Losing Mitchell had felt like having to let go of a vital piece of herself.
Losing Nina had been a pain unlike any Annie had ever felt before, her own death included.
Losing George had almost made sense after watching him shut himself, and his daughter, away from the world. Away from Annie. She had seen the relief on the face of his ghost as he had left her and she hated him as much as she loved him for that.
It had been a silent journey back to the B&B after burying George. Even baby Eve seemed to recognize the need for quiet and had not made so much as a gurgle. It was only after they had settled her down for the night that Annie had thought to give Tom a room.
There were so many going unused now. The house was becoming so empty.
After Mitchell had died, Annie had sealed his room from the inside, popping in, as only she could, to curl up on the cold sheets of his bed. The space had remained untouched, exactly the same as he had left it, as if only waiting for him to come home at any moment.
Nina had tried to talk to her about it, had told her how unhealthy it was to hold on like that. George had understood, though. He had cast her sad looks over Nina's head, not saying a word. Sometimes she had caught him looking at the door with a desperate stare and she would wonder if he craved to see those remnants of his best friend still intact. Still, she never opened the door, hoarding the last bits of Mitchell; protecting them from the decay of the world.
George had stopped using the room that he and Nina had shared the night that he had lost her. It had never been his room, it had always been their room. Now, it belonged to no one.
Tom was still shuffling about the kitchen, not sure what to do with himself.
Annie gifted herself one more moment to wallow in her compounding losses and then set them all aside. She could not keep shutting rooms away. Soon, there would be no more left to use.
She sent Tom upstairs for a good wash over much protesting and used that time to prepare.
When he had cleaned up and found her again, he stood frozen in the doorway, not daring to cross the threshold.
"But," he hesitated and she braced herself for the sound of his name. "This is Mitchell's room."
"Was," she corrected him, forcing a smile. "Was his room. And now it's yours."
"But," he still had not entered and she took him by the arm to lead him in, "it still don't feel right."
"Don't you worry." She nodded and stopped him at the foot of the bed so that he could see the space properly. "He won't mind. I promise."
Tom gave her a worried look over his shoulder and spoke in the patronizing tone reserved for mental patients. "Annie, Mitchell's not mindin' much anymore. 'e's dead."
The words still cut her, no matter what consent she had given at the time of his death. "So am I." She forced her tone to be cheerful, always cheerful. "But you and I both know that's not the end of it. Him, and George, and Nina, they're all waiting for me. They all just got there a bit early is all." She spread her arms to take in the space around them. The freshly made bed, the bare nightstand. All remnants of Mitchell were now residing in boxes in the attic. "I don't need empty rooms full of dusty relics to hold on to."
She could see that Tom was still unsure, but the lure of a stationary room, a proper home, was a strong one. He nodded and she left him to settle in.
The house was quiet now and with no one to watch over, or talk to, or take care of, Annie made her way back to her own room. She pulled a shoe box from the furthest corner of the closest and settled herself into her chair. The chair that Mitchell had gotten for her when she had still been trapped in Purgatory, before he had saved her.
The box would not have been heavy, even if she could have felt the weight of it. Inside were three items: a Star of David on a golden chain, a well loved hair clip, and gloves that had seen better days. Annie lifted the lid to touch the mementos inside as silent tears rolled down her cheeks and the too quiet house endured around her.