiliated or angry? If there’s a hearing, I’ll have to testify. They should suspect me – how could I not have known? I’m a college graduate. I lived with him! How could I have not seen this?
That strange substance from his autopsy triggered the investigation of his bank records which exposed his not-so-safe-house and they found that poor girl.
An imagined image of her father secretly playing with her came to mind and her stomach seized. The image slammed into her last memory of him – his last hug – saying how much he loved her – how proud he was and – Damn it! How can both be true? Which was real? Was either? The investigator is going to want to know if anyone helped him do this? I sure would. How can I know who I can and should talk to? I’m going to have to work with these people. I’m their boss now.
In the next few days, I’m going to have to lead many of them to keep the business running. How do I deal with who knew and who didn’t? I’ll give dad’s attorney a call – oh my god! Did his attorney know? How can I trust him?
Her mind spun. Damn it, Dad! You’ve left such a bloody mess!
The road took a turn and glancing back, she could no longer see the crowd at her father’s grave. Just being out of their sight gave her a nugget of comfort. They’re out of sight. Maybe now I can cry.
Glad to be alone on this path, she noticed a word on a headstone.
Vietnam? This guy might have been a soldier there like dad – yes, the inscription says so.
There was a dirty concrete bench beside the man’s grave. She took a few steps to examine it. Filthy. Well, who cares? She sat and stared at the headstone.
“Hello – um – Captain Nate Gharibian. Can we talk?
“You and my father served in the same war, Vietnam. He was in Navy Intelligence. They taught him how to make sound decisions quickly. He became a successful businessman, but the war also injured him.
“Just a few days ago, he died. It was a complete surprise. They did an autopsy, found poison which caused an investigation, and it was discovered that dad was doing something immoral.
“He left his company to me, and I don’t know who all knows about his secret pastime, but law enforcement is now involved, and they tell me I’m not a suspect, but I think, how can they not?
“I thought I knew my dad, but clearly, I didn’t. I miss him, but when the news gets out, everyone will rightly think that he was some kind of monster.
“I want to be back over there mourning for him, but I’m also afraid of being seen anywhere near him but he’s dead so that makes no sense. I can’t sort what I do and do not know. I want to cry for my father, but now I can’t. Right now, he’s a stranger who I don’t trust. I don’t know who I can trust.
# # # #
“Well – I’ll be. . . Jamie come here.”
“What? What’s wrong Al?.
“Look out there. See the woman sitting at that one bench?”
“Yep – I know about it. It’s a pain to mow around and I’m glad it’s the only one we have.”
“That’s Captain Nate Gharibian’s grave. I was here when he arrived. He was a marine who died the day we evacuated South Vietnam. I recall his burial because no one showed up to mourn him. It was sad, but that gal seems to be mourning him now. I always thought he must have someone out there. Maybe she finally found him. Good! A man dies fighting for his country should have someone to miss him. I hope he speaks to her.”
“Um – Al?”
“Oh – don’t worry. I’m not going all weird on you, but you work a cemetery long enough and you learn that the dead have ways of unburdening those willing to talk with them.”
# # # #
“Mr. Gharibian, I need a good cry. I – I need to mourn. Your headstone says you were a soldier. It looks honorable. I badly need this cry, but I can’t go back there – not yet. This is awkward, but, Sir, can I cry for you? “
980 Words, inspired by KL Caley’s October. 13, 2022 #WRITEPHOTO
challenge to write a short story about a ‘Cemetery”.