Aaron knew the rule, but he couldn't help himself. It was as if the little angel dared him to touch it. Maybe she won’t be angry this time, he thought, maybe it would help.
He stood in front of the bookcase, facing what had become his familiar dilemma. The angel sparkled, seeming to soak up the light of the room. He peeked in the doorways of the adjacent rooms. Seeing no sign of his mother, he stood on his tip toes and carefully pulled the angel off the shelf, studying its face for divine inhabitation. His mother used to tell him all people have a guardian angel looking over them, protecting them. There must be something wrong with this one, Aaron thought, since Lily died. His small fingers ran over the white porcelain figure slowly, feeling every bump, every crevice. He remembered his little hand was just the right size and turned the angel over, placing his thumb on the tip of one wing, his pinky on the tip of the other, causing the heel of his hand to rest on the small, gold crank.
Mama never sings the song anymore, he thought. Aaron turned the crank hoping this time would be different.
Emily was busy scrubbing the tub when she heard a faint noise that caused her back to stiffen immediately. Her heart started beating faster, her breathing became heavier and the sick feeling in her stomach returned.
Not again, she thought. She stood slowly, quietly, hoping it would go away. She tried to ignore it by washing her hands, but once the water was off, the distant tinkling was still there.
"Stop," she whispered, closing her eyes. She took several deep breaths, trying to calm down, but each one intensified her emotion instead, until she bounded for the living room like a locomotive.
"What are you doing?" she screamed at Aaron, snatching the angel out of his hands.
"I'm sorry, Mama," Aaron squeaked, his lip quivering slightly.
"Why can't you leave this alone? You know how I feel about this. What is the matter with you?"
Aaron didn't speak. He shrugged his shoulders and fell in a heap on the floor. His mother's shouting brought him to attention again.
"Mama, I just..."
"You just what? Spit it out, boy!"
"I wanted to hear the song. You never sing it anymore." The small boy stared at the ground.
Emily grabbed his chin, forcing Aaron to look her in the eye. "Get this into your head. I cannot, will not, sing that song ever again. Do you understand?" She felt heat rising in her chest.
He squirmed in her grasp and looked around the room.
"I said, do you understand," she asked, shaking him back to her gaze.
He nodded slowly and she released him. Though her hands were trembling, she felt her emotions subside. She peered into the angel's face as her son had done, searching for her own answers. When she placed it back on the shelf, tears filled her eyes.
"Why don't you go play outside?" she suggested, exhaling slowly. Aaron stood very still, his breathing very shallow, biting his fingernails.
"Well, go on," she urged.
He stood frozen, causing her frustration to rise again. "What's the matter with you? Go!"
Aaron took a deep breath. "Why, Mama?"
"What do you mean, why? Because I said so," The flush returned.
"No, I mean...why..." Aaron shuffled his feet and put his hands in his pockets. "Why won't you ever sing the song again?"
Emily felt an imaginary punch to the gut, forcing her to retaliate with fury. She clutched his arms in her hands and began shaking him, screaming into his pale face, "How can I sing 'Jesus Loves Me' after he took Lily away?"
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of "Never Again".
Photo Credit: PentaxFanatiK