She heard the exclamation too late. Before she turned forward, she plowed into her father. Her breath left her in a whoosh on impact, then she bounced off him and landed on her backside.
Dad bent over and made a groany, squeaky kind of sound.
“Sorry.” Kelly scrambled to her feet then tugged on his arm. “We gotta go!”
Dad grasped her hand, then he straightened, closed his eyes, took a deep breath. He held tight to her, refusing to let go, refusing to budge. “Kelly, we talked about this.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “But, Daddy. You don’t understand. He’ll get us! Probably already got…” She didn’t want to think what he had done to Mom, if he’d found her in the other room.
Dad pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped her face. “Pumpkin, there is no danger in there. I know it’s scary, but it’s completely safe. I told you, I’ll go up with you. Or you don’t have to go up at all. But we have to go in.”
“Kelly, we have responsibilities to everyone who is coming. And I need some time alone with her before anyone arrives.”
She gasped. Alone! If Dad went alone, that monster would get him, too. She couldn’t let that happen. It was all too hard, too much, to begin with. But on top of all of it, to have him show up? What if he got her dad? What if he brought the bodiless hand? What would that… Thing do?
“Now, are you going to walk in calmly, or do I need to carry you?”
Her feet rooted. She couldn’t run away, but she had no desire to go inside. It took all her effort to get words past the lump in her throat and through her trembling lips. “He’ll get us.”
Dad swept her up and held her. “No one in there can hurt us.”
“I saw him! He’s in there. I was by the candy bowl outside the coatroom, and then he was there. He turned to—”
She fell silent. Blinked her tears away and stared at him.
“I don’t know how to help you. This is going to hurt. There’s no way to make it not hurt.”
Hurt! Was he going to turn her over to him? She trembled so hard, Dad almost dropped her.
“If Mommy were here, she’d know how to help. I’m sorry, Pumpkin, but I just don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t make me go in there, Daddy. Leave, with me. Let’s go where it’s safe.”
“It’s completely safe here.”
“No! He’s here!”
“Who? Who do you think is here?”
“Lurch? Who—the guy from that weird television show?”
“Yes! I think he’s Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s here!”
Dad sighed, then he rested his forehead on hers. “Sweetie, Frankenstein’s monster is a story. A very old story. Completely fictitious. So is that show you watch. Just something someone made up for entertainment.”
“He’s not made up! He’s real!”
“It’s a television show.”
“Okay. No more of this. We’re going in now.”
“No ‘buts’. I’ll prove to you there are no monsters in there. Nothing dangerous. Just… just a very sad day.”
Dad held tight despite her thrashing in his arms. He marched inside. The sickeningly sweet smell of flowers and incense choked her.
“Mr. Morgan.” The mortician rushed up to him. “I wondered where you’d gone.”
“I just needed a moment.”
“I understand. I’d like to introduce you to Joseph Canton. He’s the singer I told you about.”
Dad followed the mortician into the room she’d been avoiding. He was there. Lurch. So was Mom—still, silent, unaffected by the monster looming over her.
The mortician walked right up to Lurch, and Dad followed.
Kelly bucked, but her father just gripped her harder. He approached the man, and after the mortician made introductions, he extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Canton.”
Mr. Canton? No. Lurch. Didn’t they realize who he was?
Dad squeezed harder to keep her still. “Kelly, say hello to Mr. Canton.”
She turned her head into her dad’s neck and refused to look. Prepared for the worst.
“Hi, Kelly.” His voice was deep, but not like Lurch. “I know how hard this must be for you. I’m sorry about your mom.”
She blinked, turned her head, and peeked at him. He seemed kind. Not monstrous so much as… big. Big and quiet and sad. Sad for her.
Not really threatening at all.
“Joseph is our most requested cantor,” the mortician said. “I think you’ll be pleased.”
“Would you mind singing a verse of ‘Amazing Grace’ for us?” Dad asked. “It was her favorite.”
“Of course,” Mr. Canton said. Then he began to sing.
No organ. No recording. Just his voice, clear and strong in the dark, stuffy room where her mother lay. It almost looked like Mom smiled.
Kelly’s body quaked with the emotion of it. At least, she thought it did until she realized it was Dad who trembled. It was her turn to wipe the tears from his face, and he hugged her close.
Mr. Canton’s voice hung in the air long after he sang the last word. The perfumed air was fresher, more breathable. The light seemed a little less dim.
Dad shook his hand. “Julia would have loved this. In fact, I’m sure she can hear you, and I know she’s quite pleased.”
“Thank you.” Lurch—Mr. Canton—shook his hand then patted Kelly on the head.
“We’ll leave you now,” the mortician said. “You still have a few minutes of private viewing before we’ll open the doors. Joe and I will be in the office, going over your list of songs for the service.”
Dad just nodded, then they left the room.
It was the first time she and Dad were alone with her mom since the hospital. She didn’t look as pale as she had. Almost looked like Mommy again. Like she used to look when she was alive and sleeping.
But she wasn’t asleep. Things weren’t always how they seemed. Mr. Canton wasn’t a monster.
And Mommy wouldn’t wake.
“See, Pumpkin?” Daddy said. “No monsters. Just a very, very sad day.”
Tears fell down both their faces, and neither wiped them away.
Things weren’t as they seemed. Weren’t how they were supposed to be. And never would be again.
Inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Lurch.