AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Emily Hemmer
Post Epilogue: Wynn In Doubt
I feel like I should start by saying hello, but it seems ridiculous given whom I’ve come to see.
The ground is stiff and crunchy. A thin layer of day old snow covers the grass, though brown clumps of earth try to push through. There are people all around, but I’m the only one bothered by the wind. It’s cold, enough to make my eyes sting and nose run. Tree branches covered by frost snap and creak. Otherwise, it’s quiet.
My hands are cold. I shove the empty one into my coat pocket.
“I’m Wynn,” I say.
There’s no response.
“I’m sorry I haven’t come before now.” I look around us. I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being silly. “These are for you.” I lean forward and place a bouquet of white roses on the ground. Leaves, dark, green and alive, stand out against the blank white snow. “I thought you might like them.”
A loud snap breaks the silence. I look over my shoulder, but no one’s behind me. It’s just the wind knocking things against each other.
Stop. Calm down. There’s no need to be nervous.
I shift and kick the heel of one boot against the toe of the other. I try to remember the things I’d wanted to say on the way here. “It took forever to find you,” I start. “I wasn’t sure where they’d, well… I found you.” My hand goes instinctively to the piece of soft metal hanging from a chain around my throat. As always, the feel of it gives me courage.
“It’s Christmas day. I just came from Mom and Dad’s. The boys were on a chocolate high. I thought Franny was going to lose it but they eventually crashed. Mom got me this.” I finger the ends of the red cashmere scarf I’m wearing. “I got her one of those DNA kits from ancestry.com. She’s been pretty obsessed with that stuff lately.” I look down and smile, then bury my hand back inside the coat pocket.
The wind picks up my hair, and it dances behind me.
“Oliver’s home. He got in yesterday. I picked him up from the airport and—” I touch the spot on my cheek where his hand had been as he kissed me, the skin beneath still warm. “I’m going to see him after this. He’s helping me pack. I’m moving at the end of the month, into this little studio close to the lake. Near the Art Institute.” I nod my head now, eager. “Yeah, I got a job with them, if you can believe it. I start on the 5th. Study Abroad Coordinator.” A laugh, a smile, escapes me.
“It’s kind of crazy how it happened. I was at this exhibit with Lisa and this lady and I just started talking about this ossuary we’ve both been to in Prague, where the bones of forty thousand people have been turned into art and chandeliers and…” Suddenly, I remember where I am, and the topic of conversation feels impolite. “Never mind.”
A black bird jumps from a tree to my right. The branch it had been sitting on bobs up and down, as though waving goodbye. There are so many things I need to say. So much I need to thank her for. My throat is tight. I wiggle my nose and look around, avoiding, for the moment, the person I’ve come to see.
Staring into the distance, I begin again.
“I’m so sorry.” And just like that, I’m crying. “I’m so sorry for what happened to you.” I take a deep breath. It hurts, this gratefulness. It has bound itself tightly to me. “I wish everything had been different. What you gave to me… I can never thank you for it. But I—” I blink and look up at the sky. It’s clear and blue. “You changed my life.”
I look down and tears slide onto my lips. A simple stone, half buried in the earth, her name, Lola Elizabeth Craig, carved carefully into the gray façade. I fall to my knees and begin to wipe away snow that has stuck itself in the crevices of each letter.
It was Oliver who’d found her. He’s the one that told me she’d come home. The name of the cemetery where she’d been buried was listed on her death certificate. I found it as I was packing my things. The caretaker was on holiday, so I didn’t know the exact location of her plot. After Christmas breakfast with my family I found myself driving here. There was no other way. I simply had to look, up and down, row after row, until I found her.
Beneath her name is written, Wife & Mother, and then the dates of her life and death. There’s no mention of Michael or Grams. There’s no quote or bible verse to give insight into who she had been. But I knew. She was brave and strong, and she had been alive with love.
I grip the necklace. Lola’s ring slips onto the tip of my index finger. I press my thumb against it and hold it tight, and place my other hand against the headstone. “I found your diary. In Michael’s house. Cecelia must have left it there. After everything that’s happened, I can’t help but think she somehow knew that one day, someone would come looking for it.”
The image of a cream colored hat, the first glimpse I had of this woman, of Lola, my great grandmother, passes across my mind. “I wish I could tell you that Grams had been able to forgive you for leaving her, but I don’t know. She collected blue glass, though. It was all over her house, so that must mean something.” I think of my mother, of how much she’s changed this year. “But my mom, your granddaughter, she understands now. She knows that you tried to make things right. I framed your picture for her. It’s sitting on the dresser in her room with your necklace.” I grip the stone with both hands. It’s like ice, but I don’t let go. “You were so brave. I’m sorry you were alone.”
The back of my throat aches as I swallow. A few more words, then it will be done.
“I know that your life was hard, and that you had to live with these terrible things that you’d done, and every awful thing that came after. But somehow, out of all that, came a second chance. For both of us. You found Michael and I—” The air I breathe in is cold. It stings my lungs.
“I was lost before you,” I whisper. “I was no one, and you saved me. Thank you.”
My breath is like smoke in the air. I steady myself. It’s done now. I just needed to tell her. To say it out loud.
I wipe my cheeks and reach into my pocket, pulling out a small oval picture frame. The photo within is of a man with black hair and a wide, careless smile. I cropped out the rest of the picture, the Sherriff’s deputies and the old car, its doors thrown open on the side of a road, though I can’t help but think the man smiling back at me through the glass would’ve found it funny. I place the frame against her headstone, digging out a line in the ground to secure it.
Finally, I feel at ease. When I’d come across Lola’s death certificate, and saw the name and address of the cemetery, my first thought had been of Michael. They’d been separated for so long, in life and in death. I wanted, in some small way, to bring them back together.
“I’ll never forget you, or him. I promise you that.” The petals of the roses have already begun to curl up against the cold. I place a finger against one. It’s soft and delicate. I am reminded of the words I read in Lola’s diary. Not the pain of leaving her daughter, or the fear of being hungry and alone, but the determination to live, and the courage she clung to.
I stand and pat the snow from my jeans. The wind is picking up and the cold it brings is bitter. It’s time to go.
One final look. I never thought I would find her. Now I can’t think of my own story without remembering hers.
“Merry Christmas, Lola.”
The cemetery is silent, but in my mind there is music, soft and ethereal, and two lovers dance slowly in the quiet pages of memory.
Emily Hemmer was raised in the Chicago suburbs before settling in Kansas City in 1996. She was raised in a house full of wom...en which gave birth to her many loud OPINIONS about men, women, and the roles they play in la romance. A huge fan of romantic comedies, Emily was overjoyed to realize her college roommate could recite every word of the movie 'Clueless,' until she realized that was the only VHS tape her roommate owned. Emily dropped out of college and to this day, blames the listless years of her twenties on the words, "As if!" She completed her degree after an extended eleven-year semester break during which time she got married, had kids, and became a published author. Her greatest accomplishment to date is holding the high score in Ms. PacMan at the Pizza Hut in Schaumburg, Il
Visit Emily Hemmer's Website: https://www.emilyhemmer.com/
The Break Up Psychic (Dangerously Dimpled #1): http://amzn.to/1QM0buJ
Plus None (Dangerously Dimpled #2): http://amzn.to/1QM0aa3
Just One (Dangerously Dimpled #2.5):
Wynn In Doubt: http://amzn.to/1jpbzyj
Read GPI's Review of WYNN IN DOUBT
1. If money was no object what would take out the number one spot on your Christmas list?
All expenses paid trip to Khao Lak in Thailand. I didn’t even have to think about this one.
2. What was the first book you read that made you think “wow this is what I want to do, I want to be an author”?
Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding. My favorite book. It inspired me to seek out my dreams and to be a better human while I was at it.
3. What does Christmas mean for you?
For me it’s always felt like a cleansing. A marker that the year is nearly over, and an opportunity to take stock of my life and be grateful.
4. What’s your guilty pleasure, the one thing you hate admitting out loud?
I’m a pretty open book - I find no shame in my pleasures or my passions. If you like something, just like it! Don’t feel bad about it!
5. What’s next for you in terms of writing?
I’ve been working on about 3 books simultaneously. I hope to self publish a romantic comedy and another women’s fiction in the first half of 2016 and I’ll have another women’s fiction ready for my traditional publisher. After that? I’m going to genre hop and try my hand at paranormal YA. 2016 is going to be a GREAT writing year for me!