|Lost and Found
Author: CaileeChaos PM
Jonah always knew he'd marry her. Always. Unfortunately, when things at the Aickman funeral home go from strange to disastrous Jonah might lose the one person he's always loved. Forever. Can they find each other before it's too late? Jonah/OCRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Supernatural - Words: 11,014 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 2 - Published: 03-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7938062
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
After I finished 'Summertime Suspense' I thought I was through with the Haunting in Connecticut fandom. However, a new friend has requested that I revisit our favorite ghost named Jonah. So here it is, a one-shot for llx-BetraylsandForgivness-xll. Credit for the names Sage and Autumn go to her. I hope you like it!
Enjoy and, as always, review!
She was born on a cool June night in nineteen twenty-three in the back of her grandmother's house. Weighing eight pounds and six ounces, she was fourteen inches long and the prettiest baby her mother had ever seen. They named her Florence Sage Holbrook. The name Florence was a family name on her father's side and had been passed down for generations; Sage came from her mother's untamable creativity. Charles, her father, had argued strongly against the strange middle name but her mother was resilient and it stuck.
From the time the charming child could walk and talk she was glued to her mother's side. Her mother was her best friend in the whole world and as a result of the kinship she'd developed a fondness towards her middle name. When she started school she took it upon herself to make sure everyone within a fifteen mile radius knew that her name was Sage Holbrook, because her momma said so.
Sage lived a charmed life despite the turn in the economy when the Great Depression hit. She and her family lived in a delightful little town called Goatswood, Connecticut. Her father was an architect that worked mainly in New York City. Though her father's job supplied their family with more than enough money, her mother Autumn was not satisfied with the life of a homemaker. She got a job as a mortician's assistant at a funeral home that sat just three blocks from their house arguing that if she "sat at home all day listening to the president on the radio or reading Walter Winchell's gossip column" she would never be happy with herself.
When Sage was nine a new family moved to the neighborhood. They were a well-to-do couple named Frank and Helen O'Shea. Frank was a military man having grown up in the shadow of his father, an Irish immigrant famous for his bravery in World War I under General Pershing. Frank met Helen when he was stationed in Columbus, GA at Fort Benning as a part of the infantry division. Helen's husband Howard Sullivan had just passed away of the influenza outbreak. The lonely pair became fast friends and soon began courting, despite the objections of Helen's son Jonah. A year after they met Frank proposed; they married the following spring and moved to Goatswood two years later when Frank transferred to the navy and got reassigned to a naval base near Hartsford.
The O'Sheas and the Holbrooks hit it off immediately. Although Jonah objected vehemently to the move from his beautiful southern home to the frigid northern city, he found himself quickly entranced by Sage. She was a year younger than he and absolutely stunning. Even at ten years old Jonah knew she would grow up to be the most beautiful woman on the planet. He also swore he was going to marry her. Jonah told this to his mother one night as she was tucking him in to bed.
They'd gotten in late; the Holbrooks had invited the O'Sheas out to the theatre to see the newest Shirley Temple movie. As Jonah recalled the wondrous look on Sage's face as she watched her favorite star tap dance and sing across the screen the ardent swear just sort of slipped out. "Mother, I'm going to marry Sage one day."
Helen laughed innocently at her son's passionate words. She affectionately smoothed the brunette locks covering his head. "She is quite the charmer, is she not? And a pretty little thing, too! Why, I should be delighted to have her in the family." With that she kissed the tip of his nose and bid him goodnight.
Helen had muttered those words as a harmlessly and without thought. But Jonah believed he had received her blessing to pursue Sage's young heart and set out on his brave endeavor.
"What do you mean you want to court me?"
"I want to court you...I thought it was a rather straightforward statement, actually."
"Jonah," Sage pointedly told the pale boy, hands on her jutted hips. "You cannot court me. I am only nine years old! Everyone knows it is not appropriate to court until you are at least ten."
A light blush spread across the boy's cheeks, still pudgy from baby fat. He was embarrassed; he should have known that! Why hadn't mother told him? Suddenly, his eyebrows shot up, disappearing beneath his bangs. "Well, I'm ten! Does that count?"
Sage's lightly freckled nose scrunched in deep thought. Finally, she shrugged, "I suppose..."
"Brilliant!" he cheered. Sage looked at him expectantly. Oh, right. Jonah cleared his throat, "Sage Holbrook, may I have the honor of courting you?"
A magnificent smile split her face, "Yes, I would be delighted!"
With matching grins, the children shook on it.
Over the course of the next few years Jonah and Sage 'courted'. Often they were found together, huddling in corners or giggling secretly to one another, but never did they get so physical as to even hold hands. After all, at that age the opposite sex still had cooties. It wasn't until they were slightly older and enduring the physical and emotional strains of puberty that the duo made the drastic change from best friends to romantic lovers.
The change occurred one Saturday evening at the Holbrooks' home. The Yankees had made it to the World Series and like all major sports events the game would be broadcasted over the radio. Quite the socialites, the Holbrooks decided to throw a party for such an occasion and gathered many from all over town in their three-story home to listen to the momentous baseball game. The guest list just so happened to include Jack Rutherford, son of Samuel and Betty Rutherford, business associates of Charles Holbrook.
It was no secret that Jack had set his sights on Sage long ago. In his eyes, they would be the perfect couple, what with their equally good looks and high standings in society. It was also public knowledge that Sage, and by association Jonah, loathed Jack Rutherford with a somewhat unhealthy passion.
"I cannot believe you invited him," hissed Sage as she hid from their guests behind her mother. Autumn Holbrook smiled charmingly at some onlookers before wrapping her arm comfortingly around her daughter's shoulders, "I know he's a bother, dear, but Samuel and his clients bring big money in for your father. To not invite him would be extremely unwise."
Sage stubbornly pursed her lips, "Isn't it you who always tells me 'money isn't everything'?"
Her mother gave a tickled grin. "Tell you what, the second you decide that you are no longer in need of schooling and are satisfied with wearing hand-me-downs, we'll take the Rutherfords off the guest list, hmmm?"
Sage said nothing to this and merely turned on her heel, storming out of the den up the stairs. Where was Jonah? He and his parents should have been there ages ago. Sage briefly debated on sneaking out her second story window to cut through the thicket of woods between their homes. Unfortunately, before Sage could come to a decision, footsteps thundered on the hardwood floor behind her.
She spun and came face-to-face with a gorgeous fair-haired boy. Sage winced, attempting to smooth her dress nonchalantly. "Hello, Jack."
"Sage." The boy gave a pleasant grin. "Lovely gathering. Your mother sure knows how to throw them... Think the Yankees will go all the way this year?"
Like her father, Sage was an ardent Yankees fan. However, she was well aware of Jack Rutherford's devotion to the baseball team. So, she shrugged, lying in hopes that'd storm away offended, "Doubtful."
Jack scoffed incredulously, "Surprising. I was under the impression you were a supporter."
"I must report that you are sadly mistaken," she offered briskly in return. It was apparent that Jack had no intention of leaving so Sage turned to do so with a quiet, "Excuse me."
"Not so fast," Jack caught her arm. "Where's the fire?"
Sage burned with rage. How dare he handle her so brutishly in her own home? Who did he think he was? "Let me go," she growled, struggling futilely against his grip before finally yanking away. Her hand flew to her sore arm, the reddish-white outline of Jack's harsh grip alarmingly bright on her skin. "How dare you!"
"Oh, you're overreacting," laughed Jack good-naturedly. "Relax, Holbrook; I meant no harm."
"No harm?" she seethed. "Look at my arm!"
"Is there a problem here?" Jack and Sage spun to see Jonah Sullivan ascending the second floor landing. His face, which had finally lost all traces of his youth and matured quite nicely, was stern. Jonah's eyes narrowed as he approached the quarreling duo. He brought a hand to the lower of Sage's back, asking in a voice so soft only she could hear, "Are you alright?"
"Yes," murmured Sage, angling towards him instantly feeling calmed by his presence. "Let's go downstairs."
Jonah paused to glare at Jack, who was wearing a haughty, somewhat mocking grin, but eventually nodded. They turned and he guided her down the staircase. When they reached the lower floor they were surrounded by boisterous party goers and loud music. Sage discreetly took Jonah's hand in her own and dove through the crowd. They exited her home through the back door to settle down on the wicker furniture inside the screened in porch. There was a cool chill to the night air and Jonah watched Sage shiver.
His jacket was off in an instant. He slipped the brown coat around her shoulders. Sage thanked him and pulled the lapels closer. She blinked, slightly miffed from her miniscule confrontation. She finally faced Jonah. "You were late."
"Frank and I were at it again."
Sage winced in sympathy, "What about this time?"
A sardonic grin lifted the corners of Jonah's thin lips. He shot Sage a look of dire amusement. "My tie, believe it or not."
"Your tie! Jonah, of all things…! Honestly, I know you and your step-father don't see eye-to-eye but can't you at least try to-"
"I do try! You know, I do. It's him that has the problem," Jonah protested, proceeding to mutter foul and false proclamations about his step-father under his breath. Sage shook her head; she knew Jonah did not mean a word he said but his antics entertained her nonetheless. She placed a hand on his knee, "You poor thing."
Jonah's heart fluttered inside his chest as he peered down over at her, his heated declarations falling silent on his lips. "S'not so bad, I suppose…" He cleared his throat and his eyes drifted down to her delicate, little hand. An abnormal fury swelled up within him when he noticed the light bruising on her arm from the Rutherford prat's grip. "I'll kill him."
Sage tugged Jonah's jacket over her arm, shielding the red hand-print. "S'not so bad," she echoed his words. She watched his jaw flex and captured his hand, bringing it to her lap to rub her thumb soothingly over his palms. "Thank you arriving when you did. He's such a snot. I wouldn't have been able to endure another moment in his presence."
"You don't have to thank me," Jonah hoarsely mumbled. His throat had gone dry. Odd.
Sage flashed him a doting smile. She nodded, "Yes, I do. My Jonah, my hero… What do you say we get you a cape and you can fly around in the sky like that Superman fellow?"
"Yes. Remember, I showed you the comic book last week. My cousin Archie in Ohio mailed it to me; it's some new comic series about an alien from a planet far away who comes to Earth and becomes a great superhero. He's so powerful he can see through walls and pick up entire buildings with one hand!"
Jonah snorted, "Sounds stupid…"
Sage shrugged, "Perhaps."
The pair sat under the dim light of the moon for another half hour or so, holding hands and talking sweetly in soft tones. When Sage's father stepped out to announce that the broadcast was about to begin the duo hastily broke apart, blushing like mad. Sage handed her companion his jacket and stood to follow her father. Jonah trailed behind her, confused when she stopped and turned back to him just before she reached the door.
"I know we joke, but truly, Jonah, thank you for tonight…and for all you've ever done for me really," said the beautiful girl quietly. Her nose was rosy, her eyes glassy. "You are so sweet…" She brought a hand to cup his pale cheek and hastily placed a kiss on the corner of his mouth. "Thank you, Jonah."
She skirted inside behind her father, leaving a very stunned Jonah frozen on the porch and grinning like mad.
The very next day Jonah sat down with his mother, step-father, and the Holbrooks. He confessed his insane love for Sage and professed his intentions of marrying her. That is, of course, after he received a blessing from her father. Frank had few congratulatory words to offer but his mother and the Holbrooks were ecstatic. Jonah was granted a blessing almost instantly. With his intended proposal in mind he took Sage to the park that night and officially asked to court her, but to truly court this time around. Sage agreed wholeheartedly and the pair of childhood friends fell into a fast, whirlwind of happiness.
Unfortunately, as all fairytales go, this happiness was short lived and the real story began.
It all started one Tuesday morning, a rather boring morning actually. Sage was busy preparing herself for school, curling her hair tight against her head – as was the fashion of the late thirties – and ironing her dress, making sure to press the shortened sleeves just right. As she pulled on the dark green dress her mother appeared in her doorway. "Darling, the city bus has broken down. I will be driving you and Jonah to school today but we'll need to leave a few minutes earlier than usual. I have to drop by Mr. Aickman's before we go."
Sage nodded and murmured some sort of acknowledgement, asking her mother if Jonah knew yet. Autumn Holbrook frowned, "Oh, dear, no. Charles has already left or I'd send him over. I suppose I need to ring them."
Ten minutes later Jonah arrived, dressed and ready for school. He helped the Holbrook's maid Tilly prepare a quick breakfast to go before climbing the staircase to Sage's room. The striking girl was standing in front of a floor to ceiling mirror holding out the skirt of a dress that hung snuggly from her waist. Her lips were dipped into a strange frown that looked so out of place on her beautiful face. "You look stunning," he declared, startling Sage.
"Good, you're here. I was worried you wouldn't get here early enough. We have to run by-"
"The funeral home, I know. Tilly told me."
Sage nodded and pulled her coat off a wall hanger. As she chatted amiably about her morning Jonah slipped up behind her to assist her with her coat, placing a tender kiss on her bare shoulder as he did so. Sage swatted at him but grinned and gave a small laugh. He studied his longtime friend as she dashed about the room grabbing this and putting away that. Another twenty minutes passed, when finally, the trio climbed into the Holbrook family car. They drove three blocks to the Aickman Mortuary and Funeral Home and Autumn Holbrook climbed from the vehicle, beckoning the children to crab the plates of food from the trunk and come along.
"What's all this food for?" Jonah asked as he managed to awkwardly shut the trunk while juggling several trays. Sage shrugged, "Dunno."
They followed her mother into the funeral home where she led them to the small kitchen in the back. A small gathering of people trickled in and out of them home, preparing for what looked like a last-photo session. Due to the Depression the art of photography had been increasingly neglected. People didn't have money to spend on food, much less to waste on photographs. Because of this it became common that the only photos taken in one's lifetime were in the event of their death. The deceased's family members would gather around the lifeless body for one final picture, something to remember them by. It was a rather sad state of affairs, admittedly.
Jonah and Sage set the food down on the counter. They looked at one another uncertainly. Sage eventually lifted back the corner of the paper wrappings; there was a sort of casserole in the pan. "I suppose we need to put these in the refrigerator. Help me take off the wrappings, will you?"
While the children did this Autumn made her way to Mr. Aickman's office. Ramsey Aickman was a kind man; an old soul, he had a thick mop of salt-and-pepper hair accompanied by a full beard and wore a circular pair of bifocals. When she entered his office, her employer found himself in a battle of strengths against a rather bulgy box. Autumn's hands rushed out to help the old, withering man. "Oh, Mr. Aickman! Here, let me get that!"
The funeral director continued to struggle under the weight of the massive box, his frail arms and legs shaking. "Nonsense," he grunted, wobbling forward to drop the box onto the table with a loud thud! Panting impressively, the older man was nearly wheezing as he wiped his brow. Aickman shot his employee an awkward grin that was more of a grimace than smile. "I'm fine, dearie. Just old."
Autumn eyed her boss cautiously, as if waiting for him to pass out or have a heart attack. She tentatively escorted him to a chair and allowed him to catch his breath. "Perhaps we should find you another assistant, Mr. Aickman. Some strapping, young lad to help out with the heavy lifting and the more blue-collar tasks. What do you say? I can have Charles look aroun-"
"Jonah could do it!"
Autumn turned at the sound of her daughter's voice. Sage was standing in the doorway of the sun room, Jonah at her side. The brunette boy's eyes were wide as he glanced between Sage and her mother. His mouth popped open like a fish but before he could speak Sage barreled on, "He's strong and young! Has lots of years of work left in him. Plus, he's brilliant. Very intelligent, and a hard worker, Mr. Aickman. You won't find another like him..."
Ramsey Aickman gave a wry grin, adjusting his filthy glasses on the bridge of his narrow nose. "With wit like that, Autumn, your daughter is sure to be a politician's wife one day. What do you think, miss, governor or senator?"
"Senator," beamed Sage. "I absolutely adore Washington."
Mr. Aickman chuckled, his pot-belly jovially shaking, "Very good, Miss Holbrook, very good...well, is this the lad? Come here, boy, let me get a look at you."
Jonah, with a helpful shove from Sage, stumbled forward to halt uncertainly in front of the old man's chair. He looked, thought Jonah, like Santa Claus after a particularly grueling holiday season. No doubt the man had seen better years health wise. Mr. Aickman's eyes, which were hidden by his glasses, inspected Jonah; he scrutinized every nook and cranny of her dear friend's body, eventually tilting his head and declaring, "You can start tomorrow." He promptly informed Jonah that he was to be there at precisely four o'clock every Tuesday through Thursday and would receive an average of two dollars per day of work. The men shook hands and they were off to school.
For the next three weeks Jonah worked very hard for Mr. Aickman, carrying boxes, moving furniture, lifting and transporting coffins, and occasionally fixing broken fixtures about the house such as the sink in the upstairs bathroom that had become loose from the wall. Each day he went straight from work to the Holbrook home to relay to Sage the exceedingly ordinary events of his extraordinary day. Though Sage saw the triviality in these pointless conversations, she couldn't help but sit and listen as her best friend retold his day with such an excitement that she thought he might burst. Since his father passed away Jonah had desperately searched for such a figure; his mother had hoped that Frank could be that role model. Unfortunately he and Jonah were merely too different and it seemed Jonah was finally finding his father-figure in a harmless, old man who spent his days amid death and loss, familiar concepts to the boy who lost his own father so young.
It wasn't until Jonah's fourth week at work that something truly worth retelling occurred. A young boy had died of the influenza. His family was having a burial for him that day in the cemetery behind the Aickman Funeral Home. After Aickman embalmed the boy and stitched him back up, Autumn dressed the poor lifeless child, applying a light cover of make-up to his pasty skin. When the boy's body was dressed and looking appropriately, Jonah picked up the child and laid him gently in his coffin. Jonah's heart broke as he did so. The coffin was so very small and the body had fallen due to the very illness that had taken his father all those years ago. His blue eyes misted as he peered down at the young boy, who simply seemed asleep. He tenderly stroked the boys short black hair, breathing, "Sleep well," when suddenly, the boy's eyes opened.
"Ah!" Jonah shouted, staggering away from the coffin. Impossible! The boy had been embalmed, his organs and heart removed. He had been cut open, split from neck to navel; even if the boy had been alive and only perceived as dead he would not have survived the embalming!
"Jonah? Jonah, what is it?" Autumn Holbrook appeared, her face stricken with worry. She laid a comforting hand on his arm, "Jonah?"
The horrified young man blinked rapidly, approaching the coffin. The dead boy's eyes were closed. Jonah gave a hallowed, barking laugh and rubbed his eyes, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Holbrook. It seems I dozed off into a strange day dream for a moment. Forgive me."
Autumn studied him curiously for a moment before nodding, "If you're sure."
"I assure you, I'm fine. Please, I apologize for the interruption. Please, continue your work."
With one final weary glance she did just that and Jonah slid the lid of the coffin shut with a resounding snap. This would not be the first time this strange event happened. Over the next several weeks Jonah would experience otherworldly phenomena. Not only would the eyes of the dead open but sometimes they reached for him or spoke to him, their words unintelligible and raspy. The Depression had driven half of America mad with starvation and the stress of such economic hardships. Mental hospitals were popping up left and right, all over the States, and Jonah, for fear of being admitted to such an institution, did his best to keeps these terrifying occurrences to himself lest he find himself in one of those unsavory hospitals.
As it were, Ramsey Aickman, despite how old he may have been, had been blessed with a keen eye at a young age and took note of the bizarre affairs quite instantly. At first he was unsure of the meaning behind the happenings. He was torn, as the boy was obviously being tortured by the events, but what was he to do? How was he to end his apprentices' sufferings and put the boy's mind at ease? That was when Ramsey began to read. For hours the old man would pour over stacks of thickly bound books, his ancient eyes moist with exhaustion. His readings only spurned his torment as he learned that Jonah was, what one in the field of the supernatural would call, a medium - someone with heavy connection to the spirits of dead, who may even be able to communicate with the deceased. This was what eventually led to Aickman's first experimentation.
It was a Thursday night and Jonah was about to leave work when Aickman stopped him and asked him to join him in his office. Jonah did so obediently, freezing when he saw the coffin just inside the large room. Aickman watched the boy carefully and instructed him to lift the lid of the coffin. Jonah swallowed, doing so hesitantly. A woman's body was inside the coffin. Jonah winced, waiting for her to grab at him or hiss. But she remained still. The funeral director moved to Jonah's side. "Tell me what you see..."
Jonah's brow dipped in confusion, "I see the woman." He heard Aickman's sharp intake of breath and Jonah peered at his mentor, terror in his blue eyes. "Sir?"
Aickman pointedly asked Jonah if he was sure. Jonah looked once more and the woman remained. "I don't understand…yes, I'm sure."
Aickman said nothing and Jonah's eyes bore a hole into the coffin when, abruptly, the corpse dissolved into thin air. She was gone. Jonah's throat ran dry and he stammered pitifully. Mr. Aickman clasped the boy's shoulder and gruffly spoke, "There isn't a body in there, boy. You have a gift."
"A g-gift? You call this a gift!"
"Of course it is! You, in the course of a few weeks, have done what man has always strived but never succeeded to do! You have a sensitivity to the dead; you are able to communicate with them, a medium! A clairvoyant! Truly marvelous and talented, you are!"
Jonah was horrified that he had been discovered. He'd been trying so very hard to cover it up - his paranoid eyes, his permanently sweaty brow, his labored breaths and jumpiness. And here, Mr. Aickman had known all along. To hear his condition given a name, medium, clairvoyant; Jonah was paralyzed. "Am I ill?"
"No, my boy, you are a blessing. An angel sent by God to aid me. Now go, go home and rest. I should like to see you Saturday. Arrive early. There is much work to be done."
Practically petrified, Jonah stumbled home through the woods and vomited the second he set foot in his home. He remained catatonic for the duration of the night and stayed out of school the following day. Come two o'clock Sage appeared in his doorway, her gentle eyes gleaming with concern. She approached his bedside, kneeling on the floor to brush her fingers across his forehead, "Your mother told me you were ill...Jonah, love, what's going on? You've been distant for weeks and now…? Is something wrong?"
The weak boy stared pathetically back at the girl he was so besotted with. His eyes stung with tears and before he could stop himself, he wept. Sage, alarmed by his emotional outburst, held him in her arms while he sobbed, muttering tender words and comfortingly stroking his hair. When he tears finally dried, she placed a soft kiss on his forehead and shivered as he nuzzled her neck. "Will you tell me what troubles you?"
"Yes," he croaked. "But not today."
Jonah was hesitant to return to the mortuary Saturday. His health was still questionable and, in spite of her brave face, he knew Sage was hurt that he was hiding something from her. Nevertheless, he had come to admire Ramsey Aickman greatly and did not want to upset the elder man. He ascended the steps of Aickman home at exactly eight o'clock. Before he could knock the door swung open and Mr. Aickman immediately drew him to the basement where the embalming and cremation occurred. There was a medical table in the middle of the cold room and atop the table a naked corpse. Jonah thickly swallowed, "Mr. Aickman...?"
"Don't be afraid, son. There is nothing to be scared of."
That was the day Jonah's rapidly spiraling life plummeted out of control. Their activities started out as shameful but harmless acts; they practiced Jonah's abilities by bothering spirits of the dead, provoking and taunting them. As Jonah's ability grew, taking shape and giving him an element of control, Aickman realized the power to be had there. He tried but failed to contact high profile doctors and researchers in New York, each time the rejection stinging worse and worse. His boy was brilliant! A God among insects! Why would no one listen?
He strived for a way to enhance Jonah's talent, to make the world see. He buried himself in dark books and even went so far as to close the funeral home and take extended trips out state to consult with specialists. Many months passed in this fashion before he finally found the key.
"You cannot do this! This is too much! It's necromancy!" cried Jonah, revolted bile rising in his throat as he watched a man he'd grown to respect and admire cut the eyelids off the corpse of a middle-aged man who had died of a stroke.
Aickman tried to argue futilely with the hysterical boy before Jonah could take no more. He bolted out of the house and ran through the woods, ducking under swooping branches and dodging the odd stump. When he arrived at the Holbrooks back porch, he climbed up the railing and onto the roof of the screened in porch. He scrambled over the roofing and clawed frantically at Sage's bedroom window.
"Jonah?" she groggily called. "What on earth are you doing here at this hour? If my father catches you - Jonah, why are you so pale? You're shaking! Oh, love, come inside. Come inside."
Jonah collapsed on the floor of her bedroom, his back slumping against her grand sleigh bed. Sage drew near to his side as he fought tears. With one quivering breath he began to talk and confessed to her every wicked thing he and Aickman had done. He watched as horror and repulsion flickered across her face whilst he spoke. When he drew to a close with a great, final sob, he asked his dear friend, "Is it unforgiveable? The things I have done? We stole bodies...replaced them with sandbags and allowed their loved ones to bury empty caskets...we toyed and tinkered with their bodies in despicable ways… What we have done is truly ungodly. I have sinned immensely, Sage, and I know not how to redeem myself."
"Oh, Jonah, my sweet, sweet Jonah," cooed Sage, cupping his face in her dainty hands. She kissed away his tears, trying desperately to console the desolate boy. "You are not unforgiveable! What this man is making you do is wrong, Jonah, and not at all your fault. Do you hear me?"
Jonah managed to nod, clinging to the magnificent girl at her side. "I am so sorry, Sage..."
Sage felt despair burning like a great inferno within her chest. She didn't understand! Ramsey Aickman had always been a good man, kind to her mother and generous to the people of Goatswood. How could he do such terrible, evil things? Sage wrapped her arms around Jonah and drew him to her bed. He needed rest. The distressed boy fell into a deep slumber the second his head hit the pillow.
When Jonah awoke the next morning Sage was at his side. She fed him broth and washed his face and brow with a damp cloth. They spoke not of the previous night but turned discussion to mundane topics - they spoke of the rising price of meat (prime beef was up to forty-two cents a pound) and of the new Duke Ellington song. Sage showed him her new shoes, sent from her aunt as an early seventeenth birthday present. Jonah commented appropriately and gave a smile of approval.
Jonah did not return to the Aickman house for many weeks. Sage urged her mother to quit her job in spite of Jonah's protest that he posed no danger to Autumn Holbrook. To those words Sage bit, "He mutilates corpses and tortures teenage boys. Why would I want my mother around this monster?"
However, because Jonah was so ashamed of his actions, he made Sage promise and swear to keep what he had divulged to her a secret. Sage had no concrete reasons then for her mother to cease work and Autumn carried on with her duties. This made her daughter dreadfully uncomfortable but at least the old man was staying away from Jonah; or so she thought.
One day Jonah and Sage were walking home from the bus stop when a man in a pressed suit drove by. He pulled his car off onto the shoulder of the road. The man climbed from the vehicle and called them over. He introduced himself as Harold McGhee, ace news correspondence from The World Newspaper in New York City. He shook Jonah's hand enthusiastically, "Mr. Jonah Sullivan, correct?"
Jonah hesitantly glanced at Sage, "Yes. Can I help you?"
"I was just visiting with Mr. Ramsey Aickman; he's told me some spectacular things about you."
Jonah's pulse sped up, his heart pounding in his chest. His lips parted but no noise came. It was Sage who spoke, "Ramsey Aickman is a sick man. Nothing of what he has said is true. Publish a lick of it and I'll have my father sue you for slander!" With that she took Jonah's arm and pulled him along.
This would not be the last reporter to frequent Goatswood in hopes of seeing the 'Boy Who Speaks to Ghosts!' Jonah and his family were plagued by persistent reports and photographers day and night. Frank O'Shea was one step away from calling up an old army buddy in the Capitol when Jonah finally submitted to their will. If it was an interview they wanted it was an interview they'd get.
They called it a séance, a French word meaning performance or meeting. Jonah and five sitters gathered 'round a table on the first floor of the funeral home. The sitters were fairly normal people: an Ivy League professor from Mass, two reports, Aickman, and a woman, accompanied by her son, who had just lost her husband. They wanted Jonah to summon and communicate with the deceased husband.
This was the first time Jonah experienced body-possession.
It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before. His body went rigid at first, stiff and straight. Then, his limbs and torso began to convulse by no action of his own. He pivoted and shook painfully, his knees and elbows banging the table as he began to choke. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe and his vision blurred. That's when he felt the cool, gelatinous liquid oozing out of his ears. He was vaguely aware of a distant camera flashing as his body slumped forward and he slipped from consciousness.
He awoke several hours later under the care of old man Aickman. Jonah was disgusted with the man, but more so disgusted with himself. How could he let this happen? Upon his coming-to he was shown pictures of himself and the sitters. He looked with wide, fearful eyes, studying the black and white photograph. His fingers flew to his ears. They were clean; Aickman had bathed his face with a damp cloth. Jonah couldn't find it within himself to thank the funeral director and stood, instantly taking his leave.
A week later the photographs were published in a New York scientific journal as well as several local, Connecticut papers. Jonah was humiliated and Sage was furious. It didn't take long for her anger to mount and she confronted her childhood playmate. "I thought you knew better, Jonah! This is borderline devil worship! You know this is evil and wrong, and you preach to me about keeping my distance. Yet you have the gall to go behind my back and consort with him? Does your own wellbeing hold no value to you?"
"Of course, it does, but you don't understand. They weren't going to give me a moment's peace! I had no choice!" he pleaded but Sage wouldn't have it. She furiously shook her head, dismissing his words, "And do you get your moment's peace now? Now that you are the boy who speaks to ghosts, the boy who becomes possessed by the dead? Now that all of America knows of you and yearns for more? I hope your peace finds you, Jonah, and I hope you enjoy it because I will be no part of it."
The beautiful girl bit her bottom lip, her eyes moistening with tears. "No, Jonah…this is wrong. I will not be a part of it."
For Jonah, the next several weeks would be the worst of his life. As Sage predicted, the reports did not let him be. Everywhere he went eyes followed him – curious neighbors, gossiping Goatswood citizens, and, of course, the reporters with their notepad and pen ever at the ready. His every move was criticized and documented for the public to see. Most were curious about the strange boy, but some called him devil, called his witch. Between the constant scrutiny, Sage shunning him, and his step-father's constant fury with his behavior, Jonah felt so very alone. In this desperation he turned to the only person who seemed genuinely pleased with him, even proud. Ramsey Aickman.
They continued with their séances, which were becoming increasingly popular. Scholars, professors, and doctors from all over the states drove in to witness these miraculous events. Of course, every day people came to their door as well, asking to speak with loved ones long passed. Some left pleased, other's horrified, but none were turned away. Aickman revealed in the attention – after all, Jonah was his discovery – while Jonah bathed in the older man's recognition and fond, proud affections. Though Jonah's conscience prickled with foreboding, his pushed these feelings aside and continued with their work. Many nights he argued to himself that he was helping people. These men and women who came to them begging for communication with deceased spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends; they sought closure in final goodbyes. Who was he to turn them away?
Yet with every day that passed the longing in his heart for Sage grew and grew until it manifested in a physical illness. He had lost the one person he held most dear. The pain over losing Sage grew in his heart until Jonah fell deathly sick one evening and proceeded to vomit all over the floor of the funeral home. Mr. Aickman was at his side immediately, frail arms scooping under Jonah's quaking limbs. "My boy! My boy, are you alright?"
"Fine, sir," managed Jonah with a weak groan. His mouth tasted foul and his nose tickled with an awful stench. "What…what is that smell?"
He watched Aickman's eyes grow wide behind his round glasses. "Is that what has made you ill?"
Jonah frowned, "Perhaps."
Aickman looked toward the walls surrounding them, a great furrow to his bushy brow. The old man helped the frail boy to the nearby table, setting him as gently as he could in a chair. His thin, chapped lips pulled over his yellow teeth as he muttered to himself, "Yes, I realize now I should have done something about the odor…no matter…some candles, perhaps burning herbs wou-"
"Sir? What are you talking about?"
Mr. Aickman fell silent and peered at his apprentice. Slowly, he withdrew a chair from the table and sat, facing the boy. "Jonah…have you not felt it? The change in your power? The growth?"
Jonah's heart quickened in beat and he nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Though that comes partially to your devoted practice I must admit that I am not blameless. You see," he gave a mischievous grin. "I found a way to amplify your abilities. I found a way to channel the spirits of those long gone and make you a force to be reckoned with!"
Dread swelled with zero abandon in Jonah's stomach. He stood immediately, his fatigue be damned. "What have you done?" he demanded, his eyes clinging to the walls. The stench…it was almost familiar. It smelled like…
"Yes," the old man spoke aloud, confirming the thoughts he could see churning in Jonah's mind. "Yes, I've put them in the walls…don't you see, Jonah, there is no other way. Why should the bodies be laid to waste? They do nothing but rot in a box in the ground. Here, they can be used to help! Think of the science! Think of the things we can learn! Jonah, these séances are only the first step in the long road ahead of you and what I have done was necessary-"
"What you have done is necromancy!" roared Jonah. His once beloved mentor's actions had sickened him beyond the point of belief. Standing there amidst the body-filled walls, Jonah felt a great remorse swell within him followed in an instant by an overwhelming fury. "What you have done is immoral and wrong! It's evil! You had no right to disgrace their bodies this way! No right to-"
"To make you famous? To give you a name?"
"I don't want it!" Jonah shrieked, storming around the old man. He barreled towards the front door when Aickman caught the tail of his shirt, "Boy! Do-"
"Let go of me!" Jonah wheeled on the older man, shoving him off. "I am through! I am not your pet! I am not an instrument to be polished and played for your scholars and reporters! I will not do this and you cannot make me!"
Ramsey Aickman masked his shock well. He twisted his lips into a vicious, repulsive smile. He sneered at the young boy, his face turning red with rage. His voice came out in a hiss, "Are you sure?"
There was no denying the shiver that ran over his body at the manipulative man's words. Jonah stiffened and squared his shoulders. They duo stared at one another for a very short but tense beat and Jonah finally turned and stormed out the door.
Instinctively, he foots took him to the Holbrook's home. Sage sat on the back porch in a lovely pink dress that was cinched at the waist with a white ribbon. Her ankles were crossed, a school book in her lap. She did not notice him at first but when she did she stiffened terribly. Jonah felt a wave of repentance wash over him. Was this what their once perfect relationship had dwindled to? The truth was hard to grasp; it was even harder to comprehend knowing that he was the cause.
"Sage…" he croaked her name like a plea of forgiveness.
In one graceful movement her book was discarded and Sage stood, going instantly to Jonah's side. He collapsed yet again into her arms, boundless sobs heaving his chest. He confessed everything, detailing his discovery and filling in the gaps in his own naivety as he did so. He should have seen; he should have known. As he wept in her arms Sage resumed the duties of a caring friend and soothed him as best she could. She caressed his shoulders and arms, rubbed circles in his back, and repeatedly placed sweet, tender kisses to his forehead, cheeks, and temples.
"I should have listened to you," Jonah breathed as the last of his tears fell. "God, I am so sorry, Sage. I'm so sorry. You ha-"
"Shush," his best friend told him. She peered at him with wet eyes, her hands cupping his face. "You need not apologize. I am the one who should be sorry. I abandoned you when you needed me most. Shunned you when the world began to attack. I was awful to you and completely incapable of understanding. I am so deeply sorry. Can you ever forgive me?"
Jonah's eyes closed as he pulled her to him. Their arms wrapped around each other in a fluid, familiar embrace. As they cradled one another night fell and they made their way to Sage's bedroom, her parents none the wiser. Sage closed her door with a soft click and faced the broken boy. "What will you do?"
Jonah's face was honest in his determination. "I have to stop him."
His expression only faltered a little. He took a seat on her floor beneath the large window. His eyes closed and he leant his head on the window sill. "I don't know," Jonah murmured softly. Sage's heart broke as she moved to sit beside her best friend. She brought his hand to her lap, intertwining their fingers and whispering, "I will help you find a way."
Jonah draped his arm around her shoulder, holding her to his side. "You should not get involved in this, love. These spirits…he has them bound somehow. That's why my capability has grown. He keeps them there and amplifies what I can do. They are trapped and under his control. He's too dangerous. I won't have you involved."
"Jonah, you cannot do this on your own. Don't be foolish and stubborn," she rebutted.
Jonah managed to crack a lazy grin, "Well, you'd know all about stubborn wouldn't you."
"Oh, hush, you," murmured Sage as she slid her hand up to cup his chin. Their foreheads met, resting gently together. Sage ran her fingertips over his strong jaw, down his neck to tangle in the brunette locks that fell neatly just below his ears. "I have missed you."
"And I you," he replied, his throat growing dry. He suddenly felt the urge to lick his lips as his eyes trailed down to her mouth. Had her lips always been so rosy?
Sage gave alluring smile, "Are you ever going to kiss me or do I have to beg?"
Like a fever, scarlet flamed his pale cheeks. The great beast inside his chest roared to life as all rational thought flew from his mind like demons from the open gates of hell. He took her face in his hands and drew her to him. Their lips met in an almost painful collision as years of pent up sexual frustration and adoration came crashing down on them. Her mouth moved gently against his hungry one as her fingers fisted in his hair. Somehow she fell into his lap and gave a great moan of delight.
She tasted sweeter than any treat or candy he could imagine. And the taste was entirely her own. Not thick or tart like molasses, but homier like honey and rich like magnificent German chocolate. Lord, she was divine.
"Sage," he gasped against her soft lips. His head swam. How long had he wanted her like this? How many nights had he laid in bed praying for a future with her? "I love you," the declaration slipped from his tongue more honest than any truth he'd ever spoken.
Jonah saw her eyes swell with happiness. She tentatively nipped at his bottom lip like a shy, coy doe trying so very hard to be seductive. "I love you, too, Jonah," she admitted, her own heart clamoring wildly beneath her bosom. "You have no idea how I love you. These weeks we've been apart have killed me…never before has a loss felt so dire."
Jonah caressed her cheek with his thumb; his brilliant blue eyes bore into hers. "Never again will you feel that loss."
Oh, if only he had been right.
Two days later Jonah came to her with a plan. "I've got it. I know what I have to do…I've been reading, see?"
He provided her with a sample of a text he'd scribbled down from a book on the supernatural. Sage briefly eyed the neatly scrawled words and shook her head, "I don't understand."
"They are stuck here because of their bodies. All those symbols Aickman carved into their skin are trapping their souls to their corpses. If the bodies are destroyed, their souls can move on. They can finally find peace and all of this madness can end," Jonah replied, relief trickling off every word. He felt light headed with hope and the promise of an end to his prolonged nightmare. He took Sage's hands in his and placed kisses to her knuckles. "It's almost over."
Though the precious girl looked a bit weary with concern, she nodded and grazed her lips tenderly over his own. "How will you destroy the bodies? They are trapped within the walls of his home, are they not?"
Jonah nodded, "I'm going to burn it to the ground."
Sage's eyes grew wide as saucers. "Come again?"
"I know it sounds ludicrous but I must. It's the only way I can think of to completely ruin the corpses. The only problem is Aickman never leaves the funeral home. He's always there. How am I to burn it to the ground if he's there to extinguish the fire the moment it begins to blaze? The way I figure, I go to Aickman and apologize. Then, I'll suggest another séance. After each séance Aickman walks the sitters to their vehicles, trying to chat them up and get a good article or two published. While he does so I can set fire to the den and the house will burn with everyone safely outside and no Aickman to stop it."
Sage peered back at Jonah, her mouth hanging open in a highly un-ladylike manner. Obviously Jonah had clearly thought this through. Regardless, his plan sounded reckless at best and exceedingly dangerous at worst. But what other plan was there? Biting her lip, Sage murmured, "Go speak with the monster."
The séance was scheduled for the following Saturday evening. Jonah and Sage passed the days leading up to the event attached at the hip. Neither would leave the other's side. They often laid in one another's arms chatting about the future, about how things were going to change for the better soon. They spoke of marriage and children after Jonah finally bulked up the courage to propose – Sage said yes, of course. They spoke of traveling the world and seeing all the amazing sights it had to offer. They spoke of happiness together.
On Friday night they sat under the stars leaning against a tree in the O'Shea's backyard. Sage was nestled snuggly between Jonah's legs, leaning back into his chest. His arms were wrapped around her waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. A gentle kiss was pressed to her cheek. "Will you pray for me tomorrow?"
"I will pray for you always," she murmured softly in response. She laid her hands upon his and squeezed lovingly. "My sweet boy…promise to be careful? And make sure everyone is out of the house before you set the fire? I will not lose you to Aickman nor will I lose you to prison."
A low chuckle rumbled in Jonah's chest. "Yes ma'am."
The night passed quickly and before Sage knew it Jonah was kissing her goodbye, off to tango with the dead once more. "I love you, Sage," he whispered against her lips. Sage hugged him tightly, "I love you, too."
All night long Sage was a wreck. She kept waiting to hear the sirens of fire trucks. She kept waiting to hear Jonah knocking softly at her window. She kept waiting but nothing happened. Many hours passed and a feeling of dread filled her stomach. She could sit still no longer. She had to do something!
Sage ran through the woods towards the funeral home expecting to see smoke or even a great flame but she saw nothing. She skirted to a stop just as the trees cleared. The house stood fine, cars lining the drive way. "This should've been over hours ago," Sage murmured. She lingered uncomfortably in the forest, her skin tingling. She approached the house and pressed her ear to the door. There was no sound to be heard. She knocked but no one answered.
Finally, the hesitant girl twisted the door knob and entered the terrifying house. "Hello?" Sage called out feebly. "Hello? Jonah? Mr. Aickman?"
Silence was her only greeting.
Goosebumps rose on her skin as Sage tip-toed further into the familiar home. She headed towards the den. She braced herself for whatever she might see and pushed open the door. "Oh my God…"
They were dead. Aickman, the two scholars from California, the reporter from Maine, and the woman from Kansas who wanted to speak to the child she'd lost last spring. They were dead, their bodies strewn across the den, contorted painfully. It was a truly horrible and grotesque sight to see.
Panic suddenly laced her heart and Sage tore through the house searching for her beloved. She screamed his name over and over, crying helplessly. When she realized Jonah was nowhere to be found she left the death house and darted home. "Father! Father! Father, you must do something!" she sobbed as she ran into her parents' bedroom, shaking her father awake. "They're dead! They're all dead and Jonah! Father, he's missing!"
They searched the woods all night and several hours into the morning but Jonah was nowhere to be found. He was gone. The police could not identify the cause of death of Aickman and the sitters and declared Jonah as the murderer immediately. This enraged Sage as well as her parents and Jonah's mother. Jonah was innocent and missing; but instead of manning a state wide search, they posted a warrant for his arrest. It was all Sage could do not to murder the Sheriff of Goatswood herself.
A week passed with no word from Jonah and the Aickman Mortuary and Funeral Home was closed and seized by the county as public property. Eventually the townsfolk ceased their gossip but shunned the O'Sheas and the Holbrooks nonetheless. Sage was absolutely beside herself. Jonah was missing and no one was doing a damn thing about it! Why did no one care? What was to be done?
A month passed and Jonah was declared legally dead. Frank requested a transfer and he and Helen moved to Fort Knox in Tennessee. Once the O'Sheas were gone things in the quiet town began to settle somewhat. Students at school no longer picked on Sage, simply choosing to ignore her instead, and no one stared when Autumn Holbrook went to the supermarket or the beauty parlor. Despite this ease up, Sage grew worse. She stopped eating and sleeping and sobbed nearly every day. Her heart was broken.
A year passed and Charles Holbrook could take no more. He was through watching his daughter's depression grow. She was not going to kill herself with grief. Charles quit his job, packed up his family, and moved to Chicago.
Sage Holbrook never married and lived a very lonely life. Despite the encouragement of her mother and father, she could never find it in herself to move on. How could anyone replace her Jonah? Her father passed away when she was twenty-four in a tragic train accident. At that time Sage devoted her life to taking care of her mother. When her mother passed six years later Sage was utterly lost.
She traveled the world searching for answers. Why had she lost everyone who'd ever meant anything to her? Why had Jonah never been found? Why was she doomed to such unhappiness? On her search she found no answers but managed to find herself once again. Sage went to those places she and Jonah had discussed so very long ago and with each stop along her journey she felt her love for Jonah growing. She felt reconnected to her childhood love.
Sage was sixty-five when she returned to Goatswood, her traveling finally drawing to an end. Her inheritance was beginning to run thin and Sage decided it was time to settle down. She would find a small cottage somewhere in the mountains and live out her life quietly in solitude.
Sage drove passed her old home which had been renovated so much it held little resemblance to the house in which she was raised. Turning left, Sage drove for another block and parked the car on the side of the street. The older woman turned the key in the ignition and gazed pitifully out the window at the place where her love had been lost.
While her house was utterly different, the former funeral home looked exactly the same. Sage felt a chill run down her spine. She climbed from the car and crossed her hands over her chest. She noted the truck and station wagon in the driveway. Had the mortuary been reopened?
"If you're looking to buy, I wouldn't," a stern voice commented. Glancing over her shoulder Sage saw a young house wife walking her dog down the sidewalk. The woman wore a light pink tracksuit and had a judgmental smirk on her lips.
"Why is that?" asked Sage, her voice cracking with age. The woman yanked on her puppy's leash and jogged over to her, "That house is a bad omen. Every family that's ever lived there has lost their mind. Twenty years ago the man who lived there beat three people to death before killing himself. The family that lives there now…their son went insane. He started molesting his cousins and worshiping the devil before he set the place on fire."
Sage's stomach clenched and her heart gave a painfully powerful thump. "He what?"
"Mhmm," the soccer mom nodded. She waved a manicured hand towards the house. "The front is fine but go around back and it's nothing but debris and ash. The entire back of the house was destroyed. So was the basement and garage. Open the front door and you look right out into the back yard. But what else could you expect when buying a home that used to be a funeral parlor. Honestly, all the death that house has seen, no wonder they went crazy."
Sage's mouth felt dry, an oddity in her old age as now she often had to keep from drooling because her mouth was so moist. A harsh retort was on the tip of Sage's tongue when she glanced back at the house and saw a man lugging burnt wreckage onto the bed of the truck. She excused herself without so much as a polite smile to the gossiping woman and crossed the road. "Pardon me!"
The man, who was most likely fifteen or twenty years younger than herself, looked up, startled. "Uh, can I help you, ma'am?"
"I was wondering if you could tell me anything about the home's previous owners. I heard their son burned the place down."
The man's face grew tight. His shoulders tensed and his lips drew into a thin line. "That's none of your business and I'd like it if you could see yourself off of my property."
Sage was surprised at his sudden animosity. Especially to a woman of her age. She parted her lips, gaping, unsure of how to respond when a younger man with shaggy blonde hair came round the side of the house. He too was lugging debris and tossed it into the back of the truck. His eyes flickered to her frame fleetingly. "Everything okay, dad?"
"It's fine, son; go finish up. I'll be back in a second," the man instructed. Sage's heart leapt. So this was the boy who'd burnt the disastrous home down. The boy turned to leave but before he could Sage begged, "Wait! Please, wait. My name is Sage Holbrook. I used to live here. I knew a boy who-"
"Holbrook?" the young man asked, his eyes widening slightly.
Sage nodded but it was the boy's father who spoke, "Ma'am, I have asked you to-"
"No, dad, it's okay," his son silenced him. His eyes met Sage's and he asked her tentatively, "You knew Jonah, didn't you?"
A quivering breath escaped her lips as Sage heard her former love's name spoken for the first time in nearly twenty years. Tears pricked her eyes and she nodded, "Yes, yes I did…how do you….?"
"I saw the engagement announcements in some old newspapers," he replied. He faced his father, "Can we have a minute, dad?"
The man studied her wearily, but honestly what harm could an old woman do? He slowly nodded and trekked away, disappearing around the edge of the house. Once he was gone the blonde man approached her with a sad expression on his young, handsome features. Sage couldn't help but note the subtle likeness between the boy and her Jonah. The remorseful expression was trademark Jonah; then, there was the pale skin, the kind eyes, and the proud jaw. Nearly fifty years after the incident and Sage's heart broke again. She glanced back at the evil house. "You know about Jonah…?"
The man nodded, "He's the reason the house is burnt. He helped me do it…to free them. He…he saved my life. He saved my family."
A slight trickle of tears ran down Sage's wrinkled cheek. "H-how?"
"I could see him. I had cancer and I was dying; the veil between life and death was blurred to me. He showed me everything that happened here…everything Aickman had done."
"So he's been here this whole time? W-what happened to him?"
The young man's brow dipped sorrowfully. He swallowed thickly and mumbled, "Jonah died that night. The spirits, they were angry with him. They believed he was the reason they were trapped. They killed him."
Sage felt greatly ill. Her head swimming, she gasped, shaking her head violently, "No…no, not my Jonah. No!"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, but he's free now. Jonah is free. He's gone. He's finally passed over," the boy rambled trying to console her. Sage wept bitterly for several prolonged moments before finally composing herself and apologizing. The boy shook off her apology and offered his condolences for her lost. Sage asked what would happen to the house now. "They're knocking it down and are going to dig up the land for a dump sight. We're here trying to salvage some of our things from the ashes."
Sage sniffed and gripped the boy's arm. She leveled him with a grateful stare. "Thank you, son. Thank you. You have no idea what you have done for me, and for Jonah."
"You have it the other way around, ma'am. It was Jonah who did something for me," he gave her a small smile before extending his hand. "My name is Matt Campbell and it is a pleasure to meet you."
"You too, son, you too."
That night Sage drove to a relative's home, one of her distant cousins who lived in upper state New York. She was exhausted from her day's travel and her mind and heart where heavy with the news she'd learned. Her cousins fixed her a guest room and as Sage was preparing for bed a gentle chill ran through the room. Goosebumps rose on the old woman's arms and she glanced around for a heater or extra blanket. That was when she saw him.
Standing at the foot of her bed Jonah looked at her with absolute adoration. He looked precisely as he had when they were seventeen. His hair was neat and falling just before his piercing blue eyes. His trousers and shirt were perfectly pressed. His shoes even shined. Jonah gave her a small smile.
Sage felt her heart clenching and heard her blood thudding in her ears. This wasn't happening. "Jonah?"
'Sage,' he mouthed but no sound came out. Tears fell from her eyes like rain from the Heavens and Sage grinned, her spirit soaring, "Oh Jonah!"
Sage Holbrook died in her sleep that night and her family was devastated. Though she had seen many troubles in her life Sage was viewed as one of the brightest and wittiest women in her family and she was loved dearly by all. They were inconsolable upon her death. Sage, however, couldn't have been happier. She had finally found pleasure in the afterlife. She had finally found Jonah.