Love wasn't a cheap greeting card

Love wasn’t a cheap greeting card with hollow promises and apologies written on it. Love was spending holidays with one another. It was cooking and eating meals together. It was helping one another when they didn’t ask for it.

Love was holding someone as they cried. Love was accepting every flaw someone had. Love was taking in someone who needed a family. Love wasn’t walking out on your eight year old and then spending the next decade stringing her along.

Amanda’s mom didn’t love her. She felt stupid for taking so long to realize that. Swallowed the pain trying to escape from her throat and wiped away the water accumulating by her eyes.

The card was still open. The empty white field behind the cover was filled in with cursive. It was almost the same as the rest of them. The ink was blue. The handwriting was nice enough to be typed. And the content was nothing but flowery praise and apologies about how she couldn’t “be there.” The only difference between this and all the other cards was the inclusion of “I’m so happy to hear about your acceptance to Indiana State University. I’m so proud of you.”

No. You’re not, Mom. And you’re not sorry about not being here. You never were.

She closed the card and picked up the envelope it came it. With a cathartic gait she walked to her room. On every wall she passed there were pictures of the Maxwells. Almost every one taken in the last six years had her in it. The oldest of them was a picture of her on Christmas. She was on the old couch with a present on her lap looking at the camera with her mismatched eyes.

In the drawer of her desk was every card and letter her Mom had ever sent since she left ten years ago. Ten cards for every birthday and holiday. She picked up every single one. The stack was near as thick as a deck of cards.

In the corner of the garage there was a crate full of old newspaper. Amanda pulled three out and crumbled them into balls. She put them at the bottom of a grill chimney then filled the top with the cards. When space became scarce, she tore the remaining cards into pieces then wedged them into empty space.

After five minutes of searching, she found a lighter. She watched the orange tongue spread through the paper. Eyes green and brown both watched as every card blackened, shriveled, and crumbled. When the fire shrunk into spots of orange on black she dumped the chimney.

What had been newspaper could not be differentiated from what had been card. They were all paper ashes lying on a rusted grill caked in the burnt animal fat. A bittersweet smile grew on her lips.

She put the lighter in the shelf above the newspaper crate. Then put the chimney by the bag of charcoal. She put the removable grill back followed by the lid.

She wandered around the backyard for a while. A car pulled into the gravel driveway. It was Mrs. Maxwell and Zelda. The latter noticed her.

“Hey Mandy, we need help with the groceries.”

She helped bring the bags in and then helped to put the food away. When it was all done she hugged Mrs. Maxwell tightly.

“Oh, uh, thank you. What was that for?”

Amanda pulled away and smiled. She forced it flat then glanced at the floor.

“It’s … just thank you.” She licked her lips. “For everything.”

John Benko

I live in Bay Village.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:15 AM, 02.02.2021