Do you ever look at gravestones and think about the life contained between the two dates inscribed on stone? This is my whimsical way of weaving a story about the adventures in the dash.
The first Monday of every month, I’ll feature a gravestone (or two) along with a fictional story depicting what a piece of their lives might have looked like.
In the interest of privacy, I’ll give only first or last names, not both. I hope you enjoy this fanciful peek into what might have been.
Previous stories can be found on the Graveyard Tales Archive
Name: Louis and Betty
Dates: Louis: 1927-2000; Betty: 1925 – 2001; Married in 1953
Inspired Fictional Story::
Betty woke up with the distinct feeling that something important was happening today. She laid still a moment, staring at the wooden beams in the ceiling before a slow smile stretched across her face. Then a moment later, it was gone as worry replaced it.
Was she making the right decision? Did she really know Louis well enough? They had only been together six months…what if he wasn’t what he seemed? What if he really was too immature? He was only two years younger than her, but her friends had assured her that could make all the difference. What if his sweet, good nature was all a front and he turned into a controlling, angry, abusive man as soon as she was secure?
Images of her parents’ marriage filled her mind. Her father’s face darkened with fury. Her mother’s fluttered apologies for the burned cake, unsuccessfully trying to stave off the beating she knew was coming. Betty’s breath began to come faster as the memory consumed her. While there had been many beatings over the years, that one in particular stood out to her, as the worst birthday of her life.
She sat up quickly, shaking it away far more easily than that forebodings that replaced it. Maybe she should have stuck with her determination to never marry. Maybe…maybe she should call off the wedding.
A quiet knock at the door made her start, and she swallowed before calling a soft come in.
Her mother entered, her face wreathed in smiles. She stopped just inside the door, unconsciously twining her fingers into her skirt as she tilted her head at her daughter. “Ready for the biggest day of your life?”
It did not escape Betty’s notice that her mother did not say happiest day of your life.
Betty swallowed as she stared at her mother’s always pale face. Her father had been dead for five years now, but there were still some faded scars on her mother’s face, reminders of the marriage she had had. And then she began to sob.
Moments later, her mother’s arms were around her. “What’s wrong, baby? Are you all right?”
She continued to cry as her mother brushed her hair back from her forehead and soothed her the way she had when she was a child. As her sobs began to quiet into hiccups, her mother whispered in her ear. “You don’t have to marry him if you don’t want to, baby.”
Betty sniffled and raised her head to meet her mother’s eyes, filled with genuine sorrow and concern. “Do…do you think I should?”
Her mother drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “Only you can know that, baby.”
“Was—did—did Dad show any…signs? Before you got married?” Betty’s mother had told her in the past that her husband was a perfect gentleman, until the day after the wedding. But perhaps…perhaps there had been subtle things…things she hadn’t noticed that could save Betty from such a future.
Another silence before responding. “Hindsight is always 20/20, baby. I suppose there were times he was a little short-tempered with me. He never touched me, but I did note his temper sometimes. Always had an excuse for it, though, baby.” Silence as Betty contemplated the words, and then her mother spoke again, “Have you ever seen anything—did…did Louis…”
“No, never.” Betty didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Because you can tell me, baby. I promise. I’ll protect you.”
Louis’ face lingered in Betty’s mind. His dark complexion, floppy black hair, the crooked, white teeth that flashed a smile designed to lighten her heart. And gentle. So very gentle and kind. “No, never,” she repeated again. “He’s never lost his temper. He’s never touched me. He…he is perfect.” The last words came out in a whisper. Perfect for me. The words reverberated through her, creating confidence, though the fear still tried to edge its way in.
“Well, baby, I will support you no matter what.” Her mother tapped Betty’s cheek, and Betty turned to look at her again. “All I want is for you to be happy—I don’t want you to…have what I had.”
Betty sat up straight, shaking her head, trying to think through the fears, clinging the feeling of confidence. “I trust Louis. I trust him. I…want to spend the rest of my life with him. Just promise me—” she tried to laugh as she wrinkled her nose, “that you’ll save me if—if he does change.”
“I promise, baby.” Her mother hugged her close again. “I promise.”
A few short hours later, Betty was standing in the back of the church, wondering why no one had ever warned her about the flutter of nerves before the ceremony. About the mix of surrealism, fear, and excitement all at once. And then, she knew. As she entered the sanctuary and looked ahead, meeting the bright eyes of her future, peace settled over her. Peace, certainty, and joy for the future. She was making the right decision.
Note: While I have no way of knowing if Betty actually suffered abuse earlier in her life, I like to think that marriage to Louis brought her an immense amount of joy. A new beginning. They died within a year of each other after about 50 years of marriage, and I’m pretty sure that’s because they couldn’t live without each other.