Abby stood staring at her reflection. Grim shadows played over her face, the wind came softly through the window. There was something poetic about her grief. As though every tear sung out to her, every move she made was slow and eerily calm.
She knew she would have to stare over the coffin containing her dearest friend. A thick walnut contraption filled with her sorrow. She hoped he was watching over her. She imagined him standing next to her, staring at her into the mirror. She wished to see his face beside hers. She longed for his breath to trail down her neck, for it to let her know he was there before he did. She wanted his presence beside her as she worked.
Abby tenderly slid the hair tie down her ponytail feeling every silk strand of hair beneath it. She placed it on the stand and began on the other one. She didn't take her eyes off the mirror, she was feeling her emotions twice over in that mirror. And if she thought hard enough she could see his face next to hers in the reflection, leaning down to talk to her, his words brushing her ear.
She closed her eyes and felt the tears swell and gather to spill over and roll down her white face. She carefully unbuttoned each button on the face of her shirt and allowed it to drop to the floor. she removed her pants and other garments and stood naked in the middle of her room. But she felt nothing, not the breeze through the open window, not the cold of an unheated room in spring, not the wooden floor on the soles of her feet.
Even her breathing was dull and diminished, barely there, low and minimal. She drew herself up and walked into her ensuite, turning the shower on. Cold water only, not even a hint of hot. Then she stood under it. Letting the rivers of clear freezing water wash over her soul. She just stood there unmoving, head hanging forward until the water burned into her skin. She didn't know how long she was standing there but for a few seconds she actually forgot her grief.
Sitting on the edge of her bed wrapped in a white plush towel she should have felt snug and safe. Instead she was vulnerable and alone. The one man she had truly grown to love in more ways then one had left her, unwillingly but left her nonetheless. She was numb but in the back of her mind she continually reminded herself that she was unaccompanied. More tears trickled down her face and landed with delicate splashes onto her uncovered legs.
Somehow she dressed; in black like any other day. Except this was afternoon and her black clothes were all lace and femininity. She sat by the front door staring at the floor. She looked like a rag doll, limp, inanimate, emotionless.
A knock at the door barely roused her and she managed to open the door and close it behind her as she was led by Tony to his waiting car. He knew she couldn't drive, and even though she said nothing she needed to have someone with her. Maybe to lessen her loneliness. But ultimately she knew that no matter how many people there were who wanted to be there for her, she'd have to face this alone.
She sat in the passengers seat wordless and rigid. Her eyes were fixed on the windshield, and he had to wonder what was going on behind them. He knew she would take this hard, harder then she had taken any thing else during the time he had known her. And he wished there were something his could do or say or think that would help her. But he came up short.
At the funeral she sat in the frost row, and no one bothered her. She didn't cry or sob or scream. She watched the coffin the entire way through the ceremony, thinking about Gibbs lying inside cold and lonely. She wanted to rip the lid open and join him there forever. Tony spoke his voice ragged with sadness, his voice strained but loud. And when the funeral was over he let Abby stay with the coffin and he walked with the others to the reception. And she was alone.
When she knew that everyone was gone she got up and stood by the still above ground coffin. They wouldn't lower it for another half an hour. She knelt down and lay her hand on the casing. "Gibbs." She whispered across its surface. "I don't know how I can live without you." She said earnestly. "I don't know how I can wake or sleep or eat knowing that you're not here and I still am. This is the loneliest feeling in the world." She dropped to the ground and sat with her legs out in front of her, her head resting on the casket. "I don't want to let you go. I don't want to say good bye." She began to cry. The tears flowed so heavily that her face hurt, they tired her out, her throat felt sore and swollen, her eyes stung and she felt ill. Her stomach was doing flip flops. Her heart was tied in knots. She just wanted to stop breathing. She wanted her heart to stop pumping blood, her lungs to stop breathing air, her mind to shut down. She wanted to lie cold in a coffin with him. To die and be lost forever, or better yet with him forever.
At that moment nothing could have persuaded her to get up off the ground but Gibbs' rise from the dead. The damp ground caused her clothing to become wet and the cold seeped through into her flesh and bones, adding to her misery. If she had had the energy she would have killed herself, but she was so tired from crying that all she could do was sob gently onto the lid of the coffin.
After a while she raised her head from the wooden box, she could still see the mist that her breathing had left on the shiny surface. She wanted to see him. She had an insane urge to throw the lid open and look inside. No one was watching, she could just peek. She crouched before it, both hands on the edge, waiting for her brain to give confirmation. But she feared the image inside. Was he horribly disfigured? Or was he pale and white like she? Glancing over her shoulder only the mist was there to watch.
She lifted the lid and inch; her eyes squeezed shut, salty water still sliding its way down her cheeks. She stopped breathing and lifted the lid so she could see inside.
Time stopped. The mist settled like a blanket around her, sitting on the damp moss covered ground. She peered inside like a child would peer into a toy box, her eyes wide with wonder. Her breathing came fast and shallow. She grasped the edge of the lid hard and threw it open standing up as she did so. She was hunched over, shaking her head in disbelief. Astonishment. And finally, hope.
There was no one in the box.
She stood in shock her hands still where they were when they had let go of the lid, in front of her body. She was shaking.
Then time seemed to rush back into reality, the mist moved quicker and the air hit her ears with a crash.
"Why did you open the lid Abby?" A voice came in her ear.
"I'm a scientist, I have to see things to believe them."She replied, her words laced with hope and excitement trying desperately to hold onto her coldness. She suddenly wondered why she had opened the coffin, hadn't she expected to see the cold and unmoving corpse of her beloved friend and colleague? An image she would have carried with her her entire life.
She dared not turn in case he wasn't really there.
"Did you come to see how many people turned up to your funeral?" she joked, but she was sobbing slightly. Joy and fear.
There was a warm presence beside her. He didn't answer her. He didn't have to, because he turned her around by placing his hands on her shoulders and walking around her til their eyes met. He had heard her every word as she lay by his coffin.
As soon as she saw his face she couldn't contain herself any longer. She leapt up and hugged him around the neck, her legs were around his waist she'd jumped so high. She didn't ever want to let him go. She wanted to ask how, and why and what? But she didn't want to lose this feeling, afraid it was some kind of wonderful dream. His warmth soaking through his shirt into hers, his smell rising from him to her nostrils. Coffee. The taste she missed so much, unable to drink it without thinking of him. It had been weeks. And later she would yell at him; angry and hurt for letting her grieve for him, letting her cry and die inside, letting her sit beside his coffin and sob without releasing her from her hell.
But right now she would hold onto him and cry into his shirt and breath in his smell and she would not complain because she thought he was gone forever and now he was here with her.