Demons to Rest
Dana Quell

It is well into the eleventh minute when she gathers the courage to finally state the purpose of her visit. It isn't as if she doesn't know what to say -- the words flow readily enough in emotion-laden sentences for her hesitation to be all about an inability to express herself.

No, she knows what to say and how to say it. But she has struggled with the whys of it all; she has remained silent until now, when she has finally figured out what is the cause of her hesitation.

Her hair blows around her, the long blonde strands whipping random patterns across her face, and her small hands keep pushing them behind her ear as she begins to speak. "Hey. This, uh, probably doesn't mean too much, but, um... I'm here. It took me three years to work up the courage, but I'm here."

The cold November wind accompanies the silence in its reply. She doesn't mind; she doesn't expect a response. She takes the opportunity to gather her resolve, then speaks again.

"They said it would be good for me to come out here and talk to you, that it would help me deal with things better. At first, I thought the idea was ridiculous, that there wasn't much point, but now I'm not so sure. The drive wasn't so bad. It gave me some time to myself to think about things. I only wish it wasn't so cold - the heater broke last winter and I still don't have the money to fix it. It's a long drive in the cold."

She pauses for a moment and glances at her reddening hands. Her right hand covers her left in a futile attempt to fend off frostbite, and her dominant fingers find the thin gold band that rests on her ring finger. They begin to play with it nervously, twirling it about as if the simple movement of it all could generate enough friction to deflect the cold.

"I guess I should stop running around the subject. That's another thing they tell me to do, to stop running. I tried, once, but it was hard to break from my training. Your training. Even despite the fact that you're not physically in my life anymore, you're still present in every movement I do, every little unconscious action I might display. And, even though you didn't mean to, you taught me to run from emotions. You taught me to be restrained in order to fit into your little model of what I should be instead of what I was, and instead of learning restraint, I learned repression.

"I know you didn't mean to do any of that on purpose -- they've told me that much -- but it's so very hard not to resent you, when I resent what I've become and when you've played such an enormous part in that. And the truth is, I don't resent you -- I can't when what I've become has prevented me from feeling anything more deeply than irritation or slight affection. But that means I don't love you, either. That I've never loved you if I've never resented you."

And the truth is out, ringing clearly in her ears as it might if it were church bells tolling in the crisp air of December.

She looks up from her ring, the little gold symbol that shows that, with the help of first her husband and later her therapist, she was able to at least partly leave the training behind. That she was able to experience deep and fulfilling emotions, and, most importantly, that she was able to love. And now, she knows that she has succeeded in fully burying her troubles, in putting her demons to rest.

She focuses her attention on the glacial gray slab that she has stood in front of her for nearly half an hour now, the thin slab of granite that marks the beginning and the end of the life of the one demon she's known. And yet, the slab is incorrect. It lists as the end a date nearly three years prior, but it hasn't truly come until today.

"Goodbye, Mother."

There is a finality in those four syllables, a finality that she can never remember hearing before. But it is nothing for her to reflect upon -- she has said all she needed to and in doing so resolved everything she had to. To dwell on the finality in those words would only serve as reminders of the past, phantom chains that would only serve to restrain her newly found freedom.

And so she forgets her words as soon as they stop their dance on her tongue and hang in the air above the slab, and turns away to begin her long drive home.