This is another short story I wrote as a character’s backstory, and it’s even sadder than The Dust Thief, so be prepared. (Change in tenses was intentional. Don’t throw me under the bus for that, please.)
“Alick! We’re going to the hospital!”
Alick recognized his father’s voice and his eyes widened. It was time! His mother was in labor!
He dashed through the halls, not even bothering to put on shoes, and threw open the door, nearly forgetting to close it behind him.
The car was already pulling out of the driveway. He ran after it, yelling.
“Stop! Stop! Wait for me!”
The car slowed and he threw open the door, sliding into the back and slamming the door behind him.
Alick’s heart was racing the entire trip to the hospital. His mother was moaning in the front seat, and his dad was calmer than he could have thought possible under the circumstances.
After what seemed like an eternity they reached the hospital and helped her inside.
Five hours later the doctor came out to tell Alick and his dad the news. They rose from their seats, and Alick knew something was wrong the moment he saw the doctor’s face.
“What happened?” he asked, his voice tight.
“Stillborn. I’m so sorry.”
Alark choked up. He’d been waiting for his little sister to be born for so long. He’d wished for a younger sibling since he was young, and now to have that dashed…
His dad walked over and hugged him. That was when he lost it. He cried all over his dad’s shirt.
After a minute, his dad turned back toward the doctor. “How’s Sharol?”
“She’s fine. Heartbroken, but fine.”
Alick tried to contain his tears as his dad walked him into his mom’s room.
Marie, cold, blue, and lifeless, still lay cradled in her mother’s arms, and tears streaked down Sharol’s face when she looked up.
“She’s gone, Mark,” Sharol choked out. “Forever.”
Mark walked over and put an arm around his wife’s shoulders, the other hand on Marie’s clammy face. “I love you.”
Alick knew the phrase was meant for all of them.
It’s midnight. He and his parents have just returned from the hospital with his baby sister. His dead baby sister.
His mother is sobbing in the kitchen, and his father is trying to console her. Alick has no intention of doing anything but going up to his room and going to bed. Maybe it’s all been a nightmare. A terrible, hellish nightmare.
But when he wakes in the morning, nothing has changed. His mother no longer has a baby bump, and her eyes are red and swollen from staying up all night crying. His father doesn’t look much better as he nearly misses his mug with the coffee pot. His hair is a rumpled mess, and his eyes are bleary.
Alick bursts into tears. He can’t help it. His baby sister is gone forever.
His mother starts crying immediately after and he feels guilty for making her cry.
“Is she really gone?” he chokes. “Marie is gone?”
His mother sobs harder, and his father nods.
“Yes, son. She’s gone.” Mark walks over to his wife and rubs her shoulders, trying to calm her. “It’s okay, Sharol. Everything is going to be okay.”
“No! It’s not okay! My baby is… My baby’s dead.”
“When are the services?” Alick asks, his voice barely above a whisper, not wanting to upset his mother further, but wanting to know when this nightmare will be over. He knows it will never truly end.
“This evening,” his father replies.
“I have to go clean up,” his mother says, wiping her eyes and heading up the stairs.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“I upset Mom. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I thought maybe it was a nightmare, but it’s all real. How can this be real?”He teared up again and his dad walked over to hug him.
“Oh, son. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault. And I don’t know how this is real. I don’t know why God did this to us. But all His plans will be revealed in the end.”
Alick takes a deep breath as he nears the casket at the front of the room. His stiff shirt collar feels so much tighter than it ever has before, simply adding to his claustrophobic feeling as he places a hand on the casket’s edge. He almost can’t look into the coffin, but finally he gathers up the courage and looks inside.
He can only catch a glimpse of her beautifully serene face before looking away, squeezing his eyes shut to defend against falling tears. He begins to sob and covers his eyes with his free hand.
He feels a firm hand on his shoulder and knows his father is there for him again. He allows himself to be guided back to his seat near the front of the room. His father’s arm wraps around his shoulders and pulls him close.
Mark doesn’t talk for several moments, just letting Alick’s tears wet his suit jacket. Finally he draws in a breath. “I love you, Alick.” Alick can’t respond. His sobs are coming to hard and too fast. “Your mother loves you. We all loved Marie, and she will always have a place in our hearts. Just remember that we’ll get to see her again one day, and be with her for eternity.”
Alick nods, feeling some tiny spark of hope. It’s quickly dampened back down by the heavy darkness of grief that presses in on him like a woolen blanket. “But that’s so far away.” He only manages a whisper.
“I know. Believe me, I know.” Alick hears his father’s own rattling sobs as he speaks, no longer able to contain his grief and put on a bold face. “And the years between will be very hard. I know they will. But we just have to look forward to that time when we see her again.”
Alick doesn’t reply, just keeps his head rested on his father’s shoulder, eyes closed, letting the grief wash over him. He’ll see her again, he keeps reminding himself. I’ll see her again, I’ll see her again, I’ll see her…