Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am from the deep south of the Deep South, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I lived in the Glory Land for 30 years until I decided to spread my Southerness abroad, and now I live in Bangkok, Thailand, promoting Southern speech (especially “y’all”) to coworkers and students alike.
The Unexpected Gift
“No one’s around for you to fool. You asked me to come because you’re about to die, so what do you want?” Jenna sat erect in the seat beside the bed, her face stoic.
Annabelle pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She stared at the wall, threading her thoughts. She sighed. “I know we don’t like each other, but I wanted to say something before I go. I want to say, well, I’m sorry.”
The guffaws from Jenna were not only unsurprising but actually expected, and Annabelle further pursed her lips and moved her head—as best she could—in an air of wounded pride.
Though Jenna had rehearsed her soliloquy and replies on her way to the nursing home, she sat in a stupor, speechless. When words finally formed, she burst. “Sorry? You’re sorry? Sorry for what? Years of being such a horrible, horrible person to me and Daddy? And you think you can just erase all that with just a sorry? And on your deathbed at that?!”
“Oh, can it, ya drama queen. I am sorry, so take it or leave it, but I wanted to offer you a gift.”
Jenna crossed arms and almost sulked. “What? What’s your gift? You leaving me a million dollars?”
“You wish. If you’d listen, I’d tell you. I wanna offer you the gift of forgiveness,” she lifted her skeleton arm in an air of angelic wafting.
“Forgiveness? You want to forgive me? For what?! It was YOU—“
“Lord have mercy! Do you ever stop? Listen. I want you to forgive me.”
“Me forgive you? That’s just like you. You want me to forgive you for, what, 30 years of—Lord, I can’t even find words—just so you can die happy and forgiven? Nice gift, Annabelle, but no thanks.”
“Geez, it’s like beating a dead mule with you, idnnit? No, I want you to forgive me so you can live free—free from the burden of hate and unforgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t for me; it’s for you.”
Jenna fell back in her chair. “Well,” she began as she recovered, “that may be the wisest advice you’ve ever given me.” Jenna chuckled, and Annabelle’s short bursts of air very similar to a laugh subsided quickly before evolving into a coughing fit.
After a brief time elongated by thought, Jenna sat up again. “Annabelle Brown,” she looked in her eyes and deeply inhaled, “I forgive you.” Though she expected a set of angel wings and the wind of freedom to blow immediately, they didn’t come. Instead, a calmness burdened the room, and in customary Annabelle fashion, she replied in the pursed lips, humbled, head wagging manner, “I guess I forgive you too—for whatever,” and they both rolled their eyes in unison. “Ok, enough of the mush. Let me go to sleep. I’m tired. Go on now.” She turned her head, faced the wall and snapped her eyes shut.
Jenna withdrew, her demeanor softened. She walked to her car, stifling the feelings of being manipulated, choosing rather to close the chapter of Annabelle for good, with good.