The weeks following my ‘liberation’, so to speak, were spent mostly with Corey learning more about God and about me. The police had called earlier saying they were still in the process of investigating the case my father was involved in but they however gave us clearance to bury him as his dead body was not tied to the case in any way. We held a burial service for my father on a Wednesday, at around midday, at the cemetery close to where we used to live. Henry, Corey and Belana attended the service. Elvis, the friendly undertaker, arranged for my father’s body to be brought here for burial. Joe attended as well. It had been a long time since I had visited that cemetery. My father had reserved three spaces for us there. He was buried next to my mother who had spent quite some time alone here. I didn’t know if I was meant to be happy that they were now next to each other or to wish my father as far away from my mother as possible. Who was I to judge though? I was never judged by the people who helped me. One of the lessons Corey taught me was ‘let the one who is without sin be the first to cast the stone.’ He would always finish it with, ‘but let him not forget that one day the stone shall be cast at him with the same measure or strength and judgement as he cast it with.’ God is the final judge of all things so by no right would I be clear to judge my father. We didn’t have a church service as it would attract too much attention. As far as most people knew, the body was still in the morgue. We had the body viewing at the graveyard. After so much trouble and torment I now had the chance to take a look at my dead father. I was afraid; I had never mourned the death of my father without other strings attached. I walked towards the coffin slowly as Joe followed me slowly. I came to the side and set my sight on his face. Emotions rested around my heart and it became heavy. I thought of all the good times, the jogging, the pizza eating contests, the car racing at the motorway close to home, the fights about who parks on the left side of the garage as it was the easiest to reverse from, the fights about who ate all the ice cream in the fridge, the warm moments watching soapies on TV. His beard was trimmed to his exact definition as always, hair flowing backwards and the dignified face I loved him for shined straight at me. I imagined him smiling at me but I guess that’s an imagination for you. I saw the bullet hole on the side of his head! The tears started trickling down my cheeks and I couldn’t hold back the words now. “Daddy, why did you do it? Why did you shoot yourself? Why did you have to go? You were all I had left. Why did you have to go. My life became a mess when you left. If it wasn’t for these people here today I would be lying next to all of you as well. Daddy, I am sorry I disappointed you. I wasted all those things you used to tell me about knowing who I was and having something to go at in life. I know now, I know now daddy, I need to find myself! I need to find who Juniper Trinity Rose Miles is and I need to get my house in order. Sorry too mom, sorry for being such a weak person when there was strength in me! May God keep you all and be fair on you in all he judges you for. This is for all the times I wanted to tell you that I love you but I was too angry at you. This is also for the good and bad times we had after mom left. I am safe now; take care of mom for me! Goodbye daddy, goodbye daddy!” I kissed him on the cheek and took my last picture of him. Elvis waited patiently until all was said and done and everyone had a chance to say their last words to my dad. Joe was somewhat my favourite at that time, “Ah, Mr. Miles, I am sorry you died before you could chase me down with a golf club for wanting your daughter. I will be good to her and I will try to take care of her as best I can. I can’t ask for you to trust me because you don’t know me but I know I won’t let you down. Rest in peace sir!” He was shivering when he said that, if my father woke up at that moment we would have buried Joe instead because he looked like he could go into cardiac arrest at any time. Henry asked for some privacy and I think I saw some tears on his face but he did well to hide them. Elvis had plenty of time to say goodbye because he had no words to say at the graveyard. Ashlee came into the graveyard well dressed for the event. She approached cautiously but I went and greeted her. I gave her a hug and thanked her for coming. She honestly did not expect such a reception. I walked with her and introduced her to my dad. She paid her respects and stepped aside. Elvis closed the coffin’s lid and started lowering the coffin into the grave. When the coffin was at the bottom, he took a shovel of sand and passed the contents to us one after another and gave us a chance to grab some soil. We threw it onto the coffin and stepped aside. Two groundsmen who maintained the graveyard came and started filling the grave. We left soon after and went to Henry’s house for lunch. We got to his house and sat in the garden. It was a weird feeling being free again. I sat with Ashlee who looked like she had something on her mind. “What’s wrong Ashlee, what’s up?” She turned her chair to face me, “I don’t understand how you can be so nice to me after what I did to you. I had come to ask for forgiveness at the funeral but you welcomed me with a warm heart. Why Rose, why?” I smiled and pulled my chair closer to her. “What you did was not your fault, I don’t blame you. God is good and I have the strength to forgive you so allow me too. Let’s go back to the moments we had walking together and talking. God loves you and God loves me and by no right can I say I love God if I do not love you.” She almost cried and reached over and hugged me. “You are the first person in years to say that you love me! Can I learn about God from you?” that was the funniest moment of the day. I led Ashlee in a prayer of repentance, close to the one Corey led me in and she gave her life to God.
Corey watched from afar off and when all was done he came over clapping his hands at me with a very wide smile on his face. “Welcome to the marine core soldier!” I didn’t always get Corey’s jokes and this was certainly one of those jokes. We had a very beautiful lunch and we joked and laughed and thought of all the craziness that had happened in the past month. Henry broke the laughter when he stood up with a glass in his hand, “Attention please everyone! All of you played a role in bringing this moment together. I am thankful I met people like these. As a motion of my thankfulness, Juniper allow me to invite you to come and stay with me here as my daughter and take care of you as a father. I would like to honour you and your father in such a way.” I was speechless and I got out of my chair and walked over to Henry and gave him a hug. “I will only agree to that if you also take Ashlee as your daughter. I will not go anywhere without her!” Ashlee looked at me and saw me looking at her. Henry looked at her and looked at me, “Are you sure Juniper?” I nodded my head and Henry stretched his hand towards Ashlee. She stood up failing to hold the tears and joined in the bear hug. I had other intentions in the hug, I began crushing Henry and I think I crushed his pager which then pricked his skin. The man screamed like a girl. He looked at me with shock and I waved, “Hello daddy, your daughter here!” he smiled and threw a napkin at me. Ashlee was so overcome by emotion she couldn’t speak. We left and got my stuff at the old apartment and passed and got Ashlee’s stuff from her house. Ashlee had a hard time leaving her house, she really found it hard to step out of the gate but I knew deep inside her she knew she had found a family. Joe and Belana stayed at Henry’s house until we got back to help unpack. Life wasn’t turning out that bad after all; God exists in a sure way! We spent the better part of the night getting my room up and running. Ashlee seemed cheerful and was talking a lot more than she usually does. The rest of the night we spent in Ashlee’s room getting her room into order. Henry didn’t understand girl things so we banished him to work until we were done. Ashlee didn’t have a lot of stuff, clothes and things to make her feel like she really is a beautiful person. I had a lot clothes that were really nice and I gave her half of them for her to look fly like me, her sister!
Joe fell asleep on the couch in Ashlee’s room because after the packing there was a lot of talking and he isn’t a member of our species so there was a language barrier so to say. He looked so cute when he was sleeping and he couldn’t help but drool which everyone thought was disgusting except me of course! We didn’t sleep at all that night! Got up and made breakfast and Henry is never late for a meal he is not invited to. He snuck into the house, waited for me to dish out the bacon and potato and butternut cake for everyone. I left my plate on the dining room table and went to the kitchen to fetch some orange juice. When I came back he had sat at my place and was already half way through my breakfast. I grabbed a kitchen mallet and chased him around the house and into the yard. I lost sight of him near the pool deck. He snuck up behind me and grabbed me and threw me into the pool. Ashlee came from behind and pushed him into the pool and started laughing at both of us. She didn’t spend much time out of the water. She allowed Henry to get too close to her as she concentrated on hearing his jokes and he lunged up and pulled her into the pool. We spent a bit of time in the pool splashing water at each other before Corey came with towels and we got out. After a change of clothes, Henry told us that he had registered at a rehabilitation centre and we would be going there for the next three months. We would have to spend two to three nights in the facility every week to get us off the cocaine. Ashlee was happy about that and seemed to want to leave immediately. We spent the better part of three months involved in the rehab program. Doctors there said I didn’t have it as bad as Ashlee did as she had been on it for longer. After three months the urges were not that hard for me or Ashlee to overcome and we would always help each other out whenever they came around. Time in the rehab centre gave us time to bond and really get to the bone of our new relationship. I got to know the things she hates and likes, her fears and failures, and her few successes in life. One day though, she woke me up early, around 6 o’clock in the morning which by my definition was just one hour after midnight in terms of sleeping time! She opened my closet and picked out clothes for me and threw them onto my bed. “Get dressed and please come with me!” I got dressed grumpily wondering what the hell she was planning for us. Though I could drive she insisted we use a taxi instead! I called a taxi and soon enough it was outside. We got into the taxi and I looked at her trying to figure out where the hell she wanted us to go. “You are late Terrence!” The taxi driver looked back at us trying to cook up an excuse but I was baffled as to how she knew the cab driver. “Sorry Ash! I was coming you know.” I looked at Ashlee who glanced at me and held reached out to hold my hand. She held my hand and her grip was tight but she was shivering. “Take us to the first stop!” The taxi driver pushed a button on the dashboard that looked like it switched off the light for the cab sign on top of the car. The car took off immediately after and moved gracefully towards the downtown direction, close to where Ashlee used to stay. A few confusing turns and a few traffic lights and we soon stopped outside a cemetery. The driver switched off the car engine and turned to look at Ashlee, “Take the time you need and send my regards!” Ashlee smiled at the taxi driver and opened the door. She stretched out her hand to me and I followed after her. We walked into the cemetery and I was lost in a sense of endless confusion. “Ashlee, what are we doing here?” she was walking in front of me and she turned to look at me as she walked. She put a finger across her mouth, “shhhh” and I could see tears trickling down her cheeks. Her pace slowed and slowed until she was literarily dragging her feet to move on. She knelt down and screeches, moans accompanied by tears proceeded from her. I bent over and hugged her without a clue about why she was crying. She composed herself and stood up as she continued to walk to the middle of the cemetery. She stopped in front of one grave and looked at the tombstone as bravely as she could. I came up next to her and looked at the tombstone. “In memory of Kimberly Rosenberg; Born 12 August 1971, Died 14 June 2000. May your soul Rest In Peace!” Ashlee started crying even more and she didn’t try to hide it this time. “Hello mom!” I was suddenly stunned with shock as I remembered the story of how her mother passed away. I ran out of words and could not wrap my mind around what was happening. She looked at me and pointed to the grave, “this is my mom.” I didn’t have the words to respond. I simply nodded and I could see that she knew that I was overcome by the event. She put her hand into her pocket and pulled out a silver locket. She opened it and inside was a picture of her mother holding her. She broke into great tears and moans of pain that I almost cried with her in that moment. She closed the locket after she had regained her composure and walked over to the tombstone and put it at its bottom. She walked back to me and stood next to me. “I know I haven’t come to see you since the day I put up the tombstone, ten years ago. Words can’t express how sorry I am; how much I miss you mom, or how much I miss you playing with my hair or walking with me from school, or how we would bake scorns every Wednesday and I would make a huge mess in the kitchen. Words can’t ever get rid of all the times you cried when father hit you, everything is just stuck in my head. I know now that you are in a better place and that he can’t hurt you anymore. Mom, it’s been hard, I have done things you would not be proud off and I wanted to say I am sorry for letting you down. This is Juniper, she is my sister! A kind man took both of us in and is staying with us like his daughters. I am trying to change mom, I want to make you proud and I will. I wish you didn’t have to leave when you did but Aunt Gretchen tried her best but things where just crazy and hard. Cedric drove me here and he says hello! Things are better now mom, things are better! I will come and see you every month. Rest easy mom, the worst is now almost over. I love you like a blooming rose and I miss you like water in a dry winter. You said that to me every day when I left the house. I love you mom, rest now!” Ashlee wiped away her tears and stood with me at the grave for well over 30 minutes without saying a word. She looked at me, “Do you want to say anything to her. My mother is your mother!” I looked at the tombstone and breathed in to gain some courage. “Hello mom, its Juniper. I wish we had met while you could see how beautiful and courageous your eldest daughter is now. But I guess you have seen her in every passing day. Ash is someone I look forward to seeing every morning, afternoon and evening. I am sorry you didn’t have the chance to see her now but I thank you for giving people like me a sister like her. Words cannot really bring any peace unless a comforter walks amongst us in our time of pain and I pray that such a comforter will walk with us over our lives. Rest easy mom, we are ok!” Ashlee hugged me and looked me in the eyes, “Thank you for coming with me.” Ashlee waved at the grave and began to walk away and I followed after her feeling a sense of heaviness weighing on me. We got back into the taxi and the taxi driver was half asleep. He looked over at Ashlee with a serious face, “go home or continue with the journey.” Ashlee looked at him and nodded her head, “continue on!” the taxi came to life again and started rolling down the streets heading westward out of town. We cruised for a while until a sign came up on the roadside, “Belmont Maximum Security Prison.” The taxi driver turned left after the sign and drove a few more miles and soon enough we were at the gates for the prison. We went through two checkpoints until we had to get out of the car and walk. The driver remained in the car of course but Ashlee and I were escorted into the prison. We were taken to the warden’s office who rushed us into his office. “Take a seat ladies. Ah yes, Ms. Rosenberg you are here to see your father, Mr Kyle Rosenberg. Now surrounding your father, he is not allowed visitors but since you are his last surviving relative from what I hear you have been granted access to him. He hasn’t had a visitor in the last ten years so I am sure he would be thrilled to see you however you have to be guarded at all times. These two boys will see to it that you are kept safe. Ashlee nodded her head in agreement and thanked the warden for understanding. I never thought she would ever have the courage to face her father after all that had happened. The man who singlehandedly destroyed her life was waiting to see her! We stood up and followed the two guards to a secluded room in the prison. Ashlee held my hand again but this time it was so cold as if she had forgotten to take herself out of the fridge before her expiry date passed. One of the guards opened the door and the inside of the room came into view. There was a table in the middle of the spacious room. A man was sitting on a chair with his handcuffed hands resting on the table while his legs were attached to chains fixed to the ground. A guard stood next to him with a button stick in hand and another hand on his gun ready to pull it out at any instant. Ashlee paused at the door when she saw the man in chains. She was breathing heavily and the hairs of her body were standing to the tip. She walked forward slowly and I walked with her pace after pace. We approached the table and the man looked up at both of us. He was rugged, long bearded with sharp blue eyes and the ugliest dental hygiene record I had ever seen. He tried to stand up but the guard next to him held his shoulders and pushed him back into the chair. We sat down at the table and the two guards stood immediately behind us. The man could not look Ashlee in the eyes; he did his best to avoid eye contact. Ashlee put her hand into her pocket and pulled out a huge stack of what looked to be letters. He put them on the table and pushed them to the man, “I never found time to reply them so you can have them back. Reply them yourself if you have the strength to.” The man reached for the letters and pulled them towards himself. “Ashlee, I am sorry for what I did. I never meant to kill her or hurt her. I know you will never believe me no matter what I say. If this place will give you the peace you deserve then I shall stay here till I die. All I ask of you is for you to forgive me for what I did to you and your mother.” Ashlee clinched her fists and I knew she was roaring with destructive emotions. I reached over and held her hand and I felt her calm down. She looked at her father, “You ask me to forgive you! What of mom, will you ask her too? You had no right to take her life; she wasn’t yours alone, she was my mother! I went through hell after you killed her. How dare you ask for forgiveness for your soul? What of mine, the pain you caused! Ever wondered how much I suffered because of your actions? How dare you father, how dare you fall to the same selfishness that made you kill mother? How dare you sit there and ask me to forgive you, what have you done other than write empty letters asking for the same thing? You deserve to burn father, you deserve to burn for what you did!” I tightened my grip on Ashlee’s hands and she gasped for air a bit as tears trickled down her cheeks. “The things she said in her last moments still haunt me even today. Do you still hear her voice as you hit her?” Ashlee had come here to meet her greatest pain, her father and she must have been thinking about this for a very long time. She was shivering with anger, pain and all sorts of raw emotions. I looked at her father and tears were rolling down his cheeks! Ashlee saw it too and remained quiet! After a few minutes she reached into her pocket yet again and pulled out a photo of her mother and pushed it towards her father. Her father picked up the picture and was overwhelmed by emotion. He sobbed for a moment before Ashlee’s words dragged his attention to her. “Forgiveness father! You ask of me what is hard to give. Maybe with time I can forgive but I can’t forget. Maybe with time things can be different but for now enjoy your time in here. Maybe by the time you get out you will be a better man. Don’t call me or write to me, if I want to see you I will find you. With those words said, Ashlee stood up and I followed her as we made our way to the door. We were led through the prison corridors until we were outside. We got into the taxi and no one said a word even when we got home. For days there was an undeniable silence in the house but with time it faded as life came back to normal. I learnt a new side to Ashlee that day, the side that wasn’t afraid to face its fears anymore and a great sense of respect arose from that. I loved every moment with her; she really was all I could have asked for in a sister. In the times we went out, if a guy who isn’t Joe tried to make a move on me she would always speak him down to a pulp defeating every sense of male pride and ego existing in him. The only man who got away with giving me hell was our dad though at times he would have to run out of the house at full speed with Ashlee in pursuit if I failed to catch him. Joe and I had our moments as well; the mall, watching movies and average days. In each and every day I found something in him that made me appreciate him more even though at times I would bump into things I hate about him. Like his snoring and how he would always forget to hold the door for me when he goes through the door first! Corey was ever present though not as much. He required me to go through rehab before he could teach me the things he wanted me to see. In him I saw that God has the strangest of people as his agents and looks can make you think they are not capable of supernatural acts.