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Crève-coeur

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He doesn’t know where he is. He tries to focus. Where is he? He finds he can hear but not see. The why of that bothers him, but he tries to concentrate on what he CAN understand. Is that the splash of an oar? Is that the pull of the current beneath him? Is he in a boat? Why can't he tell? His mind supplies unhelpful images of kidnap victims dumped in the back of a Transit van. There is pain and he struggles but he still can’t move. And he can’t remember how he got here. Wherever here is.

There is a long stretch where he floats in and out of awareness. He tries to see, to hear, even to move, but he’s not having much success at any of those things.

He can't help wondering if this is a dream, or wishful thinking, or the hell he's always known he would face.

He's on his knees, on the ground, a voice in his head advising him to say his prayers.

He can't hear over the ringing in his ears. He can't think save for the dreadful realization that wherever this is, its surely a church, and isn’t that just cursed fate? He doesn’t intend to but after a long time he pillows his head on his outstretched arms and finds himself repeating endlessly a single word,"Domine." He doubts, oh how he doubts that anyone is listening, but there is a comfort in the words. A comfort in prostrating himself. No need to think, to protest. There is just this moment, and the damp stones beneath his knees, his hands, his forehead.

He wonders why, like flotsam on a shore he always ends up here. On his knees in a church full of doubt and rage and sorrow. Maybe he can’t escape. Maybe this is his destiny. To lie cold and cloistered in a tomb of stones. Unloved and unwept. He weeps for himself then. Many have said he has no heart. But he must. For it’s breaking, leaking out of his chest and seeping into the ground beneath him. He can feel it. Can he weep long enough and hard enough to dissolve himself into these stones?

The ground is damp and cold beneath him. He can identify dirt and stone and something softer, moss maybe. Its still too dark to see. There are other living creatures here with him. He can hear them, the rustle of their wings. His imagination supplies demons, his brain says pigeons, probably. Its the 'probably' he worries about. He is still trying to figure out if this is a dream, or if he's been abducted. Everything is so fuzzy. He's doubting his own senses. And so he stays there prostrate on his knees, head buried between his outstretched arms.

He doesn't know how much time passes. He thinks maybe dawn is near. The darkness seems to be lifting but he tells himself that its wishful thinking. Perhaps he's getting used to the darkness. But then he feels something brush across his hands, and he cries out. His cry echoes damply and he tries to back away but his limbs are cold and stiff and he can't seem to make them work. Either cloth or creature he knows this is not likely to be anything good.

His breath comes thick and fast, fear setting his heart racing. And when he hears a voice from above say,"James," he feels himself sob.

"Please no," he whispers, his voice rough and raspy.

He feels again the brushing sensation across his hands, and he tries to clutch onto it.

"Look at me," says the voice.

And he tries to wipe the muzzyness from his eyes. He can see, dimly, a shape before him in white. He blinks repeatedly and wonders if he’s seeing things in the mist. But there is something about this white gowned figure. He tries again to catch the hem of it’s garment in his fingers.

“You used to believe in me, James,” the specter says softly just out of his reach.

And then there is the scent of lilacs, and the feel of lace between his fingers, and a memory jams into his head like a bolt of lightning.

“Cora?”

“You went away,” the voice tell him sadly.

He’s flooded with memories then. Remembers early mornings slipping into the chapel on the estate. Kneeling in the dimness and saying his prayers before school, the scent of lilacs strong from the bushes outside the open door. He remembers the girl in a long white gown, and a gauzy veil caught up with flowers in her hair who would come sometimes down the aisle and talk to him. The Bride of Creve-coeur. Killed at the altar by a jealous lover, or so the stories whispered in the servants hall went.

“I was sent away,” he says.

And then adds, “I never told. Please don’t go.”

The scent of lilac grows stronger, and there is the light touch of fingers in his hair.

“I’m here. I’ve always been here…”

He tries to look up, wants to see this relic of his childhood, but he can see only a swath of white gauze, and can’t understand whether its mist or the folds of her gown. But he feels her hand on the back on his neck.
And pressure on his shoulder.

And a different voice this time.

“Hathaway. Wake up. Come on.”

And the mists clear, and he finds himself twisted up in the passenger seat of Lewis’ car. His arm in its sling at a terrible angle, his fingers tingling with numbness, the rest of him stiff in the chilly early morning air.

“Sir?” he says, looking up at Lewis who’s leaning on the open car door and staring at him with and expression James doesn’t even try to decipher.

“Herself is on her way. SOCO got here at first light. Get yourself together and we’ll talk after.”

And with an awkward shoulder pat Lewis goes. James can hear his footsteps on the gravel pathway. He slumps back in his seat and scrubs at his face with his one good hand. Then he unfolds himself and crawls out of the car, digs his cigarettes out of his pocket and goes to smoke. There are decisions to be made.

And memories to be dealt with.