Hey! Part 6
It was Sunday.
Marcy Houghton had been laid to rest for nearly twenty-four hours. Audrey, meanwhile, hadn’t seen any rest for twice as long.
She sat in the shadows of her apartment, her knees to her chest, arms around herself, hardly feeling her own touch or the couch beneath her. The place was taking on a bit of a musty smell, the air thickening and tickling at the throat. Her pens and pencils still lay scattered on the floor at her corner desk. She hadn’t even thought to pick them up, or any of the other items she’d recently bumped into or jostled from tables in her aimless spurts of wandering. In the kitchen, a bowl of chicken sat on the counter, turning and taking on a rotten smell. Audrey had meant to cook it up the other day. She’d abandoned the effort before she could even get a pan out. Everything else in the kitchen had stayed in its place; Audrey hadn’t been eating enough to disturb much of anything in there.
It was another dreary day outside. Rain was on its way again. But Audrey didn’t think she’d live to hear its patter against her window.
She’d held off thinking about this for as long as she could, the idea only ever falling upon her mind like a quickly-passing shadow, up until yesterday. But now she let it cast itself in full. There seemed to be no other option. She’d had the opportunity to divulge her secret, to confess and perhaps have some of her guilt relieved. She’d failed at it, and she did not see herself finding the fortitude to go to anyone about it again. She simply could not do it.
Nor could she continue on like she had this last week: feeling these feelings, seeing what she saw, whether it was “real” or not. She had no answer to that bit—of whether she was being haunted by her conscience or by some other essence. Either way, it was unbearable. The truth she thought she could shoulder had broken the bones of her resolve and brought her low, and she didn’t believe she would ever stand straight again.
So, there was really no other choice at hand. Besides, maybe this way she could get some rest of her own. And that was sounding rather nice. The only question was how to do it.
After some debate, the complex’s roof finally came to her. Six floors high; a hop and a quick fall, and that would surely be enough to do it.
Audrey sat there for another half hour, feeling like she should be crying, and wondering if she should leave some note; but she was beyond tears now, and her suicide would be statement enough.
She rose on shaky legs and trudged out of her apartment, still in her pajamas. She didn’t bother to shut the door behind her.
She took the stairs up. Nobody else was around to see her, the stairway echoing with her slow and lonesome steps. The door that led out to the roof should have been locked, but everyone in the complex knew how the custodians loved to have a view with their smoke breaks. When she turned its knob it popped right open.
Marcy Houghton was up there, waiting for her. She stood by a vent, staring right at the door as it swung open, her features expressionless. Her skin had taken on more of a bluish tint, to fit the grave.
Audrey stepped out into the chill of the afternoon, precursory winds kicking up and blowing her hair about. The gravel covering the rooftop crunched under her bare feet, sharp edges digging into her skin. It was no never-mind to her, though. She inched along, keeping her sight to Marcy.
“I’m so sorry,” Audrey said as she passed the girl.
Marcy said nothing to this. She just slowly turned about, watching Audrey as she neared the edge of the roof. Audrey looked down, a harsh wind nearly toppling her before she could make the leap herself. The hard sidewalk leading up to the complex’s main entrance stretched out directly below.
She turned around, the balls of her feet no more than an inch from the edge. She looked at Marcy one last time.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered again. And then she leaned back.
Dana Danvers switched her grip on the pot as she stepped through the sliding doors of Holloway Home. She didn’t know much about flowers or their meanings, or what have you, but these had looked awful pretty to her at the store, and she hoped that her sister would like them.
Crocuses, she thought they were called.
She checked in at the front desk, getting in a quick chat with Marta, the receptionist, and then she walked on down to suite 19. The halls of the assisted living home were quiet, as always. Horribly quiet. Dana still hadn’t gotten used to it. The place was incredibly nice, to be assured; it could have easily been confused with a well-off motel, what with its spacious rooms and its welcoming interior. And the care its residents received was top-notch, especially around an area like this, so there were far worse places for Audrey to be. But that damn silence was just too much. Granted, there was only so much noise people here could make, suffering from traumatic brain injuries or dementia, as most were; but still, the place could do with some bit of liveliness. The stillness seemed like resignation to Dana; a compliance to just let the residents be and get them by rather than to bring them back to some greater sense of normalcy.
After the accident (that’s what it had to have been, in Dana’s mind) there’d seemed to be plenty of people who were resigned to let Audrey stay in her sad state. Doctors had said that the damage to her sister’s mind had been too great; that she would never walk or talk again, and there was little hope to anticipate anything more from further therapies or surgeries. “Your sister, as you knew her, is gone,” one physician had bluntly told her. But Dana refused to believe that. Her sister could come back. That’s why she visited Holloway twice a week: to see her, to talk with her, to pull her out of herself, God willing.
Before she could step into suite 19, an orderly caught her attention. “Audrey’s in the Rec Room right now, Ms. Danvers.”
Dana thanked him and headed off for the Rec Room. There may not have been many recreational things that her sister could do, but Dana was glad to know they didn’t leave her tucked away in her room all the time.
She turned into the wide white room and saw her sister to the left, sitting in a wheelchair, across from a TV.
“Hey, sweetie,” Dana said as she stepped over to her sister. She knelt down beside her and held up the pot of flowers. “How are you today? I thought I’d bring some pretty flowers for my pretty little sis.”
A pang hit Dana’s heart as she said that. Though Audrey had been very beautiful once, she didn’t exactly fit the convention much anymore. Even after the reconstructive surgery, her cranium sported noticeable bumps and dips, and her left eye had sunken down in an off-kilter slant.
A greater pang hit as the memory of that day came back, swift and terrible. Dana had been there to see it, to witness exactly what had left her poor sister like this. She had just been getting out of her car—the crock pot she’d bought for Audrey in her hands—when she saw her sister falling through the air, smacking and cracking down into the ground of the complex’s entrance. Dana had screamed. The crock pot had shattered as she dropped it, and she’d ran over to the crumpled mass that was her sister, her head split open, red coming out like—
Dana forced herself back into the here and now before the tears could come. She sighed and set the flowers down. “Well, have I got some gossip to tell you.”
Dana went into it, every bit of her life’s stories and happenings that’d taken place since her last visit, saying everything and anything she could think of, hoping that something would spark some sort of reaction from Audrey. After an hour of one sided conversation, though, Dana was out of things to say, and Audrey still hadn’t made a move or a peep. She just sat there, staring across the coffee table in front of her and towards the television, only the faintest glimmer of life in her sad eyes.
“Well, I’d better get going now,” Dana finally said, feeling a little bit defeated as she rose to her feet. “I’ll put these flowers in your room for you.”
She leaned down and kissed her sister on the cheek. “I love you, Audrey.”
If Dana could have given anything just to hear her sister return the affection, she would have gladly handed it over.
While it was true that there was very little of “Audrey Danvers” left in Audrey Danvers, there was just enough to comprehend her situation—to recognize her surroundings. To see.
And what she saw, day and night, was Marcy Houghton. The little dead girl would sit on the table across from her in the Rec Room by day and stand at her bedside by night.
She never spoke a word; she just stared at Audrey. And that was more than enough to make Audrey scream for help, over and over again—but only ever in her head.
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.
You can find him at:
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