It’s funny how not all silence is the same.
Well, that is, not funny like a joke.
Not funny in any way that’s good or really happy, either, because the silences that are the most memorable are never the happy ones or the calm ones as far as Wendy’s experiences go.
It’s never the silence before you blow out the candles on your birthday cake or the silence that comes when you’re studying for an exam that stand out, but the other kind. The bad kind. The kind you most want to forget or, more impossibly, to go back in time and add a little more sound to.
The silence that Wendy remembers the most is the quiet around the dinner table when she was growing up. The people she still thought were her parents sitting at two opposite ends of that table, neither of them speaking to each other or her or so much as looking up from their meal which they only picked at with patient disinterest. The only noise in the room at all the soft flutter of gold-threaded napkins being picked up and dabbed onto mouths and the clinking of silverware to plates and Wendy’s own breathing which always struck her as too loud in those moments, in the same way you always think you’re eating too loudly when you go to get a snack in the middle of the night even though logically you know that no ones ears will hear you chewing louder than your own.
Wendy had thought then that there could never be a silence as uncomfortable as that, that there would never be any quiet around her that she would be so desperate to break and yet so unable to give her voice to.
Walking back into her grandfather’s house now, after everything that happened at the fountain, she realizes that she was mistaken.
The quiet is not a new feature of this home, no, but the weight of it has changed as easily as any piece of paper might change in a kamijin’s hands. Her grandfather was not very loquacious and there were no televisions or radios to make sound when his voice would not, but Wendy hadn’t minded that so much. Before. It was a peaceful sort of quiet – sometimes frustrating when she asked questions that her grandfather would not give answers to, but mostly, peaceful. It came with an early morning calmness that lasted throughout the day.
Wendy isn’t very calm now.
She is devoid of excitement, of interest, of any spikes of emotion at all, but she is not calm. She is empty and numb, a flat line on a heart monitor in human form.
The quiet that she walks through is not a peaceful one.
The absence of her grandfather is more imposing than his presence ever was and Wendy’s solitiude is so stark that it feels, in some way, like it is its own person walking behind her, its cold breath against her neck, it mouth opening into rows of jagged teeth.
Her feet carry her to the secret room without her even thinking about it. Its door is still ajar and nothing has been disturbed, save for a picture of her only a few years old that is gone now and the picture of the fountain that has been picked up by someone and then laid down on the shrine on its back rather than being righted to how it was.
Wendy feels no surprise at that, that someone has been here. If she were in a better state of mind, she would only be surprised that the entire room hadn’t been destroyed by that visitor’s search for the scroll along with all the rest of the house with it.
She stops before the shrine and stands there, looking at the pictures. Pictures of her as a child, of Vincent, of her mother whose face Wendy automatically searches, looking for – and finding – a trace of resemblance as she’s done with every picture of her mother since she first found out that wasn’t what the woman who adopted her was. Wendy is old hat at finding the resemblances by now, has traced over the picture of her mother that was printed above her obituary a thousand times, but still she looks at this picture as though she expects to find something new.
And then there is the picture of the fountain which reminds Wendy of being there tonight, and something swells in her chest at the memory. Something like anger and sadness and betrayal and anguish and –
There’s a creak on floor behind her.
All other thoughts are forgotten as Wendy spins around in an instant, already cataloging every bit of paper on her person and around her in the little room, before she sees and she stops.
Sadako looks like a half-drowned cat more than anything.
She’s still soaked from their fight in the fountain just as Wendy is herself, but somehow her plight is worse. Her clothes are drenched, strands of wet hair plastered to her forehead, and even her hands – clasped in front of her – have a clammy look about them, a look that reminds Wendy of how her own hands have looked often enough since she moved in with her grandfather and had to learn how to wash dishes by hand herself rather than having someone else take responsibility for loading them into the washer for her.
The slump of Sadako’s shoulders and the abject misery that radiates from her only add to her overall image as something that’s been left out in a downpour.
It strikes Wendy that she should be angry with this woman or afraid of her or, if fear wouldn’t do, at least wary, but all Wendy feels is that same poignant... something in her chest, that same tightness in her throat that she’s been dealing with since she and Sadako first layed eyes on each other.
Wendy isn’t happy to see her, exactly. She doesn’t think the feeling of something inside of her slotting firmly into place is happiness. If anything, Wendy thinks it feels closer to relief.
“Why did you come back here?” Wendy asks.
Back, she says, because she knows in an instant that Sadako was the one who came here before, who searched this house for the scroll. No one else from the Akuma would have picked up the picture of the fountain and set it down so gently, and that picture of Wendy that’s now gone – Sadako had taken it, Wendy knows without knowing how she knows. It seems the right answer and not one Wendy feels the need to ask more about, strangely.
Sadako meets Wendy’s eyes head on, her chin raised, not so much as a shake or a falter in her, and says like it is answer enough, “I had nowhere else to go.”
And strangely that seems like the right answer, too.
Wendy takes a deep breath. She does not think. She only exhales and nods and says like it is the easiest decision in the world, “Stay, then.”
Sadako’s expression does not change at this. Her body does not move in any way. And yet her presence seems to become heavier somehow at Wendy’s words. Her eyes darker. The misery around her lessened.
Wendy takes another deep breath and tells her, “Come with me. I’ll find us both something dry to wear.”
She walks away from the secret room and past Sadako, brushing her fingers lightly against the other woman’s arm as she goes and not even knowing herself what she means by it.
She doesn’t need to hear Sadako’s footsteps behind her to know that she’s following. Wendy can feel it in every notch in her spine and every beat of the heart in her chest.