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SINGING IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: Ch. 22, My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim

The show must go on in Chapter 22 of “Singing in the Dead of Night.”

Fact or Fiction

“It isn’t weird you live in a graveyard? That you drive up the driveway of a graveyard to get home?” Stuart asked Kitty while she was dressing.

“No.” She shrugged. “I don’t even notice it. Why? Does it bother you?”

It doesn’t bother me anywhere near as much as the flock of crows settling in the graveyard in the last few months, she thought. It’s like they’re watching me, waiting for me. Almost like they are sitting in vigil, waiting for me to do something. But I don’t know what they want.

“No.” He shook his head a little too quickly. “It’s just different. That’s all. Part of what makes you … unique.”

“Me and every family member of a Cemetery Administrator the world over.” She smiled at him.

“It’s an exclusive club.”  She winked.

But the newfound swagger in her step had worn off by the time she was unlocking the front door. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you never feel good coming home to an adult parent after being gone for three days on a bender. The fact you still live at home as an adult tends to really smack you in the face at times like this.

“Hey, Kitty,” her dad looked up from his newspaper.

“Hi, Daddy.” She tried to get up the stairs without much more.

“Where’ve you been? I missed you.” He looked up at her expectantly.

“I’ve been out with friends.” She said it in as clipped and final a voice as she could manage and pounded up the last of the stairs.

“I’m glad you’re back!” he called. “I missed you!”

“Just give me a moment!” she hollered through her closed bedroom door.

It was a frantic few minutes of changing into clean clothes and brushing her hair while she asked herself why she still felt like a teenager who was sneaking home after breaking curfew.

I am an adult, she kept saying over and over. I am an adult! I can go out without getting permission!  Why, oh, why can’t he leave me alone?

“OK,” she reassured herself as she pulled  open the bedroom door. “Have you had lunch yet?” she asked.

“No.” Her father shook his head.

“OK, would you like lunch?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“What do we have?” she demanded and toward the kitchen. “How about mac and cheese?” She pulled a box of pasta shells from the cupboard.

“What have you been up to?” she asked.

“Not much.” Her father shrugged. “Paperwork. The news.”

“Any burials?”

“No,” he shook his head. “People haven’t been dying much lately.”

She took a deep breath and stared into the pot. It was an old family comment. You grew up in a graveyard with a father who buried people for a living and you learned to make jokes about it. It shouldn’t feel like this, but somehow it made her heart stop.

Now? Was now the time to ask?

“But I’m sure business will pick up again, soon. It is supposed to rain tomorrow,” he said.

Kitty knew the moment passed. She wasn’t going to ask. Not now. Possibly not ever.

“This came in the mail for you.” He picked up a card from the kitchen counter and held it out to her. “There is no return address.”

Heavy black paper with gold colored edging? That’s expensive, she thought.

It was the most beautiful and elegant card she ever received.

“Thank you.” She slipped the card into her pants pocket.

“Aren’t you going to open it? See who it’s from? What it says?” he asked.

“I’ll open it later.”

You always were nosy, she thought. You’ve been waiting for me to come home so you could find out what’s inside the card.

“You could open it now, while the water is boiling,” he gestured toward the stove.

“It’s addressed to me, I can read it later. We are going to have a nice meal.”

“You don’t want to know what it says? Who it’s from?”

“Alright. Fine. I will open it if it will make you happy.”

She pulled it from her pocket and ripped open the top of the envelope with such force the paper was jagged with tears.

“Kitty, calm down.” Her dad held up a warning hand.

“Here … look … it’s … it’s an invitation! OK, alright? Someone wants me to go to a party!’

“OK, OK,” he backed away a step.

She breathed heavily and stared at the invitation. It was to the screening party for “Blackbird”—the opening of the film. The film that had taken Jeffrey’s life and wrecked her own.

“Blackbird.”

“It’s for ‘Blackbird,’” she said quietly to her father. “It’s an invitation to the screening for the film.  They released it.”

She felt dizzy. Really dizzy.

“They released it. I didn’t think they ever would.”

“Well, are you going?”

She turned the invitation over in her hands. It was in two weeks. The film was coming out in two weeks.

“I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t think I have anything to wear.”

She shook her head.

“Sure you do—or you can get something.”

“OK, fine. Fine.”

Later, in the privacy of her bedroom, she studied the invitation. They had rented a screen at the College Road Cinemas—a red carpet, a buffet, a bar, and there would be speeches. She was sure there would be endless speeches.

What was it the old gaffer called it? Oh, right, “acceptance of awards by non-participants”—that was it.

She turned the invitation over in her hands and checked the envelope again. No, nothing else in there. No return address. She had no clue who had sent her the invite.

*    *    *    *    *

Across town the old gaffer sighed. He looked at his invitation. He wouldn’t go, he decided. Besides, he was probably going to be heading out for a mini-series in Louisiana soon. Though, he never received an invitation like this before.

It was nicer than my college diploma, he reflected.

But then his diploma wasn’t soaked in blood. Not directly anyway.

As an anthropology major it was hard to separate the knowledge people were exploited every step along the way—from the land grab that made the physical location of the school possible, to the working conditions of the people in the factories that provided everything for the school: books, papers, chalkboards, TVs, cafeteria food. It was hard not to dwell upon it, and instead of doing something meaningful to make the world better he was lighting Marla Maples for another TV show.
Well, the bills had to get paid somehow.

He cracked open another beer and tossed the invitation on top of the pile of bills on the kitchen table. Maybe he would see if Shelly, the craft-service goddess, was going to the screening party.

*    *    *    *    *

“I’m going!” Cynthia slapped the invitation on the fridge and tacked it into place with two magnets.

“You may come with me if you like. But I am going.”

She said it firmly, with a finality in her voice that belied a tornado of emotions the invitation had swept into their house.

“Eh, I don’t know, luv.” Richard looked skeptically at the invitation.

“Who sent this anyway?” he asked.

“I don’t know. But I am going.”

She took a deep breath and bit her lip trying to hold back the tears she knew were coming. “We owe it to him—to go see it.”

She reached for Richard’s hand.

“We both worked hard on that film and I think—I think we could both use some closure. See Jeffrey leap and run and dance through those stunts. It will be a beautiful film.”

Richard looked away, his eyes bright with tears. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it darling.” She squeezed his hand.

They looked at each other and watched the tears track the cheeks of the other—a shared, silent grief among the dishes. Something Jeffrey would never know with Ashley: sharing a life in all its dings, blemishes, fear, and unbridled beauty. Instead of a domestic scene of two middle-age professionals in jeans and sweats on a Friday afternoon, he was immortalized, beautiful and forever young.

Neither of them would have made the trade had anyone offered.

Gwenyfar Rohler is encore’s fact-or-fiction writer for 2018. Her serial story, “Singing in the Dead of Night,” follows the death of a young movie star and the emotional aftermath that follows, as local media try to uncover the events leading up to the high-profile “murder,” which takes place while filming in Wilmington, NC. Catch up on previous chapters at encorepub.com

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