Mosquitoes have no consideration for the suffering of others, gnats don’t understand what crying means and bees, devoid of empathy, disregard politeness as they hover, hum, and stare at those in anguish. These buzzing insects swarmed and plagued a young mother as she cried in the long grass near two boards, tied into a cross. At this moment, while the Virginia, July heat broiled her despair, these creations of God could not be more unwelcome.
“Get off her!” She scattered the mosquitoes perched on the grave marker. “Oh, Victoria I’m so sorry we have to leave!” The young woman clasped her hands and begged for forgiveness. The crude cross, which bore an equally crude carving of the name, Victoria Brown, stood in a mound of fresh earth a few yards from the woods’ edge. She surveyed the trees and wiped her tears. “I would rather have buried you in Gehenna then next to this cursed forest!” The woman doubled over and cried once more at the thought of leaving her child’s body near so dark a place. “I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want to leave you! Oh, Dear Lord in Heaven please protect my little Victoria!”
“I’m right here mama!” Her mother hadn’t acknowledged Victoria’s presence in weeks and the little girl knew her cry was wasted. “Mama, where are you going? Take me with you!” The child’s thick brown hair stretched to her behind. Her dress, the color of a paper grocery bag, hung above her ankles and dirt soiled the trim of it. Grime covered her bare feet. The selfish, biting insects paid no mind to her.
Victoria’s father thudded through the grass in his leather boots, stopped behind his wife and leaned on his musket for support. “We must move on, Rachel. We must travel to Gloucester before the sun sets.”
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it! I can’t leave her here!” Rachel sobbed and in her sick despair, laid her face on the cool, comforting soil of the grave.
“Victoria is gone, Rachel. She is with the Lord.”
The woman didn’t respond but her crying subsided. She caressed the fresh dirt over and over as though stroking her daughter’s hair.
“I’m not gone, papa! God didn’t take me! I’m still here!” As usual in the last few days, neither parent acknowledged her.
Her father set the musket down and sat next to her mother. He brushed away the mosquitoes parked on her back. “We aren’t moving far. We will return to visit her. I promise.”
The woman inhaled. Her husband extended his hand. She pulled herself to her knees using his support. He wiped the dirt from her face and smiled at her courage. “I promise.”
She nodded. Turning she crawled to the cross and whispered, “Dear Lord, let no evil spirit or devil in these woods tread upon my daughter’s resting place. Please take her into your bosom. Let her rest her little head on your breast. Please don’t forsake her like the damned souls tarrying here. Please welcome her into your kingdom. I beg you not abandon her with these villains. In Christ’s name, Amen.” She kissed the cross and stood like an unbalanced, newborn calf.
Her husband grabbed his musket and took his wife’s hand. “The horses are ready.”
Victoria followed behind them. “Where are you going?”
In front of their two story, wooden house, sat a small wooden wagon tied to two horses who swished their tails with furious determination to keep the mosquitoes and flies at bay. Hooked behind the wagon sat a smaller wagon filled with possessions and covered with a blanket.
The man climbed into the wagon then pulled his wife next to him.
Victoria stood at the side holding her arms in the air waiting for one of her parents to lean down and hoist her onto the bench beside them as they did before trips into town. Neither parent moved. She hopped up and down waving her arms trying to get their attention. “Get me, get me! I can’t get in!”
“The Lord has blessed us with fair weather for our journey,” the man’s voice cracked as he looked through blurry eyes at the cloudless sky. His wife leaned into him. He put his arm around her and sighed.
“She died too young,” she whispered. “Why give her to us and then take her?”
“She is with Jesus now and happy.”
He snapped the reins and the wagon lurched down the dirt lane.
“Wait, wait!” Victoria cried. “You’re forgetting me!” She ran behind the wagon trying to keep pace with the horses. “Mama, mama, don’t leave me!” She cried and cried. Her legs wobbled and she almost stumbled.
Her mother turned for a brief second. Their eyes met. Victoria paused and smiled, but her mother lowered her head and turned away.
“No, come back, come back!” she screamed and then collapsed into the dirt. Tears turned the dust on her face into mud and through the blur she saw the wagon turn the corner and disappear. “Mama! Mama! I’m scared. Mama don’t leave me here alone!” The broken child sat in the road for many minutes hoping for their return before turning and crawling home. For days, then weeks, and finally years she wandered her property waiting for her parents.