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Authors: Jasinda Wilder

After Forever

BOOK: After Forever
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Contents

title

copyright

dedication

into the maw

steps in the darkness

solace in the strings

going home; cello in the dark

percentage of miracles

things you can’t unsee

letters unsent; cutting loose

song of mourning

the maelstrom

shaken

between sin and suicide

event horizon; exhaust the demon

final wisdom

ouroboros: a beginning, an end

baby steps

sneak peek

playlist

also by

After Forever

By

Jasinda Wilder

Copyright © 2013 by Jasinda Wilder

AFTER FOREVER

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover art by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations. Cover art copyright © 2013 Sarah Hansen.
 

This book is for anyone who has spent those countless days, months, and years at loved one’s bedside, waiting, hoping, and praying.

into the maw

Caden

Shock hit me so hard that I blacked out momentarily. “
What?
” I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on Dr. Miller. “She what?”

“Your wife was pregnant, Mr. Monroe. Eight weeks, perhaps? Maybe less. She…she hemorrhaged. Lost—had a miscarriage. Before the EMS even arrived, she’d lost it. There was nothing to be done. I’m—I’m so sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry.” Dr. Miller was a tall, slim black woman with tightly curled hair and piercing brown eyes.

I was finally able to see straight, and the torture I saw on Dr. Miller’s face was…nothing short of profound. How many times had she delivered such news? How did she stand it?

“She was pregnant?” The words were nearly inaudible particles of sound falling from my cracked lips. “She—she had an IUD. Just—she just got a new one put in. She didn’t…she never told me.”

Dr. Miller closed her eyes briefly—the same as a sob from anyone less stoic. “Even IUDs can fail. Indeed, most pregnancies that occur in a patient with an IUD occur in the first few months after implantation.” She sighed deeply and stood up. “As for not having told you? I think perhaps she did not know. It was very early, and she may not have noticed any symptoms to get tested.”
 

A whimper escaped me. “God…Ever.”

“If…if she wakes up, due to the nature of her injuries, not just to her head, which are the most severe, but to her abdomen, it is unlikely she will ever conceive again. I’m…I’m so sorry again, Mr. Monroe.”

I heard her shoes scuff on the tile, and then stop abruptly. I opened my eyes to see Eden standing behind Dr. Miller. She’d clearly heard the conversation. She was shaking her head, tears falling in a torrent from her chin onto her hand, her mouth.

And suddenly, looking at Eden was impossible. I tried to look away, but all I could see were Ever’s eyes, jade green, and her nose, her mouth, her lips.
 

Eden approached me.

“Caden…how did this happen?” Her voice broke.

Mine was worse. “I don’t know. It was so sudden. It happened so fast.”

Then their father was there, too, behind Eden. I couldn’t meet his eyes. Had he heard, too? About the—the baby?

Dr. Miller came back in with a clipboard and a pen. “I need you to sign this.” She extended the clipboard to me. “We need your permission to do some further testing.”

Mr. Eliot took the clipboard, assuming she meant it for him. “What tests?”

Dr. Miller reached for the clipboard. “I’m sorry, Mr. Eliot, but…I was speaking to Mr. Monroe.”

He let her take it. “Him? Why? I’m her father, her legal guardian.”

The doctor looked at me, and she seemed to understand—that maybe he didn’t know.

I swallowed hard. “Because she’s my wife,” I said. “We got married three months ago.”

His face went red and mottled with fury, his voice low, hissing. “You—you
got married?
How—she—how did I not know this? Why didn’t she tell me?”

“We eloped,” I explained. “It was…how she wanted it.”

“But—but—” Mr. Eliot stumbled backward, anger warring with shock and confusion.

Eden took him by the arm. “Come on, Daddy. Let’s go get some coffee, okay?”

He let her take him, but then turned back to glare back at me, as if I’d stolen something from him.
 

When he’d left, Dr. Miller said gently, “No one but you, and your sister-in-law as well, it seems, knows that she was pregnant. Maybe that’s important to you.”

“Thanks,” I said. Dr. Miller only nodded, and left.

Ever had been pregnant?

I would have been a father.
 

Never conceive again.

Probably won’t wake up.

I’d lost her.
 

And if I thought that I’d been broken before, I wasn’t. Ever had healed me, and now the accident had irreparably shattered what was left of my soul.

steps in the darkness

Eden

Daddy was a wreck. I mean, yeah, of course he was. How could he not be?
 

Maybe “wreck” was a poor choice of words.

He sat at the table in the cafe of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, staring into space. His coffee was untouched, and he’d refused food. I had to keep it together for him. It was fucking hard, though. My twin was in a coma. Ever…god, Ever. Cade hadn’t seen her yet, and that was probably a good thing. He was physically still in bad shape. I don’t think he realized how bad, honestly. His right arm had been mangled by a piece of metal during the accident, and he’d only made it worse by fighting to get to Ever, to try to free her from the car. His left leg was broken in several places, he had bruises all over, and the shattering glass had sliced him to bits. He’d cracked his skull—that’s why they’d kept him under for the past week. He was lucky to be alive. Ever was lucky to be alive.
 

But Ever…she was only alive in the loosest sense of the word. Her heart was beating, her lungs were drawing breath—and even that much was with the help of machines. But the essence that was my sister, my best friend, my twin, half of me…that was gone. Maybe forever. Her skull had been caved in when the truck flipped and rolled over a dozen times. Her ribs were broken, her wrist smashed, her arm broken. The fingers of her right hand were intact, which meant that—if she ever woke up and retained function—she would still be able to paint. So there was that.

But the chances of her waking up? Nil. Maybe five percent. Less, the longer she was in a coma.
 

She’d been pregnant. She’d never have children…if she woke up.

That phrase…fuck. It had been a little over a week since the accident, and that phrase—
if she ever woke up
—was becoming a spear of horror stabbing my heart every time I said it, thought it, heard it. Six syllables. Five words. Fifteen letters. My future, contained, imprisoned. My heart, shredded.
 

It physically hurt to look at her. The bandages, the bruises, the cuts. Black and blue and red, so little unblemished skin.
 

They’d had to shave her head to patch the hole in her cranium.
 

I sat across from Daddy, just as lost as he was.
 

“Did you know?” He whispered the question to me, eyes suddenly blazing.

“Did I know?” I knew what he meant.

“About
them
. Eloping.”
 

I stared at the table. “Yeah. I…I was their witness.”

A sob wrenched itself from him and he tipped his head back, covering his face with both hands. “Why? Why was I kept out of it?”

“Because…it was how she wanted it. We…you were…” I scratched at the flaking blue nail polish on my left thumb. “Look, Dad. Nothing has changed. Between you and me, and you and Ever, and us. Her being in a coma, it doesn’t change the fact that you fucking walked away from us—emotionally, and physically—with all the hours you worked. We didn’t want your goddamned money after Mom died, we wanted
you
. We didn’t have you, and when she fell in love with Cade and they decided to get married, you weren’t a factor. You haven’t been a factor in our lives in years, except as dollar signs, checks in the mail sent to Cranbrook.”

“Not a factor?” He scrubbed his face, wiped the sleeve of his pale blue dress shirt across his eyes. “I just…I don’t understand. I didn’t even know she was seeing this guy. I saw you guys…god, yeah, it was just over six months ago, on your birthday. And she was still with that…what’s his name, the rich kid. The horn player.”

“Billy. Billy Harper. And it was the trumpet.”

“Whatever. I thought she was with him?”

“Dad, it’s a complicated story. I don’t really know most of it. And does it really matter?”

“YES!” he shouted, startling everyone around us. He lowered his voice and leaned forward. “Yes, it matters. It matters a lot to me.”

“Why?” I asked.

He didn’t answer right away; he stared out the window at the falling snow. “She’s my daughter. She got married without even telling me, much less inviting me to the wedding. Who else was there? How does she even know this Cade guy?”

I sighed. “Dad, I really—you should ask Cade about them. It’s their story to tell, not mine. You don’t deserve answers. I’m here with you, we’re in this together, because we’re family. But I’m still angry at you. I’ve been angry at you for seven years. So has Ever.” I couldn’t look at him. I pulled the lid off my coffee and sipped cautiously at the thick, burnt, bitter black liquid. “I’m your daughter, too, you know. Do you know anything about me? Do you know who I’m with? Who’s broken my heart, who my friends are? What my grades are?
Any
thing?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “Okay,” he whispered. “I get it. I get it. What do you want me to do?”

He looked so confused, so hurt, I almost forgave him. Almost. “
Try
, Dad. Just…try. I can’t promise I’ll just…forgive and forget, or that we’ll be happy-clappy after a couple of heart-to-hearts, but just…try. And, like it or not, Cade is your son-in-law, and he’s a good man. He loves Ever. More than life, I think.” I hoped my voice didn’t reflect the jealousy I felt.

I wondered, though, if I should tell him about Ever’s miscarriage. But I didn’t. That wasn’t my news to tell, and I didn’t think he could handle it, anyway.
 

His phone chirped and he slid it out of his pocket, then stood up. “I’ve got to take this.”

I sighed. “Which means you’re going in to work.”

“I have to at least go outside and call in. I don’t get reception in here.”

“Like I said, you’re going in to work.” I stood up, capped my coffee, and slung my purse over my shoulder. “Whatever. ’Bye, Dad.”

He let me get out of the café before catching up with me.
 

“What do you want me to do? I can’t just stop working.”

“Your daughter stopped
living
, Dad! She’s in a coma! Isn’t that more important than work?”

He turned away, running his hand through his hair in frustration. He’d had some gray at his temples already when Mom died. Now he had more silver in his once-black hair.
 
“Exactly! She’s in a coma! She might never come out! What am I supposed to do?”

I gaped at him. “Sit with her. Talk to her. Spend time with her. Studies show—”

“I’m a senior vice president of one of the biggest corporations in the country, Eden. I have responsibilities. I can’t just abandon all that to sit next to her twenty-four hours a day. I’ve been here for four hours already today. I
have
to work.”

“Escape, you mean.” Three little words have never sounded so bitter.

 
He’d pushed past me, started down the hallway. At my words he whirled and stormed back. “
YES
!” he hissed. “Okay? Yes. Escape. It’s what I do, clearly. I can’t handle this. It’s too much. Too much. Too…too fucking much. First your mom, and now Ever? Yes, I need to escape. I’m weak, and I’m running away. I’m sorry I’m not—not strong enough. Not enough.” His face contorted, and he turned away, trembling.

“Dad—” I began. I couldn’t finish, though. He walked away, looking broken.
 

I was broken, too, but I couldn’t leave Ever.
 

I took the elevator back to Ever’s room, sat in the chair I’d dragged to her bedside. Machines beeped and whirred, pumped, performed their functions. I made myself look at her, examine her. I made myself see her features through the wounds. She didn’t look like herself, like me, like anyone. She looked like a victim.

But she wasn’t. She was my twin.

“Hey, Ev.” I put my hand on top of hers. “So Dad’s up to his same old antics again. You know how he is. Except this time, I got him to admit to it. You know what he said to me? He told me he’s weak. That he knows he’s escaping. He can’t handle this. That’s what he said. And you know what? I get it. I do. He lost Mom, and now…now you’re here. But I lost Mom, too, and we—we lost Dad at the same time. What about us? What about me?”

I paused, watched her chest rise and fall. Listened to the machines. To the distorted echo of someone being paged over the hospital PA.
 

“I’ll be here, though. Okay? Every day. I won’t leave your side. You’re my twin, and I’ll be here. Even if he won’t.” I laughed through the tears that were stuck in my throat. “Except, I do have to go home to shower and change. I’ve been in these clothes for three days. I have to talk to school, too. About you, and our classes. But I’ll be back, okay?” I kissed her cheek and left, choking back the tears. I couldn’t cry. Not here, not in the hospital. Not in front of her.

BOOK: After Forever
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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