Hours later Gabriel threaded through his in-laws’ living room packed with mourners and well-wishers. He moved like a wraith, insubstantial, barely grounded to the floor. He dimly heard the murmured condolences, hardly felt the consoling touches. A dense, invisible wall had erected around him five days ago. A wall that didn’t permit compassion or kindness. If he allowed even the tiniest bit of emotion to filter through, than the grief—the horrible, clawing grief—would rip pass his defenses and splinter his mind into so many shards he wouldn’t be able to assemble them together again.
“Would that be so bad?” a dark, seductive voice whispered.
How many times in the past week had he pleaded with God to take him too? Let him go into a sweet sleep and never wake from it? Then he would join Maura and Ian in eternity; they would be a family once more.
But each morning he woke, alone and hurting so much he couldn’t comprehend how he continued to function. How a heart that didn’t exist could still pump blood to his organs, forcing him to live. And each morning, he hated God a little more. His very Catholic mother would gasp at that admission and perform the sign of the cross for her son’s blasphemy.
But it was true.
“Gabe.” The hoarse cry echoed the depths of pain buried beneath the layers and layers of ice in his chest. “She’s really gone. My baby is gone.” Janie O’Keefe, Maura’s mother, lumbered forward, her gait unsteady and reeling. Before he could guess her intention, she threw herself against his chest. She enfolded him in her arms and wept, her body shaking with jagged sobs.
On reflex, Gabriel clutched her arms, prepared to wrench away. The shock of her touch and overwhelming display of emotion threatened the protective barrier around his own feelings. And perversely, a small part of him envied Janie her freedom to surrender to the pain.
“Come on, Mrs. O’Keefe.” Chay appeared out of nowhere, his quiet murmur both gentle and firm. His friend wrapped an arm around her shuddering shoulders and loosened her desperate hold. With low, soothing words, Chay guided the sobbing woman toward the brightly lit kitchen. Gabriel remained frozen, aware of the pitying glances cast between him and Janie.
It proved too damn much.
To read Part 2 click here.
To read Part 1 click here.
Part 4 of The Grave concluded on June 10th...