Home > Wait for Me (Waters of Time #4)

Wait for Me (Waters of Time #4)
Author: Jody Hedlund

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June 11
Dawson Huxham let the cold soil slip through his fingers down onto the coffin. It thudded against the solid oak with a finality that echoed in his empty heart.
A part of him wanted to follow the dirt into the dark chasm in front of him and die with his sister. But something held him back—the same something that had held him back since he’d been injured.
Strong fingers clamped his left shoulder, the thumb pressure extra hard. The particular grip belonged to Acey. As did the cologne—a mixture of old leather and spicy-sweet tobacco. Slightly uneven breathing. Sniffing from allergies.
Another hand patted his right shoulder. Baxter. The pressure points from all his fingers even and tempered. No cologne. Instead, a faint waft of dark-roast coffee lingered on his breath. Controlled breathing. Controlled movements. Controlled everything.
Dawson resisted the urge to toss off both hands. His friends meant well. Had stayed by his side for the past two weeks since Sybil had been found unconscious and nearly dead under the stairs at Reider Castle.
But now, after battling to save her life . . . it was over. His sister was gone. Really gone.
He opened his hand all the way, tipped it over, and let the rest of the dirt fall. A second later, the soft patter was barely audible over the whisper of the wind in the long grass of the cemetery.
His chest tightened, and a part of him wished he could release the tension by roaring with rage. He wanted to throw something. Or punch, or kick.
But his uncontrolled anger was what had gotten him into this situation, had pushed Sybil away from him so that she’d taken him up on his rash declaration . . .
“I loathe your visits. I wish you’d gone missing instead of Mum.”
A wave of grief slammed into him, and he wavered. He’d killed her. Maybe not directly. But during the last conversation he’d had with her, he’d been worse than a viper in the venom he’d spewed her way. The truth was, he’d planted land mines all around his life. She’d dodged them for years. But stepping on one had been inevitable, especially because he’d become an expert at allowing everything to bother him.
With weakening legs, he let himself sink to the ground. The cushion of grass underneath his knees was damp from a recent rain, and the moisture soaked through the dress slacks. He’d lost Baxter’s hold, but Acey’s grip remained. Firm. Unyielding.
“You guys get on.” Dawson cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the lump of sorrow that made his voice wobbly. “I need a few minutes alone.”
Baxter’s presence shifted away. “No problem—”
“You sure?” Acey didn’t release his shoulder clamp.
“I can find the car when I’m done here.” Dawson rested his elbow on his upturned knee and buried his face into his hand.
From the silence all around, Dawson could tell the rest of the guests—the few who had come out to the graveside from the church—had already started walking back to their vehicles. Except for Acey’s fiancée, Chloe. She waited a dozen paces away, politely giving the three of them a moment.
Even though Dawson’s right eye was completely blind, his left had some vision remaining. While the nerve damage was severe, he had the ability to see light, faint distinctions in color, and general shapes of bigger items. That meant he could make out a darkish form where Chloe stood, but he couldn’t distinguish what she looked like, not even when she was but a few inches away. She was fuzzy. So were Baxter and Acey. And everyone and everything else.
He’d been told too many times to count that he ought to be thankful he could at least see the outlines, that he could maneuver on his own to a degree, that the world wasn’t totally black.
But every time someone reminded him of the slim eyesight he retained, he wanted to shout out that they didn’t have to miss seeing the low clouds rolling over the hills beyond the church, the ivy winding up the window lattice, or the moss staining the cracked headstones.
They didn’t know what it was like, couldn’t understand.
He lived in a dark and broken world. And now with Sybil gone, he’d lost the last of any light with her.
God, please . . . His attempt at prayer fell flat as it had every other time he’d tried to reason with heaven. Instead, the overwhelming need for nicotine, alcohol, or something stronger pulsed into his blood.
He hadn’t touched any substances since the day he’d learned she was dying. Not even the Oxycontin he’d used occasionally to temper the pain from his wounds. He didn’t have numerous scars the same way Acey did. In fact, the doctors had claimed that he was lucky he’d walked away without any facial disfigurement. Even so, fine slivers of shrapnel remained embedded in his body and caused him excruciating pain at times.
He’d kept vigil at her bedside at the hospital for the past couple of weeks as she’d lain in a coma, and the detox had been his penance, his way of asking her to forgive him. Maybe if she knew he was finally giving up substances the way she’d wanted, she’d decide to give him a second chance. Maybe it had even been his way of bargaining with God to bring Sybil out of her coma.
But now that she was in the grave, what reason did he have for staying clean?
His two friends hesitated a moment longer before their footsteps began to lead them away. Acey’s had the extra thunk of his cane that aided his prosthesis. From the slowness and heaviness of their tread, he could tell they were reluctant to leave him. But they would. They always gave him the space he wanted, even if it was to his detriment.
A humid breeze swelled and lifted a strand of his hair off his forehead—as Sybil used to. For a second, he could imagine her beside him, comforting him. The way she had when they’d had the funeral for their mum. At this church. In this very spot. Mum’s headstone was already there. And Sybil’s would go next to hers.
He bowed his head, the words inside him churning. “I’m sorry.” He’d already apologized a hundred times, but all the apologizing in the world wouldn’t bring her back.
If only he’d known she was suicidal. But he hadn’t been thinking about anyone except himself. He’d been so selfish, so wrapped up in his own pain, that he hadn’t paid attention to hers.
Her ex-boyfriend had been the one to discover her in the closet where she’d apparently hidden before attempting to kill herself. They hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what she’d ingested. The bottle they’d found next to her had been empty, and the lab tests of the residue had proven it to be nothing more than water.