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Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(19) by Shannon Mayer

“There is no time,” the physician said, opening his bag and pulling out a wicked looking blade. I ran to him, punched him in the jaw, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.

“Faris, no!” My father grabbed me, yanking me back.

“Thomas, please, let me say goodbye to him.” Her blue eyes begged my father, begged him to have one last moment with me.

“There is no time, beloved,” he said, his voice hitching with tears, and then I was shoved outside of the room and my mother was screaming, and I was screaming as I kicked and punched at the door. Blood dripped from my knuckles, but I felt nothing. I knew only the panic of a child being forced to grow up in a matter of seconds. I wanted to believe my mother would survive, but she’d told them to save the baby.

Would my father listen to her? Would he do as she asked or defy her so we had her longer? Selfish, I didn’t care. I wanted my mother to live and to hold me again.

I was on my knees, head against the door when the screaming stopped, fading into nothing. The silence stung my ears and I held my breath, hope surging through me, not realizing yet what the silence really meant. I thought maybe they’d saved her, that the pain had stopped because she was okay, and they’d saved both my mother and the baby.

A warmth spread through my knees and I looked down to see blood seeping out under the door, staining my breeches. I scrambled to my feet, the sound of footsteps jerking my head up. They were dull, heavy steps, like an impending doom walking my way. I wanted to run away, run to the stables and leap on my horse, and not look back. I wanted to pinch myself and wake, realizing it had been nothing but a bad dream.

Yet I stood there, forced myself to stand like the man I wanted to be. My father opened the door, a small bundle in his arms. He handed it to me. “Take the babe to Mrs. Watson.”

His eyes were empty of life, as he shut the door with a solid click. I looked into the face of an angel. She looked like my mother, even that young. The turn of her nose, shape of her mouth and chin. She blinked pale blue eyes up at me, but didn’t cry, didn’t squawk once. I took the stairs carefully, and found my way into the kitchen.

Mrs. Watson tried to take my sister, but I held her tight. “I’ll feed her.”

“Oh, lovey, your mama would be proud of you.”

We didn’t say the words, but we both knew. Only one of them could have survived, and I held the proof of the choice in my arms. I said nothing, just helped Mrs. Watson feed my little sister. I wanted to name her, to call her by my mother’s name, but I struggled to find the words. The breath to speak seemed to evade me. So I sat there, holding my little sister, tears tracking my cheeks and splashing onto her perfect skin.

We were like that, she and I, for many years. At twelve, I became a father in essence, if not in truth. Little Angela, she grew and thrived in our home, even if our true father was somewhat absent. His grief consumed him, drove him and took him away from us. My father descended into his study, looking for what I now know was a way to bring my mother back. You see, he had magic, but refused to use it. The times were such that magic could have him burned. Even though the witch trials of Salem were over, ‘accidental’ deaths still happened. More than that, I believe the regret of not using his power, of maybe having been able to save my mother but watching her die, tortured him, still his fear held him back.

And the worst part was he found it; he unlocked the power within himself. I was twenty-five, Angela just turned thirteen. We came home from riding in the park to find things were not as they had been when we’d left.

The first thing I noticed was the smell, the scent of rotting flesh; then it was the dirt smeared on the kitchen floor, and Mrs. Watson was missing. I put Angela behind me and lifted a finger to my lips. We crept through the kitchen and into the parlor.

Our father stood in the center of the room, Mrs. Watson at his feet, blood pooling around her head. Angela gasped and let out a whimper. But of course, that wasn’t the worst of it.

Swaying in the corner of the room, there stood a figure in a worm eaten wedding gown, jagged pieces of blond hair cascading down her back. I knew, in that moment, who it was.

“Angela, run to the stables and hide.” I kept my voice low, never taking my eyes off the scene in front of me. Another gasp and she did as I asked, her footsteps receding quickly.

I waited until I was sure she was gone before stepping farther into the parlor. “Father, what have you done?”

“I’ve brought her back. I finally did it. The church can go to hell. I won’t be denied my beloved one.” His words had no conviction. There was no denying what he’d brought back was missing everything that made up a living person. She moved, she reacted to things, but it wasn’t my mother. It wasn’t my father’s beloved, she wasn’t the one we missed. Not anymore.

“You have to put her back.” I held my hand out to him, pleading. “Let her body rest. All there is left of her are Angela and me. We are here, we need a father.” I didn’t think I needed a father, no, but I knew Angela loved him dearly and wanted him to take notice of her. Of course, the fact that she mirrored his lost wife both thrilled and repelled him.

He nodded slowly. “You’re right, I know you are. I just . . . I had to try. This power, there is so much of it. You have it in you too.”

I cleared my throat, not wanting to discuss the subject until the dead body was where it belonged—in the ground. Back then we didn’t call them zombies, they were the walking dead and they were a curse laid on people. I didn’t want to see her face, but she turned. The shape of her skull bit through her skin, there were bits and pieces of her face hanging. Rage lit through me, that he would do this to her, that he would force me to see her face that way. To steal the memories I had of my mother and replace them.

With that . . . thing.

We fought, my father and I. I waited until he put her back in the ground, and then we had it out. Fists and words, and finally he drew a gun on me, pressed it against my chest and pulled the trigger.

I fell, eyes wide as I stared up at him, Angela was screaming and the world bent around me as I fell. “It will be all right, I’ll wait for you,” I said, knowing I would at least be with my mother then.

Only, I didn’t go to my mother, not as I thought I would have. I woke to the taste of blood on my lips, and a familiar scent in my nose. Soft satin brushed against my cheek. It took me too long to realize what had happened. Too long to stop myself.