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Tiaras and Trucks

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Godmother

This post is part of The Red Dress Club's weekly prompt:

"Water gives life. It also takes it away."

Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements.

This is fiction and (obviously) a work in progress.  As always, feedback is lovingly appreciated.

"The Godmother"

Forehead. Chest. Left shoulder. Right shoulder.

The movement is smooth and automatic and strangely comforting. Greta doesn’t think about the countless fingers casually dipped into the holy water that morning.

The father. The son. The Holy Spirit.

The Holy Trinity.

Three that were one.

As automatic as the sign of the cross, Greta reaches down to twist her wedding ring before remembering that her finger is now adorned only with a faint indentation, the ring languishing in the corner of her dining room. A small circle of gold placed on her finger under this roof, under this God, promising so much.

Two had become one, then almost three, and then everything fell apart.

Paralyzed, she dips her fingers into the fount again, but this time the water is as warm as blood, and her hand drops to her side without performing the Sign of the Cross, dripping Holy Water onto the stone floor.

Incense floods her nose as she crosses into an alien world and walks purposely to the front of the church where her family waits. A faceless aunt or cousin holds Greta’s soon-to-be-goddaughter, a squirming bundle of white satin, thrust into Greta’s arms as she slides into the pew. The voluminous baptismal gown is deceiving; Elisabeth is weightless in Greta’s arms.

In another life, she had traced the worn wood of these pews every Sunday, taking as much comfort in the ritual of Mass as she did in the words of the decorated priest on the altar.

She hasn’t been inside this building in ninety-seven days. Ninety-six days ago, on a Monday, cramps had wracked her abdomen. James found her sobbing in the shower, water washing the crimson blood to pink, and she found out shortly after that he had really only meant the “for better” part of their vows.

Panic buckles her knees until her brother catches her eyes and holds her up with the strength of his will.

“Breathe,” Paul mouths silently, before smiling and kissing her cheek and holding his hand on her back for an extra instant. That warm pressure lets Greta know that he remembers what she told him over wine and tears the night she told him she was divorcing James. That he remembers the baby.

Someone pops a pacifier into Elisabeth’s mouth, and she is still, sucking methodically with her eyes closed. The priest walks over to the family, his words expressing happiness to see Greta in church, his eyes worried and confused. Greta stretches a smile over her teeth, studying Elisabeth without seeing her.

Father begins the service, and desperately, Greta reaches for her sister-in-law, cradling Elisabeth tightly in one arm. Paul knows about the almost-baby and the shower and the agony, and therefore Louise must know, but Louise shakes off Greta’s hand, a serene look pasted on her face.

Again, Greta’s knees buckle, and she sinks into the pew, torn between clutching the baby to her chest and letting her slip to the floor. Father is chanting, praying, and the standing bodies pray with him, ignoring the flood of tears that baptize Elisabeth as she lies sleeping in Greta’s arms.



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53 Comments:

  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:18 PM , Anonymous @CaitsConcepts said...

    Oh no! How sad!! Very beautifully written, even if it makes me want to cry. Or maybe because it does... =)

     
  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM , Anonymous Tracy Morrison said...

    Oh, this is beautiful. I could really feel her incredible pain.

     
  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM , Anonymous Mads Mom said...

    This takes me breath away. You captured the concept of life and death and their proximity so well without bashing us over the head with the pain and loss or the joy and beauty of the ceremony...as if we were as numb as Greta.

    Beautiful and haunting! Well done.

     
  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:26 PM , Anonymous By Word of Mouth Musings said...

    The last line made me catch my breath ...
    I have no words.
    Just beautiful x

     
  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:29 PM , Anonymous Kimberly All Work No Play said...

    This is so painful...I can feel her pain...so so profoundly sad but oh so beautifully written. I want to read more!!

     
  • At March 3, 2011 at 11:34 PM , Anonymous Brandon said...

    Wow, this is very good! You really know how to toy with the emotions! Good job.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 11:21 AM , Anonymous Andrea B. said...

    Really powerful writing. So painful. So sad.

    I will admit I did get a little confused at the end as to who was holding the baby, I think the sister-in-law part threw me off. I thought she took her for a minute. I had to go back and read that part - I guess honestly I could do without Louise in this whirlwind of emotion. She seems cold and distant. I kind of want to hit her. ;) I loved the connection between Greta and her brother. That was something I could feel, I could almost sense their connection and feel like I was witnessing their eyes meeting, him keeping her strong.

    Great stuff.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 1:48 PM , Anonymous adrienzgirl said...

    I'm not sure why but I love the haunting pieces so much. This was raw with emotion. Loved it.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 2:45 PM , Anonymous shellthings said...

    Such heartbreak in this piece!

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 4:46 PM , Anonymous Renee said...

    I love the imagery of the church. Greta's separation from it. And the bond between brother and sister.
    So much to see and feel here.
    Well done.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM , Anonymous Jackie said...

    So sad.... the loss of her child, her husband, the marriage that she thought would stand the test of time. Everything was literally washed down the drain.

    You did an amazing job writing this and capturing the feelings of everyone.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 5:24 PM , Anonymous CDG said...

    This was gorgeous to read, and so very sad.

    You bring the reader in almost effortlessly.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 7:04 PM , Anonymous Nichole said...

    This is absolutely amazing, Angela.
    I could see it all, like a movie...the water from the fount dripping onto the floor from her fingers...her tears falling onto the baby.
    My heart aches for Greta and I'm left wondering about Louise.
    I need you to revisit this...I need to know more. So much more.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 7:07 PM , Anonymous Cheryl said...

    I love this. I really do. So much heartbreak, so much beautiful detail - like Louise shaking off Greta's hand.

    You did such a fantastic job with this. You really made me feel Greta's profound grief.

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 7:35 PM , Anonymous Kir said...

    Amazing..there really is no other word. WOW

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 8:10 PM , Anonymous Yuliya said...

    I am so glad I re-read this, I read it last night but was so tired that I got confused...it's not you it was me, I promise.
    I loved this, "studying Elisabeth without seeing her" and the flood of tears. I loved the names you chose too!
    My only note is this, "Incense floods her nose as she crosses into an alien world and walks purposely to the front of the church where her family waits." I wonder if the word purposefully would work better here?

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 9:01 PM , Anonymous Leighann said...

    This is phenomenal!!
    I was so caught up in it that when it ended I was sad.
    My favorite line, "torn between clutching the baby to her chest and letting her slip to the floor" holds so much pain and truth.
    Great job

     
  • At March 4, 2011 at 11:23 PM , Anonymous mandyland said...

    This made my heart ache, for the loss of her husband, the loss of her baby, the loss of her faith, the loss, really, of her life as she knew it

    I loved the water references - washing away the blood, tears, holy water dripping, the baptism. Such an amazing piece of writing.

     
  • At March 5, 2011 at 10:25 AM , Anonymous Ratz said...

    WOW. the ending line, beautiful. So sad yet so beautiful.

     
  • At March 5, 2011 at 11:01 AM , Anonymous Kelly said...

    Oh, the line of "...he had only meant the 'for better' part of their vows"...was so sad, especially in such a time of loss for your character...

    Beautiful writing...

     
  • At March 5, 2011 at 11:07 AM , Anonymous Jennifer Bruno said...

    This is phenomenal. I love every word. I am suffering with infertility and, in turn, have made many infertile friends in the meantime. So many of them have suffered miscarriages and my heart breaks for them. This story really resonates with my current situation and I LOVE it.

     
  • At March 5, 2011 at 1:26 PM , Anonymous Amy Grew said...

    This is a wonderfully written story. Its so sad and you are able to feel exactly what Greta is feeling. I also really dont like Louise.

     
  • At March 5, 2011 at 3:02 PM , Anonymous Katie said...

    so HAUNTING! but beautifully written! I love the small details that help capture the mood...the overwhelming sadness of this piece.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 11:59 AM , Anonymous ErinMargolin said...

    I am so angry that the SIL shook off her hand when she clearly needed her most. But this is beautifully executed and written. All the little details make it. Also mad at the jerk of a husband who couldn't handle it in the first place...you evoke such emotion----clearly the sign of a great piece of writing!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 3:29 PM , Anonymous Ash said...

    Louise needs a good kick in the shin. So wonderfully done. All the details, the holy water, the last sentence. Awesome.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:31 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I saw that you skipped the prompt to visit all the links this week. That is amazing & very kind.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:32 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I'd like to expand at some point. I mean, you would think the SIL would be kinder in that situation, but she's not. Why? Hmmm.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:33 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Haunting is such a great compliment in terms of what I was aiming for with this. Thank you!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:33 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    I don't like her either! She must have some redeeming characteristics, but I haven't written them yet :)

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:36 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    I am so sorry to hear you are suffering with infertility. My thoughts are with you :( I think one of the great things about blogging is finding people who have dealt with or are dealing with things like miscarriage, infertility, and life in general. So many things used to be taboo, and now women are really finding common ground through talking about their own struggles.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:37 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! Poor Greta :(

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you. I wanted to be sure to really tie in the baptism without focusing too much on the actual ritual.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:39 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you so much. I wanted to show all of those losses, and how they have just compounded on top of each other. Water truly does have the power to heal and to hurt.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:40 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! What a compliment to say you were sad when it ended. I think there is a longer story in there.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:41 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Purposefully is definitely a better word choice, thank you!

    I have a hard time with fictional names, so thank you again! I try to find names that "fit" without bringing too many personal images and memories from people I know, and that is hard for me for some odd reason.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:41 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you so much!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:45 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! The 600 word limit was both limiting and freeing. I had to go through and really tighten up what I included, used detail with, etc. so I am glad you feel that added something to the piece!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:47 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    I definitely think there's more here, so thank you for saying that! I plan on working with it a little at a time, so I will let you know if it begins to shape into something :)

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:48 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you. I'm glad it was accessible, even though it is a sad piece!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:49 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! Miscarriage is something that affects everyone involved, and it's one of those things where there's no way to predict how people will react until they're in the situation :(

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:50 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I'm glad that she has her brother, too!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:57 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I am drawn to either sad or hilariously funny pieces when I read. I guess I'm an emotions junkie.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:57 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! That means a lot.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:58 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you very much. I wanted it to be emotional without being contrived, so your words make me feel as though I may have done that!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:59 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you so much. I appreciate it!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 9:59 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I would like to expand it to a longer piece at some point, but I'm sure it will take me a while!

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 10:01 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! It was such a touchy situation for the characters that there were a lot of emotions both in the memories and the present.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 10:02 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    I will try to tighten that up a little.

    I included the SIL, because I wanted to show, in some way how isolating a miscarriage can be, and how it can be hard for people not affected to truly understand. I will have to decide if that idea is worth fleshing out if I do expand the piece into a short story.

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 10:03 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! I am drawn to emotional pieces, too (both happy and sad), so I guess it's not surprising that I end up writing that way, too :)

     
  • At March 6, 2011 at 10:04 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    I just want to hug her. It's funny how characters can become real like that!

     
  • At March 7, 2011 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous Kir said...

    Well deserved ,,,, I wish I could write like you do. WOW



    "If you have only one smile in you
    give it to the people you love. "
    Maya Angelou




    Kirsten Anne Piccini
    Weichert Telecommunications
    Field Support Specialist
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    What is Real?
    "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." - from the Velveteen Rabbit by M Williams

     
  • At March 10, 2011 at 3:20 PM , Anonymous (Florida) Girl with a New Life said...

    This was powerful. I especially enjoyed the way you opened the scene.

     
  • At March 10, 2011 at 7:26 PM , Anonymous tiarasandtrucks said...

    Thank you! Are you Catholic? It's such an automatic gesture that I don't always really think about what it signifies.

     

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