Death takes a Starr
My mother’s death had to be the most excruciating thing I had ever gone through. Every moment was agony and I felt as if there was a hollow in my chest, an empty space that was lost with her demise. Numbness would be the best way to describe the feeling. I felt completely and utterly numb. I can't honestly recall the funeral or procession for that matter. I do remember the constant stares from friends and family, sympathetic and worried….
“Oh those poor children..” A lady cooed, just out of earshot. I didn’t recognize the voice and didn’t bother to look back at her. I didn’t know her but I deduced that my mother must have. My mother Belle Starr. A fairly plain looking woman with no special points, except that she was well revered in the outlaw circuit. She had adopted my sister and myself when we were young, too young to remember another life with our biological parents. My gaze was fixed on the casket being lowered into the ground. It must have been blank and unfeeling because my sister Kristal shot me a worried glance and it wasn’t until she gently touched my shoulder that I returned her look. Her attempt at a weak smile, was feeble at best. She looked worse for wears. Her eyes had deep shadows under them, a sign of sleep deprivation, no doubt. Her golden hair, normally brushed out and shiny, was untouched, wild and neglected. I could only imagine what I must have looked like. She was suddenly thrown into parent hood, at 17 years old. Suddenly our home- it being burned to the ground- was gone, no money and she now had to finish raising me. I could only imagine the questions and worries going through her mind. I shut my eyes in an attempt to shut out
The horror and nightmare taking place in front of me. “Case..” A soft voice, dripping with worry cooed next to me. A voice I would recognize anywhere, my sister’s. “Yes..” was all I could choke out, without opening my eyes. “Are you ready to go?” A very simple question, no doubt, but somehow it felt like the most complicated question in the world. Was I ready to go? I was ready, ready to leave the hell that was laid out before me but my feet seemed to be glued in place. A part of me didn’t want to leave. A part of me felt as if leaving would make this permanent. If I stayed maybe I would wakeup from this nightmare that seemed to never end. Her gaze never left my form, awaiting an answer, eager almost. “Yes..” I said, my tone was flat, emotionless and she realized I must be shutting down, as I normally did when faced with situations. Some people cried, others chose to believe it never happened, ignored it, if you will. I simply shut down. When I opened my eyes, my mother was in the ground and partially covered. I must have chosen to shut all of this out. A black out in the hell that was only beginning. “Come on darlin’. Let’s go..” She said, her tone had a false uplifting to it, as if the mask was put on to make me feel better and then I felt her hand curl around my arm and drag me away from the scene. Our wagon soon came into sight and so did the man leaning against it. He was tall, about six foot- two inches with sandy colored hair and grey eyes. Under other circumstances I might have recognized him. I did not, nor did I care at this time. It wasn’t until we were quite close to him that I saw the sorrowful look on his face and I instantly knew the first words that were going to come out of his mouth. “Kristal, Casey..” He greeted us, in a worried tone. “I’m uh.. I’m sorry for your loss..” He continued. “Fantastic..” I said, out loud in a too sarcastic
Tone of voice. It wasn’t until after the word came out that I realized I’d said it aloud. My sister shot me a scornful look and then fell into the speel. “Hey Colt..” She said, pausing for a moment as if his presence was unexpected. And then she apologized for my rudeness. “Sorry about that..” She had said, whether she’d looked at me again, I didn’t know, I’d already pushed past the two of them and climbed into the wagon. “He’s taking it rather hard..” She said, in my defense. Colt, I guess it was, nodded and started to chatter again. “Yeah, I understand. Ya’ll are welcome to come stay with me at my place..” Of Course, he would do that. It wasn’t enough that he’d had an infatuation with my sister for years. He was using our mother’s funeral as an excuse to zero in on her during her weakest moment. Maybe he had good intentions, but I liked to think it was an opportunity to finally make his move on my sister. “Colt.. I don’t know if that’s such a good idea..” I could here the regrets in my sister’s words. I didn’t have to look at her to know she was grimacing when she said that. “I understand..” Colt had said. I could here the sound of rejection in his tone, with a slight edge of bitterness to it. Her turn down had hurt him no doubt. Perhaps, he had good intentions after all. I wondered if he really understood, or if it was just an automatic response to the rejection. “If you need anything, just um.. Just let me know..” He said, in a tone that was intended to let her know he didn’t intend on giving up the pursuit. It was then that I tuned out the rest of the conversation. My mind had left me again, an empty hollow shell of nothingness. My gaze fixed forward again, numb and empty, shutting down. It was when my sister climbed into the wagon that pulled me back into reality, causing the seat to gently rock, when she pulled herself up. I turned my gaze on her expectantly, as if she were about to
Speak. She just sighed and gently touched my shoulder. “Everything will be ok..” She said, trying to be encouraging. I fixed my gaze straight ahead and sucked in a ragged, pained, breath. I didn’t realize how much it had hurt to breathe, until now. I felt like hyperventilating. “What are we going to do?” I asked, my voice, small and weak. All of the worries seemed to be hitting me at once. Where were we going to live? What were we going to do? How would we eat? I could feel my breath hitching in my throat with each thought. Kristal’s eyes turned troubled and she gave me a sympathetic look. “We’ll figure something out..” She said, as if that was the only explanation she had to give. “I’ll take over ma’s gang if I have to Case..” She said, and I could feel the corners of my mouth turned down, followed by a sudden feeling of nausea. Wasn’t that how Ma had died? How could she even consider putting herself in danger like that? I could feel the nausea being replaced by anger. My eyes narrowed and I could feel my eyes stinging from the tears that were threatening to well up and as if by automatic response I quickly wiped them away. Hopefully quick enough that Kristal wouldn’t see them. I could see the expression of guilt that swept across her face from the corner of my eye. “I’m sorry Case..” She said, with a sigh. “It’s all I know how to do..” She said, in a voice that sounded like defeat. She gave up after that, realizing she wasn’t going to get a response. I sighed heavily and kept my gaze straight ahead, as if that were going to remedy the situation. In all honesty, it wasn’t but it made me feel better. “Where are we going to stay tonight?” I asked her, worry evident in my tone. She deliberated for a moment, thinking. I could tell that she really didn’t know. “Are we staying with Colt?” I
Probed. I knew what her answer would be but deep down I was hoping that we would, instead of staying out in the woods. A warm bed and hot food was very much preferable to hard ground and a fire and whatever food with we could get our hands on be it beans or venison. I could tolerate Colt for a few nights, at least, in exchange for comfort. “I’m not sure Casey..” She said, her voice was quiet, almost sounded tired. “I hate to put him out..” I could tell she was struggling with the decision. She loved Colt but she wasn’t in love with him. She thought of him merely as family. So I could understand how she would feel awkward around him. “He did offer..” I reminded her. “Besides a couple of nights couldn’t hurt..”