The sound of my boots crushing the autumn leaves sends a feeling of relief. The amusing sound of autumn reminds me of the crisp air and smiling pumpkins. Sounds of children fill the forest even though all I could see was brown and orange. I’m alone. In fact, I’m accompanied by my thoughts and hums. A tune we are all too familiar with:
“Ring around a rosy, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down.”
I thought of how a playful song could mean something so gruesome. It’s as though people are dangling death in front of a child. A face of pure innocence in a world where it’s stripped away in a second. A peaceful memory in a child's eyes can go a long way. Something as simple as the sun rising and a gentle wave in the sea. It reminds me of my great Paws house by the beach. I would always look back at the pictures of me and Paw. He practically raised me when my father left. My mother was losing a piece of her mind each day he was gone. Eventually, the doctors took her away.
Paw showed me how to be independent. Fishing, cooking, chopping wood for the fire. Of course, he was never against me finding a husband to take care of me. But he knew I was a wallflower in a world of daisies. I could never catch an eye of any gentlemen in town—only when their dainty wives needed a maid since they’re too prissy to do the one job expected of them.
“All you have to do is cook, clean and pop out baby boys. Just leave all the hard work for the men. Do that and you’ll be a great wife to any man that decides to court you,” says the town's Priest.
I remember when he told me that, not just me. It was an assembly at school the day after Mendy Shaw wore pants. You could feel the whole town shudder with disgrace. Paw thought it was hilarious, says that's one extra boy to help in the farm. He was funny in that way, never fully agreed to change but joked about it, as if humor can help him be at peace with it.
“My memories of you could always cheer me up.” I face my head towards the sky, imagining Paw in the clouds watching me.
It’s been three months since his passing—old age. The funeral was filled with snotty noses and a cracked piano. Paw never wanted a wake at his house but you can never tell the Priest no. Paw was respected, loved, and hated. He gave to the people of Coavin, and also pranked them in numerous ways. The biggest prank he left them with was his will.
It was a chicken coup when the executor called us all together. I should explain what I mean by “called us all.” He called the whole family, but only four cousins and my uncle came. The rest of the town invited themselves. It was a shock to everybody when he left the great family farm to me, his granddaughter, not only the youngest of five members but the only female that wasn’t shunned from the world.
After the executor read my name, a wave of silence flew through the courthouse, as if someone made a loud hush sound to shut people up. I could feel steam coming from my uncle's head. He slowly realized that his own father didn’t trust him with the deed to the family farm.
People didn’t know whether to look at me with shock or look at my uncle with dismay. At that moment, I felt a deep pain in my side. I could feel my uncles’ eyes burning with rage and betrayal.
“Don’t worry, Barnard,” the Priest calmly said to my Uncle. “You know your Paw was upset that you left town to sell your mother's jewelry without saying a word. He had a feeling a betrayal just as you do now. I’m sure he knows you've learned your lesson. I’m sure Joan was instructed to sign it over to you. Right, Joan?”
Everybody nodded their head as if they knew that was exactly why I had the farm. Paw never believed in sugarcoating the truth. I wasn’t going to let that happen here.
All eyes cut to me. Eyes that were begging for me to just sign the deed over.
“The deed being handed to me wasn’t in spite. It was in tradition.”
“Tradition! Handing the biggest thing that is passed down our family to a simple woman without a man to help her. Ha, that’s some tradition,” my Uncle replied mockingly.
I could feel my face turning bright red. Was it embarrassment or hatred? Either way, I wasn’t backing down.
“Everybody here knows that my father was the eldest of Paw's sons. Naturally, the deed to the farm would be passed down to him. Since he left, he forfeited the chance of getting it. Law states that the property should be given to the eldest next of kin. The choice of giving the property to someone else is non-negotiable if they choose to accept it. And I do accept the deed because I worked hard for it. I know my way around the farm. Paw raised me within those plants. There was never a day that the crops went bad because of me. You can say what you want but the farm is mine.”
The Priest approaches me with a threatening walk. “That’s enough now, young lady. Do as you're told and sign the deed over.”
I stood my ground to these half-minded souls. I’ve always had to and I wasn’t going to stop now. I walked over to the executor with my head held high without fear.
“May I have the deed, please?”
Everybody tried to piece together what was on my mind. But their faces were priceless when the deed was folded between my fingers and inserted into my pouch.
“Thank you, everyone, for being here on behalf of Paw. Be grateful for what he gave you. I hope you all enjoy your evening and have a blessed day.”
I made my way to the door. With each step, my legs got heavier and heavier. I made it out alive with the farm and my dignity. The crisp wind blows my hair away from my eyes as I walk towards my destiny.
“I won’t let you down, Paw,” I whisper to the sound of snapping autumn leaves that were under my boots. The laughter gives me joy as I disappear within the path of brown and orange.