Echo lay on her bed, face-up, and stared at the ceiling. Tears trickled down her cheeks. Angrily, she wiped them away and sat up. She brushed her fingers through her long, blonde hair. She then opened her backpack and threw things out until she found what searched for.
“Upstairs,” she yelled.
Echo walked across the hallway to the bathroom. Forty-five minutes later she tromped down the steps.
Harry looked up from his newspaper, coffee cup in hand. When he saw his granddaughter, he spilled the hot, black liquid.
Echo grabbed a dishrag and cleaned the mess.
When she bent over the table, Harry reached out and touched her hair.
“Oh Gramps, don’t get all old on me. It’s just hair.” She plopped down onto the chair and poured a bowl of cereal.
“Dinner’s in the oven.”
“Not hungry,” she mumbled between bites. “You gonna say something?”
“Guessing the only thing I can say is…why?”
The teen threw her spoon into the bowl. She watched the milk splash onto the freshly wiped table. “I have lots of questions, too, and they are way more important than a hair cut and dye.”
Harry stared at his granddaughter, slipped off his glasses, and scratched his whiskers. “Your Mama loved your long, blonde hair. Why would you cut it so raggedy and dye it black?”
“Mom’s not here anymore, in case you haven’t noticed. Hair isn’t important.”
He’d just gotten used to her black jeans and black t-shirts she’d worn for weeks, and now she managed to shake him up once again. “You used to love colors. What happened?”
“Black is the absence of light. That’s me. I’m black inside. My light’s been stamped out. Nothing’s important anymore, Grandpa.
Harry put his head down to hide the tears. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you through this.”
“What about God? Mom and Dad believed in Him and they’re dead. Gramps, you never believed and now I see what you mean. He’s nothing. He’s not alive. He’s dead to me.”
Harry’s hands shook. “Even if I didn’t believe, Honey,” his voice warbled then he grew silent.
Echo leaned in close, until her elbows touched his. “What? Tell me.”
“You’re right. I didn’t believe, but I’ve been reading your mama’s Bible and I think she was onto something.”
Echo screamed at him, “What good did it do her?” She stood up quickly and the chair fell behind her. “What good?” Echo fell to her knees and put her head into her grandfather’s lap and sobbed.
Harry stroked Echo’s newly dyed raven black hair. “It says in the Bible that God sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for us to save us from our sins and…”
Echo stood up, hands on hips and cut him short. “All we have to do is believe and we’ll go to Heaven. I know all that. I went to church for years while you mocked us, remember? Anyway, I don’t like this life, why would I wanna live forever? That’s ludicrous.”
“Right now I have to believe there is life after this one or I wouldn’t be able to go on. Your parent’s accident was horribly unfair. I’m so sorry you’re left without them but we do have each other. If anything ever happened to you,” his voice trailed off.
“I’m tired of hurting. I won’t do it anymore. Sorry, Grandpa, it’s just too hard. I’m almost eighteen. Cole said I can reinvent myself.”
“Reinvent? What does that mean?”
A teenage boy stuck his head in the door.
“Hold on a sec, Cole. I’m leaving, Grandpa. I’m not gonna be that straight-laced little girl anymore. It hasn’t worked for me. There’s gotta be a different answer and I’m gonna find it.”
Echo ran up the steps and brought down her backpack and suitcase.
Harry blocked the outside door. She tried to push past him but Harry caught her in an embrace. He whispered, “Is this reinventing? Going off to live with your boyfriend?”
She pushed out of his arms.
“Please take this with you.”
A stray tear fell as Echo reached out to take her mom’s worn Bible from her grandfather’s hands.
Cole grabbed the Book and shoved it back at Harry. He gripped Echo’s arm and pushed her outside. Cole then sneered at the man, made an obscene gesture, and slammed the door behind him.
Echo wasn’t there to see her grandfather’s face turn gray, grab his chest; call out to Jesus; and collapse.
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