I’ve always loved happy endings. But you won’t find one here. And as Abigail said, even sad things can be pretty.
It was the Friday before the first week of school and I had just finished buying Abigail’s school supplies. There was a new bright red backpack, crayons still orderly in the box, and notebooks with no ink to blemish their pages.
Abigail had taken to wearing both lockets now. I never remembered them being magnetic, but now they were stuck together, forming a full heart. I had given up telling her not to wear it, though when I hid it she scoured the house until she found it. It never took long. It was almost as if she could smell it.
I had promised Abigail that I would make her funnel cakes after dinner. They were her favorite dessert, and since I owned a countertop deep fryer, easy to make. While the oil heated and I hand mixed the batter, I heard her muttering to herself behind me. Usually I would ignore it, but by the time I had mixed in the sugar her voice had increased both in loudness and intensity to the point where she was screaming.
“No! There just isn’t room. There’s no room for two.”
“Abigail, honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, putting an arm around her shoulder but she twisted away.
“Bridget’s not listening to me! She won’t listen!”
“Hush Abigail. Everything’s going to be alright.”
“No it won’t.” She shouted. “It won’t.” She tugged at the locket around her neck with one hand and cupped the other to her ear.
“Both of us won’t fit. It won’t work.” She punctuated each word with another yank on the silver chain. With a snap the clasp broke, releasing the locket. The chain entangled itself in her streak of brunette hair, interweaving into the strands as Abigail’s screams grew louder.
For a full five minutes I worked to free the chain as Abigail struggled underneath me.
“She won’t let go!” She shouted over and over through her tears. “There’s no room.”
She calmed down when the locket finally was in my hands.
“Abigail, I don’t think you should wear this anymore.” I said, pocketing it.
“I don’t want to Miss Mary. But Bridget makes me.”
“I’m going to keep this for a while.”
“Bridget won’t like that. Not at all.” She said.
“Well sometimes it’s about what you like, not what she does.”
I began pouring the batter into the oil and the vigorous sizzling displaced the sound of Abigail’s sniffs. She wiped the tears away as the first cake finished and I loaded it with powdered sugar.
My shoelace caught against something under the table as I turned away to cook another cake. I tripped, stumbling against the counter and catching myself inches away from the fryer. The tips of my hair dipped into the basin, and a bubble popped to splash scalding oil onto my exposed cheek. I could feel my skin cook, and for years afterward a red burn splotch reminded me of the incident.
I wiped myself down with a paper towel and checked my shoelace for what I had tripped on. A silver chain gleamed from my right foot, and Bridget’s locket was twisted in an out of the string. I felt my pocket, and there was a hole I had not noticed, and the locket must have slipped down the leg of my jeans.
“I told you she wouldn’t like that.” Said Abigail, but I ignored her. I turned the fryer on low, even though there was still plenty of batter left. I felt more comfortable with the heat source removed.
“She says that she’s not waiting any longer Miss Mary.” Said Abigail, her voice small, “She says she doesn’t want to wait any longer.”
“Shhh. It’s alright Abigail, I’ll keep the locket with me tonight.”
We retired to bed not long after, as I wanted Abigail to have a few nights of full sleep before her first day. Something felt off as I fell asleep, but I pushed the thought away. Something always felt off now with Abigail in the house.
The barking of Hank from outside my room woke me up. The air was thick with smoke when I sat up, and the particles clawed at my eyes and jammed into my nostrils. I coughed twice before I noticed the telltale orange glow of a house fire beneath my door.
An instant later, the fire alarm screamed to life, and I knew I had forgotten to turn off the fryer.
I ran to Abigail’s room, where she was still curled beneath the covers and mouthing her incessant muttering. She was harder to wake than usual, and I shook her by the shoulders, softly at first, then violently when she failed to stir.
“Abigail!” I shouted, “Abigail!”
Her eyes cracked open, and she peered around, dazed.
“We’re awake, Miss Mary.” She said when she caught my eye.
“Abigail, there’s a fire. We have to go now. Get up.”
“Abigail says she’s coming,” She said with a yawn. With a whoosh fire in the other room intensified, and I was alarmed to see the size brunette streak in her hair had doubled.
“Let’s go!” I yanked at her hand and she stood, stumbling towards the door. She walked clumsily, like someone who has been in the hospital for a long time and was unused to the feel of her own legs.
The heat had become stifling as flames spread from the kitchen to the ceiling. I heard the kitchen tiles shattering from temperature and held a cloth over Abigail’s face to filter out the smoke. The wood frames within the walls had already begun to catch and the entire apartment creaked as the supports burned away.
“Abigail, this way!” I shouted when she turned the wrong direction. We had reached the kitchen, where the fire was most intense, and she had her hand against the bathroom doorknob. The sizzle of her flesh was audible against the brass, but she held it there, unaware of any pain. In other hand I could see both lockets, though I had placed one in my dresser drawer before bed.
She stamped her foot and turned back to face me. Her face was contorted, and she yelled the next sentence at me.
“I’m Bridget! Not Abigail! Bridget!”
Before I could argue, there was an ear-shattering crack as a section of the roof gave way. With a flurry of sparks, chunks of drywall and boards came raining down upon Abigail. She screamed as an enormous board crashed against her forehead, and as she fell she slammed her right hand against my side.
I gasped as both lockets embedded themselves point first into me, piercing through my skin and sliding in between two of my ribs.
Abigail stood, blood rushing from above her eyebrow.
“I’m back Miss Mary.” She said, “Let’s get out of here.”
She ran ahead of me, pulling me through the worst of the fire. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t see, but she knew the way, and in moments we stumbled out onto my porch and into the lawn. In the distance, I could hear sirens.
We stopped when we could no longer feel the heat, and we embraced.
“What happened back there?” I asked.
“I’m sorry Miss Mary. When the board hit me she left me. I don’t have to listen to her anymore.”
“Let me wrap that cut up for you Abigail.”
“It’s OK Miss Mary. Thank you so much.”
She hugged me again.
“For what, Abigail?”
“For everything, I understand it now. And Miss Mary, it wasn’t your fault. Remember that. I saw you turn the fryer off.”
“It doesn’t matter now that you’re safe.”
Abigail gave me a half smile, and continued.
“Everything’s better now Miss Mary. And Bridget wants me to let you know that she’s sorry. See? She’s over there.”
And maybe it was the dark, or a swaying bush in the illuminated firelight, but across the road I could have sworn I saw the figure of a small girl waving.
“I have to go now Miss Mary. But I’ll always be with you. I’ll always be here.”
She put a hand against my side where blood was spilling over the lockets.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I borrowed one of your years to tell you this. Remember, it wasn’t your fault.”
“What are you doing, Abigail?”
“Leaving. Leaving to go home. It’s dark, but I think I can make it.” She said, and yanked the lockets out of my ribcage.
I gasped, falling to my knees. And I could hear her saying above me, “See you soon, Miss Mary.”
But her body was in front of me, and the gash across her head was no longer bleeding. Her eyes were glazed and no trace of brunette was left in her hair.
She had died as soon as the board had hit her head.
According to interrogations of the other tenants after the incident, I had carried her dead body from the flames and laid her in the grass before passing out. For weeks afterward, my psychiatrist warned me of the dangers of the fumes within burning houses, and I should let any hallucinations that I may have had go. But Abigail had been too real, and there was still the hole in my side where the lockets had been. And the day after the incident, I found my first three grey hairs in the mirror.
I felt the guilt for years afterward, but with time I came to realize that the fault did not lie upon me. Somehow, I knew. Bridget did not belong in this world, and when she finally gained the strength from all the stolen years and pieces of those who still lived to step into it, fate had cast her back out. Both times, by fire she had left.
The firemen saved what they could from the building. Everything I owned had been destroyed, save for a small wooden box that was completely unmarred in the small guest room. Abigail’s treasure box. And when I took it from their hands, I came to know how Abigail had been touched by death.
When I held the lockets, I felt the distant echoes of the twins. I felt Abigail’s emotions, her misery over her sister’s death, and Bridget’s envy of her sister’s life. But I felt the other objects too. I felt the anger Abigail had felt when touching the baseball, and the sadness of a broken couple in the ring. And I heard the screams of the children from the birthday party in their gifted objects. Abigail was right- when we leave from this world, there are pieces left behind.
There were times when I looked into the mirror I could see the twin’s figures behind me, but when I blinked they disappeared. Or when I would be walking alone and could hear two small sets of footsteps to my side, and would feel a tug against my dress. My side would ache, and I’d clutch the scar where the lockets had been. I’d relive the nightmares Abigail experienced, and would awake to the sound of her muttering.
And now, to this day, Abigail’s last sentence still rings in my head as I count my grey hairs each morning.
“See you soon, Miss Mary.”
I will never forget the Lucienne twins. Even after ten years, they are still fresh in my memory. Too fresh.