A Gram Of Silence - Alternate Start

I sat by Father's bed and watched him die.

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Author's note

Rewritten the beginning for Every Gram of Silence. It is a bit more cohesive now.
AA

2. The Green (2)

And…

And I sat…

And I sat beside Father’s bed, holding his hand.

I sat beside Father’s bed, holding his hand.

Cry. Cry. James wouldn’t mind. Lucia wouldn’t care. Kill with tears that sudden sense of relief. Fill the darkness with the noise of grief so that I would not despise myself. Please. Please.

But I only sat there, holding his hand, listening to the crickets, and getting angry at the deafening locusts because they were still alive.  

Then I heard myself speak. So much talk today, words enough to fill a year, yet I was talking still. ‘I need to tell the men downstairs,’ I said. Tell them to burn this House. ‘Tell them to start the boiler.’

James came to Father’s bed and examined his face. James was a professional, and he was always working.

‘I can give him three days,’ he said.

‘I couldn’t afford you, Master.’

James pulled on his gloves, silver threads glowing from every fingertip. ‘Consider it a gift’

I shook my head.

‘No? Surely you still have much to say,’ he said.

‘Do I?’

I looked upon Father’s face – skeletal, sunken, skin grey as sand, eyes blank and thick with cataracts – and fought off an urge to kick the bed until my toes bled. He shouldn’t look like this, I don’t remember him looking like this. He was handsome, ruddy-faced, and laughing, always laughing, and in those long bright days this House had been our kingdom.  

That happiness – for that was what it must have been, happiness – was now behind a dirty lens that blurred out the faces. Nothing looked like that anymore, not Father, nor I, nor the House. The only bond between that brightness and this withered face was my sitting here beside his bed, stubbornly asserting that this lifeless husk was where happiness came from.

No. Nothing more to say.

‘You’re here to get me, Master?’ I asked.

James looked at me for a while, then took off his gloves. ‘An urgent request from the Seneschal of Lonmark. I am expected at the Lodge before midnight.’

I stood, wiping the back of my hand on cheeks cold and dry. ‘Then we must leave at once.’

‘Are you sure?’ James asked, lingering by Father’s bed. ‘You won’t be able to change your mind. a body deteriorated to such a degree cannot remain tethered for long. If you wish to speak to him one last time –’

I missed the rest of what he said, for I was halfway down the stairs, feeling the little shocks of my heels as they landed on each step. The contractors looked up from their cards and stood. As I spoke to them they took off their hats and offered quick condolences; then they shook awake the mortician’s apprentice, who had been dozing by the fireplace, and told him to hurry up.

The boss shook my hand and said they’d have the walls down within the day, and I thanked him, for whatever stupid reason. Then he laughed, sent spittle into my hair, and said that he was mighty surprised to see the great James Cowen casually strolling in from the street, for rumor has it that Master Cowen was a grim reaper, oh yes – the bringer of death and pestilence; the boss didn’t believe it himself, no, he was a no-nonsense man, but even he was a little unnerved by the tall blind one, and the old man did die soon as they came.

He scurried into the yard at the sight of the grim reaper descending into the room. I went to the door and held it open. James didn’t seem to be in a hurry, however.

‘It’s a sturdy old house,’ he remarked. ‘Why get rid of it?’

‘I can’t stand this place,’ I said.

‘But it’s your home.’

‘It was.’

‘What about the land?’

‘Father has debts.’

‘I see.’

Nothing about that exchange was provocative, yet I was angry. Angry at myself for being so eager to be out the door. A decent human being should stil be crying their eyes out beside their Father’s bed, offering up all they have in exchange for one more minute with him, yet here I was, one foot over the threshold.

A looming shadow. Lucia stood over me with her shoulders hunched, so that the top of my head almost touched her chest. This close, even my ruined nose could pick up the sting of formaldehyde radiating from her skin. I shrank, but she put a hand on my shoulder and suddenly I couldn’t move.

As always, she said nothing. Behind the blindfold her eyes were perfectly still, yet I felt her looking at me.

‘I’m alright, Lucia,’ I said.

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