Authors: Jonas Saul
Tags: #short stories, #thriller, #jonas saul
Copyright © 2012 by Jonas Saul
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Jonas Saul Titles
The Sarah Roberts Series
1. Dark Visions
2. The Warning
3. The Crypt
4. The Hostage
The Kill Series
1. The Kill
2. The Blade (Summer 2012)
Visitations - A Book of Short Stories
The Numbers Game
The Witching Hour
“How is she?” Jake asked.
The nurse cleared her throat before she answered. “Still in the coma. I’m sorry, Jake. It’s unfortunate the chemotherapy didn’t do a better job.”
Jake swiped at a tear before it could threaten his external composure. “We knew this was coming for a long time. It’s just, she made it so far that I thought she’d be able to hold on for the wedding. It was the single most important thing for her to look forward to in the end.”
“I know. That was all she talked about last week before her relapse.”
“Look, Mary, it’s already ten o’clock and the guys are getting up early. We’ve got a big day tomorrow. I gotta go. Kiss her for me.”
“Try not to worry about your mother. She’s in good hands here. You know she wouldn’t want it any other way. Enjoy your day tomorrow. She’d want that.”
“In her condition, there’s no way she could ever make it now. Her last wish, gone like the smoke off her cigarette.”
The nurse cleared her throat again. “Just remember that your mother is with you in her heart. You know how much she approved of Jessica. So get some sleep and get through your wedding tomorrow.”
Jake hung up and stared at the wall. His best man was in the other room hollering something about more drinks. His wife was with her crew, prepping for tomorrow. Everything was as it should be. But his mother was dying, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Mary had been hired six months ago, and - even in such a short time - had become part of the family. She had done her best for mom, but it was her time. Mom had to go.
He decided he had time for one more cigarette before going to bed. His “commitment to quit” deadline was looming. From the ‘I do’, he’d told Jessica, he would never smoke again.
He sat down on an over-stuffed cushion on the back deck and smoked, looking up at the stars, wondering why his mother was being taken from him. He remembered how she would talk about the payoff of motherhood. She was always saying that watching her children raise their own kids was what it was all about. Grandchildren. It was his mother’s wish to be a grandmother, and now she would never get to see the wedding, let alone any grandkids.
Her private doctor said she would probably pass in a few days. Jake knew he should be there, but the wedding had been planned for over a year, with people flying in from all over the country. His mother had told him last week, before she fell into the coma, that she would die a sad old woman if he didn’t continue with his wedding plans. She reminded him of the other payoff of raising children: watching them get married.
She always said she’d be at the wedding. It appeared that was one promise she wouldn’t be able to keep. It was out of her control now.
This time Jake couldn’t stop the errant tear easing down his cheek, or the torrent that followed it.
The men arrived at the church on time. Jake was reassured that Jessica was already there and in final preparations. The ceremony was to begin on time.
His stomach twitching, hands shaking, he looked around at the guests. Everyone had come to join them to celebrate their wedding day. They had traveled in cars, taxis and public transportation taking for granted the air they breathed. They all enjoyed certain liberties that his mother had had taken from her. All the smiles and fake happiness he felt from them was nothing. Sure they were known to the family and thus invited, but they were superficial. Each and every one of them was here for show, and maybe some free food. Bastards.
It was his mother who he wished was there. If everyone would leave, to be replaced with his mother, only then could he really be happy.
“Jake,” Mike said as he slapped him on the back.
Jake jumped at least a foot off the tiled church floor.
“Mike, you scared the shit out of me.”
Mike leaned back and looked him up and down. “I scared you? The man who was the best football player our high school ever had? The guy who broke up that bar fight two years ago when no one else would? Which - by the way - got you this wonderful bride of yours.” He leaned back in, a look of concern on his face. “Nerves gettin’ to ya?”
“Mike, fuck that shit. My nerves are nothing. It’s my mother…”
Mike was nodding. “I heard. I’m sorry. I know she wanted to be here.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Look, enjoy the show. I gotta do this thing whether my mother’s dying or not.”
Mike said something as Jake walked away, but he didn’t hear it.
Why couldn’t God give his mother a small reprieve from the pain? Just a couple days would’ve been enough for her to attend the ceremony of her only child’s wedding.
Jake walked to the back to meet with the man who would perform the ceremony. He checked on the rings. He made sure everyone was signing the wedding book; he wanted a permanent record of all the posers who showed up to witness the show. He would have preferred a small wedding, something intimate and quiet. They could’ve had the ceremony at home, in the room next door to his mother’s. But no, it had to be a church. Jessica’s family wouldn’t have it any other way. Was it their fault his mother couldn’t be here? They say people can hear just fine while in a coma. Wouldn’t that have been the right thing to do? The humane thing?
Fuck them. They weren’t dying. Fuck them all.
A loud crack of thunder shook the stone building. Darkening clouds had threatened rain for the past hour, and it sounded like they hadn’t been bluffing.
After a short time the ceremony started, amid the roar outside.
Jake stood at the front of the church with his best man. The bridesmaids were done up in their pathetic pink dresses, the maid of honor standing beside an empty spot while everyone waited for Jessica’s father to walk up and give her away.
It all felt so fake, so Hollywood. Real people mattered. Real love mattered. His mother mattered.
He fought to keep the tears from coming. If they did, people would confuse them for tears of joy. What they didn’t know was that he was growing increasingly angry. The tears that loomed now were more of rage at the tragedy of his mother missing this charade.
Soft, rhythmic music started. Most of the people attending stood up. The Wedding March resounded off the walls of the church as Jessica began her walk to the front with her father.
The minister read from a book in his hands as the noise of the storm increased outside. Jake and Jessica performed like they’d done it before, reciting word for word, without making one mistake. Only Jake’s grip on his anger kept him in time, in step each and every moment. He didn’t unlock his eyes from the woman he suddenly realized had betrayed him. Because Jessica had to have a church wedding his mother would die alone in her bed, her only son partying it up.
“You may kiss the bride.”
Jake leaned forward. Jessica moved closer. Everyone remained silent. The moment had come.
The second before his lips touched hers, he whispered, “You betrayed me.”
Their lips touched. He felt her pause and then continue to kiss him. He opened his eyes to see her glaring at him.
A crackle of thunder from outside the church walls came so suddenly that everyone jumped in a collective dance move. Jake almost laughed at the absurdity of where he was and what he was doing.
Jake could tell his new wife was aware that something was wrong, but she had no way of figuring it out.
He stepped back from her. The lights in the church flickered. People gasped and looked around.
The minister, attempting to calm people, asked everyone to take their seats.
The heavens opened and rain slammed onto the roof of the church…and the lights went out. Dim emergency lighting clicked on near the exits.
The minister, bereft of his microphone, began shouting: “Everyone relax! This is probably temporary. Stay calm. The best part of the day is yet to come.”
The two doors at the front of the church banged open hard. A man stood there in a long black trench coat. What was mesmerizing about the man was his height - he stood at least seven feet tall.
The temperature had dropped outside enough that when both doors stood open, a cold wind blew in, touching everyone with a chill.
Jake watched the man in the door, and it appeared - in the dim light from outside - that the man was watching Jake.
“Can we help you?” Jake managed.
The man started walking along the aisle that Jessica had just glided up with her father.
“Did you invite this man?” Jake could hear Jessica asking him.
He didn’t turn to address her. There was something mesmerizing about the man walking towards him.
A couple of the male guests stood as the trench coated man continued up the aisle.
Jake’s best man nudged Jake’s arm. “Hey, who is this guy? Why has everything stopped?”
Jake ignored him.
“Can I help you?” the minister asked as the seven foot man slowed five feet from Jake and Jessica.