She lay on the grave of Judas Elm, listening for the chime of midnight. Inevitable and close, she shivered. Was it the cold dank air or the destination ahead? ‘I’m here for you, this is your time’ was the message. She had come, adorned in her lace night gown, as specified by the image she’d conjured in her mind, into her thoughts, into her dreams and nightmares alike. She had envisaged this moment for a long time.
Minutes before, the bottom of her night gown had caught on her heel and ripped as she climbed over the cemetery fence, where she had fallen with a thud, onto the other side. Locked at seven was their protocol, here at twelve was hers. She imagined that the mixed palette of greys and browns from the wet earth below had covered all traces of the gowns original white. A wintery fog rested on the ground. In the distance a fox crossed cautiously as it glared at her.
‘I’m here, I did what you asked’ she whimpered to the gravestone. A hoot from the woods broke the silence. An icy breeze whirled around, causing goosebumps to sprout on her bare arms and neck. A wave of light-headedness passed through her.
Head now lay on stone, stiffness consumed her. Jerking involuntarily as she got colder, she wrapped her arms around her body. No coat, she wasn’t allowed her coat, this was suffering after all. Forgiveness would be achieved once suffering had consumed and used up all there was to offer. She owed it to him. All his messages had reminded her of that. Lying there, she waited for the poison to take effect.
Startled by his call, she shivered. ‘Come with me’ Judas shouted, laughing as he ran. Another image, she watched it play out. Then again, it had never stopped. It had played on a loop all her life. Forgetting was an option but it had never worked, even though she’d tried so many times. ‘Here’ he called, pulling her attention back to him. His little expectant face looked up as he beckoned her over to the cliffs edge. They weren’t meant to be out but it was fun. With their food packed and coats buttoned up, they had escaped the home as they’d done many times before. ‘Lucy, I’m glad you’re my friend. You’re a girl but I still like you.’ He laughed as he handed her a marble. Holding it up she could see its smooth surface and clear glass, she knew it was his best marble. Being two years older, she had protected weak Judas from the taunts of the tough lads and the blame of the staff. ‘You’re skinny, you smell, clean it up, I know you’ve cleaned it but hey clean it again’. The abuse was never ending. They had always blamed him. Poor little Judas. She smiled, ruffled his matted dark hair and placed the shiny glass marble in her pocket.
After climbing into the rocky crevice where they’d often hidden, they sat and ate cake. ‘The midnight feast’ they had called it. This was their secret. They ate and laughed as they watched the waves crashing against the rocks below. There was no moon that night but the stars that made up the plough had brightened up the skies. And other stars of course. ‘What’s that one? Is it a planet?’ Judas had asked.
An owl hooted, bringing Lucy back into the present. As she scraped her leg against the bare stone, Lucy felt a creeping wetness. She opened her eyes and forced her shaking body to move so that she could see the gash. Blood seeped onto the grave, she smiled. She owed him blood and she was paying him back. Numb, she felt no pain, just relief. How long this would take, she had no idea. On the stroke of twelve he had promised. But twelve still hadn’t arrived. She held her breath and listened, still there was nothing. She released her arms that were wrapping her body and placed one under her head like a pillow, and the other next to her. In her hand, she gripped the marble. ‘Please hurry’ she cried. Her stomach cramped and her joints spasmed. The jerking stopped only to be replaced by the chattering of her teeth. She could no longer see her surroundings through the thickening fog that had risen further. Maybe this was it, maybe there wasn’t really fog, maybe it wasn’t really cold, and maybe she wasn’t really numb. But the chattering, no she was still here. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to drift.
‘I’ve been waiting for you. I was always here waiting for when you were ready’ Judas called. They were back on the cliff. After finishing their cake, they began the climb back up. At one in the morning, there was always a room inspection. They had to get back for one. Standing, Lucy held her hand out to Judas. He stood and smiled at her. His dew absorbed hair had lengthened. The kinks that had flattened out were hanging in wet tendrils over his dark eyes. She laughed, ‘Come on then’. Climbing up the fine path to the top of the cliff Judas stopped and yelled as the ground gave way beneath him. Screaming, Judas held on with one hand as he placed his one foot unsteadily in a foot hole. ‘Help me’ he cried. Lucy stared. She tried to speak, to offer him some words of reassurance but she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move. His eyes were wide open, fully aware of her lack of response. That stare pleading with her to help, to pull him up. Trembling with fear, she gazed down at the crashing waves. Her speechlessness turned into sobbing. She grabbed the rocks above her and held out her hand. More rocks fell and the gap between them widened. She tried to reach but they were now too far apart. ‘Will you catch my hand Lucy, if I reach for you?’
‘I don’t know Judas, I don’t know if I can,’ she cried as tears gushed down her face. She closed her eyes. ‘I can’t,’ she cried.
If only she’d been braver, she would not be here, on this cold gravestone in the night awaiting her punishment. If only. A regret that had followed her through all her forty eight years, a regret that could be fixed with the blessing of the one she’d made a false promise to. The promise to protect always, to catch him when he fell. A promise broken and he knew, that’s why he’d never left her. This time things would be different. She needed her mind to go back; she willed it to go back to the broken cliff. It would not oblige, one last punishment, even in her mind she could not put the wrong right. The tablets had begun to sedate her. No longer able to move, she cried. All she could do was cry until the time came. ‘I’m here for you if you want me’. She whispered and closed her eyes, hoping he would come for her soon.
‘Will you catch me Lucy?’ Startled she looked up. Judas, desperate, pleading for her. Shaking, she looked into his large brown eyes. His breath was heavy and fast. She could see that he was beginning to loose his grip. Now was her time to be selfless, to show him she could be the person he had needed her to be.
‘I will catch you’ she shouted. ‘Jump towards me now’. A look of hope, just for a moment but it was there. She held out her hand, ready for him. With a large leap he flew towards her. She had done it, caught him. ‘I love you Lucy’ he shouted as he held onto her tight. She had him, gripped hard but he was too heavy. She would not let him go this time, not now she had been given a second chance. She would stay with him, take away his fear. ‘Everything will be alright, I promise and I love you too. Close your eyes and think of nice things like cake and marbles. We’re going to be alright’ she replied as her grip began to loosen. Crying she knew she couldn’t let him go and make him suffer alone. She was all he had and she would go with him. As he pulled her further down with all his weight, she lost her grip and they fell. ‘Keep your eyes closed’ she shouted as they tumbled through the cold night air. The church clock began to chime loud. Chime one, she saw the crashing waves. Chime two, the stars. Chimes three, she wondered if the parents she never knew would even care. Chime four; she forgave them, what was the point? Chime five, hatred for all those who had hurt Judas, Chime six, the realisation that hate was something she didn’t want to take with her. Chime seven, the hate lost its grip, it was her and Judas and the love of a sister for a brother. Chimes eight to ten, she looked down at Judas. His eyes still closed, full of trust in her that they would both be alright and it broke her heart. Nine years is all he had, nine lonely years and she smiled as she had made some of them good. He would never be alone again. She would be with him for eternity. Chime eleven, a feeling of peace, serenity. The crashing waves and jagged rocks were upon her. The twelfth chime struck. Lay broken on the jagged rocks below, her last expression, a smile; her hand still linked to Judas’s. She never let go.
Forty seven years to the night, Lucy Baker lay on the grave of Judas Elm. No longer listening for the chime; no longer thinking of the past; no longer feeling the guilt and pain. Lying cold and still, the marble fell from her hand and rolled off the edge of the grave and onto the grass. An owl hooted and rain drops fell onto Lucy’s body.
If you enjoy a thriller, why not try the following? 99p only per novel. US links listed also.