01-And in Death, We'll Unite
If anyone had ever known Kate well, they would have assumed her to be the most likely of the Wibberlys to get married and have a successful relationship. She was smart, responsible, nurturing, and remarkably pretty. She was of once-in-a-lifetime quality, and no decent man in his right mind would settle for less after having met her.
Those who knew Kate even better also knew that she was the only Wibberly Child who was absolutely never getting married, and even her headstrong and distrustful sister, Emma, was more likely to tie the knot. Kate did not dislike the idea of marriage; she actually loved it quite passionately. She was a great friend for planning and organizing, for crying during vows and crying harder at the kiss. She could be counted on to support working through issues, raising children, making sacrifices, and doing everything possible to improve and strengthen the relationship.
She really did always cry at weddings. Always.
So everyone was surprised, really, when they had found themselves to have become old while they weren't looking, their children grown and married themselves, finding retirement plans with their spouses, and Kate had somehow managed to remain single her entire life.
Her friends from school began to discuss it one day over tea, while going through an old yearbook.
"And there's Kate Wibberly! Bless her heart if she wasn't just the prettiest girl in our class!"
"The boys worshiped her, you know. At least, all the smart ones did. Didn't Jason ask her to the dance every year?"
"And she turned him down every time. She was sweet about it, but wasn't he the most heartbroken thing you'd a ever seen? He sulked about it like nobody's business."
"I nearly had a heart attack when I heard that her brother was getting married. I can't for the life of me remember his name but he sure married a model if I'd ever seen one. They stayed together too, you know. How that bookish little rabbit caught her, I could never tell you."
"Her sister, too, that feisty little lady had some interesting relationships. She ended up with an archeologist, didn't she? He was more like some adventuring hero than a scientist, if you ask me. He'd have to be, to put up with her shenanigans."
"Oh, Kate really cried at that wedding, didn't she? Must of been hard, seeing her baby sister all grown up."
"They're peculiarly close, aren't they?"
"They really depend on each other. They never really talk about their childhood, but you can tell it was rough."
"I'll tell you what was rough, was losing their parents, that's what!"
"Oh, I know she blamed herself for that one. Really, it was rather unreasonable. You can't prevent things like mudslides, even when you're as superstitious as Kate."
"She always did live with one eye over her shoulder, if you ask me. Never trusted nobody for nothing, but bless her soul if she wasn't just the politest little waif I'd ever known."
"Her sister didn't seem as bothered, you know. Sure, she could be responsible, too, but she sure was a daredevil. No fear of death, that one. Now SHE never cried at funerals. She seemed almost anxious to have one herself."
"Oh, but Kate did live a most romantically unromantic life. You'd think a woman with a flower garden like hers would have settled for any man just to have someone to share it with."
"But she wouldn't have settled for anybody. Bless me if she didn't take forever over every little decision. She seemed to think that everything she did would determine the future of the world!"
"There's no arguing with that. Girl always did carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. Not like her sister-in-law. That little sprite didn't know the meaning of seriousness. She probably died doing something really reckless."
"She and her husband both. I heard Kate's brother died in a mining accident."
"Was he a miner? I always thought he taught at a university. Something about folklore and fairies. What would he have been doing in a mine?"
"Research, I suppose. Maybe looking for dwarves, or some other nonsense."
"Well, dear Kate's been awful lonely without her family. She sort of snapped when her sister went missing a few years back. Seems she's got nowhere to turn without 'em. Dear doesn't know how to live if she's not looking after somebody, like she can't be left with her own thoughts."
"It's not fair that she don't know how to do anything for herself. There must be something she wants out of life."
"Heard she went on a vacation, visiting some friends in the Mediterranean. I tried to send her a post card, but couldn't find where she was staying..."
She was tempted to just jump into the pool, to see what would happen.
She hadn't left the garden since she got to Loris, three days ago, and half hoped to starve there.
She didn't want to kill herself; she didn't like the idea, but she also didn't think it was fair that everyone else should die and she would have to keep living with no purpose, no life. She felt as if, through all she had experienced, little bits of her heart had begun to break off and stick to the people she loved. She had lost the biggest chunk of it when she was quite young, and by the time she was an adult, she had none of it left.
And she missed her heart. For all she knew, every bit of it had, piece by piece, already gone ahead of her into the afterlife.
She had remembered what Emma had told her after they had moved. "They're not lost," she said, "The people we love are waiting for us. If you have love, then you keep your memories when you die. He's waiting for you, too."
And she knew, then, why it had made all the difference when she had gone back in time, all those years ago. She knew that it hadn't really even been for the sake of anyone but herself, and for him.
When he was robbed of his life so early, he would not have to lose everything. He would only have to wait.
And she was mad. She was fed up and sick of waiting. She was sick of years of weddings that would never be her own, and even sicker of funerals that weren't hers either.
And it hurt to think of the children she would never have.
However, she had known that she could never marry. She wasn't even tempted to.
She didn't know what would happen if she went into the pool. She knew that only Emma had ever been able to go to the Land of the Dead before, but maybe the pool would kill her and send her there anyway, maybe it would do just what she wanted.
But after everything they had done to keep her alive, she didn't want to kill herself. She didn't want to die for nothing by her own hand. And anyway, she might be punished for jumping in the pool and not get to see them ever again. So she would wait.
Kate knew she wouldn't have to wait long. She was rather old by now, and though each year had crept by like a sloth riding a snail, she had passed her ninety-fifth birthday almost without realizing it. She wouldn't have long...
But life doesn't work the way we want it. As it was, Kate waited a whole year by the pool without any results before moving back to Cambridge Falls and starting a real orphanage in the old mansion where she had first discovered magic. For a time, it was almost like she had finally become a parent, and she felt comfort in taking care of others again, in forgetting herself and finding that there were perhaps a few more pieces of her heart left to give away after all.
"Where does the boat go?"
"I don't know."
"You've never been there?"
"I can't remember."
She had to take a moment to pity the droopy eyed boatman as he struggled with her questions, but she comforted herself with the thought that he would have another chance when the world was reborn.
There was an island with a village, sweet-faced people and whispers of adventure. But she didn't want adventure. For now, she just wanted rest. She noticed, when the boatman offered to help her onto the dock, that she was smaller and more agile than before. She was a young girl again, no more that fifteen.
Because this is how the one who holds your heart remembers you.
She turned to see a sort of bird-man-creature waiting at the end of the dock.
And for those that have no one, they are as when they died.
She had noticed that the blank-faced souls seemed older, sicker, more ghastly.
The bird-man took her arm to guide her away. She was a bit relieved when he led her out from the village, and into the forest. She heard familiar voices down the different paths, but allowed herself to be led on into a deeper part of the woods. There was a little cabin that she recognized from her youth, but it was different from how she had left it. Before, there had been two slightly patchy areas in the yard, but now the ground was smooth and even without any evidence of having ever been dug up.
He's been waiting for a very long time.
She swallowed, suddenly remembering how long it had been, wondering if time passed differently in this world.
"I already waited a century for you before. A hundred years more is a bit overkill, isn't it?"
And he was there, in the door way, just as she had remembered him. She couldn't speak, but ran to the arms that had been forever waiting for her, just as she had waited.
Michael Wibberly's grandson, Wallace(named in honor of an old friend), had Kate buried at the old cabin where he used to play with his cousins. He knew there were two unmarked graves there already, and placed his great-aunt's beside the smaller one. She had died in her sleep at a hundred and fifteen, and though he was getting on in years himself, he honored the wish expressed in her will that he would take charge of the orphanage.
She hadn't left any epitaph, so he took a line he liked from one of her letters to his other aunt, Emma, and had it carved into a stone as a marker. She did ask that her grave was unnamed, so he left it so. It happened, then, that for all three of the graves there was only a book-sized stone that read;
"And if what you say is true, then it will not be long before all of us are reborn..."
(A/N: Twelve Shots of Summer (2015) week one, main prompt: Reunion. I guess that I just really needed to get this one out of my system. I loved the end of the series, but it left me with a literal heartache that I just couldn't shake. Anyway, cheers. Hope this didn't depress or hurt anyone.
For the record, I do not support suicide and was just writing what I assumed the character would be going through. Please do not take this as some sort of hope killing sign.)