When Lightning Strikes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 26 (v.1)

Submitted: June 30, 2012

Reads: 567

Comments: 16

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 30, 2012

A A A

A A A

My heart leapt in my throat. No … that couldn’t be right!

“She didn’t make it.”

Everything happened at once. Mom cried out. She backed away with her eyes wide and her hand slapped over her mouth. Dad staggered back, shocked. Jason’s face was evidently full of disbelief. He ran a hand through his hair and slumped against the wall.

And me? I simply stood there, unmoving. My brain couldn’t comprehend the news. My legs felt like jelly. My skin felt cold. My chest tightened painfully and I sucked in a deep breath.

“I’m so sorry.”

Dad gritted his teeth and looked up at the doctor. Surprisingly, his eyes were watering. My heart broke for him. I had never seen dad cry.

“You were supposed to save her!” he yelled, stalking forward. “You’re a doctor!”

“I did all I could.”

I blinked away tears. Obviously he hadn’t done enough to save Aubrey. I shuddered. Even thinking about her name made me upset. This had to be a nightmare – a horrible nightmare. I squeezed my eyes shut; counted to ten and fluttered my eyelids open again. Nothing changed.

“Can we see her?” mom pleaded with hopeful eyes.

The doctor nodded. “Of course. Follow me.”

Immediately, my mother followed hurriedly. Jason and I were still as stone. I had the feeling he was thinking the same thing as me. Was I ready to see her? Did I want to see her?

Of course I did. I needed to see that she was gone for myself. I was in half-denial mode at the moment, but then there was the fact that seeing her would evoke too many memories – the happy, the sad and the downright painful.

Dad put his arm around my shoulder comfortingly. “Come on guys.”

The three of us started moving through the corridors. It felt like I was walking towards my doom. Ahead, I saw the doctor open a door. Mom took a deep breath before heading inside.

My eyes were trained on the number on the door: 16. This image would forever be burned in my mind, just like the scene of the car accident. I stood in front of the door staring at the number, before dad nudged me again.

“We can’t stay out here all day, Cee.”

I shook my head. “I can’t, daddy …”

“Yes you can,” he answered firmly. “You’re strong, just like Aubrey.”

I jumped. It was the first time someone had uttered her name after the announcement of her death. To know that we’d never call for her again hurt.

The three of us trooped in slowly. I would never forget the image of my older, beloved sister lying back on the bed, dead. All the life had washed out of her. Aubrey’s skin was sallow and pale as a sheet. Her eyes were fluttered shut and her long lashes casted shadows over her skin. Her lips were unnaturally pale and nearly a dark purple, as if it had been bruised. Everything about Aubrey screamed death.

Mom was the first to step closer. She looked down upon her eldest daughter and choked back a sob. Reaching out, she hesitantly laid her hand on Aubrey’s cheek. “She’s so cold,” she whispered.

Jason followed in mom’s footsteps and stroked her hair. I shivered. Looking at Aubrey, I started to think about why she was there, and it hit me.

It was my fault. I played a part in Aubrey’s death.

Who had she been looking at as she crossed the road? Me. Who had she been wanting to talk to? Me. Why had she crossed the road in the first place? Me.

Me, me, me.

The room was starting to feel claustrophobic. The walls were closing in on me. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I started to back away and before I knew it, I was running out of the room as fast as I could – anywhere but room sixteen.

I ended up flying down flights of stairs and I found myself rushing out of the lobby of the hospital. I was sobbing by the time I reached the car park. They were ugly and loud, but I couldn’t stop it at the moment. People walking by stared at me, so I found an isolated bench and sunk down on it.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed this before. It was my entire fault, and there was nothing I could do to bring Aubrey back.

* * *

When I had arrived home, immediately, I ran upstairs. My door slammed behind me but I didn’t care. All I cared about was crawling under the warm comfort of my blanket. I brought myself into a fetal position and pulled the covers over my head. In the darkness, I did something completely unexpected.

I screamed into my pillow.

My frustration and sadness mashed into a huge ball of fury, and I needed to vent it out. My insides were fuming. I had no idea why I suddenly felt so angry. I just did. It didn’t make sense, but I think I was upset with myself. Why had I been in town in the first place? Why hadn’t I stayed home and moped? Instead, I had craved the comfort of Ruby and headed out to eat sushi.

I choked back on a sob. Why was I so stupid?! I pushed myself up from my bed to grab at the tissue box sitting on my nightstand. I hated it when I cried. My nose became clogged and I would spend hours blowing my nose and wiping my eyes. Then my skin would become dry and irritated from the material of the tissue.

And that’s how I felt.

By dusk, my eyes were dry. No more tears could possibly come out, since I had cried so much today. My room had grown dark and the cool breeze was blowing through my open window. I closed it before pumping out some moisturizer onto my palm. The skin around my nose was peeling and I cursed.

“Gracie, do you want to come down for dinner?”

The door slowly opened and mom peeked. She saw my face and her eyes turned to pity.

“I guess I’ll come down,” I murmured, before clearing my throat. I hadn’t talk for a few hours and it felt strange.

Mom smoothed down my hair. “She’s in a better place now.”

I watched as she walked out of my room. My mother was right – she was in a better place, but I couldn’t help but be selfish. I wanted her here. I wanted to be able to wake up every morning, knowing that Aubrey was alive and well.

When I finally took the courage of step out of my bedroom, I shuddered. The corridor was unnaturally cold and I couldn’t help but think it was coming from Aubrey’s room. Her door called out to me. Hesitantly, I stepped towards it.

It was still the same.

The room was perfectly made, just like Aubrey. The duvet was folded neatly on the edge of the bed, and her plum pillows were fluffed and placed neatly by the headboard. Her closet doors were shut and no clothes were hanging around anywhere.

I didn’t dare touch anything. Her room felt like a revered sanctuary to me – a memory to be kept and untouched.

“Gracie, dinner’s ready!”

Mom’s voice jolted me out of my thoughts. I took one last glance at Aubrey’s room before closing the door softly and walking downstairs. When I saw that everything was set, I was in disbelief. How could mom have the energy to cook at a time like this? She was so strong. I could see that she was trying to hold it all together.

Although dad and I adored mom’s mushroom pie, none of us could finish it. I spent most of my time using my fork to push the pieces around my plate. My whole body was empty. I just couldn’t do anything.

I heard mom sigh. “I guess I’ll wash the dishes,” she mumbled, noticing everyone’s lack of appetite.

Immediately, I felt bad. “Here mom, let me do it.”

She shook her head furiously as she collected the plates. “No Gracie, don’t worry. Go on.”

Dad finally spoke up. “Cee, why don’t you relax in your room? It hasn’t been a good day today.”

I hesitated before stalking off. This happened for the next few days. My mother was always busying herself with chores and my dad sat in a chair, staring at the walls as if an answer for everything would suddenly appear. They wouldn’t speak to me and it hurt. Ruby had visited a few times, but this time I didn’t feel like having any comfort. I wanted to be alone.

When I told Ruby that, it sounded harsh, but I just couldn’t deal with her telling me that everything would be ok. When she said it wasn’t my fault, I practically yelled at her.

I think the starting of the funeral preparations were making me extra edgy. I had overheard my parents talking about it late at night in their room. Today the Levine’s were coming over to help my parents plan everything. Knowing that Jason would be in the same house as me didn’t help. Every time I thought about him, I would feel guilty. He had cheated on Aubrey with me. Even though they made up, it still happened. And now she was dead.

Mom told me to change out of my pyjamas and wear something decent. She expected me downstairs to greet the guests and give my own opinions on what should be included in Aubrey’s funeral.

It was noon when the doorbell rang. I was already dressed in my favourite pair of leggings and a powder blue sweater Aubrey had bought for me. I had taken off Jason’s necklace. I didn’t feel worthy of it anymore and it also seemed wrong. There was a secret, loving message on the back. Aubrey probably knew this by now, as she was in heaven. In heaven, they knew everything.

I straightened my clothes before going into the lounge room to greet the Levine’s. They were all seated on the couches, having a laugh. The only person who was missing was Cale. I didn’t blame him. He was younger and had more exciting things to do than planning a funeral. Plus, he hadn’t been that close to Aubrey.

Delilah was the first to spot me. “Gracie!”

I stumbled back when she ran to me. I was happy that she wasn’t as shy as before. I patted her hair. “Hello, Lila!”

Camille smiled at the two of us affectionately. “It’s so nice to see you again, Gracie! I hope you’ve been doing well.”

I shrugged, not wanting to show how much of the opposite it was. “I guess. How are you, Camille?”

She looked at her husband. “We’ve been doing ok. Jason here has been mourning though.”

I watched as her eyes glanced over at Jason anxiously.

“Hi Jason,” I greeted politely.

His eyes flickered to me. “Hello.”

Mom clapped her hands together and announced that she was going to find ‘the papers’. I sat down on the floor beside the television with Delilah, since the seats were filled. She showed me her new colouring book and her pack of crayons.

“You can colour in the dinosaur.” Delilah handed me a green crayon. “I’ll colour the pwincess.”

“It’s princess, Lila,” Warren corrected from the sofa, before chuckling to himself.

Delilah huffed. “Daddy is wong.”

“It’s wrong, not wong.” I had the feeling Warren liked to correct his daughter’s mistakes to mostly tease her.

We all laughed softly and I realised this was the first time I had laughed since Aubrey’s death. The feeling of my mouth curving upwards felt new. However, the laughter died down when mom entered the room with files and pamphlets.

“Camille, Warren,” she said. “Why don’t we start on the budgeting in the dining room? The table’s bigger there.”

A frown crossed my face as Camille hopped up. “Of course.”

Jason seemed confused too. “Aren’t Gracie and I going to help?”

“We’ve decided to leave you two with the decorations for the funeral, seeing as how you both knew Aubrey best,” his mother explained. “And we all want the both of you to do a little speech – well, a eulogy, for the funeral if you’re both up to it.”

I glanced at Jason, who seemed pained. “I can do it.”

“I’ll do it as well.”

Camille smiled at both of us. “Good. I’ll bring Lila with me so you can concentrate more.” She waved Delilah over. “Come on, darling. You can colour your pictures in the kitchen. Aunt Evelyn has apples for you!”

At the mention of apples, Delilah looked up excitedly. “Ok!”

I watched as she packed up her equipment and took her mother’s hand. Together, they walked off. Camille even closed the double doors, letting Jason and I have our privacy. Dear Lord.

Jason cleared his throat, attempting to lighten the situation. It didn’t help. “So, where should we start? I’m no good at this stuff.”

“Figures,” I muttered. Mom had left some brochures and I found a few about florists. “We should start with flowers. That’s a major deco.”

Jason agreed and we quickly started working. I was trying not to think about my memories with him, because it saddened me. Instead, I launched myself into this new project. It took my mind of the complications in my life.

I decided to use my laptop to search up more businesses.

“Why don’t we use the flowers she would have used for the wedding?” I suggested. “Or at least some of them.”

I scanned around and found a flower I liked. “These white Angelique tulips have to be included.”

Jason nodded. “Do you think we could use red roses somehow?”

I turned to him. “Why?”

He shrugged. “I think they somehow represent her. It’s bold and she liked them.”

I looked down. He had a flower which symbolised Aubrey? I wondered what I would be.

“You’d be a white rose.”

My head snapped up, shocked. How did he know what I was thinking? Unless … I had said that aloud. Whoops.

I had the distinct feeling that Jason wasn’t thinking clearly when he continued. “You’re angelic, gentle …” He scratched his jaw. “Or any yellow flowers would work too. It’s hard to be sad around you.”

A smile spread over my face. Was that how he thought of me? First a swan, and now a white rose and a yellow flower. The first yellow flower which popped into my head was a sunflower. These were fast becoming my favourite things now.

“Do you feel sad now?” I was curious. Here we were sitting down and planning a funeral for his ex-fiancée.

He shrugged. “I don’t feel so upset as before. You always have a way of cheering me up.”

“You do as well,” I whispered, feeling rather self-conscious of myself. “Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

I clasped my hands together and settled them on my lap. “How are you holding up? I don’t want any lying by the way.”

“I would never lie to you.” Jason’s sea-blue eyes gazed into mine seriously as he stated that. I flushed in response. “But I think I’m doing alright. I feel so guilty for hurting Aubrey’s feelings and yours.”

I touched his arm reassuringly. “It’s not your fault. You’re just too handsome for your own good.”

He half-smiled at my joke. “I still can’t help but think like that. I apologised to her over and over, but … I felt wrong doing that. Yeah, I was sorry that I cheated on her, but deep down inside, I was never sorry about my feelings for you. Get what I mean?”

I nodded.

“Ma keeps saying that Aubrey would have wanted me to be happy though. She’s always trying to get me to laugh.”

That seemed like Camille. Just from today, I could tell she was deeply concerned for her eldest son. “She loves you so much.”

His eyes met mine and my heart skipped a beat. At that moment, I wanted to blurt out that she wasn’t the only one who loved him. I nearly did. Those eyes hypnotised me and he was showing off those gorgeous dimples – one of favourite features about Jason.

Our moment broke when the door slid open. Mom asked if we wanted any brownies but we both declined.

I was semi-thankful for the interruption. I reminded myself firmly that I shouldn’t be eyeing Jason that way. He was supposed to have been my brother-in-law, for god’s sake! He could never be my boyfriend or husband, but I still couldn’t hold back the shiver of delight at the sound of those words. Jason matched them so perfectly.

After that, we continued jotting down ideas for the funeral. The location was to be at Albany Church, the place where Aubrey was supposed to have become Jason’s wife. Soft piano music would be played. Lilac scented candles would be lit to give off an intimate atmosphere. Aubrey’s favourite flowers were to play a part in the floral decorations.

We also chose the perfect picture of Aubrey to be framed. It was from Michelle’s Facebook page. The camera was focused on Aubrey. Her face was transformed into a warm smile, and her dark curls framed the ovalness of her face. She looked so lovely.

The hardest part was browsing through different coffins. We hadn’t decided yet, but we both knew Aubrey deserved an elegantly carved one.

We stumbled upon a polished cherry wood one, but the longer I stared at it, the more horrified I became. My sister would rest in there for her entire afterlife. I cringed.

I think Jason felt the same way. As we browsed through different websites, we stayed quiet. How could Aubrey’s body stay in one of those horrible things? She deserved to be alive and free, not constricted in a box.

The pain must have gotten to Jason because he suddenly stood up and excused himself.

I sighed as he left and buried my face into my hands. At first, I had tried to treat the preparations in a business-like manner, but upon seeing the coffins, my emotions raged.

How was I supposed to do this? If I couldn’t even pick a coffin, how was I supposed to write a eulogy? What would I say? Where would I even begin? It wasn’t like I could announce to the crowd all my emotions. That would mean blurting out the scandal: that Jason and Aubrey hadn’t been a pristine couple as they’d appeared to be.

I couldn’t spoil Aubrey’s funeral. It would be the last celebration in her honour and I didn’t want it stained.

It was hardly fair. Why was I sitting here picking out Aubrey’s coffin? It should be the other way around. I deserved to be dead, not her. I wasn’t anything special. It would make everything less complicated. Aubrey and Jason would marry without worry, but the thought of that still pained me. I wanted to be the girl in the white dress, but Jason was not mine. I couldn’t date him, not after this. This wasn’t the way I wanted to win Jason.

What would everyone say if Jason and I started dating? With a pang, I realised they’d judge us. It would be wrong, they’d say. Even in our supposedly ‘forgiving’ society, people would talk. Jason would be called nasty names. Fake accusations would be made. I wouldn’t mind if they were about me, but I couldn’t tolerate rumours about Jason. He was a good man and he didn’t deserve any of that.

It seemed like the combination of me and Jason was a disaster. I laughed bitterly. The world must really hate me.

I sighed and decided to find what Jason was up to. He had been gone long. I pushed myself up from the carpet and stretched my limbs. My backside and legs had become incredibly stiff.

I trudged upstairs and was about to peek in the bathroom when something caught my eye. Aubrey’s door was slightly ajar. I leant in closer and peered through the crack. To my surprise, Jason was inside.

He sat himself down on Aubrey’s bed and stared at his hands. He fiddled with his engagement ring before sliding it off his finger. My heart broke as he simply laid the silver band upon his dead fiancée’s pillow and began to cry.


© Copyright 2019 vanessaxoxo. All rights reserved.

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