Short post because sick kiddo. As in "we spent Wednesday morning in emergency and we're waiting for test results" sick kiddo. We should hear something today, and are just hoping for this to be run-of-the-mill strep throat (or something else that simple to treat). The angry throat really hurts when the sick one is only four years old, though.
Hope you have a great weekend!
6. Deconstructing Composure
He spoke soft nonsense as he gently lowered the puppy to herself, chuckling as all four of her small legs pinioned and her body wiggled in his hands. He leaned over and kissed the middle of her back.
“You be a good wee pup for your mum, now,” he advised her quietly. The bitch had stopped whining while he was talking, and she barked excitedly as Liam touched the puppy in his arms to the one on the pathway to transfer the happy wiggles into the still body. The bitch bowled him over in her enthusiasm and the scene evaporated with the feel of her whiskers tickling at his throat as she inhaled what felt like all of the air around him and the puppy. He was still laughing when the catwalk returned clearly in his view.
He looked up at the woman he was with, smiling at her to share the moment. She was still crying, but seeing that she was watched meant she now tried to hide it. She swiped at her cheeks hard and turned away.
“How can you be okay with those guys doing that?” she demanded, not turning back.
“I’m not,” Liam admitted. “But I can’t interact fully on that side of reality.”
She turned and stared at him, the accusations piling up on her face.
“Over there, we’re ghosts. We can move a few things, maybe say something that animals or sensitive people will notice, but we can’t bust into the scene as if we were there. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
He sighed and stood up. There had been so many times he’d tried to intervene in big ways, to alter a course… and failed. Most people who came into the grey were young, like him, and they weren’t in the best circumstances when they were dying. There was a lot of violence behind the doors and some horrible tragedies. The saying that nobody ever knows what’s going on inside someone else’s life just by looking at the person was never more accurate than in the grey. So now he did the small things he could – like leaving the door open in the grey so that the bitch wasn’t locked in anymore under the bridge – and he kept doing futile, big attempts when he couldn’t just stand there and watch.
“You could’ve tried to –”
“The bitch was behind us,” he interrupted before she could get really mad. “I usually can’t interfere with people, that’s not how this works.”
“The only thing behind us under the bridge was the door and the wall,” she accused, crossing her arms in front of her.
“You’re right. That’s why I left our door open.”
She opened her mouth to drop another accusation and then realization crashed across her features that their entrance into the puppy’s life-or-death moment had been what released the bitch to chase off the men. “Oh,” she said, looking away from him. Liam smiled at her.
“You’re not used to being out of control of anything, are you?” he asked. She laughed without any humor and blinked back a few more tears, a reply proving the opposite was true. “So you’re just fed up with everything being out of control?”
“Just, stop.” She held up one hand in a traffic-cop motion. “I do not need to be analyzed right now.”
“Then what do you need?”
“I need…” she started angrily and then stopped. “I need you to shut up,” she finished the statement coldly, the anger on her face erased from her voice as she re-crossed her arms.
Liam nodded silently and offered her a hand. She stared at it like he was holding out a venomous snake and then stepped around his hand to pick up the strip of his jacket that she’d been holding before. He set off in the same direction that they’d been going for getting the puppy home. There weren’t any doors yet, and he didn’t know when they’d see the first one for the woman, so he just kept walking in silence as she trailed along behind.
“I thought you said that visitors went through their own worst days and their death day,” she accused after a long while of just walking. “But the puppy only had one day.”
“For a lot of visitors, their worst days are their death days,” Liam replied simply.
“How many days for you?” she challenged.
“So I guess your death must be going pretty easily if you’ve had a worse day than that.”
Liam considered his physical form’s current situation of choking on bodily fluids, lying in a gutter after being hit by a jacked up pick-up truck, surrounded by a staring crowd of gawkers who were recording the happenings for whatever online media they were planning to post it to.
“I don’t think I’d say it was going easy,” he replied, remembering the efforts the emergency responders were putting into keeping him alive.
“Oh,” she said. She was quiet for a few most steps. “So if you had two days, then –”
Liam interrupted her with a chuckle. “Sorry,” he grinned over his shoulder at her and caught her glaring at the back of his head. “You’re just asking a lot of questions to the same person that you recently told to shut up.”
She flushed with anger and then blushed. “I don’t enjoy being around you, you know. I’m stuck with you at the moment.”
“I’d already used my exceptional powers of deduction and figured that part out,” he chided.
“You’re an asshole!” she yelled at him, flinging the strip of jacket and stomping to a stop in the middle of the catwalk.
The tears she’d been successfully controlling while they’d been walking spilled out and her temper snapped as the first drop crested her cheekbone. She yelled at him for not intervening enough with the men killing the puppies, and then at him about everything he’d admitted to not knowing about being in the grey or what came after. Then she branched off into things that he didn’t know what she was talking about but apparently had been sore spots for a really long time which culminated into an accusation that he was a really bad guardian angel because of how messed up her life had gotten so what was the point of helping her now when all of it was too late…?
He’d had a lot of these kinds of meltdowns when he’d been a teen. Something would happen to push everything up and it would all spin out onto whoever was standing there at the time. His brain’s defense was to create a disassociation disorder that had plagued him into his twenties. Then he’d been hit by a truck and taken on the open job position as an afterlife guardian here in the grey because a little girl who was only ten and a half needed an adult to help her and he was the only one around.
Somewhere toward the end of the rant he learned this woman’s name was Matilde because she started referring to herself in the third person; she was yelling at herself with some pretty heavy accusations about her self-perceived low intelligence and lack of social awareness or graces. It all ended with a scream born of rage and fear and then she collapsed to sitting in the middle of the catwalk, sobbing uncontrollably. Liam approached her slowly and knelt beside her. She turned from him, either to crawl away or just to hide her face, and her hand promptly dropped through the catwalk as her sleeve shoved up her arm. She cried harder after working herself up to sitting by using her elbows, then turned toward him and crashed into his chest. He wrapped her up tightly in his arms and rocked as she cried, holding her for the length of time needed for her tears to slow down.
She squeezed him tightly for a moment – or maybe it was for half a lifetime – and then pushed back so that she was sitting up on her own. She scrubbed at her face with her sleeves, then dug through the pockets in her jacket, visibly relieved when her fingers found a tissue she could use for blowing her nose. The pace of her fidgeting fingers increased at the same rate as the blush brightened on her face. She scoffed at some internal deprecation and then stared up at the grey nothing overhead as if there was supposed to be some kind of answer there for her to read.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!