In the wake of tragedy falls the shadow. Izumi tries to fix things the only way she knows how, and Sig must watch as she battles with the consequences.
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act...
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response...
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
It was odd to think that the sky could cry when Izumi would not.
It had been raining for almost four days, cleansing, killing water rushing down from the sky to choke the earth and turn everything to brown mud and rain gullies. The houses felt soggy. The candles and wood, even the gas; everything burned damp and waxy, filling the town with the terrible, suffocating smells of wet, rotting things.
Through all of this Izumi lay in bed, unable to shed a single tear. The fire in her head could not burn out the grief in her soul, and her eyes could not produce the rain needed to wash away the events of the past week....
The first forty-eight hours she had been bedridden, mad with fever and sickness brought on by pain and bleeding. The midwife, even the doctor, had no poultices or pills for this: all they could offer was something to alleviate the pain and bring sleep. Izumi had tossed and turned in her tangled, sweat-soaked bed, sleeping little and waking often, always asking for something, someone, her heart told her was already lost.
She had awakened on the third morning and suddenly recalled that sometime within the past two days she had birthed a child. In all her waking nightmares, not once could she recall the sounds of a crying baby. So she asked, and the sad eyes of her husband were all the answer she got; all the answer she needed, really. Somehow, she had already known.
They were burying her boy the next day, waiting only for her to be well enough to understand what had happened.
Early the next morning Sig had awakened to find that both his wife and his son's body had gone from the house. The rain had stopped.
Izumi was gone for two days, and the rain began anew.
On the second sunset she had stumbled through the door just as he was locking up for the night. She was soaking wet, her white blouse stained a deep, menacing red, and she collapsed against him in exhaustion and pain, mumbling apologies and begging him to forgive her.
Sig's knees were shaking as he carried her to their bed, where she immediately curled in on herself before passing out. He had to dial Brandon Royal, Dublith's resident physician, twice because his fingers kept slipping. When he had convinced the doctor that Izumi needed medical attention immediately, he went to the liquor cabinet his wife had so adamantly insisted they keep well-stocked, and poured himself a large shot of bourbon, which he downed with a grimace. Then he shuffled his way back to the bedroom, and busied himself with making sure Izumi was dry and warm. He'd gotten her into a clean night dress, and was rubbing one of her cold hands between his own by the time the doctor knocked.
After a good twenty minutes of feeling useless, Sig finally got up the courage to ask Royal what he thought was wrong.
"She's in shock now," Brandon said quietly, raking a hand through his greying brown hair. He made a face at nothing then gestured Sig toward the bed. "Come sit by your wife, son. Talk to her, try to bring her around."
He vacated the chair, but Sig chose to sit on the bed. He leaned in and was about to call for her when he noticed the blood that had dried across her lips.
"Doc," he called, "There's blood-"
"I know," Brandon, interrupted gently. "I think she might be bleeding internally."
Izumi came around then, her fingers grasping weakly at the blankets, groping for her husband's hand. She shook violently and struggled to sit up, choking and coughing on the red, coppery liquid that was forcing its way into her air passages.
"God almighty," Doctor Royal hissed, pushing between husband and wife to help Izumi sit up, pressing his handkerchief to her mouth.
That had been three days ago, and now the sun was setting on the fourth to find that while Izumi's body was healing as well as could be expected, her heart and mind steadfastly refused to mend. She ate everything that was pushed under her nose, took all her medicines, and followed all of the doctor's orders, but still refused to speak of what had gone on in her absence.
She didn't answer any of the questions posed to her by Royal or her husband, and the third day Sig had stopped asking. Something in her eyes told him that no amount of drastic measures on his part could make her confide or confess what she had done- and somehow he knew it would be a confession. Whatever had happened, Izumi blamed herself with all of her being. He could see it in the way she hunched in on herself whenever he was beside her; it wasn't to close herself off, but rather to keep some terrible thing from getting to him. She was trying to protect him, and slowly drowning in her own mind by doing so. The lively, charmingly crass, rambunctious bride he had brought home had been replaced by a woman of glass and sand and shadow: she slipped through his fingers, uncaring and unfeeling.
She flowed in and out of existence while he took apart the cradle and packed it away. She was there and gone while he put away the toys and tiny clothes. He sat beside her for hours at a time, trying to coax some sort of response out of her, looking for the smallest hint that the woman he married still existed behind those dark, glassy eyes. He threw himself into caring for her, because it was easier to worry over the living than to mourn the dead. He was done with the dead, and he was determined to keep Izumi from joining them.
As the hours turned into days, a shadow fell over their sad little home, blocking out all the light and happiness until they hardly saw eachother. Sig followed the doctor's instructions to the letter, cooked all the meals, kept the house clean, and staved off the inquiring visits from friends and neighbors. Hour after hour, a kind of numbness crept in to join the dark, and for a few angry moments Sig genuinely stopped caring what went on in his wife's head. Let her destroy herself if she was going to, but he'd be damned if he'd let her drag him down too.
Then he had returned from the kitchen to find their bed empty and all the promises he'd made on their wedding day came racing back into his head. His heart had stopped beating, overwhelmed by the realization that to lose her would be to lose everything he had left. Time stood still, and the house was silent. A small eternity passed as he paused, barely breathing, poised on the threshold of their room, listening for any indication of Izumi's whereabouts.
Vaguely, he thought he heard the screen door on the back porch slam shut on its hinges, and it was all he could do not to run toward the noise.
What he found shocked him in its normality. Izumi was sitting on the back steps, looking down at a tiny toy soldier - one of the few things he had yet to pack away, only because it had once been his. She was smiling down at it like she had smiled at all the baby's things during the first few blissful months, letting the sun play across her pale skin and white night dress, blending the edges of ivory and snow into undefined smudges. Her feet were bare, and her hair hung down around her shoulders in dark, tangled cords.
She looked back at him as the screen door slammed again, smiling sadly in the wan light of the evening. She offered the soldier up as a peace offering, and he reached out to take it, but instead enveloped her hand in his and sat down beside her. Together they stared at the faded paint of the wooden soldier, Izumi's pale fingers and Sig's darker ones wrapped around eachother and the toy.
With a quick, ragged breath Izumi tore her hand from his, dropping the soldier on the steps, watching it clatter down into the green grass of the lawn. She looked up at him guiltily, her eyes wide and wild. She looked like a caged animal, her breath coming in short, shallow gasps that moved her whole body.
Reaching out tentatively, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. His arm was warm and heavy, the calluses on his palm brushing against the soft skin of her upper arm. Slowly she relaxed against him, leaning her head on his chest, her eyes never leaving the tiny soldier now lost in the grass.
"Nicholas," she said softly, the first word she'd spoken in almost a week. Sig did his best not to freeze up at the mention of the name; it was one of the few that they had managed to agree on.
"I wanted to name h-him Nicholas," she elaborated unnecessarily, her voice catching on a choked-back sob. Then she pressed her face to him, and fell silent. Her breath was oddly cold where it hit his side, and he tightened his arm around her.
They sat in silence as the sun made its slow decent into the valley of the night, shadows growing long around them, darkness covering the ground. Izumi moved, shifting to reach down and pluck the soldier up from the obscurity of the grass, where he had been almost lost in the night. She looked at it momentarily, then set it aside on the porch with a sad sigh before turning back to her husband's arm.
"The rain's stopped," she observed half-heartedly, fingers reaching out to play across a seam in the leg of his trousers that she had mended months ago.
"It's been gone for hours, dearest," he couldn't help saying, brushing a hand against her hair, gazing down at her with an expression that was one part love, one part exasperation, and one part pleading.
"I'm sorry," she said, eyes still gazing out into the night. "I know I should tell you," she continued, her voice a whisper in the dark. "I know I should, but I... I can't. And I'm sorry."
"Baby, you can tell me," he insisted gently, trying to keep his tone free of accusation. "Don't I deserve to know?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "Of course! But I can't-"
"You can, Izumi," he interrupted, beating down the anger that was beginning to bubble up inside him. "But you won't."
She shook her head. "I can't."
"Why?" he asked, leaning down to look her in the eye.
She turned away, insisting. "I can't. I can't, I c-"
"Why?" he demanded, grabbing her chin and forcing her to look at him.
She batted his hand away, face flying from despair to outrage and back again in seconds.
"Because I'm scared!" she all but yelled, jumping to her feet so she would not feel intimidated by his height. She closed her eyes, pressing a hand to her forehead and taking a few deep breaths.
"I can't lose you," she breathed, eyes shut tight. "I can't. I don't know what I would do. Die, maybe. Waste away into nothingness..."
"I'm hale and healthy, love," he insisted warmly, reaching out to take her free hand, drawing her to him. She didn't resist, allowing him to lock his arms around her knees and rest his head against her stomach. "I'm not goin' anywhere."
She laughed bitterly, leaning into him.
"If I'd murdered an innocent man, would you still say that?" she asked in a rigid, choked voice. "What about a child? A baby?"
He drew back to look at her. She was crying.
"Oh no," she interrupted his quiet, toneless inquiry. "No. No, it's much worse..."
He didn't trust his voice to answer. A brew of nauseating emotions was bubbling in his stomach, and the only thing keeping it from poisoning him was the complete and unadulterated devotion he felt toward the woman before him. He pulled her down into a kiss. She tasted like saltwater, and the bitter herbs from her last dose of medicine. He swallowed the sobs welling up in her throat, his fingers gentle on her cheeks, trying to rid them of the tears that wouldn't stop flowing.
He pulled away gently, watching the lashes of her closed eyes flutter over the apples of her cheeks, tears still leaking out, her breaths short and shallow.
"I love you," he said, and she opened her eyes. "And I'm not goin' anywhere."
With a small cry she threw herself into his arms, letting him pull her into his lap. Her hands fisted themselves in his shirt as she hid her face against his heartbeat. She could feel it thudding away, slow and steady beneath her cheek as she sobbed, tears dripping from her eyelashes and nose, falling from her chin to soak into his clothing.
"I'm sorry," she murmured again, hiccupping. "If I could take it all back, I- I'm sorry."
He just hushed her and rubbed her back while she cried.
After a long silence, the night laying heavily over their little house, she looked up at him and said softly, "Take me to bed."
He was all too glad to comply, rising and carrying her over the threshold -of the back door this time, not like on their wedding day, and she wasn't laughing now like she had then- and back into the shadows of their bedroom. They lay down together, pressed flush from shoulder to knees, and Izumi slept. For the first time in nearly a week, she was able to close her eyes and rest.
When she awoke the next morning, the rising sun was peeking through the bedroom curtains, and Sig's arm was still tight around her shoulders. Everything still held the washed-out, filmy quality it had for a week, but the sun seemed to be chasing away all but the deepest of shadows.
On this morning, Sig awoke to find that his wife was not in bed, and would have been startled but for the smell of breakfast wafting through the house.