In the weeks that followed Arthur’s death, Destiny just existed. She was listless and slept a good amount of her day away. And when she wasn’t sleeping, she rocked in his chair, staring out of the window. Bella secretly worried that her mother might not live long enough to see Bianca graduate from high school, which was mere months away. And as much as she tried, Bella could not get Destiny to leave the house for any reason. Bree was having nightmares, and had been for the past few years after an accident, and they were getting worse. After the last one, Bree left her position at the fire station and prepared to move to Appaloosa Plains. Bianca was planning on going with her sister to the small town, so Bree had to wait until Bianca had graduated.
Time passed, and it was finally Bianca’s turn to graduate. Her cap and gown, which had been decorated for months, finally got the chance to be worn. She was recognized during graduation for being the youngest artist to be showcased at the city museum, and her artistic talent won her many accolades during the ceremony. And like her sisters before her, she was one of the first to receive her diploma in her class. When the ceremony was over, and all the graduates threw their caps, Bianca’s was the only cap that stayed in place, on her head. She spent much time and talent on it, and she wanted to keep it.
The ceremony was the first place Destiny had gone willingly since Arthur’s funeral. Her doctors made house calls, and the girls ran errands for her as she needed. But she insisted, even if she couldn’t walk very far or stand for long, that she go to Bianca’s graduation. Bella was just happy that Desi agreed to go out, it didn’t matter to her where she went.
Bella offered to take Bianca for lunch after the ceremony, but she was not interested in the fanfare of the fancy restaurant and the celebration. Instead, they went home where Bella cooked on the grill, and they all went swimming while Destiny watched.
A few days later, Bree and Bianca were due to leave town and drive to Appaloosa Plains. Bella helped Bree pick and choose the furniture and keepsakes that would go with them, and loaded them onto the moving van. Then Bella helped Bianca pack her clothes and art supplies that she would need on the trip, made sure Bee had some extra memory sticks for her camera, and some homemade snacks for the car. Bella helped Destiny out to the car, where they all stood and talked before Bree and Bee left. Destiny wasn’t able to stand long without assistance, so Bella stood with her as they leaned on the fender of Bree’s car.
Bella and Bree went through checklists of things Bree didn’t want to forget, and things that were important while they chatted. Bianca, who was excited to go, didn’t really say much but listened to the chatter among the others. Just as the sun was getting low in the sky, Bree looked at Bianca.
“Well, kiddo,” Bree said. “I think it’s time.”
Destiny’s eyes immediately filled with tears as she held her arms open for hugs. But this time, the tears were mostly happy, because her girls were going to fulfill childhood dreams, just the way she had when she was Bianca’s age. Destiny hugged Bree and told her, “Take good care of my baby.”
“I will, Mama. I promise.” Bree kissed her cheek, and Desi gave her one last hug and kissed her forehead, the way that Arthur used to when they were little.
“I’ll miss you Mom,” Bianca said as she hugged Destiny. Desi leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
“I will miss you, Bee. Be good for your sister, okay?”
“I will, Mom.”
“I love you to the moon and back,” Destiny spoke one last time, and wiped tears from her eyes.
In unison, the girls both said, “I love you too, Mama.”
“Bella, keep me updated on Mama. Please call me… you know.” Bree hugged her sister one last time.
“You have my word.” Bella hugged both her sisters one last time. “I’m going to miss you both.”
Bree and Bianca both got into the car and rolled the windows down. Bella was holding onto Destiny as the girls waved from the car as it drove away.
“I’m tired, Bella,” Desi said, nearly falling. “I need to go inside.”
“Hold on, Mama. We’ll get there.” Bella helped her mother inside and sat her down in the family room.
“Bella, would you bring me some tea?” Destiny called for her daughter.
“Sure thing, Mama,” Bella answered. She took the antique cup from the cabinet, placed a Darjeeling bag and covered it in hot water. “Honey or sugar?”
Bella squeezed a bit of fresh honey from the bottle into the teacup and stirred it. Grabbing the saucer, she carried the tea to Destiny and set it on the side table. “Be careful, Mama, it’s very hot.”
“Thank you, love.” Destiny picked up the cup and sniffed in the warm vapor. “It smells good.”
“You’re welcome, Mama.” Bella was on her way out to the garage. “I’ll be right back.” She returned some 10 minutes later with Destiny’s easel and a stool that Bianca used.
“What are you going to do with that?” Destiny asked.
“Well, it’s going in your room, Mama. Wouldn’t it be nice to do something again, besides sit and watch it snow?”
“But I like watching it snow!” Destiny huffed, but thought, maybe it would be good to paint again. Many of her old pieces of art were ruined when the garage at her first house flooded, and there was no better time than the present to start a whole new collection.
Bella had the easel and chair set up in no time, then she helped Desi upstairs to try it out. “I’ll be right back!” Bella ran down to her car and retrieved the bags of paint, brushes, and canvases to replace the ones that Bianca took with her. When she appeared in the bedroom door, Destiny laughed out loud. “Well, it looks like you’ve been busy!”
“Yeah, well,” Bella replied, “You gave Bee all your paints and pastels. So, I’m just replacing what she took!” Destiny smiled with gratitude at Bella.
“Thank you, sweet pea.” Destiny sat down, chose her brush and squeezed out a blob of paint onto the palette.
“If you need me, I’ll be downstairs.”
A few hours later, Destiny called for Bella. “It’s finished! I’m so happy with this!”
“Happy with what, Mama?” Bella called as she ascended the flight of stairs.
“This!” Destiny turned the easel slightly so it faced the doorway. It was a portrait of Bella that Destiny had painted from memory, and it was gorgeous.
“Oh, Mama!” Bella exclaimed. “You did a fabulous job!” She got closer and took a better look at the portrait. “Now, see? Isn’t this better than watching snowfall?”
“Well, you got me a nice set up here. I can’t complain.” It was the first time Bella had seen her mother really smile in months.
A few weeks later, and Destiny was still painting up a storm. The portrait she had completed was now dry and ready to be framed, but she had at least two others that were still drying. Where the rocking chair and snowfall had been her entertainment since Arthur’s passing, she found renewed purpose in her rediscovered hobby. Bella had gotten a gig at Verde Park following the passing of Arthur’s friend, Phil. Too many of us old geezers are dying, she thought morosely. Bella had made a lunch for Destiny of cherry crepes, with cherries from the trees in the greenhouse, and got her settled in for an afternoon of painting.
“I wish I could go with you,” Destiny chimed in. “It has been too long since I’ve been at the park, and I haven’t seen you perform in a very long time.”
“I wish you could, too Mama,” Bella replied. “It’s just too cold out there yet.” She helped Destiny sit down, and set a brand new canvas on the easel and clamped it in nice and sturdy.
“It’s okay, I’ll just sit here and paint. I want to paint another portrait of you, with your hair done the way you always wear it.” Destiny steadied herself on the chair and opened a tube of oil paint.
“That would be good, Mama. I look too much like you in that last one. If I wasn’t paying attention, I’d think it was you!” Bella laughed. “Is there anything you need before I go?”
“No, I think I’m okay up here. Wait,” Destiny paused. “Is the phone here?”
“I was just getting it for you, Mama.” Bella set the handset on the table next to the easel. “I’ll be home right after my show tonight, but if you need me, I’m just a call away.”
“I’ll be okay, love. Break a leg!” Destiny blew her a kiss.
“I love you, Mama,” Bella said as she kissed Desi’s forehead. “I’ll see you tonight.”
Destiny settled in and began painting the outlines of her newest masterpiece. For the first time since she took up painting again, she thought of Arthur. I’m starting to forget him, she thought. She wiped a tear from her cheek and refocused her energy on her work. She got an odd feeling, as though something brushed by her chair, but when she looked, no one was around.
“Who is there?” She called into the house, but no one answered. Shrugging her shoulders, she resumed painting.
“Destiny, my love.” She heard it that time. Who was that? Could it be Arthur? She looked around and still saw nothing, but felt a cold chill down her spine. She reached for the paintbrush and started to fill it with oil when she heard his voice again. “Destiny, come to me.” She broke out in a cold sweat, and turned her head in time to see Arthur standing in the doorway, the light glowed around him as though he was in front of a bright light. She blinked her eyes, and he was gone. A third time, she heard him call to her, “Destiny, come be with me forever.” He appeared to her once again, this time he moved towards her, and in one instant, the vapor enveloped her. She dropped her paintbrush on the floor as she recognized the being that stood in Arthur’s place… The Reaper! But there was no one home to plead for her life. The Reaper once again took Arthur’s form and embraced her as she went willingly to him. In her place sat a beautiful golden urn, and the same tracks that Destiny found by Fran’s urn so many years ago, marked the carpet where he stood. It was said that the Reaper only left those tracks when he had a feeling of emotion for the departed, and he was so touched by Arthur’s love for Destiny, that he couldn’t help but leave them.
“Welcome home, my love,” Arthur said one last time to his bride.
“There is nowhere else I’d rather be,” Destiny answered, her spirit merging with his as they left the house together.
Up Next: Bree-Ann Atwood