His hand trembled as he threw a handful of Earth into the grave. Iris clung to him and cried. He decided to take his daughter to the funeral, although her grandmother tried to dissuade him. She keeps a stiff upper lip; she is seven years old, after all. It’s time to say goodbye to Mom.
Henry came up to her and stood at her side. His daughter hugged him and looked confusedly toward the grave. People came up, tossed the Earth, and left. For a moment, he tried to get away from all of that. He saw nothing in front of him; his ears were ringing; he could hear nothing but that.
His mother-in-law came up to him and started shaking him. Her mouth moved, but Henry understood nothing. His mother-in-law, Henry, the woman seemed to be calling to him for the umpteenth time. He shook his head, “Come on, people have already gone on the bus. I’ll come over later,” sighed Henry.
His mother-in-law began, and then fell silent, “Okay, she’s a strong woman. She’s always been like that. She’s strong in public, but she’ll cry at home,” Henry thought about his mother-in-law. “Iris, let’s go. Daddy will catch up with us later,” the daughter went with her grandmother. He stood still for a while until the noise of a car was heard.
Henry looked around; the gravediggers had finished their work and had just left. There was no one around, just a fresh grave next to other old ones. Alice’s mother kept the burial place in the cemetery next to her husband, but she had to bury her daughter there. Alice was a young woman, just over 40.
Henry took a small camera out of his pocket and pinned it to a tree on a nearby grave. He had his eye on it at once. The camera was aimed at his wife’s grave so the visibility would be good. It might be a silly idea, but he wanted to be with his wife a little longer. He was very upset when she died. He bought this camera as a toy to put in a country house.
He wanted to shoot nighttime videos with Iris in case a hedgehog came to bait or something else, but they haven’t had time to do anything yet. It was an impulsive desire; he decided he would put the camera away in a couple of days. He didn’t know what he wanted to see there; he just wanted to be with her.
The memorial service was kind of a blur; there were friends, relatives, food, booze, and some silly condolences, as if they could comfort him. He wished he could see and hear no one. He wanted to avoid the pitying looks and words of sympathy that clearly wouldn’t help. Stupid proprieties, all those congratulations and sympathies, the ready-made phrases fit only to write a book called “The Words You Just Want to Release into the Air.”
Then his mother-in-law said something unemotionally; she understood, of course, that words would not help. She wanted to get home as soon as possible and grieve over her daughter’s death, but she wouldn’t, of course. She took Iris with her because it will be easier to stay strong with her granddaughter. Henry didn’t mind; he can’t do anything right now. It is better for the girl to be with her grandmother. He apologized, got in his car, and drove off.
He drove around town in circles until it got dark. He would have continued on, but he remembered about the camera. When he got home, he immediately rushed to his laptop and set up the broadcast and stared spellbound at the screen as if he was waiting for something, but there was nothing. It would have looked like an ordinary picture if it weren’t for the light wind. Darkness and silhouettes of gravestones were illuminated by moonlight.
Then he laid down on the couch and put his laptop on the floor; he watched it and tried to fall asleep. Sometimes he closed his eyes, but then opened them again; he couldn’t sleep, but nothing was happening there. He didn’t really expect anything to happen; he just wanted it to be. He dozed off but did not sleep well; he kept getting up and trying to sleep. He shuddered at the scary images in his dreams.
At some point, he opened his eyes again and saw a woman with flowers on the screen. He closed his eyes, thinking he was dreaming, but then he flinched. He began to look closely at the image on the screen and almost fell off the couch. Indeed, there was a strange woman in the cemetery. Now he looked at his watch; it was 1:30 am. The dream was gone. He sat down and stared at the screen. He did not believe in mysticism; the woman was quite alive, though it looked strange. Maybe someone had not had time to say goodbye to the body, but why did she come at night?
Henry tried to remember who was at the funeral. All of Alice’s close friends were there. No one else would come in such a hurry, just at night to the cemetery, and this woman was right near his wife’s grave. Then the woman turned her face into the camera, and the man froze in shock. They were looking at each other’s faces, though she hardly knew she was looking into the camera. Henry was looking directly into the face of his late wife; it was Alice who had been buried yesterday.
He knew exactly that it was his wife who was lying in the coffin. Of course, her face had been reconstructed before the funeral, and she had makeup to hide the marks of the accident, but that was her, and now she was alive and well, judging by her appearance.
It was definitely his wife; he couldn’t confuse her with anyone else, even in this poorly lit place. He could see her slightly slouching posture, the habit of fixing hair, and even though it was covered by a kerchief now, Henry had no doubt; it was her. His brain was boiling; he began to remember all events of the past days. He had to find a logical explanation for what he had just seen. What had he missed? How could it be that Alice was alive?
So he decided that thinking was good, but he had to find her. He jumped up, grabbed his laptop, and ran to the car.
He might still catch her there. He drove the car and looked at the screen; she stayed near the grave for a while, and then she left. But Henry drove so fast while keeping an eye on the screen, maybe she was still out there somewhere. Again his brain started to remember how it had happened.
Four days ago, Alice was on her way back from work, taking a different route for some reason. She called to tell him she wanted to hit the mall, apparently there were discounts at her favorite shop. Alice loved shopping, and she was always watching for sales. She managed to buy cool things inexpensively. That was the last time he talked to her.
Then he remembered that call and thought she was nervous, but maybe he was exaggerating. Actually, she has been acting weird lately; she justified it by her workload at work. Shopping was as much therapy as a visit to a psychologist for her, but the next news about his wife came from the cops.
His wife’s car went off the bridge into the river because Alice lost control of the car. As it was dark, she was not wearing her seatbelt. The man often scolded his wife for neglecting it; Alice didn’t even care about the fines. She often was careless. The windshield was broken, and Alice’s body was found by divers later. It was Henry who went to the morgue to identify her and, of course, saw her in a coffin; everyone saw it.
When Henry arrived, there was no one at the cemetery. He walked around the grave and found smeared shoe marks that made it impossible to trace anyone. Henry angrily banged his fist on the fence, tearing the skin off his hand until it bled. He sat down, groaning in pain, and saw a piece of paper on the ground; it was a receipt.
He twirled it in his hands; what if she had dropped it? He went back to the car. At home, he examined the receipt and determined the address of the store. It was outside the city in some village.
Henry decided to go there; he came to this village. It was small compared to the city, but how can I find her there? I’m not going door to door, am I? Although why not, Henry thought and went to the first house. He was just about to knock when he remembered he had a receipt from the shop. Why not start from there, at least they might recognize his wife from the photo.
The saleswoman did recognize Alice and said that she had bought a bottle of water yesterday, and it seems that this woman moved here recently. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen her. Henry, where did she move to? Henry was almost shaking with excitement; where does she live?
Saleswoman: I can only guess. The saleswoman was eager to chat and gladly shared her thoughts. There’s one yard in the village; the owners were looking for someone to live in that house. Maybe your woman lives there?
And after a few minutes, Henry was already rushing through the potholes to that house. He hesitantly stood near the gate for a few minutes and then knocked. No one answered for a long time, but the man saw the curtain in the window swayed, so he was not going to leave until he saw who lived in the house, and he waited for Alice to come out and crying rushed to embrace him.
Henry did not understand anything; he didn’t know whether to be excited or scared. Then they sat in the house, and Alice told him why she was hiding in this village.
Alice: I had a sister, she said secrets that Henry didn’t know began to come out. Neither her wife nor her parents ever said anything about her sister, but Alice explained that she didn’t know her sister existed either.
Alice: My parents had twins when they were born; it was an unpleasant surprise. My parents didn’t have much money, and they thought it would be difficult to raise both children. They decided to give one of us to an orphanage; they didn’t even give her a name.
Alice told it with tears in her eyes, “Until a month ago, I had no idea my sister existed, till she found me. Usually, people you know are excited about stuff like that, but not in this case.”
Alice’s sister never knew who her parents were, but at some point, she decided to find her family. Now a lot of secrets can be revealed with the help of social media and money; she accidentally came across a picture of Alice on the internet and realized it was her sister. She found her.
Alice: When I saw her, I could not believe my eyes, Alice recounted. At first, there was a shock, but then I was happy, you know, this feeling is such a… the woman didn’t know how to put it into words. I thought it was cool; I have a sister now.
Her name is Natalie. She grew up in an orphanage, so her life turned out as rough as it did. She didn’t see anything but prisons, but I felt sorry for her since she had such a bad life because of our parents. She didn’t want to talk to our mother; she asked me not to say anything to her. She didn’t forgive our parents, but I thought it had nothing to do with me because we are sisters, after all.
Alice asked her mother about her sister; she told me everything; she suffered from it too and still has not forgiven herself. Mom asked me how I knew that; I lied that my friends told me that they had seen a girl who resembled me on social media, but I don’t know who she is and where she lives anyway.
The cat was out of the bag. I thought that sometime later, I would arrange the meeting for my mom and Natalie, and after that, my life became a nightmare. My sister started blackmailing me. At first, she just asked me for money; I gave it to her, but it didn’t seem enough. I offered to help her find a job, but she didn’t want to, and then it turned out that she had hated me because I was doing well, while she had to survive.
I understood that it was hard for her, and she was mentally traumatized, but she was constantly extorting money. You know, Alice looked hopefully at her husband. I found this house, but it wasn’t enough for her. I promised that things would get better in time, and I’d help her find a job, but she didn’t want that; all she wanted was money for everything she’d been through.
Then she threatened to do terrible things to you and Iris. Alice couldn’t go to the police; she didn’t want her sister to go back to jail again. She wanted to help her, but she was afraid for her family. In a short time, she realized that Natalie was dangerous. It was impossible to make peace with her. Alice began to warn her sister that she would go to the police; they got into a fight. Natalie attacked her sister with a knife, and Alice killed her defending herself.
Alice: I’m facing real jail time, Alice was nervous. “Understand, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t want to kill her. I just wanted to help her so she could be okay, but she was so vicious; she wanted only one thing, and that was revenge.”
Alice decided to fake her own death. Her classmate who works at the clinic helped her do it. She bribed a pathologist and divers. Alice and Natalie were like two drops of water; one could look for Natalie, but she’s a vagabond. Here today and gone tomorrow; unfortunately, she had arranged her own life so that her disappearance would go unnoticed by anyone.
Henry was silent; he had lost his wife and found her again. He would have liked to rejoice, but the reality was ambiguous. Alice was alive, but how would they live now? They can’t hide for the rest of their lives. Alice, we’re safe now, Alice smiled sadly. Me, you, and Iris, the problem was solved. I mean one of them.
The woman sighed sadly. Henry put his arm around his wife, “Henry, I’ll think of something,” he said, although he had no idea how to get out of this situation so far. How to resurrect his wife, Alice had not given him an easy task. It would have been better if she immediately told him about his sister.
Well, thank God, Alice is alive. Henry decided to postpone all thinking until the morning and just go to bed. Everyone had been stressed; it’s been a tough few days. They fell asleep, and when Henry woke up, he didn’t find his wife beside him.
Henry: Damn! he growled. It turned out that Alice had decided to surrender to the police. She saw no other way out; living on the run was not life. She didn’t think twice about faking her own death because at that moment, she didn’t think of anything.
Henry also understood that this was the best way out. It was better to hire a good lawyer but then live peacefully and with a clear conscience. The investigation lasted two months; all this time, Alice was in the detention center. Both she and her husband were worried; they did not know what to expect.
Alice’s sister turned out to have a really dark past. She was not convicted on serious articles, but she was on the edge; only by sheer luck, she hadn’t killed anyone yet, though she had tried. It was her sister’s bad reputation that helped Alice prove that her actions were necessary, self-defense. This case was one in a million.
She was released from custody in the courtroom; Alice left the courtroom with the crowd cheering. Her mother and husband embraced her; both women cried. Those things happen in life; some people have to pay for other people’s mistakes, unfortunately. People often don’t think about the consequences of their actions or think they can get away with it. Not everyone has the courage to admit their mistakes and, especially, pay for them. But if you want to live with a clear conscience and fear nothing, you have to do it.
Alice tried to follow her mother’s way to make everything better, as it seemed at a certain moment. But in time, she realized that it would only cause her to live her whole life with a stone on her heart, like her mother, who regretted her actions; she ruined her daughter’s life and ended up unhappy too.
They decided to keep the grave as it is next to the father; lay his own daughter whom he had once abandoned. They just changed the plate on the gravestone and added the inscription, “The family will be together no matter when.”
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