This is (hopefully) going to be a collection of outtakes (and possibly updates) from my recently completed story, 'Carlisle and Esme: Their Lives and Love.'
If you haven't read 'Their Lives and Love', then parts of this probably won't make sense. You can still read it if you wish (you should hopefully be able to figure out most of what's happening) or you're more than welcome to go read 'Their Lives and Loves' :)
So this first outtake is simply an idea that was stuck in my head – a further look into Esme's family.
Grace hated the nights here most all.
She could hear the other inhabitants as they screamed and moaned in their insanity, and she wondered how long it would be until she became like them.
Whatever else she may have been, she wasn't stupid.
No matter what insults her teacher, her doctor, and even her own father had called her, Grace knew they weren't true.
Esme had told her so.
Esme. Grace thought the name sadly.
She saw and heard more than her family realized. She had long realized that silence was usually the best option, and she thought her parents often forgot that she was in the room. Or when she could hear her family discussing things, she would sit outside the door and listen, knowing they would not let her hear if she entered the room.
She wished with all her heart she had been able to break that habit.
As she sat alone, in her cold metal bed, her thoughts turned once more to the last conversation she had overheard in that manner.
Grace had been sat upstairs, hiding out in her room. She heard the door open and close, and she realized with a soaring heart that it must have meant her sister was here. She wanted to go rushing down to see her, but first she finished lining up her pencils. She had long accepted that she would not be able to concentrate on anything else knowing her task was unfinished.
By the times she got downstairs, Esme was crying. That wasn't right. Esme never cried. She was the strong sister.
Grace knew Esme would never tell her what was wrong, so she stopped outside the door and listened.
"Aren't you going to help me?" her sister's voice was pleading, desperate.
Insatiably curious, she opened the door just a crack. Just enough to be able to see her sister and parents. She could only see the back of her sister, but she could see her parents' faces well enough. Her father was scowling and her mother wore that conflicted face Grace knew so well. It was the one who mother wore whenever her father lost her temper. The one that Grace had noticed sneak onto her mother's face at Esme's wedding when she thought no one was watching her.
"Go home, Esme," her father told her sternly. "You're shaming yourself, your husband, and us with this dishonourable action."
Esme sobbed only harder. "Please. I can't go back there. I can't live like that anymore."
"Go home, Esme," her father repeated his stern order.
"What? Go home to Charles? So I can add another bruise to the collection? Another cut? Another broken rib? Another embarrassing trip to the hospital?" There was sarcasm in her sister's voice now, and anger, but the overall desperation in her words was still easy to hear.
Grace didn't understand what Esme was talking about now. What did her husband have to do with her getting hurt? How was she hurting herself so badly? What had happened that was so bad Esme would have had to go to the hospital again?
A distant memory played through Grace's mind. A scream. A crack. And her sister sat in a huddle at the bottom of a tree, holding her leg and crying. As always, Grace felt a twinge of guilt at the memory. If she hadn't pulled her hand away and screamed. If she was only able to control herself like a normal person.
But Grace hadn't ever seen Esme hurt since her cast came off. So why would she be going to the hospital?
And what did it all have to do with her husband?
"Esme," her mother sighed. "Come with me." She began to guide her daughter out of the living room and into the kitchen. This movement brought Esme walking past her sister's line of sight through the crack in the door. Her sleeves were rolled up to her elbows and Grace caught a glimpse of the purple bruises and red scars that dotted her arms.
What had her sister done to herself to get in such a terrible state?
Quietly, Grace moved down the hallway so she was outside the kitchen. The voices inside were too quiet to be heard, so she once more carefully opened the door just the tiniest bit to allow the voices to drift into the hallway.
"Esme dear, you have to remember you can't act like this anymore. You're a wife now and you have to remember how a women should behave."
"You mean keep quiet, not say anything, hide my scars, and pretend everything's okay? I've been doing that for years now and I can't do it any longer."
"You don't have a choice, dear. There's nothing you, or I, can do."
"Except grin and bear it because we're women," Esme replied with bitter sarcasm. She sighed deeply, placing her head in her hands. Finally, she looked up at her mother again.
"I can't go back there," she whispered quietly. The same thing she had said earlier to her father.
"You have no choice," her mother repeated gently. "I think it's best if you go home now, Esme."
"You have a strange definition of 'best', Mother," Esme said with quiet bitterness. Without another word, she stood up and walked out of the house.
Ruth sat and stared at the door her eldest daughter had just exited for a few moments, but then her husband called her name from the next room, and she dutifully went to him.
Grace was still trying to process what she had overheard. She didn't understand. What was happening to her sister?
With a sudden burst of determination, she snuck quickly across the kitchen and out the door. Running as fast as she could despite her bad co-ordination, she quickly caught up with her sister.
"Esme, OK?" she asked, hating how child-like her words sounded. She never had been able to communicate properly.
"Of course, Grace dear," Esme replied softly. Grace realized her sister would not tell her anything. Whatever was happening was bad and Esme would never wish to upset her.
"No, you're not," Grace said determinedly, shaking her head. She was as much talking to herself as her sister.
Grace was angry now. She wanted to know why her parents had turned her sister away when she so badly needed help. Grace's temper had always scared her. She lost control when she was mad: screaming, crying and shouting.
That was when it was at its worse – whatever it was that was wrong with her.
Grace didn't even fully remember what had happened next. She knew she had confronted her parents, shouting at them for letting Esme get hurt. But it was all a blur of anger. She preferred not to think about.
After all, it's why I'm in here. The next thing she knew Grace had flung her pillow across the room.
She quickly scuttled across the small room after it, returning it to it's rightful place on her bed, as if righting the effects of her actions as quickly as possible could make it so that they had never happened at all. That she was normal. That she wasn't insane like the other inmates of this place.
But being stuck in the asylum was not the main reason for Grace's bitter wish that she had been able to break the habit of listening in to conversations.
No, her wish stemmed from an event years beforehand – that she had only just truly begun to comprehend the consequences off.
She wished she had never overheard Esme tell their father about her desire to travel out West. For if she hadn't then she would not have run distraught into her sister's room that night, effectively changing her sister's mind.
At the time, Grace had been proud of herself. Esme was staying. She would never have to live alone with just her parents. Her sister would never leave her.
Of course, the naïve little girl had been wrong.
If only Esme had gone West, she lamented once more. It seemed simple to her that then her sister would have been happy. There would have been no Charles. And if there was no Charles then there would have been no bruises, no cuts, and no crying. For Grace had slowly placed the pieces of what she had overheard together.
And she was well aware that in all likelihood she would have ended up in the asylum either way. Father would have found an excuse.
But no, Esme had stayed. All because of Grace. No matter what her parents or anyone else said or did to her, no one could hate her quite like Grace hated herself.
'If I was normal' was a game she often played in her own head. If she was normal, her parents would have loved her. If she was normal, she could have had a normal childhood. If she was normal, Esme would never have had to stand up for and make Mother and Father cross at her as well. If she was normal, Esme would never have married Charles. If she was normal, everyone would be happy…
Grace knew the futility of these thoughts and she tried to direct her mind somewhere else. In the end, she settled on doing her sums. The familiar numbers and answers flowed through her mind with ease. They reminded her of sitting in a tree with Esme, feeling cocooned and safe.
Slowly, tiredness overcame her and as usual she fell into a restless sleep.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
Ruth visited her daughter the day before she died. Henry had refused to come with her, as he had every time she suggested a visit. But the thought of her daughter all alone in one of those places had been slowly eating away at her.
The first thing Grace said when the assistant showed her mother in was her sister's name. This didn't surprise Ruth. Even she would have guessed at Esme being the first person to visit, but where Esme had disappeared only God knew.
"No, Grace. It's me, Mama."
Confusion clouded Grace's features.
"What you doing here?" she asked coldly.
"I wanted to visit you," Ruth replied kindly, sitting down on the bed next to her daughter.
"Father let you," Grace said tonelessly. She had never truly mastered the art of sarcasm, but it was still clear what she was trying to imply.
Ruth choose to ignore this comment. "How are you?"
Grace glared at her mother and didn't answer. The look said it all.
"I'm sorry, Grace," Ruth whispered to her daughter. Grace looked away and did not speak. The gloomy silence stretched on for what felt like eternity to Ruth. Now she was here she had very little to actually say to her daughter. For what do you say to a child that thinks you hate them?
"Where's Esme?" Grace finally asked, turning to look at her mother once more.
"I don't know," Ruth admitted quietly. Grace's face furrowed with confusion. "She's missing," Ruth clarified.
"She ran away," Grace declared happily. To her it was blaringly obvious. For Esme had never been one to put up with being wronged for long – Grace knew that from the number of times Esme had defended her.
"We don't know what happened," Ruth replied, though truthfully she believed Grace was correct. For quite a few of her daughter's clothes and possessions had disappeared alongside her. No matter how profusely Charles Evenson denied it in public, everyone knew his wife had run away from him. But, of course, as Esme's parents, Ruth and Henry could never admit to that obvious fact either, for it reflected as badly on them as it did Charles.
"She ran away," Grace repeated.
"Yes," Ruth admitted – for there was no harm in admitting it to her supposedly insane daughter.
"Good," Grace replied contently.
"It's not good, Grace," Ruth corrected her. She couldn't imagine where her daughter could possibly have gone. She had no money and no home, and she would be six months pregnant by now. Was she all alone on the streets somewhere? What would she do when the baby was born? Was she even still alive?
Regardless of the atrocities Charles Evenson had committed, Ruth simply couldn't see how Esme and her baby could possibly be better off where ever it was they now were.
Grace didn't argue, but Ruth could tell she didn't agree. As silence fell once more, she searched her mind for a different topic to discuss.
"How are you, Grace?" she asked again, forgetting she had already asked once.
Like earlier, Grace didn't reply, choosing instead to stare at the wall in the opposite direction of her mother.
"Grace?" Ruth called pleadingly.
Her daughter turned to look at her then, and the look in her eyes was so desperate it shook Ruth to her core.
"I'm scared, Mama," Grace finally whispered.
"I'm sorry, Grace," she replied again, having no other answer. Her daughter returned to staring at the opposite wall in silence and Ruth realized she would get nothing else out of her.
"Well, I, I guess I should be going," she announced. Grace turned sharply at this statement.
"Please," she sobbed. "Please, don't leave me here."
"This, this place is going to make you better, Grace," Ruth told her forcefully, trying to persuade herself as much as her daughter.
"No, it's not," Grace replied quietly, confident in her answer.
For whatever else Grace Platt was, she wasn't stupid.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
As she walked the long distance home, Ruth couldn't get the image of her daughter out of her head. Grace had always been small and skinny, but she seemed to have shrunk even more in that wretched place. It was probably due to malnourishment, for her doctors had told Ruth that Grace was refusing to eat properly and throwing 'tantrums' when they tried to force her. But in Ruth's mind, it was because of her fear of the place she was locked in. The gloomy, grey building just seemed to swallow up her fragile youngest daughter.
I'll talk to Henry about her when I get home, see if I can make him change her mind, she told herself determinedly. But the closer she got to home, the more her determination faded.
When she finally arrived home, she found her husband drunk and angry. Somehow, despite the new prohibition laws introduced last year, Henry still managed to get his hands on liquor on a frequent basis. Like many women, she had thought the new laws a good thing – that they would stop her husband from getting drunk – but she was quickly learning that wasn't the case.
"How was the little idiot then?" he slurred.
"She's, she's," Ruth searched for the right word, "scared." The word Grace herself had used seemed to describe her best. But it didn't seem strong enough compared to the withered away girl she had seen earlier today.
"I'm worried about her," Ruth continued, remembering her decision.
"Worried," Henry repeated, standing up and looking directly at her. Ruth knew the angry glint in her husband's eyes well. Automatically, she took a step back. Henry was not usually violent – Ruth could count on one hand the number of times he had actually hit her, and she knew she had suffered less in her entire marriage than Esme would have done in just one night by the hands of Charles Evenson – but Henry was still terrifying when he lost her temper. He didn't need his hands, he could hurt her through words alone.
"I don't think it's helping her," Ruth told him, trying to stop her voice from faltering.
"It will do eventually," Henry told her forcefully. In her gut, Ruth knew he was wrong, but she didn't tell him that in fear of the impending argument.
"Of course," she agreed timidly.
I'll try again tomorrow when he's not drunk.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
But tomorrow soon came around and still Ruth's nerves failed her.
Little did she know what was happening across town in the asylum. Chaos surrounded Grace as she slipped from consciousness. The electric shocks she had quickly grown to despise were still pulsing through her, but she no longer had the strength to scream from the pain. Her last thoughts were for sister.
I hope she's safe. I hope she's safe with her doctor.
For as Grace had fallen asleep the night before, she had pondered where her sister could be. She had remembered a conversation she'd had with Esme after her cast had been removed from her broken leg.
She had snuck into Esme's bedroom once her parents were asleep, as she often did.
"Esme OK now?" she asked in a whisper.
"I'm fine, Grace. Good as new." Esme stretched out her leg to prove her point.
"You see him?"
"See who, dear?"
"Your doctor," Grace replied exasperatedly. For after Esme had come back from the hospital first time, she had excitedly told Grace all about the wonderful doctor who had treated her, during a whispered night-time conversation like this one. Grace hadn't really understood Esme's excitement, but she listened happily to her sister's hushed voice. Being with Esme always made her feel safe. And it would appear Esme was not angry about her fall, as Grace had worried she would be for. If Esme grew to hate her as well she would have no one to turn to.
"Yes, to have my cast removed," Esme replied patiently.
"Not like him this time?" Grace asked, confused by her sister's lack of enthusiasm like last time. Not that she had understood why her sister had been so excited over a doctor. In Grace's opinion, doctors were horrible. They were always mean about her. But Esme had said that her doctor had said nice things about Grace.
"It was a different doctor, dear."
"Oh," was all Grace could think to say in reply. She didn't really understand why any of this mattered. Esme was OK. That was what mattered. There would be no more doctors.
Like many things, it had taken Grace many years to truly understand what had happened.
Esme had fallen for her doctor. It was that simple. And Grace hoped Esme had gone to find him.
Esme deserved happiness.
That was Grace's very last thought on this Earth.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
Ruth was making dinner when the sound of a horse travelling up the lane towards the farm caught her attention. They weren't expecting any visitors.
She had opened the door before their visitor had even made it to the door. She recognized the man immediately, he was one of the men who had been at her house four months ago, to take Grace away.
"Is Grace OK?" she asked instantly.
"Can I come in, Mrs. Platt? I need to speak to you and your husband."
"Why?" she asked sharply, scared.
"I'm afraid I have bad news. I'd rather explain with your husband present as well, is he in?"
"Y, yes," Ruth stammered. "Come, come in." Hurriedly, she led the man through the kitchen and into the parlour, calling her husband's name as she did. Henry face clouded with conclusion as he noticed the man following his wife, but as the visitor sat down he sat down opposite. Ruth remained standing between the two of them.
"Um, this is Mr… Dr?" Ruth began to tell her husband, but trailed off, realizing she didn't know the man's name.
"Dr. Williams," the man in question supplied for her.
"You're from the asylum," Henry stated.
"Dr. Williams has something to tell us about Grace," Ruth informed him, then looked anxiously over at the doctor.
"Have you cured her?" Henry asked incredulously. Ruth hopes soared for a second until she remembered the doctor had mentioned 'bad news.'
"No, unfortunately I'm here on much sadder business," he said gravely. "Maybe you should sit down, Mrs. Platt," he suggested gently. Ruth did as he said automatically, taking her seat beside her husband.
"What is it, doctor?" Henry asked.
"We were giving your daughter her shock treatment this morning, and, um, well-"
"What happened?" Ruth asked sharply. She had never liked the sound of the shock treatments.
'You want to send her to an asylum where they'll shock her? They'll kill her!' Esme's enraged shout from an argument years ago echoed through her head
"Where not entirely certain what happened, but something went wrong."
"Is Grace OK?" Ruth asked forcefully.
"A regret to tell you that Grace," the doctor sighed, "Grace died."
"Died?" Ruth repeated the word unbelievingly. "She's… she dead?" she stammered.
"My deepest condolences," the doctor said gravely. The empty words of a man who knew there was nothing he could say to soften the blow of the news he had to deliver.
"You… you were meant to make her better!" Ruth shouted. "Not… not kill her!" She began to sob violently.
"I think you should go upstairs, dear," Henry ordered gently. "By the sounds of it, me and the doctor have a lot to discuss."
Ruth obeyed silently, her sobs never ceasing. Once she got in to her room, she collapsed onto the door, sliding slowly onto the floor. She curled into a ball and continued to cry. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess. Different images flickered through her mind. Grace's pleading, scared eyes the last time she had seen her. Dr. Williams and his colleagues dragging her screaming daughter into their van. A teenaged Esme in their living room, arguing vehemently with her father.
She was more Grace's mother than I ever was.
The thought only made her sob harder. She had failed both her daughters. One dead and one missing. Both of them forced into lives of misery by her.
No, by Henry! But you never stopped him. You never stood up for them.
She heard the sound of the door closing downstairs. Forcing herself to stand up, she got changed into her nightgown shakily and got into her bed. She doubted she would be asleep by the time her husband came to join her, but she would fake sleep anyway. For she knew she could not risk a conversation with him tonight. The temper she had tried so hard to keep under wraps all these years would spill over and she could not risk that. It would not end well.
So when her husband finally came to bed, she kept her eyes clamped close, trying to make her breathing sound normal.
They both lay like that for hours, facing away from each other and pretending to be asleep, but really they were kept awake by their churning minds, as they thought through everything they had done to their daughters.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
Ruth wrote the letters numbly. One for each member of her family: her sister, her brother, both her nieces, and her nephew. They were bland and simple, announcing Grace's death in clichéd terms.
She had no idea of the effect her letter to her niece, Helen, would have. For Helen, living much further away than the rest of her family, received her letter last. After she'd read the letter, she looked over the top of it at her 'missing' cousin, Esme, sat across from her, playing with Helen's children, Robert and Dorothy. As Helen watched, she saw her cousin absent-mindedly rub her now protruding stomach. Helen didn't have the heart to tell her there and then that her sister was dead, not when she was so happy and content. Esme was finally comfortable, the fearful aura that had surrounded her when she arrived slowly dissolving as the months went by and there was no sign of her husband.
The next day, Helen received a letter from her mother, Mary. In it, her mother told her about Grace's funeral. She had been the only attendee aside from Grace's parents. Mary wrote of how disappointed Aunt Ruth had been, as she had somehow got it into her head that Esme would show up, despite the fact that there was no way Esme could even have known about Grace's death, for she was still missing. Helen had felt a pang of guilt then, for she could have let Aunt Ruth know that her daughter was safe. With her youngest in the ground at just sixteen, it would be such a comfort to the poor woman.
In an exhilarating rush of realization, Helen realized she could still tell Aunt Ruth that her daughter was safe. She quickly gathered up her quill, ink, and paper, feeling proud of herself when she thought of the joy her letter would bring her aunt.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
Ruth stared incredulously at the piece of paper in her hands.
Esme's safe. Esme's safe. That's all she could process.
"Ruth? What's in your letter, dear? Anything of interest?" her husband asked.
"Not really. Helen sends her condolences for Grace's death," she replied quickly, trying to regain her composure. She folded the letter up quickly, stuffing it hastily back into the letter, while trying to act nonchalant.
Henry seemed to be looking at her curiously, but then he returned his attention to his paper, and Ruth had to resist the urge to breath a sigh of relief.
Though she went around her chores as normal, there was still a spring to Ruth's step all day. At least one of her daughters was safe. Safe and with family. It was a better outcome than Ruth would ever have dared to imagine. Esme was far away from Charles' violent hands, yet Ruth knew she was safe. She could ask Helen to keep her updated on Esme and her pregnancy. Maybe she could even visit the child once it was born under the guise of visiting Helen and her family.
Everything may just turn out alright for Esme after all.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
She couldn't help the gasp that escaped her lips. The basket she had been holding fell to the floor with a large crash. On a list of people she would not have expected to discover standing in her kitchen, he came top. But there he stood, build as brass, as if he had every right to be there and nothing to be ashamed off.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded harshly.
"I simply came to offer my condolences for your daughter's death. In light of that dreadful news, I'm sure you'll be delighted to learn that I intend to have your other daughter safely home soon," Charles Evenson replied smoothly.
"You… you know where she is?" Ruth stammered disbelievingly. Her thoughts drifted to Helen's letter, hidden in the depths of her underwear drawer. She had intended to read it properly as soon as she could, compose a reply, and then burn it before Henry could find it.
"In Milwaukee, I believe. In hiding with your niece, Helen."
"How? How do you?"
"How do I know that? You really should find a better hiding place, Mrs. Platt. But at least I've learned I can trust one of my parents-in-law."
"Henry," Ruth murmured. Hatred for the man she called her husband boiled up inside her. How could he sell their own daughter out to the man who had abused her? Hadn't he learnt anything from Grace's death? Did he suffer no guilt over what had happened to her?
She realized her son-in-law's sharp eyes were still watching her.
"Please," she pleaded. "Please, just let her be."
"I just want my wife back. Surely that's understandable. And she's carrying my child, she has no right to take him away from me. I'm just taking back what's mine," Charles replied calmly, seemingly unbothered by her pleas.
"And what well you do once you've got her back? Go back to abusing her once more?" Ruth had no idea where this strength was coming from. She had not been so outspoken in years. She realized she sounded like her daughter. Or the spirited woman her daughter had once been.
"I've no idea what you're talking about," Charles lied, faking shock.
Ruth was about to retort when her husband walked into the room.
"How could you?" she demanded before she could stop herself.
"Esme belongs with her husband, Ruth," Henry replied in a tone that would brook no argument. "How about you make us some dinner?"
Ruth knew she could never win this argument. Once more, there was nothing she could do to help her daughter. Obediently, she picked up the groceries she had dropped in her shock earlier, and did as her husband ordered.
Charles and Henry made no effort to hide their conversation from Ruth as she cooked. No doubt they believed she would not dare to do anything to stop them.
But as she listened in, Ruth formulated a plan. They were planning to go to Milwaukee next week. If she was lucky, a letter could beat them there. She could forewarn her niece and her daughter. She knew they was a high chance it would not work. But she had to try. After all these years of standing by and doing nothing to help her daughter, she knew she had to act in her defence this time. For the stakes were higher than they ever had been. Ruth did not even want to imagine what Charles would do to his pregnant wife if she was once more trapped in his grasp.
She wrote the letter in the dead of night, creeping downstairs and writing by candlelight. She continuously prayed her husband would not wake up and come to find her.
Throwing her husband's heavy coat over her nightgown, Ruth snuck out of her house. She ran quickly to the post box at the end of her road. As she pushed her letter inside, she prayed once more it would get to its destination in time. Her daughter's happiness depended on it.
And maybe even her life.
A week later, when Henry returned from Milwaukee in a terrible rage, Ruth knew her plan had been a success.
But now she was in the same situation as before, she had no idea where her pregnant runaway daughter was. However, she had changed her mind regarding what was best for her daughter and her child. Far-away and unknown was a lot better than in Charles' hands.
~o~ ~O~ ~o~
It was eight months later when yet another knock sounded on the Platts' front door. As soon as Ruth opened the door, her mind flashed back to the day she had found out Grace was dead. For the policeman on her doorstep wore exactly the same look.
"Hello, Mrs. Platt. I'm George Colbert. You may remember me, I was the man first put in charge of the disappearance of your daughter, Esme Evenson." Ruth remembered him vaguely then. He had sat with her, Henry, and Charles in the Evensons' living room on the day Esme had first been reported as missing. Though she had actually been missing for a week by then, but Charles had only just reported it – assuming his wife would return soon enough. And that he wouldn't have to go through the embarrassment of admitting his wife had run away.
"Have you found her?" Ruth sounded hopeful, then she remembered that would mean Charles would know where she was too. Ruth had to resist the urge to cringe at the image of her daughter being beaten, perhaps even in front of her own baby, for she should have given birth by now.
"We think we may have discovered what happened to her," he replied carefully.
"May I come in, please? Is your husband home?" Ruth nodded yes to both questions, and, just as she had with Dr. Williams, she led the policeman into their parlour. She hoped the news wasn't the same. For no matter what the future may have held for her if she was alive, Ruth couldn't stand the idea that Esme was dead too.
"Sit down, Mr. Colbert. My husband's out back in the fields, I'll go get him." Ruth tried to keep herself steady as she walked through the house and out the front door. She called her husband's name from the porch.
"What?" he snapped as he walked towards her.
"There's a policeman here to speak to us. About Esme." Henry quickly followed her into the house, ignoring the dirt on his clothes and shoes.
After they were both seated, they turned their attention to the uncomfortable looking policeman.
"George Colbert," he said in introduction to Henry.
"Henry Platt. You were there when Esme's disappearance was first reported, correct?"
"So, what have you come to tell us?" Henry asked impatiently.
"I received a letter yesterday. From a colleague who works in Wisconsin. Obviously, when your daughter's disappearance was first reported, we sent out letters to other police stations asking for any report of someone fitting her description."
"Somebody saw her?" Ruth gasped.
"Not quite," Mr. Colbert replied uneasily. "There is no easy way to inform you of this. My colleague was dealing with a report regarding a suicide in Ashland, when he noticed the woman's last name was Platt. We put both names on the letters in case your daughter reverted to her maiden name." He didn't mention why she would do so, but everyone present knew what was being implied.
"A… a suicide?" Ruth stammered in shock. "Why, why would she?" Ruth couldn't imagine Esme would take her own life. Admittedly she had many reasons to do so, but if Ruth knew anything about her daughter it was that she would have stayed alive for her child if nothing else.
"The woman in the report was Grace Marie Platt."
"That's my other daughter," Ruth corrected and relief flowed through her. "She died eleven months. It must just be a coincidence." But even as she said it she realized the chance of someone having the exact same name as Grace was slim, and her relief was quickly replaced with panic once more.
"We believe Esme was probably using her sister's name. The woman, this Grace Platt, fitted Esme's description. And she had given birth the day before. Your daughter was supposed to be pregnant when she ran away, was she not?"
Ruth nodded. "What happened to the baby?" she whispered.
"The child passed away shortly after his birth. It's believed that's what led to his mother's decision to jump off a cliff." That information confirmed in Ruth's mind that it was Esme they were talking about. For with her son gone, what more did Esme have to live for?
But still, the image of her daughter jumping off a cliff horrified her to the core. Her daughter had died a broken woman, when she had once been so alive. Ruth had tried her best to squash that life out of her daughter when she was growing up, to make her obedient and quiet as she should be. In the end, she had truly taken the life from her.
"So you believe this woman was Esme and that she killed herself," Henry summarised bleakly.
"Yes, Mr. Platt. I'm sorry. I know this is a lot to process. I'll let myself out, if you wish." With one last sombre nod in their direction, he left.
Ruth had nothing to say, she was still processing the information she had just learnt. Trying to come to terms with the idea that her daughter was not safe and happy with her child somewhere as she been trying to convince herself, but in the ground, the babe alongside her.
She heard her husband move and dully noted he was heading towards where he kept his liquor.
Silently, she fled upstairs, and, just as she had when Grace died, she curled into a ball and cried all her grief out. Both her daughters were dead now. One murdered in an asylum and one by her own hand. She had truly failed as a mother.
When Henry came to bed he was off his head on alcohol. Though she pretended to be asleep again, this time he spoke to her anyway.
"I killed them both," he murmured. "I killed them both." He began to sob helplessly, something Ruth had never seen him do before. Despite everything she wanted to comfort him, but she realized she could think of nothing to say to do so. For how could she argue against something she agreed with?
"I killed them. I killed them. I killed them," he muttered with frantic anguish, and then he collapsed onto the bed. Ruth knew from experience the best thing to do was to let him sleep him off.
But Henry never woke up. Alcohol poisoning, the doctor's said. His frantic regretful mutterings were the last words he said, and Ruth liked to think they showed that he did feel remorse for what had happened to his daughter. For she knew in her heart, that he had not been a bad man. He had not been an alcoholic or a harsh man when she had first married him. It had been disappointment that had twisted him into the man he had become, and Ruth wished life could have turned out differently for all of them, but she could not change the past.
Maybe if her daughters had been the sons he had wanted, none of this would have happened. But somehow she couldn't wish for that, it felt disloyal to the memory of the daughters she had loved, despite everything.
When they buried Henry alongside Grace, Ruth also had them add a memorial for Esme to the stone that marked the grave. It was the best she could do in honour of her daughter's memory.
Following her husband's death, Ruth sold the farm and moved in with her long-widowed sister, Mary.
When she died two years later, she left only two requests in her will.. The first request was about what to do with what was left of the money she had gained from her sale of the farm. Half of it went to the local women's right movement. The other half went to the local medical school, with special orders to try and research into diseases of the brain that did not lead to insanity.
That peculiar order confused many of the doctors at the school, for surely there was no such thing. But Ruth had known that it was true. That no matter what illness had affected her daughter – she had not been insane.
The second was to be buried with her husband and youngest daughter, as well as the memory of her eldest daughter.
These requests were carried out, and Ruth was placed in the ground alongside her family.
Ninety-seven years later, the words Ruth had so desperately wished to hear for the last four years of her life were finally said to her.
"I forgive you."
I was trying to give us a further look into Grace's mind, as well as humanise Esme's parents a little.
As always when I write about Grace, I take full responsiblity for any mistakes made regarding her disablity, and no offence is intended.
Reviews are greatly appreciated :) If you have any ideas for possible outtakes I'd be delighted to hear them.