Momma’s suicide had been both a shock and a confirmation. Dee knew the troubles behind the old woman’s facade, the sharp cobwebs and shaky floorboards in her mind. Dee felt them in herself.
“I did my crying long ago,” she told well-meaning visitors after the funeral. They had to go. The platitudes talking of a better place felt like rain popping off hot grease.
No, the only comfort she got came in an envelope, the handwriting pointing to a childhood memory.
“Heard about your momma. Why don’t you drop by for a talk? -Geraldine” the letter said.
Such letters used to arrive weekly, every Tuesday like clockwork. Momma would take them to her bedroom, eyes wet, head bowed, and cry.
One day Daddy caught on. Curious, Dee placed one his shot glasses to the door and listened in.
“You done lost your damn mind, Sain?”
“I can’t just turn my back…”
A loud smack, shocking Dee, making her fall on her back. Daddy stormed out, never looking down at the prone girl.
The Daddy she knew walked out of their lives that night, only his body returning as a saved man, bible in hand. After that, he maintained a well-defined distance from Momma until his death, the Good Word his shield against the virulent madness around him in the form of his wife and daughter.
Dee once read a letter. At the top, 92417 had been scribbled in bold red. The rest talked of changing times, of an unaccepting world, and how the only way to begin a life is knowing about its end.
Doomsday talk. Had it been scented sulfur, Dee’d have sworn she was reading the Bible.
The Saturday after Momma’s death, Dee decided to make the trip to see her. The women’s prison was surprisingly clean, not as crushing as Dee’d imagined.
“My, aren’t you pretty?” Geraldine lied, smiling. She grabbed Dee’s hands, held them, rubbed them. The guards looked every which direction but theirs.
“You knew my mother?”
“I knew her well.”
“How did you know she died?”
“I still have ears, after all these years.” Geraldine winked.
“The day she died was on…”
Dee pulled back and looked at her, laying eyes on an old friend for the first time. Her troubled mind felt oddly at ease.
In her sixties, Geraldine owned the air around her, a magician with the keys to unlock fate. She pulled out and handed Dee her journal, leatherbound and ragged, the same handwriting from Momma’s letters covering it like glyphs. “I couldn’t help your momma. God knows I tried. She loved your Daddy too much to come back to me.”
There was sadness in her voice, flavored by bitter spit. “But I get the feeling that you’re in need of my teachings, just like her.”
The first page was specifically for Dee. The number 63022 glowed bright red.
“Now that you know when it ends, your life can truly begin…”