"I'm sick of this dream," I told Rick last week while we were sitting in a resturant in Reston Town Center, just before my conference started. "You know what? I'm going to write it as a scene in Fracture. If it's going to plague me, I'll make it good for something!"
"You do that," he said. "In fact, I dare you to do it."
Challenge accepted. So here you have it. I proudly present you with another excerpt from Fracture. So BOOM! Take that, subconscious mind. After 4 years, I'm firing back.
And without further ado, here you have it. Kalea might be coming apart, but I assure you that I am not. Not today, anyway.
“You’re holding up remarkably well.”
“Hmm?” Annaliese mumbled, turning her gaze to Kieran across the back seat of the limousine driving them to the airport.
He reached across the seat and took her hand. “I said you’re doing good, considering all that’s happened in the past week. I was such a mess when my father died a couple of years ago. Going back to Capitol Hill a week after the funeral seemed unfathomable. I’m amazed you’re ready to head back to D.C. three days after the funeral.”
She turned her gaze back to the passing landscape. “What more can be done here? We had the funeral. He’s buried. Mom has the paperwork in progress for insurance and social security and the complaint with the funeral board over the cremation. It’s pointless to stay.”
“It’s pointless to stay, or you’ve had enough and want to heal on your own now?”
Annaliese sighed. “Probably both.”
“It’s natural,” he said, letting go of her hand to tap at his phone. “The jet is ready to leave as soon as we get there. We’ll be back in D.C. before you know it.”
Kieran laid his phone in his lap and studied Annaliese. “You know who’s surprised me this week? Kalea. Has she seemed remarkably detached to you?”
“I don’t know. I think that’s just the way she is. Things happen and she shuts off emotion and goes right into functional mode.” She paused. “It must be the engineer in her, or maybe she got it from Uncle Gerald. He was stoic through this whole mess too.”
“I suppose that’s not all bad. They were remarkably helpful in getting things settled. I can’t believe all the loose ends we got tied up in just a few days.”
“They diffused a lot of emotional tension and kept us on track,” Annaliese said, still staring at the passing landscape. “But then again, she’s been there through it all. She’s had to stand in for a lot these past few months especially. I’m sure it’s a relief to her that this is over.”
Kieran’s brow creased. “I don’t know about that. She wouldn’t have been there for your parents if she didn’t care. She had plenty of reason to pull away with the company and yet she still made time for them. She kept in good contact with you and Brandon. She never complained and she kept her cool.”
“And she’s standing in the church cemetery.”
“What’s she doing out there? It’s going to be dark soon.” Annaliese turned to the driver. “Stop. Pull off here.”
“Ma’am, your flight is waiting,” the driver said.
“It’s not like they’ll leave without us. Stop. She hates cemeteries and is standing in one at sunset. Something’s wrong.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the driver said, turning into the large cemetery off the highway.
“Over there,” she said, leaning over the seat and pointing to a plot near the middle. “See, that’s her. She’s standing,” Annaliese paused and gulped, “at Dad’s plot.”
“Baby, don’t get out here. Let me talk to her,” Kieran said.
“No, I want to,” Annaliese said, pushing open the door as it rolled to a stop a few feet behind Kalea, who stood perfectly still, staring at the ground. “Stay here. We won’t be long. Henry, can you drive her home after you drop her off?”
“It would be my pleasure, ma’am,” the driver said.
“Annaliese,” Kieran said, grabbing her hand before she jumped out of the limousine, “are you sure about this? She’s standing at your father’s burial site.”
Annaliese paled. She looked at Kalea and took a deep breath. “Consider this acting in a professional capacity. Look at her, Kieran. You know her too. Does she look alright?”
Kieran stared past Annaliese. “No.”
Annaliese nodded. “Give me a minute. I’ll be right back,” she said, jumping out of the car before Kieran or the driver could voice any more concerns. She gulped past the lump in her throat, took another deep breath, and walked toward her cousin.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I can’t see the names,” Kalea said.
Annaliese stood beside Kalea, staring at the freshly dug plot where her father’s ashes were buried. “Of course you can’t. The sun is setting. There’s not much light from behind those trees.”
“You can’t see the names either?”
Annaliese squinted. “Not well.” She paused. “Kalea, you hate cemeteries. What are you doing out here?” She looked around the deserted field. “How did you get here. Where’s you car?”
“I don’t know.”
Annaliese studied Kalea. “You don’t know how you got here, or you don’t know where you parked?”
“My car is at home.”
“Did somebody bring you out here?”
Kalea shrugged. “I guess.”
“I don’t know.”
Annaliese looked around. “It’s almost dark. We aren’t supposed to be out here after dark. We need to go.”
“Kalea, what’s going on with you?” Annaliese asked, reaching for Kalea’s shoulder. A shock ran up her arm, jolting her. Annaliese yelped as Kalea slowly raised her head. Her eyes seemed to glow in the fading light.
“I couldn’t save him.”
Annaliese stared at Kalea. She blinked several times to clear her vision. The glitter she thought she saw in Kalea’s eyes was gone. It must have been a trick of the setting sun. She shook her head. “Nobody could. I’m sorry. I know you went through a lot with Dad. Brandon and I can never thank you enough or repay you for being there in our place so many times, and for all you did. You stood by him to the very end.”
“He died twice.”
Annaliese nodded. “I know. We thought he healed, and in the end we wound out watching him fade away twice.”
“No, he died twice.”
Annaliese shook her head again. “That’s impossible. He healed the first time. He never died.”
Kalea turned her attention back to the ground. “Are you sure about that?”
Annaliese followed Kalea’s gaze back to the freshly turned earth. “I’m not sure about anything any more.” She sniffed as her eyes filled with tears. Kalea looked around the cemetery.
“We failed him. Maybe we failed all of these people.”
Annaliese looked up as lights twinkled on the horizon. “We did all we could. People die. There’s no avoiding it. Eventually, it gets to a point where they can’t be saved. I guess that’s what happened to Dad.”
“They always die,” Kalea said softly.
“And we must move on. There’s no choice. Life goes on and we have to go with it.” She swiped the tears away from her eyes with the sleeve of her blouse.
Kalea turned to Annaliese. “This isn’t what he wanted. This isn’t what any of them wanted.”
Annaliese swallowed past the lump in her throat again. “Of course not.”
“But it’s the way it has to be.”
Annaliese stared in Kalea’s vacant eyes again, where a slight glow seemed to reemerge. “In the end, it is. I suppose you’re right.” She looked away. “At least it’s over.”
“No, it’s just begun.”
Annaliese forced a smile. “I meant for him it’s over. He isn’t suffering or struggling anymore. But I guess you’re right there again. For us, the process of grief is just starting.”
“It has begun.”
“Yes, it has,” Annaliese said. She turned to Kalea again, surprised to see tears streaming down her cheeks. “Kalea,” she said, reaching out hesitantly, fearing another shock. Kalea collapsed in Annaliese arms. Annaliese stiffened for a moment and then relaxed when another shock didn’t come, returning the hug.
“I’m sorry it has to be this way,” Kalea sobbed.
“I am too,” Annaliese said, patting her cousin’s back as the overhead lamps flickered on as twilight descended. She didn’t understand what was happening. But then again, who understands grief? She smiled as she hugged Kalea, thinking there was a normal human being in her cousin after all.