Amy closed her eyes and tried to block out the droning of the chaplain. She couldn't look any longer at the large, rectangular hole in the earth or the shrouded, flower-strewn coffin.
Her father was dead, and all she wanted was to have her husband hold her while she cried. She did not want to be in a cemetery, the spring sun attempting to be warm and comforting on her back but merely succeeding in making her feel hot and sick.
Mark squeezed her hand, and she opened her eyes to see him looking at her, a concerned question in his eyes. She squeezed back and pretended to focus on the chaplain again, but her eyes were drawn once more to the coffin and the dark, abysmal hole that awaited it.
Her throat began to close up, and she desperately threw her gaze to the side, away from the grave. A man leaned against a tree several yards away. She focused on him, greedily examining him to distract herself. He wore a black suit—cemetery attire—and sunglasses against the bright L.A. sun. His arms were crossed, but his posture seemed defensive rather than casual, as though he were holding himself together. He stared at the grass at his feet.
Amy studied him, wishing she were close enough to make out the pattern of his tie and see what kind of shoes he wore, craving more details to occupy her mind. She wondered whose grave he was visiting, if perhaps he was waiting for their service to end so he could kneel next to a nearby headstone and talk to a loved one.
She stared openly, vaguely aware that tears ran down her cheeks. The man extracted an arm from his hold on himself and reached up to rub his dark hair with his hand.
Amy gasped, and Mark squeezed her hand again. She responded with a viselike grip.
Her eyes ran over the man, frantically taking in details: the way he stood, the way his jacket fit his shoulders. He turned his head, presenting his profile, and she slammed her eyes shut again, only to open them immediately, afraid if she stopped watching him, he'd disappear.
"Amy? Honey?" Mark's voice penetrated her shock. She turned her head slightly toward him to show she was listening, her eyes never leaving the man next to the tree. "It's over. It's time to go."
She blinked, realizing the chaplain was no longer speaking and that the crowd was quietly murmuring. She wiped the tears from her face, and the man seemed to look directly at her for a second before turning his face away.
Mark tugged lightly on her hand.
She turned to him and grasped his other hand. "I can't go. Not yet. I need…can you take Mom and Aunt Sheri back to the house and then come back for me? I just need to be alone for a little while."
Mark gazed at her a moment, and she nearly screamed with impatience. Say yes say yes hurry before he leaves! "It'll take me half an hour to make the trip, at least," he said.
"That's okay. That's perfect," she said quickly, squeezing his hands. Please now go go now!
Slowly, he nodded. "Okay. You'll be here?"
He bent to kiss her cheek, then stepped back and moved to her mother. Amy watched as he gently took her mother's arm and led her toward the row of cars parked along the cemetery lane. Her tears started again, the grief this time mixed with guilt. But she might be crazy. She might be imagining things. She would tell them later, when she knew for sure.
She turned back toward the tree and stopped breathing. The man was gone. Her eyes frantically searched the area, finally seeing a man in a dark suit walking away from her, weaving through the tombstones.
Amy glanced over her shoulder, saw Mark's car slowly pull away from the curb, and slipped out of her shoes. Then she ran, her hand pressed against her belly, heedless of the stares of the mourners still gathered.
The grass was damp, quickly soaking her hose to the ankle. She ran across graves, heedless of etiquette or superstition, her eyes focused on the back and shoulders ahead of her, growing closer.
When she was only a few yards away, she cried, "Wait!"
He turned, then took three panicked steps backward, looking wildly around as though for help.
She slowed and came to a stop a short distance away. Close enough to see the pattern of his tie and the style of shoes he wore. Close enough to see the stubble on his face, the shape of his mouth and ears, the creases in his forehead. Close enough to see eyes as blue as her own when he pulled the sunglasses off and dropped them in the grass.
Too far away to touch him, to tell if he was real.
"Will," she gasped.
He froze for a moment and then, in three long strides—strides she knew as well as her husband's—closed the distance between them and caught her in a crushing hug.
She sobbed into his shoulder, the fabric of his suit wadded in her fists, overwhelmed by the feel of him, the smell of him.
"Oh, God, Amy, I'm so sorry." Will's voice caught on tears of his own. "I couldn't tell you. They wouldn't let me tell you."
She wasn't sure how long they clung to each other and cried, but eventually he pushed her away and held her at arm's length, his hands kneading her shoulders. She gripped his forearms, her fingers digging into the cloth until she could feel the skin and muscle and bone beneath it.
He gazed at her in wonder, his eyes taking in the ring on her left hand and the small bulge of her stomach. He lifted a hand from her shoulder and smiled as he ran some of her short, honey blonde hair through his fingers, letting it fall back against her temple. "I'd almost forgotten what your real hair color was," he said.
She sniffed, trying to put her tears away. "I wanted to look like a mom. Moms don't have pink hair."
"I'm sure some of them do."
She squinted at him. "How come your hair's so dark?"
"It's my clever disguise. Like it?"
He grinned down at her, and she suddenly wanted to hit him. She settled for ripping his hands off her shoulders and shoving him away from her. He just looked at her, resigned rather than hurt, and this only made her angrier.
"We thought you were dead!" she yelled. "Do you understand? Do you know what that did to us? You were dead, Will! There was a body and a funeral! There's a grave, right back there!" She flung her arm behind her in a wilding pointing gesture. "Right next to Daddy's!"
Her voice broke on the last syllable, and her knees buckled. Will caught her, gently holding her propped up against him.
She calmed more quickly this time, partly because of the soothing hand he ran up and down her back; mostly because she was running out of tears. "What happened?" she asked into his lapel.
The hand on her back paused, a hiccup in the rhythmic motion. "It was a story I was working on in my spare time, trying to expose some very bad guys. I was hoping I could use it to reestablish my journalism career. Anyway, they found out."
Another hiccup. "Them. I managed to get out, but Syd and—Francie…the police, the government decided to use it to their advantage, get me out." He stepped away from her, resuming their earlier stance of his hands on her shoulders, her hands wrapped around his wrists. He swallowed. "I couldn't tell you or Mom or Dad, in case they came after you to get to me. It was the only way." He paused. "I shouldn't even be talking to you now."
"I don't care," she said.
He shook his head, but she stepped out of his grip and took his hand, leading him back toward their father's grave. They walked in silence for several yards before Will spoke.
"Your husband. What's his name?"
"Mark. We've been married three years."
"So your new last name is…"
"Where'd you meet?"
They walked slowly, and she talked quickly, telling him how she'd met Mark in school, how he'd proposed in a noisy piano bar at two o'clock in the morning, about his job in an investment firm, her job designing ads.
"And you're pregnant," Will said, unable to stop the smile that spread across his face.
Amy touched her belly with her free hand. "Five months." She smiled. "I'm excited and terrified at the same time."
"Sounds about right. If it's a boy, you should name him after me." He winked.
Amy's smiled faded. "We're planning to," she said softly.
Will looked away.
"Can you…can you tell me anything about your life?" she asked.
He considered a moment. "I work in construction now."
Amy stared at him a moment before bursting into laughter. She stopped walking and covered her mouth with her other hand, unwilling to let go of his.
Will tried to look stern, but a smile slipped through, ruining the effect. "No making fun. I wield a mean saw."
Amy wiped the tears from her eyes, instinctively careful of her makeup until she remembered she wasn't wearing any. "Sorry. All I can think about is the chair you made in middle school that was so crooked you couldn't even sit on it." She giggled.
"Hey! I bet Mom still has that. It's a priceless heirloom."
She snorted. "Of course she still has it. She's never thrown a thing away in her entire life."
"Well, I'm much better now. Really."
"Oh, I'm sure," she teased.
They smiled at each other, then turned, their smiles fading in unison as they watched the cemetery workers lower their father's coffin into the earth, the last of the funeral attendees having finally left.
"Mark will be back soon," she said.
He sighed. "Then I should go."
He stepped away, but she tightened her grip on his hand, turning so she could grasp it in both of hers. "It's been seven years, Will," she said. "Seven years. Surely it's safe for you to come home now?"
He looked away, studying the horizon. "I don't know, Amy. These are very dangerous people. And with the baby…" He brought his eyes back to hers. "I can't take that chance. I just can't."
She bit her lip. "But couldn't you call? Letters? Anonymous emails? Something?"
He smiled sadly. "I'll ask. I'll beg. We'll see." She shook her head, but he continued, "That's the best I can do."
It wasn't good enough, but he already knew that, so she merely nodded and stepped forward to hug him, standing on tiptoe so she could rest her chin on his shoulder. "Will I see you again?"
"I don't know." He squeezed her hard enough to take her breath away and said, "Bye, Ames." Then he let go, leaving her slightly unbalanced, and walked quickly away.
"Bye," she whispered. She hugged herself, rocking on her feet and watching him disappear again, perhaps forever. Behind her, a car pulled up, tires crunching on the gravel lane of the cemetery. A door slammed, and Mark called her name. She knew she should turn, go to him, act normal—or as normal as could be expected after her father's funeral—but she could still see Will, and she couldn't bring herself to turn away.
"Honey, where are your shoes?" Mark asked at her elbow.
"Back there." She gestured toward the space of grass on which they'd stood half an hour before. Mark moved off to look for her shoes, and Amy watched Will's back as he walked through the far gate of the cemetery and disappeared.
With a long, shaky sigh she felt all the way to her toes, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Mark stood next to her with her shoes in his hand. She stretched out a hand.
"Thank you," she said quietly. She steadied herself with a hand on his shoulder as she slipped them back on, then straightened. "I'm ready now, I think."
He looked at her, searching her face. "Sure?"
She took his face in her hands and kissed him lightly. "Yes."
He leaned his forehead against hers for a moment, then led her to the car, his arm around her shoulders. As she lowered herself into the passenger seat—not yet a difficult task, but a couple months would change that—her eyes scanned the cemetery for one last glimpse of Will. She kept her face turned to the window as Mark slowly guided the car down the gravel lane.
"Something else is wrong," he said as the car rolled through the ornate metal gate. The blinker clicked four times as he turned right and accelerated into traffic. "Did something happen?"
Amy shook her head and forced herself to turn away from the window. "No," she said. "I just miss my brother."