Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Remains, part 9

The county coroner came to the residence. There were mumbled voices interspersed with Janice's sobs. She had been inconsolable.

Jim stayed in his room with the door open, listening distantly to the sounds in the front room. He felt broken, something in him had also snapped when Rachael died. But his was the knowledge that his daughter wasn't really his daughter anymore. Whatever this was that lingered over this house, over the family, had now invested his own flesh and blood.

Lisa's shadow had appeared, but lingered distant and silent.

The coroner collected the body with accompanied by a female assistant who appeared to know Janice. There were some consoling words, but Janice no longer spoke. The van drove away and the house was draped in a thick silence.

Jim was exhausted. It had been a long day, but he wouldn't be able to sleep even if he wanted to. After staring at the ceiling for some time, and not hearing Janice move from the front room, he swung his legs off the side of the bed and stood shakily. He walked to the front room.

Janice sat absolutely still in the same chair that she sat in just days earlier, inviting him into her home. He couldn't help but feel responsible, but he didn't know how.

"Janice?"

He waited a moment and she looked up to him, tears reddened her face, but anger was what darkened her countenance. Jim braced, feeling the anger reach toward him.

"She left me. She left me." She bit down on the words, then tears again leaked from her eyes.

Her face pinched and she bowed her head again.

Jim sat across from her and rested his hand on hers. She tugged away, her hands into fists, turning white with her grip.

"No, you're not going to do this." He said.

He felt his tears return and he moved toward her, kneeling on the floor. He wrapped his arms around her and held her until her stiff frame relaxed, tears flowing freely.

"You didn't let me go through it alone," he said, "And I won't let you."

They sat in the embrace while the wall clocked ticked away. Jim withdrew.

"You're a good man, Jim. Lisa was right to fall in love with you."

"I'd like to think that was a little bit my fault." He said, giving a sad smile.

He stood.

"Let me get you some water." He said.

He snatched a cup from the kitchen then moved into the bathroom. He rifled briefly through the medicine cabinet finding some ibuprofen and filled the glass. He passed, seeing Lisa standing in front of the bedroom door. It was unnerving that she was lurking like this, and it brought a chill each time he saw the shadow out of the corner of his eye.

He handed the medicine and water to Janice. She took the medicine then drained the glass.

"You're going to be dehydrated." He said, standing to refill the glass again.

"No. Stay," She said, resting her hand on his arm, "Please sit."

He looked down at her, his heart ached with her expression, it was a reflection of him. He wondered why she was so distraught. They had somehow defeated death, but that didn't seem to matter to her. She's lost her best friend.

"I want to speak to you of Lisa," She said, "We knew she was special from the moment Sarah brought her home. She was born out of wedlock and her father was both dangerous and solitary. Sarah had come here to hide her daughter and herself."

"Rachael and I, we took care of Lisa while Sarah found work. I couldn't understand why she wanted to be away as much as she did, but it was clear that she never saw herself as a mother. However, that gave Rachael and I a chance that we would never have for ourselves." Janice smiled at the memory.

"Lisa was that, and we raised her like we would have raised our own. I like to think we helped get her where she was, maybe even helped get her to you."

Jim swallowed, fighting the lump in his throat.

"She was her own. She was always been a force to be reckoned with." He said.

Janice smiled at his words.

"Her mother's indomitable will tempered by kindness, love, and a caring home." Janice said, "I hope that was us. But it's also true that she left because of us."

She sighed.

"Our heartbreak was complete when news of our lovely Lisa..." She paused, her voice catching, "And it all happening so far away."

Jim understood why, now, but he held the thought close.

"Now, I am the last. Rachael gave up. And only I remain." She said, her eyes probing Jim's own, "Only Abigail and Daniel remain as the last of our blood."

His thoughts turned. He could see Abigail reaching toward Rachael. He turned his head, avoiding the memory.

"The gift you gave to Abigail. It was originally intended for Lisa, wasn't it."

It wasn't a question. He said it with a quiet ache.

Janice looked surprised, but did not speak.

Jim read the expression, understanding what it meant. He stood looking down on Janice.

"You should rest." He said, "And so should I."

He moved to the hallway.

"Jim. It wasn't supposed to be like this." Janice said, her eyes widening, a hint of panic creeping into her voice.

He turned to face her.

"Tomorrow we'll talk," he said, he felt a smolder of anger lending an edge his voice, "Then we can talk about what this means to my Abigail."

Jim turned down the hallway and turned the corner, struggling to hold the emotion back. He pushed through the door. He dropped to the bed and began to sob. Lisa's silhouette stood at the foot of the bed.

"Abigail will be fine." The shadow's voice whispered, her voice pitching uncharacteristically high.

The memory of his little girl replayed in his head again, seeing her help Rachael pass to the other side and he did not feel fine.