December 7, 2014

His Cemetery Doll: Chapter Three

He'd carved Maya the autumn after Shyla came to him. He'd never understood what motivated him to do it: besides not being very fanciful, Conall had never been particularly artistic, either. The inspiration must have come thanks to the baby.

He'd discovered the poor infant alone in his graveyard, tucked a sheltering crevice of an old boulder. He remembered thinking she'd been arranged as though in a cradle. Whoever left her did it with care, placing her in a spot where she'd be protected from rain, above any wildlife...and sure to be seen by the first human who passed by. Con later used the same boulder as the base for Maya's statue. Perhaps because those small, thoughtful, careful details might be all he would ever know about Shyla's real mother.

Shyla was a golden child: fair where Conall proved tawny and dark; silky blonde with a cherub nose and soft eyes of differing blue and green, where he had sharp features and irises of amber. Con told everyone she'd been his sister's child because it avoided a lot of extra complications, but he could barely understand how his neighbors believed it. It couldn't be more obvious he and Shyla didn't belong to one another. Whoever delivered her into his graveyard probably hadn't realized who they left her with.

The mystery of it bothered him. Who could possibly abandon their little one there in a cemetery at all? Then, the answer came: someone to whom the shelter of a sturdy rock, and the hope of a stranger's kindness, were preferable to whatever circumstances led her to them.

That affected him. It affected him so profoundly, he'd made a decision no one would understand.

He chose to raise the baby himself.


Over lunch, he told Shyla about the trip into town. As always, she listened obediently, nodded when he finished, and stood to begin her afternoon chores without being asked. She'd clear the table, tidy the house, and then go outside to tend their small vegetable garden. With those tasks finished, she'd bathe and dress for a visit with the Trasks.

Conall knew Shyla always made an effort to be a little extra presentable when going to town. It was as if she suspected the ladies there were continually looking for a sign she needed their help and guidance, that Conall couldn't possibly understand how to raise a growing girl. She hated to let anyone think he hadn't provided for her.

Today, she glanced out toward the graveyard before clearing the table from their lunch, her gaze falling on the path leading down to Maya's circle.

"What are you thinking about?" Conall asked.

"Nothing, Dad," she replied softly. Her eyes shifted subtly away as she collected his plate and deposited it in the washbasin.

Conall furrowed his brow, but he said nothing.

On his way back out to the twins' grave, he made a quick detour to pay a visit to Maya.

Visitors often said the statue clearly exhibited a master's touch. They ran their hands over the smooth lines of her slender arms: one held tight over her chest in prayer, the other extended out to the open sky. They marveled at the painstaking detail in the feathers of her angelic wings, and the folds of cloth swathing her sculpted figure, flowing as though caught in the wind. They lauded the emotiveness of her expression, which Conall had always considered rather sad. Of all the detail he'd envisioned of the statue, her face came to mind first, yet he'd carved it last.

He'd dreamed about her for weeks before he finally channeled the vision into his sculpture. She'd come to him in sleep in the nights following his discovery of the baby, when he'd fretted over the crying, hungry infant, scrambled to create a place for her in his cold old house. Soon thereafter, when tucking her in became a welcome nightly routine, he'd begun dreaming of Maya.

She never formed in his mind as a person. He didn't imagine a flesh-and-blood woman: always cold, white stone, always frozen, and always a sentinel amid the tombstones. He had no idea what possessed him to begin carving away at the boulder where he'd discovered Shyla either, or why he'd been so driven to bring shape to the angel in his dreams.

He'd also never understood why the statue came out so well. When others lauded her as the work of a skilled sculptor, he didn't understand. How could his hands have crafted something aesthetic? They were the hands of a laborer, a groundskeeper, callused from hard work in rough dirt and shapeless rock. He barely managed to chisel fresh inscriptions on the tombstones when they grew too eroded to read. How his angel had taken form and been so much like the alabaster creature in his imagination—exactly like her, exactly as he'd envisioned, down to the elfin ears and delicate, tender fingers—Conall couldn't fathom.

He'd never had the compulsion to sculpt anything else, either. Even if his first attempt had revealed some sort of hidden genius, he didn't believe he'd ever repeat it.

Even though most folks found Maya impressive at first, perhaps cheered by her appearance in the somber old graveyard, they grew unsettled with her in time. The change became a palpable thing to him, an inevitable, creeping distrust from anyone spending a prolonged amount of time in the cemetery with her. Where, if one did ascribe to fanciful imaginings, she might see them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?