This was written in response to a First Line story prompt - "Dead girls don't matter." It's definitely a bit AU to canon, I'll admit, but I hope you enjoy!
Dead girls don't matter.
Or, rather, after a depressingly short amount of time has passed, dead girls like me are forgotten. Thoughts of us are hidden away in the recesses of people's subconscious. It makes it easier for them to carry on with their everyday lives, forgetting that little girls can and do die. Of course, everyone does what they feel is necessary while they can – doctors scour medical journals for a radical solution, mothers pray desperately for the miracle cure to save their first-born.
And, of course, reluctant fathers wonder if they really can escape their obligations so easily.
My father and his vapid new wife haven't thought of me since my funeral. To them, I am nothing more than a reminder of how he was unfaithful and of how her sudden arrival drove my mom to desperate measures. They want their lives to neat, safe, and tranquil. Thoughts of me or my mom make such a mindset nearly impossible. As far as they're concerned, we might as well both be dead. Since I'm already dead, I guess that works. It's not like I want their perfunctory prayers or presence at my gravestone anyhow.
My mom, however, despite her occasional desire to bring an end to her pain and heartache, is very much alive.
I don't have that many memories of my life, but my happiest memories are certainly of my mom. She always smiled when she looked at me and when she held me in her arms – even at the end, even when she knew I wasn't going to make it. Tears would be pouring down her face, but she'd look at me lying in my oxygen-rich incubator with the biggest smile on her face.
She doesn't smile like that anymore.
Right after I first died, I thought that maybe I could visit her in her dreams and help her smile again. The first night was a wonderful one, as we were both filled with such joy at being together once more. I had no idea the joy would be so bittersweet.
When she awoke the following morning, my mom cried more than I'd ever imagined. After all, in the harsh light of reality, her blissful night with me made my death even more painful.
I don't visit her in her dreams anymore.
What I do now is watch over her – all day, every day. I know I can't do anything to physically help her. I am dead, after all. Still, I think she can feel my presence sometimes. It's not the same as when I was alive – not by a long shot. It's something though.
She's pretty much alone in the world now that I'm gone. My father left town with his wife not two weeks after I died, as they tried to escape the things and places that reminded them of me and my mom.
My aunt never seemed to get along with my mother. I never fully understood why, but now that I'm here in heaven, I've been told it's a sisterly thing. Never having had a sister, I certainly don't understand it. I wish I were still alive so that I could have a sister of my own, so I could understand the phenomenon of 'sibling rivalry.'
Throughout my limited time on earth, I was never able to fully understand my grandma. She clearly didn't get along with my mom, and she never even warmed to me. So sometimes when I'm bored, and my mom is sleeping or doing something equally uninteresting, I'll peek in on my grandma. I want to know why she doesn't love my mom. I've been told that moms should love their kids no matter what, forever and ever. Still, it's obvious to me that she doesn't love my mom.
Of course, my granddad is the only one who seems to voluntarily visit with her these days. He goes to see her every few days, armed with a demeanor of false cheer and a desperate hope that my mom has magically finished her grieving and is ready to resume her life. His visits are filled with forced conversation and the resultant awkwardness. He not-so-subtly suggests that she think about taking some classes at Harmony University or start looking for a job in town.
Neither option interests my mom. Other than to have me back in her life, I don't know what she wants. Still, it's clear that she isn't ready to move on with her life and risk forgetting me. The sentiment is certainly appreciated – after all, it's nice to know that I do still matter to *someone*. However, that doesn't keep me from worrying about my mom.
I hear a sharp knock on the door below, which brings my mom out of her daze. Before I died, she always seemed to be very clear-headed, focused, and in control of everything. Now, her mind is often elsewhere, likely remembering happier and easier times.
She goes to answer the door, and I watch her friend walk into the room. He's probably only the real friend she has anymore, as sad as that is. He's the only one who will let her talk about anything and everything. More specifically, he's the only one who doesn't shift uncomfortably in his seat and search desperately for a way to change the subject when she starts talking about me. He doesn't judge or interrupt her, but rather he's content just to listen to her, soothe her worries, and do whatever else he can to help.
I think he's in love with her.
It's not that he's said the words – at least, not that I've heard. It's more in all those little things that he does for her, the way that he's there for her, by her side, whenever she needs him.
He's taken on the role that my father should have filled, and really, he did it without even being asked to do so.
Sure, he was never really much of a father to me, but then again, he didn't return to Harmony until shortly before my funeral. If he loves her like I think he does, I can hardly blame him. After all, who wants to sit around and watch the woman he loves raise another man's baby?
Still, I get the feeling that if she had asked for his help – after I was born, after my father tried to evade his responsibilities, after I got so sick – he would have done anything she wanted. As it is, the few things that she has asked of him, he has done willingly and without complaint.
Stand by her side and be her rock during the funeral? There wasn't any place he'd rather be. Keep her company during the days that seem all too long without me by her side? Just like old times – minus the whole baby daughter who had died not too long ago. Find a miracle, so they could go back in time and save my life? He'd sure as hell try.
I hear his voice in the small bedroom beneath me, saying the words that I knew were coming eventually.
"But, Kay, I need to head back to school on Sunday."
I hear the longing in his voice and can read his emotions in his eyes. Yeah, he's definitely in love with her.
My mom's voice is so quiet, that it's almost unintelligible. I know what she said, and I'm pretty sure I know what she's not saying.
She won't ask him to stay – I know my mom well enough to know that she doesn't think that she deserves any of the attention she's received from him recently anyhow. Not that she doesn't want him to stay. I can tell how attached she's grown to him over the past few months. But she'll never admit that she needs him enough to verbalize her subconscious desire.
I wonder if he would be willing to stay. He's made a whole new life for himself at Harvard, from the sounds of things. Lots of friends, a job on campus, and a bright future ahead of him. Would he sacrifice all that for my mom, if she asked him to?
If he loves her as much as I think he does, he wouldn't hesitate.
The awkward silence that fills the room is suffocating. Neither knows what to say, so instead they're both fixating on the fact that they have less than four days left to spend with each other until he returns to his old life – the life that doesn't include her.
"Reese, what'll happen after you leave?"
My mom sounds vulnerable – a word I don't usually associate with her. She always wants to be independent, hating to have to rely on anyone for much of anything. True, after I died she was an emotional mess, but other than those rare moments of frailty, her voice has never sounded so needy.
"Things will go back to how they were. I'll be studying, working to pay for college, and studying some more. You'll stay here with your family. Maybe you'll find a job, or maybe you'll go back to school. Life will just go back to normal."
The despondent look on her face makes me want to hurt him for making her look so sad. I thought he was her friend, that he loved her. If he cared about her at all, he wouldn't have made her look so upset.
There have been a number of times since I've died when I wished that I was alive so that I could hurt people who hurt my mom. Usually, my anger would be aimed at my father, or his overly-needy wife, or my grandma. I thought that her friend was one person that I could trust not to hurt my mom.
"Then again," he begins tentatively, after taking a deep breath, "maybe life doesn't need to go back to normal. Or, at least, maybe things don't need to go back to how they used to be."
His desperate hope is painted plainly on his face, and I can see that my original faith in him has been vindicated. I don't know what he's going to suggest, but maybe this won't end as badly as I had feared.
"Wh – what?" My mom's voice is breathless with a mixture of excitement and fear. Like me, she doesn't know what's going to happen. Given the stroke of bad luck that she's had recently, I don't blame her for fearing the worst.
"I need to go back to college. I only have two more years ahead of me, and I want to get my degree. And, really, Harvard is the best place for me."
"So … ?"
"So I have an apartment off-campus this year. My roommate from last year is staying on campus, so I have the place all to myself. I was wondering if maybe, just maybe, you'd consider coming with me to Boston." He finished the statement in a rush, obviously unsure of how my mom would respond.
She's surprised and remarkably silent at first. I know she's thinking about it, about everything that this could mean. I don't think she ever considered the option of following him off to school. As she continues to think about that possibility, a tentative smile begins to stretch across her face.
"Why are you doing this, Reese?" she asks hesitantly. "Why do you want me with you at school?"
"Why not?" he responds rhetorically. Exhaling deeply, he turns to look her squarely in the eye.
"When I came back for Maria's funeral in May, I never expected that we would spend so much time together. I figured that while I was gone, Miguel would have figured out how wonderful you were and that other than the perfunctory phrases we'd exchange at her funeral, it would be the end of things. I'd get closure for that chapter of my life and try to move on.
"Instead, I found that Miguel was just as blind and ignorant as he's always been when it comes to you. But finally you had figured out that you deserve so much better than him – and you do, Kay. You deserve so much better than a man like him. You deserve someone who knows how wonderful you are, someone who will do whatever it takes to make you happy, someone who will – " A faint blush appears on his cheeks, as he realizes that he's been rambling.
"Anyhow, that's not important. What's important is that I've loved spending so much time with you these past few months. I feel almost as if I've gotten to know you all over again and that I've been able to see the more mature woman that you've become. And – " He pauses, eyes glancing heavenward, as he asks for guidance on how much he should say. Mentally, I will him to share everything, hoping that he's willing to listen.
"And what?" my mom questions, reaching for one of his hands in anticipation.
"And I found myself falling back in love with you."
I watch as his free hand tentatively reaches up to stroke her face. Slowly, he pulls her closer into a sweet and satisfying kiss.
"But what about Maria?" my mom asks moments later. "If I'm in Boston, I won't be able to go visit with her every day."
That's a good question, I must admit. What about me? Mom's the only one who ever really bothers to stop by the cemetery regularly to visit with me. If she goes off with him to school, then this is one dead girl that really won't matter to anyone anymore.
"Do you really need to visit her every day?" he wonders curiously. "Boston is close enough that we can drive back to Harmony often enough. Besides, it's not like leaving Harmony will cause her to be forgotten. You'll always remember your little girl and the short twenty-three days of her life. Moving away from Harmony won't change the fact that she was a very special little girl who touched more lives than she realized during her short time on earth."
"You think so?"
"I know so," he soothes her, as his hands begin to rub small circles on her back.
She doesn't reply right away, but rather loses herself in thought. I know she's trying to decide what she should do – what would be right for her. And, as much as I may want to be selfish and have her stay in Harmony by me, I know that Reese is good for her. He'll take good care of her and make her happy again.
"Okay," she accedes, a tremendous smile appearing on her face. "Boston it is then."
So I guess I was wrong before, when I said that dead girls don't matter. True, we may not matter to lots of people, but the important people in our lives know how valuable we are. After all, I'm the one that helped my mom find her smile.
Thanks for reading! I had a lot of fun exploring the new Kay/Reese dynamic following a "What If" Maria had died, after being born so premature.
Thoughts and comments are (as always!) welcome. Thanks again! :)