Hi this is my first fanfic, just want to say I do not own signs or any of the characters ( cries)!Hope you enjoy it please read and review!
The sunlight was hot on the ground. The air had a thread of barely contained heat. There was a tinge of summer in the air. I squinted ahead through the windscreen as I drove.
I grew up here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania,-me, my mom, my dad and my sister, Colleen. Colleen, my older sister-operative word being older. I was nine when she got married. She was twenty six. Go figure.
We were close, though, real close. I wasn't the most sociable kid and that's putting it mildly. You know how when you go to a birthday party and everyone's running around and there's always this one kid sitting in the corner reading a book? That was me.
Colleen was the opposite-always outgoing, confident, fill in the adjective. She was great and, like I said, we were pretty close, despite the age gap. Whenever I had one of my freakouts as a kid-about going out somewhere, eating the food I didn't like, having to go to bed too early-Colleen calmed me down. And generally, she made me do whatever it was I was freaking out about, which, with me, was often a kind of minor miracle.
I remember at her wedding to Graham Hess-the man I was on my way to see-I was the bridesmaid and, me being me, there were about fifty rehearsals beforehand to make sure I didn't drop anything or step on my sister's dress or something equally catastrophic. Colleen didn't come out and say so but you could tell she was pretty worried that her little sister might end up ruining the entire day by tripping up halfway up the aisle or spilling a load of food down my bridesmaid's dress or something along those lines. Which, actually, I don't think anybody blamed her for. I certainly didn't.
Anyway-this is going back about thirteen years, by the way-things went fine. I got up the aisle, holding my sister's train, without any major disasters. I managed to stand still and not fidget about during the service. And I didn't turn around and go the wrong way when it was time to exit the church after my sister and Graham had been happily married. Things were good-better than the rehearsal in which I stepped on the flower girl, dropped the confetti and, to top the whole disaster off, accidentally ripped my own dress. (Thank God we could fix it. There might well have been World War 3 if we hadn't, and not just from Colleen.)
And yeah, that was pretty much the pattern for the next thirteen years. Things went fine. In fact, they were great. Graham, two years older than Colleen, was-understandably-more like an uncle to me than a brother-in-law, which I was fine with. He and Colleen lived on this country farm-type thing, a few miles away from us, and I'd often go and stay for a few days. Graham had a younger brother, Merrill, a minor league baseball player, who was four or five years older than me, but I'd never met him-apart from a few quick "Hi's" and smiles at family functions when we were younger. He was away a lot-playing baseball.
I didn't particularly mind. Unsurprisingly, I wasn't the world's greatest sportswoman and, to be polite, I couldn't have given a damn about baseball so I was pretty certain to hang out with a baseball player-even a minor-league one-would probably have been a penance rather than a privilege in my case. I didn't even remember that much about him.
I'd be seeing him this visit, though. Along with Graham and Colleen's kids, Morgan and Bo. They wouldn't be a surprise-I'd seen them practically every day, up until six months ago.
Morgan was born when I was eleven, Bo when I was seventeen. Technically, I was their aunt, but trust me, they never called me that. A , it would have made me sound like an adult when I was probably less mature than them, and B, it would have been pretty stupid anyway, given the small age gap. But we always got on well-they were both pretty quiet, sweet kids-very intelligent but shy. Morgan looked like Graham and Bo resembled Colleen almost exactly.
I remember once, when Bo was about two, I was sitting with Colleen and Graham, watching the little girl request another glass of water-the old one was "contam-nated", apparently- and I spotted Colleen smiling at me.
"I was just thinking" my sister remarked. "How much Bo reminds me of you."
I stared at her. To be honest, I thought she might be losing her mind. Bo looked exactly like her. Everyone said so.
Naturally, this is what I said to her.
"How the heck does she remind you of me? Bo looks exactly like you. Everyone says so." I told her, waiting for her explanation.
Colleen smiled again. "She might look like me, but trust me, personality-wise, she reminds me of you." She grinned. "All her rituals. Water having to be just right. Quiet. Thoughtful. Exactly like you were." She nodded. "Trust me. I might be her mother, but Bo takes after you."
I thought about it. It did seem to make some sense. Maybe it was part of the reason I always got on so well with Bo and Morgan. I understood them more easily than I understood most kids.
"She'll grow out of it" Colleen told me then. "She'll always be a bit thoughtful but she'll get more outgoing, too. You did." She winked at me.
It was true. As I'd got older, I had grown out of some stuff. I'd started joining in more, hung out with more kids. I still wasn't that sociable-I was still, to be polite, strange-but I had friends, I spent time with people. Life was good. Better, at least.
Then, six months ago, I got a visit from my parents. And that visit was basically to tell me the worst news of my life.
My sister had been taking a walk in the woods when some exhausted driver fell asleep at the wheel, lost control of his car, crashed and hit her. She died less than half an hour afterwards while her husband was talking to her. That's what happened and there was no use dressing it up. No use dressing it up at all.
My parents came to my college to tell me. The sat with me in the dean's office and I waited to start crying. I waited and waited.
And I didn't. I couldn't cry. I couldn't even feel. What kind of person is that? Someone who doesn't even cry when their own sister dies. What kind of person did that make me?
Of course, I cried at some point-later on at the funeral, at the burial,-but, somehow, it didn't work. It didn't relieve anything. It didn't make anything feel better or even easier. It just felt hard and painful and difficult and I didn't feel any more released than I had before.
I still felt like that. Like there was a hard knot in the centre of my stomach, behind my eyes. It was always there, a constant reminder, a constant ache. And, of course, the constant, constant, constant longing, missing, desperate aching for my sister, for her comfort, for her jokes, for her happiness, for her love and for her acceptance.
And it was the same for Graham. But worse, even. He was locked into his own grief, for months and months. He had been at Colleen's side as she died, he'd watched it happen. He had been the first one the police called. He had lost his wife and Morgan and Bo had lost their mother.
At the funeral, he'd stood there, his face tight, watching the coffin as it was carried up the aisle. His brother-who I still hadn't seen properly-was in the row behind us, I knew. I stood four people away, with Morgan and Bo on one side and my parents on the other.
The little boy and girl's faces were white and drawn. As I watched, Morgan pulled out his inhaler, raised it to his lips and sucked in a breath. His eyes were bloodshot from weeping. Bo stood silent, her little face tense, her eyes the saddest I had ever seen on a child. I reached out and took her hand and she leaned into me, her expression etched with silent grief.
I didn't say anything. What on earth was there to say? It seemed impossible to me that that coffin, that coffin that seemed so small, could contain my sister. It was still impossible to believe that the next time I went over to the Hess farm, she wouldn't be there, laughing, swinging Bo on her hip, ruffling Morgan's hair, smiling as she kissed Graham on the cheek. It was still inconceivable to me that my sister was dead.
The whole service had seemed surreal to me, like a dream, a nightmare. I'd watched the priest speaking but hadn't heard. I couldn't hear anything. None of it was real. Until Graham spoke.
The priest had been reciting some gobbledegook about God and forgiveness and unexplained events when I heard Graham's voice, low and wretched.
"Well, God wasn't there, was he? God wasn't there for us. He wasn't there for Colleen. Where was He, then?"
Morgan flinched and Bo curled tighter into my side. I stared at Graham. His voice was low-and I don't think many people had heard him-but I still stared. It was his wife's funeral. I knew he was angry and I'd have been-surprised is putting it mildly- to hear it from anyone, but compounding matters was the simple fact that Graham was a reverend. He believed in God. He practically believed in God for a living.
And now here he was, insulting him at his wife's funeral. You could say it was a little out of character.
I patted Bo's head and stared at my sister's coffin. A coffin carrying the woman whose death had ripped us all apart.
Graham resigned from the church a few weeks later and I heard that Merrill had moved in to help out. I'd visited Graham a few times in the last few months-but this time was different. This time, I was staying for a few days-something I hadn't done since before that fateful night six months ago.
I gritted my teeth. There was no use dwelling on things, now. No use dwelling on what I could or couldn't have done. Absolutely no point ...
You could have been there said the voice in my head.
I shook it furiously. It wasn't my fault. It wasn't ...
You could have been with her
Shut up. Shut up...
You might have been able to save her ...
It was only then that I realised I had shouted out loud.
I braked sharply, skidding to a halt and looked around. The road was deserted; mine was the only car in sight for at least a mile.
I sat, quietly, leaning over my steering wheel, closing my eyes tight. Just ignore it...Just ignore it, Isabelle I told myself. I rubbed my hands over my eyes, feeling them sting sharply against the light.
It's not real...it's not real...
I squeezed my eyes shut once, then opened them.
It's not real ...
I blinked once, sat up straight and set the car in gear. I turned round and headed for the Hess farm, putting all memories of that night out of my mind.
Five minutes later, I pulled up outside the Hess house. I'd been here so many times, I didn't even bother ringing the doorbell anymore; I just walked straight in. As a kid, I used to share a room here with Morgan and Bo when I stayed for weekends. We used to camp out in the living room, me telling them the stories they loved, while pretending we were sitting in a tent on an African plain or hiding in a dense rainforest. But these days, it was different. I was an adult now, technically-twenty-one. And for a few years now, I'd slept in the little spare room off the corner of the landing. Colleen always joked that that was "Isabelle's room" because I was over there so often. This would be the first time I'd been here overnight without her.
I'd been nervous when Graham had suggested it. I'd been over for dinner and stuff a few times since it happened and Morgan and Bo had spent the day at ours but this would be the first time I'd stayed for the weekend and I couldn't explain to myself why that was such a big deal.
"Morgan and Bo really miss you" Graham told me over the phone. "They've been asking for you to stay over for weeks."
I twisted the phone wire around my finger."Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure" Graham sounded surprised by the question. "Why wouldn't I be?"
I didn't know. Like I said, I couldn't explain it, even to myself.
But I really missed Morgan and Bo. And I wanted to see them really badly. And I couldn't stand the thought of letting them down. That's a lot of ands.
"OK" I said. "I'll come." Feeling I could muster a little more gratitude-after all Graham didn't have to have me over-he was doing me a favour- I said "Thanks for having me."
Graham laughed. "Isabelle, since when have you ever said thanks for having me?" I shrugged-though he obviously couldn't see me-and laughed too, relieved to hear him sounding so-I don't know-normal.
"Well, the kids will be pleased" Graham continued. "They've been bugging me about it for weeks." I could guess. The last time they'd dropped me back home after dinner, Bo had hung onto my leg and refused to let go, resulting in one of the only mini-tantrums I've ever seen her throw. Morgan hadn't been much better.
"You'll stay over soon, right?" he asked me from the backseat of the car.
"Of course" I told him, leaning in to give him a kiss on the head, while waving to his sister, being strapped back in the other side.
"Next weekend?" Morgan had asked, his face lighting up slightly.
"Well...maybe" I told him, hesitating. His face fell slightly.
"But soon, right? That way, you'll be able to meet Uncle Merrill. You've never seen him before!" I nodded and looked at the ground, but in the following days I hadn't been able to erase the memory of Morgan's hopeful look from my mind. So, now, on the phone with his father, of course I said yes.
"That's great" Graham told me now. "You'll be able to meet my brother finally!" I laughed again. It was time I did meet Merrill-it was bizarre we still hadn't been introduced properly.
"Seriously" Graham said. "I'm glad you're coming-even the dogs have been missing you! Especially Isabelle!" The fact that, at the age of six, Morgan had insisted on calling the new large family German Shepherd Isabelle after me, was a standing joke in the Hess household and in my own. Their other dog was called Houdini. Go figure.
"When should I come over?" I asked. Beforehand, there wasn't much formality to these visits-I just turned up sometime Friday night or Saturday morning.
We sorted it out that I would drive over early Saturday morning and I could drive back Monday, since I had a day off. I was actually pretty much looking forward to it.
So, understandably, as I climbed out of my car, I was pretty happy. That's when I saw the police car outside.
After staring at the thing for about ten seconds (not really that useful, looking back), I turned and headed straight for the house. My mind was whirling as I started to run. What the heck was going on?
There were about twenty questions pouring through my brain as I burst through the front door; what had happened? Were the kids all right? Where was Graham?
I skidded into the hall and stared into the living room. It was empty.
"Hello?" I called, uncertainly. I walked through the room to the kitchen, noting the usual amount of half-full water glasses littering various surfaces. The kitchen looked normal; nothing moved, nothing out of place. However, as I stood still, I could hear some faint clanging coming from the basement.
"Hello?" I called out, again. I took a few steps across the room. The door at the bottom of the basement stairs was slightly ajar and I could hear something-some kind of thumping, and a lower, coarser sound as though something was being dragged heavily across the floor. I stood by the door, confused. "Morgan? Bo?" I listened hard but couldn't detect any activity from the ground floor. Frowning to myself, I shrugged, turned and began to descend the basement stairs. Maybe the kids were messing around down there or something...
Then something-some indefinable noise-made me turn my head towards the kitchen window. And there was Graham walking out of the corn-with a police officer.
My heart turned over for a minute with panic-what was wrong? Why were they in the corn? Had one of the kids gone missing?
My heart rate slowed as, looking closer, I spotted Morgan and Bo. They were playing on the jungle gym, thank goodness. I moved towards the back door.
Behind me, I almost thought I heard a sound –a voice, calling something-from downstairs, but I was already outside by then.
"Hi!" I walked towards them, jogging slightly across the lawn. "What's going on?"
My voice faded as I got closer. Morgan and Bo weren't playing. Morgan was sitting slumped on the ground, and from my vantage point, I could see his blue inhaler clutched in his hand. Bo was sitting on the jungle gym, curled in what was almost an upright fetal position. Graham was crouched below, talking to Morgan quietly.
And in front of them on the grass was a big German Shepherd dog- I wasn't sure which of the two it was- lying very still-with something sticking out of its throat.
I raced across the lawn.
"What-"I panted. "What happened?"
"Kids?" I placed my hand cautiously on Morgan's shoulder. He looked up and it was with a jolt that I saw he was crying .
"It-it was an accident" he told me, his voice shaking. "I didn't mean to. He-he fell on me-he was trying to get to Bo-"
Graham looked up at me for the first time. "Hey, Isabelle" he said in a voice so quiet that my heart thudded with fear. The policewoman-Caroline Paski, I recognised her from around town-bent down, beside him.
"What-what's wrong?" I asked, then realising it was a pretty stupid question, rephrased. "I mean-is Caroline just here for-" I gestured downwards.
"Houdini's sick" Bo announced, the first words she'd spoken since my arrival.
That solved the mystery of which dog it was then-I could never tell them apart.
Of course, seconds after I thought this, I shook myself furiously. How could I be thinking like that when Morgan and Bo were so upset? Honestly.
I reached up to tousle Bo's hair and she held out her arms. I lifted her down and hugged her close as Graham helped Morgan to his feet. I stared at the police officer.
"Hey, Isabelle" she said, in one of the flattest tones I'd ever heard. Naturally, this really filled me with confidence.
"What happened?"I half-whispered, over Bo's head. Bo curled into me, watching Caroline with a guarded look.
Caroline sighed, and flung her hand out in a gesture of hopelessness. "I got a call from Graham that someone had been messing around with their crops-he asked me to come down and check it out. It's probably local pranksters-I was just telling him that when we heard-"She paused.
"What?" I asked.
But our conversation was broken up by Graham's voice. He was standing, with his arm around his son.
"I'm so sorry, Morgan" he said. There was nothing else to say.
Morgan pushed away his father's hand and walked into the house. We all stood in silence, watching him go.
Graham sighed and turned to me, holding his arms out. I passed Bo over and, turning again, he carried her towards the house.
I followed, with Caroline.
"What did you hear?" I asked her, as we walked back up the lawn together.
She sighed. "Nothing, amazingly" she told me. "That was what tipped Graham off. When kids aren't making any noise, something's wrong."
I didn't say anything, but privately disagreed. I'd known Morgan and Bo for years, and they were pretty quiet in general. Still, who was I to tell her she was wrong? I didn't have kids.
"We got out of the corn and-well-we found that." She gestured back to the dog. She sighed. "There's been a lot of this sort of thing happening around here recently-strange stuff, animals acting funny-some of them-" She glanced at me.
"What?" I asked.
She sighed again. "Well-some of them violent." She glanced up again, waiting for my reaction.
I nodded, taking this in.
"Actually" Caroline muttered, slowing. "I might just go back and take a look at that dog..."
She turned back as I sped up, running slightly to catch up with Graham and Bo, who were by now, almost at the house. As I watched, the door banged open, and a younger man walked out.
I looked up at Bo's voice. "What, baby?" I asked .
"Do you think-"
Bo was cut off by Graham's voice, sharp and sudden. "Where were you?"
The younger man approached, and I glanced up briefly, before returning my gaze to Bo's face, as she said "Houdini's sick."
"Tie Isabelle up to the back of the shed, please and make sure the knot's very tight." Graham told the younger man.
I stopped. "What?"
Graham, paused and turned to look at me. "Oh" he chuckled. "Not you, Isabelle!"
"Oh, the other dog!" I said, truly astonishing myself with my own denseness. I mean, of course it was the other dog! What the heck had I been thinking?
Graham laughed again, though the sound was strained and forced. He turned back to the house. "Oh, by the way," he said over his shoulder. "Isabelle, this is my brother Merrill; Merrill, this is Isabelle, Colleen's sister." I sensed the mental wince on my sister's name. I flinched slightly myself-it had been six months and I still wasn't used to this. This-the whole fact of my sister not being with us anymore.
I shook myself mentally-something I was doing a lot lately. "I'll go with him" I told Graham, turning back again. From my vantage point at the top of the lawn, I could see Caroline bent over Houdini's body, and as I watched, she yanked at the weapon that had brought about his death. I winced slightly, as she laid it on the grass. I couldn't see properly from this distance, but it looked like a barbecue fork.
"God" said Merrill beside me. "What the hell happened?"
I turned and stared at him.
So this was the famous Merrill-finally. I'd never seen him properly before in my life-not even a photograph. And I found myself staring and staring, unable to look away.
He wasn't conventionally good-looking-not like the flop-haired, flawless-faced pop stars my friends at college still idolised. He was a good head taller than me, and his hair was cut short, with eyebrows that crinkled together in a frown of confusion. His skin was pale and smooth, and as he glanced towards me, I noticed there was a strange scar above his lip, that caused his mouth to curl up slightly sometimes. His eyes were unusual, though-a curious, almost unearthly blue-green, that stared at my face, with a strange kind of depth.
I stared at him, for a moment, then looked away quickly.
"Oh" I said, my voice wavering slightly, everything I'd been planning to say going out of my head. "I-I think the dog died."
Perfect. Just perfect, Isabelle. You finally come face-to-face with Graham's mysterious younger brother and what do you say. "I think the dog died." Well done. Aside from stating the obvious, I'd made myself look like the most tactless idiot on the planet. Fantastic.
"Really?" Merrill said, not seeming to notice my idiocy-though I caught him shooting me a quick appraising look. "What happened?"
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Just calm down, I told myself. You do not need to make an idiot of yourself in front of him. Just breathe in and talk normally.
"You okay?" I heard Merrill ask. He was watching me with a concerned look on his face-probably wondering if Colleen's little sister had a screw loose or something.
I took another breath. "Yeah-yeah, sorry" I told him, forcing my lips into a smile, which probably looked something like a rather unpleasant grimace.
He nodded, though he cast me another curious glance.
"I'm not sure what happened" I told him, my voice stronger now. "I just got to the back and Morgan and Bo were sitting with the dog. I think something happened with the barbecue fork-Houdini was trying to get at Bo or something and Morgan got in front of her. It-wasn't too clear." I finished, hoping my explanation sounded at least halfway sane. I gave him a quick sideways glance. "I'm Isabelle, by the way. Isabelle Henderson-I'm-I'm Colleen's sister-" My voice trailed off as Merrill turned and gave me the sympathetic look I had come to expect when I mentioned Colleen.
"Yeah, I know" he said, slightly awkward, to my surprise. "I'm Merrill, Graham's younger brother. I'm Morgan and Bo's uncle-"For some reason, he looked kind of embarrassed-God knows why, I was the one making an idiot of myself, not him.
He turned quickly and focused his attention on Isabelle the German Shepherd, pulling at her lead. I stood awkwardly, waiting for her to move.
"What happened this morning?" I asked him. "I mean, with the crops and stuff-Caroline said you guys called 'cos there was a problem-"
"Yeah, there is" Merrill told me, unravelling the lead so that Isabelle could walk behind us. "The kids found it. Someone's been fooling around with the cornfields-"
I frowned to myself. What on earth had happened?
"It's no big deal" Merrill assured me, catching my worried look. "It's just some idiots messing about. They'll get caught."
"What did they do to the corn?" I asked.
Merrill rolled his eyes. "Stupid stuff-just made random shapes, kind of-you know, crop circles?" I blinked, astonished.
"Crop circles?" I asked. I knew about them-I'd been really into all that sort of stuff as a kid. I used to spend my nights from the age of around ten to twelve, staring out my bedroom window, desperate to see some kind of UFO, getting excited about every low-flying plane I saw. I might have grown out of that obsession, but I was still interested in anything to do with aliens, or UFOS or any kind of supernatural stuff.
Merrill laughed. "Yeah, that kind of crap!" he said. Catching the look on my face, he rolled his eyes again. "It's not real!" he told me. "It will just be some teenagers messing around!"
I was staring back towards the cornfields. "How could you see them?" I asked. "I mean, we're on the ground-like the corn. How could you see the shapes from here?"
I winced again. We're on the ground like the corn. How the hell had I come out with that?
Merrill sniggered, clearly picking up on the obviousness of my remark. Then, noticing me cringing, he seemed to decide to be helpful. "The kids saw it first" he told me. "You can see it from their window."
I stared at him. "Can we take a look?"
I stood nervously outside the door to Morgan and Bo's room. Fixing a smile on my face, I tapped on the door. "Can I come in?"
Morgan was sitting on the bed, staring at his lap. Looking at him, clearly thinking about his dog, and what had happened, I felt a rush of affection, and walked over to sit down beside him.
I put my arm around his shoulders. "Morgan, it wasn't your fault," I told him. He sniffed, but didn't speak. I stared at him, knowing that right now, whatever I had to say, wouldn't help.
"I'm sorry" I told him. Morgan nodded slightly, then leaned against me, putting his head against my shoulder. I sighed, hugging him, and staring at the top of his head worriedly.
"You guys okay?" I looked up to see Merrill standing in the doorway, with Bo beside him. "Caroline's just leaving-Graham's seeing her out." he said, in a sentence that seemed addressed to me.
"Right" I nodded.
Merrill cleared his throat. "Um-the dog-Houdini-they thought it might be best if-" He ducked his head slightly, looking awkward again. I stared at him, wondering what was wrong. At the same time, I noticed he was shifting from one foot to the other in a gesture of slight nervousness. As I watched, I realised it was actually kind of cute. What was he trying to tell us?
Bo said it for him. "Daddy said Caroline's going to take Houdini away." She told us quietly. Her head fell forward and I could see her lower lip trembling. I felt a sharp pang in my heart.
"No!" Morgan cried, leaping upright. "Why are they taking him away?"
Merrill closed his eyes. "Morgan-"he said.
But Morgan wouldn't stop. "He was our dog! Houdini was our dog! They can't just take him away!"
"Morgan, it-it's too late" Merrill said, looking as if he'd rather be telling Morgan anything than this. "Caroline will have left by now-and she'll have taken Houdini with her."
"It's not fair!" Morgan cried. I stood up, putting my arm round his shoulders. "Why couldn't we have buried him? We could have given him a nice burial! We could have-"
"Daddy said it would be better not to" Bo informed us, still quiet. With her head ducked, she shuffled into the room. She didn't say anything but came to stand beside me. I leaned down and hugged her.
Merrill came over to stand beside me. I felt my cheeks flush automatically, and lowered my head, not knowing quite where to look, as my arm brushed against his. He leaned over to whisper something.
"Graham thought it might be easier, less upsetting, if the kids didn't-"He gestured with his hand. "See any more than they had to."
"Aah" I nodded, understanding. I could see why Graham didn't want the kids to be any more upset than they had to be.
But now Morgan was more upset. It would have meant more to him to be able to say goodbye to a pet he loved.
"You don't have to whisper, you know" he informed us. "I can hear you."
I sighed, as Morgan pulled away from me. He turned and stalked towards the window.
I followed aimlessly, lifting Bo into my arms as I did so. She buried her face in my shoulder. I stroked her hair as we walked towards the window.
"Woh" I said under my breath. "What the hell-"
The fields of corn crops, stretched as far as the eye could see, were punctuated throughout the centre, with huge symbols. Wide areas of corn had been flattened, crushed to create strange shapes, that filled the field of crops and seemed to stretch for miles.
"The dogs were running around in it" Morgan told me, in a flat monotone. "They woke us up, barking. Me and Bo-"
"I thought it was in my dream." Bo interjected softly. Her little arms wound around my neck.
"We went outside and-" Morgan gestured with his hands. He didn't need to say any more. I stared out of the window over his head.
"Wow" I murmured, as I gazed at the crops. "That's-wow." My vocabulary was really on track today.
Loud footsteps behind us alerted us to Graham's presence in the room. He walked up to Morgan and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Morgan-"
He didn't get any further. Morgan whirled round. "Why didn't you let us keep him?" he shouted.
Graham didn't pretend not to know what his son was talking about. "Morgan, I'm sorry" he said. "I did what I thought was best. I didn't want you to see him like that. I thought it would be too upsetting-"
"You went to see Mom when she died!" Morgan yelled, the words almost yanked from his throat. "You didn't find that too upsetting!"
A huge silence filled the bedroom.
Bo froze, with her head still buried in my shoulder. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe. Merrill was still, staring at Morgan, his eyes wide, as though he couldn't believe what his nephew had said. He turned and reached out to his brother, placing a wary hand on his arm.
Graham stepped away. He stood very still and stared at Morgan, with a look on his face that was unlike any other that I have ever seen. Morgan stared back, tears reappearing in his eyes. Everyone was still.
Graham was the first to move. He stepped back, away from us. Merrill watched him, nervously.
"Mom has nothing to do with this." Graham kept his eyes on Morgan as he spoke. He moved backwards. "Mom has nothing to do with this." He repeated the phrase quietly, as though to give it extra weight. I stared at him, keeping my arms round Bo, still with one hand in her hair.
Very slowly, Graham turned and walked out of his children's bedroom. None of us tried to stop him.
Merrill, Bo and I all stood in silence. Morgan stared at the doorway through which his father had just walked. There were tears pouring down his face. I watched him, feeling my heart twist in my chest.
"Dad" Morgan's voice cut through the silence like a blunt knife. "Dad!" Without a word to the rest of us, he followed his father out of the room.
Merrill, Bo and I stood where we were, not knowing what to do, what to say. But we didn't follow them. We sensed not to.
Bo pulled back from my shoulder slightly and I noticed the tears in her eyes. I leaned over and kissed her cheek. She blinked at me, her lips trembling again.
Merrill walked over and stood beside us, as though he didn't know what else to do. I looked at him. He stared straight ahead through the window, his lips firm, tight, holding it together. But he ducked his head again, and I could see the slight glimmer of liquid in his eyes.
I turned and stared straight ahead too, out at the late morning. The sun was high in the sky now, shining brightly. Standing there, not knowing what else to do, we all silently watched the crop circles from the children's bedroom window.