I know what Eli had done that night. Even though he had been so hesitant to touch me for the last month he had sacrificed his own feelings to make me better. But what was possibly better? I felt an empty whole in my chest where my son had once lived. I could feel nothing except a numb delusion of reality. As though I were fading into darkness, and it was going to consume me whole. How was I surviving this nightmare? I had no actual fucking idea. I had woken tangled in my brother’s arms, and I had felt nothing. I remember what he had whispered into my ear the night before.
I recall how he had whispered into my ear that he would give me more children. I shuddered at the memory, realizing how sick it was that we had the ones we did. I hadn’t let him touch me again. I pulled away now, because I couldn’t think about more babies right now. All I could think about was the ones that remained to me. It had been days since Cooper had laid in my arms, and died on me. I still felt so helpless, because I hadn’t been able to save him.
Today I was dressing my other babies, in a suit, and dresses, for their brother’s funeral. My own hair was up in a ponytail, and my brother, as well as Anna were already downstairs. How was I meant to say goodbye to a three year old boy?
He hadn’t lived long enough to do anything he was meant to. I would never see his wedding, worry about him breaking someone’s heart. I wouldn’t even get to fawn over him for his first day of kindergarten. He wouldn’t have any of those things, no matter how much I wished that he would. His fellow triplets were so broken they didn’t speak much. It was like a piece of them had been chipped away. Even though they hadn’t seemed close to Cooper, I know that being in a womb with him must have changed them somehow. Made them both depressed.
Hope wasn’t much better. She appeared to be completely lost without Cooper to hang around with. She wasn’t able to sleep well without him. She woke screaming in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t calm her no matter how hard that I tried.
Today however, I was trying to help them say goodbye, it was all that I could really do. All that I would ever be able to do. “We have to go, sweethearts.” I breathed out solemnly as I straightened Annabelle’s dress, and she nodded her head at me.
“Why do we have to dress up?” Gabe questioned me, an irritated expression on his face, as he fiddled with his sleeves irritably.
“Because we have to pay our respects to your brother.” I explained, and he turned his eyes away from me, refusing to speak after that. He was so much like his father without even realizing it.
I walked with them down the stairs, holding Hope on my hip, and the others followed behind me. Eli was already dressed up in his suit, and Anna had only just arrived. We were all driving together. Even my mother was coming with us, but I didn’t dare look at her. She hadn’t batted an eye when we had told her that Cooper was dying, and she sure as hell hadn’t been there when he had. I refused to give her even a nod in acknowledgment, and I moved to settle down in the backseat. I didn’t care who was driving, I wanted to sit in the back with my children.
The ride was long, and silent. I stared out of the window, wondering what it was like to finally depart from this life. Did my son’s spirit make its way up to heaven where it belonged, or did he find himself drawn down here, where his siblings, and I remained. I couldn’t help thinking about it on the long ride to the cemetery.
I sat in the front row, reserved for family, and I didn’t do much more than stare as the ceremony began. The priest was old, and bent over the podium as he began to speak about crossing over, and being guided into the arms of the lord. It wasn’t until a flicker out of the corner of my eye occurred that I was suddenly fully alert.
“LEAVE! I don’t want you here!” I snapped, and stood to my feet, coming face to face with Walter. How day he show his face? After what he did to me? To Eli? But it was almost instantaneous that my children’s faces lit up, and they stood to their feet.
“Uncle Walter! Uncle Walter!” They rushed to him, and into his open arms. He was holding a bouquet of flowers, and he offered it to little Annabelle, before I could rush over to stop him.
“Stay away from them!” I had shocked the priest into silence, and all of the other guests as well. My various family members, even Cooper’s doctor had showed up, and I didn’t want to make a scene. God I didn’t, but I had to.
I surged forward, and pulled my children behind me. “Do I have to get a restraining order?!” I snapped at him, and he stared at me, with pitiful eyes as though he was the victim. As though he hadn’t just tried to kick my ribs in a few weeks back.
“I heard what happened, I just wanted to offer my condolences.” He reasoned, and my eyes shone with fury. I was reading to punch him, I was ready to hurt him like he had hurt me.
“Go sit down, sweethearts.” I whispered to my children, and they cowered away, back to Eli whom guided them into their seats before moving to rush up beside me.
“Was Belle not clear enough for you?! FUCKING LEAVE!” Eli had a look in his eyes that I rarely ever saw in him, but when I did see it, it wasn’t a good sign. I knew he was about to snap at any given moment, and I was waiting with baited breath, knowing I needed to get Walter to leave. Everyone was staring at us, including the priest. Shock and horror was plastered over all of their faces.
“You aren’t welcome here! Not after what you have done! LEAVE!” I snapped again, and a loud grunt escaped Walter’s lips as I shoved at his chest. He gripped my hands painfully hard, and I tugged them back. His jaw was set, and he looked as furious as we did.
“I didn’t mean any harm.” He insisted, and that was all it took before Eli was throwing a punch at him. Shocked onlookers stood to their feet to watch the drama as it played out, and tears flooded to my eyes, because I knew I had to stop them. This was supposed to be a peaceful time. I was meant to be mourning my son, but now I was going to have to break up a fight.
It felt like nothing could ever go right for me, like I was cursed to constantly replay all the terrible things that happened in this world, over and over again. Endure absolutely no sense of peace, no matter how much I yearned for it. “Eli stop! Please stop!” I began to cry, before I finally gave up. I had never once been able to stop my brother from doing reckless things once he set his mind to them, and our children were beginning to cry against our mother’s sides as they watched Eli, beating Walter.
I finally moved to grip Eli’s arms, and pull him back, but the next swing intended for Eli, hit me instead. I felt backwards, and the children screamed. But I didn’t get up, I just laid in the grass, staring up at the sky, because what did it really fucking matter anymore? Truly? I didn’t give a shit what happened anymore. If I died then so what? I would join Cooper in heaven. If Eli beat Walter’s face into the dirt, then so what? He would only go to jail for murder, and I would lose him again.
I contemplated all the things I couldn’t bring myself to stop thinking about as I laid on the grass. I didn’t want to move. I had no will to, and it took several grown men to pull Eli off of Walter. Both were still swinging, even as they were pulled away, and Eli didn’t look as bad as Walter did. He appeared to have a black eye, and a bloody nose, but that was nothing new. I couldn’t bring myself to go check on him. Not this time. Instead I stood to my feet, and gripped my children’s hands, whilst Anna lifted Hope, and we walked away from the fiasco. I didn’t meet Eli’s gaze, nor Walter. All I knew was that I needed the fuck out of here. I couldn’t stay. I needed to go.
And go I did.
I eventually went back for the ceremony, and the burial. I watched as they lowered my child’s casket into the ground, and I threw a bit of dirt into the hole. I made sure each of his siblings did as well, but I didn’t speak to Eli through the rest of the day. Not at the wake in our living room, or at the funeral itself. I had no words anymore. I had no more excuses for the things my brother did, and as pissed as I was at Walter, I knew that beating him in front of the children, and everyone present wasn’t the way to go about him. Not today.
I wanted to see the bastard’s face bashed into the ground, don’t get me wrong, but today I wanted to mourn my son. In peace. Not think about the bastard whilst I did it. It was late into the night when all the guests finally filed from our home, and my mother began to clean up the mess they left behind. I was silent on the couch, my children asleep beside me. I didn’t speak, I didn’t do much more than breath and my eyes were wet with tears.
My son had been my whole world, now what was I to do without him? Even when he was sick, I had been holding his hand, and comforting him. I didn’t even have that now, so what did I have? I know I had my remaining children. I had my brother, but was it enough? Were they all enough? I closed my eyes, and released a low sigh. I stood to my feet, and lowered my children onto the couch, peacefully putting blankets over them, before I headed up the stairs. Eli tried to speak to me, but I didn’t respond. Instead I headed into my bedroom, and stripped off my clothes. Changing into only a t-shirt I slid into bed. I closed my eyes, and clung to Cooper’s favorite stuffed toy, smelling the fabric. It smelled just like him.
His scent still lingered in the toy, and I felt his presence all around me, even if I couldn’t see him he was there. I could sense it. Just as I had reassured him he would be. He was beside me. “I’m sorry Cooper. Forgive me.” I whispered into the air before I closed my eyes, and fell into a horror-filled slumber.