We drove Muffin home. There was still no one from Kitty's family around, so I did not have to talk to them.
"'Bye, Muffin." I patted him on the head, feeling a bit sad again at the sight of his little face at the gate.
I got back into Grandma's car and she started the engine and began to drive along the back road towards our house.
Grandma sometimes remarked that in another life she might have been a rally driver. She refused to act her age, a thing my conservative mother could not accept. I often thought that Mom was born old, and to be honest, she didn't have much of a sense of humour. She felt most at ease in her kitchen, away from the turmoil of the world. Grandma, on the other hand, wasn't the kind of person who would spend her days in the kitchen baking pies for church events. She wanted to see life. And she loved her sports car.
"There's not much chance of meeting people on your roads, not in the back of beyond where you live," she had once explained to my mother, who considered her behaviour childish. "I'm always careful when we meet with horse riders and only put my foot down on long clear stretches. And why buy a car like this, if you never have any fun with it?"
"Why indeed..." Mom had muttered through gritted teeth, her fingers gripping the side of the seat, and her butt pressed down hard in it as usual. Fast driving was on top of her list of reckless behavior.
Mom was not a very spontaneous person, I mused as we drove along.
"Have you visited her grave yet?" Grandma asked. Her tone sounded as though she was inquiring if I had been to the beach recently.
"Would you like to? I can take you there right now. We could pick her some flowers from these fields," her hand drew an arch in the air, covering the blooming fields around us. Early summer really was at its most beautiful.
With Grandma the thing that had seemed so difficult, impossible even, was much easier, and I heard myself saying "OK."
I hadn't admitted it to myself, but the thought of going to Kitty's grave on my own had been too much. And going there with my parents and then breaking down in tears in front of them, was even more of an impossible thing to consider. But Grandma was such a no-nonsense type of a person, and so easy to be with. She was just about the only person with whom I could go to Kitty's grave.
So she killed the engine, and we got out of the car again. The sun had dried the last of the dew, and it did not take us long to gather a big bouquet of wild flowers. Grandma fished a string out of her pocket - it never ceased to amaze me, the stuff that she carried around in them - and tied it around the stems.
"There. Now we have a nice bouquet. Let's go!"
And so I found myself sitting in the sports car (why were they always built so low?), holding a big bouquet of fresh flowers. Grandma knew the way to the churchyard well – after all she had lived in our house for a long time before moving to the city permanently. ("I wanted some excitement in my life after all those years in a rural backwater!")
I knew where the grave was, of course, and walked along the gravel path towards it with dread in my heart.
Much to my surprise Kitty already had a tombstone. It was light grey in color, and her name was written on it in golden letters. Beloved daughter. And the dates of her birth and death, a pitifully short period of time marked by the slash between the dates.
Suddenly I felt clumsy and heavy, and stopped. I didn't know what to do with the flowers, just stood there holding them awkwardly in front of me, staring at the tombstone.
"Well don't just stand there – give Kitty her flowers." Grandma gave me a little nudge.
I stepped forward and stiffly bent to put the flowers on the grave. There was no grass growing on the earth yet. The thought of Kitty buried there made me nauseous.
There were other bouquets as well, all fresh, so either others had only visited her grave in the last two days, or someone had been tending to the grave and taken any withered flowers away. Little angel statues and teddy bears and candles were strewn everywhere. Names of my classmates under "Miss You" notes and poems. A Christmas tree ornament even - a stylized bird made of some glittery red material. Our flowers complemented the little display beautifully. A robin flew to the stone and observed us for a while with before flying off to feed its young.
"How lovely," Grandma said tilting her head slightly to one side, her hands on her hips. She sounded as though she was commenting on a painting or a piece of decoration. There was a pause while we looked at everything, and suddenly it was real for me. Kitty was dead. But strangely, I didn't feel like crying any more. It was so peaceful here, and the little - gifts - everyone had brought her were so kind and loving. It was as though in death, we suddenly really knew her as she truly was.
Grandma was speaking, and I tuned out my thoughts so that I could hear what she was saying. She repeated it for me, because it was obvious I hadn't heard the first time.
"I said," she repeated in a matter-of-fact tone, "has she tried to contact you yet?"
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