It wasn’t an accident.
He stepped over the edge of a very tall cliff.
I sit on the floor in the corner and I hear them say it over and over. “The accident.” And apologies. “I’m sorry. So sorry for your loss.”
I hate them. The women with their cracked red lipstick and gossip-hungry eyes. The men rawboned and uncomfortable in their white shirts, and even more so facing a weeping widow. The children curious, hanging off their parents’ hands. And worst of all, the teenagers. Awkward, avoiding looking at anything: me, my mother, the coffin, their parents. Wishing they were anywhere but here.
I look at my mother. She’s so small. Five foot nine, one-hundred-eighty pounds, but she takes up no space. She’s a wrung-out towel. Her eyes are red and wet, and I think of blood in water. But there was no water, and if there had been perhaps there would have been no blood.
There was lots of blood. It’s still caught underneath my fingernails, dried and brown now. I wouldn’t clean them. It’s all I have left.
“Macabre,” he whispers in my ear. I ignore him.
“Such a tragic accident. I’m so sorry.” Repeating the words he knows I hate most.
But then, he’s the only one who should apologize.
His laughter is like a cat flexing its claws.
I turn to look at him, twice my size but infinitely weaker. I need speak no words for him to understand.
“I can’t leave without you and you know it,” he says. Secure in his spot.
Why is he the only one happy here when he should be the one most miserable?
My father stepped off that cliff to escape the whispers. Why can’t I?
The answer sits next to the coffin, dressed in limp black. My mother who will always wonder why. Who is, also, weaker.
“Getting a wee bit proud, no?”
Is accepting a truth one hates pride? I think not.
“Would you trade?”
I look at my mother and I think no, but not for the reasons he thinks. She’s the only person I have left to love. I would not give her this clutching torment.
“So selfless.” I prefer the accusations.
One day more, I think desperately at the scattered body in the box. One more day of peace. I always knew, I could hear the whispers, but they were not mine then. I could leave them behind, if only for a while. Never again.
“I’m all yours,” he whispers smugly.
There is no denying him. All mine, all my life. I can see it stretched out before me, as long as I can endure. I wonder at my father, at the choices he made with the Whisperer on his shoulder. My mother. Me.
It takes me an hour to decide to walk across a room now. Every thought, every move, is questioned and condemned. He is a heaviness that I will not escape until he has beaten me six feet into the ground.
“Not that fast, sweetheart.”
I will carry him for years. I will see my hair whiten and my eyes fade before I put him down. And then, who? Will I choose to leave an heir for him?
Or will I let him slip back into his night?
The Whisperer is silent.
No. Somehow, I will give him someone. I will curse my own child before I let him go. I am my father’s daughter, and the Whisperer is my birthright.
He is broken and ugly and there is only the smallest fleck of silver in his dross. He is a shadow with the weight of stone. We owe him everything and he takes everything without regret.
And we will keep him forever because we know: the Whisperer must not return to his night.