DISCLAIMER: CSI is in no way mine, though I wish it was there would have been no GSR.
WARNING: This story contains mention of self harm and suicide.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Sofrost for the beta.
From somewhere in the fog that surrounds me, I hear a phone ringing in the distance. I know that I should try to answer it before it wakes Lindsay. The both of us have had a hard time sleeping recently. That's why we've both taken to sleeping on the pull out couch in the lounge. We only go upstairs when we really have too now. Both our rooms are far too close to Sara's room. When I shower it's almost over before it's begun and most of my clothes have migrated downstairs. Neither of us use our rooms anymore, I don't know how it started, or which one of us started it, but we avoid being upstairs for too long.
The ringing intensifies as the fog starts to lift. Blindly I reach out and grasp for the receiver.
"Hello?" I rasp into it.
"Cath? It's Gil."
"What can I do for you? You've kinda woken me up." I tell him sharply.
"You asked me to call, Cath. You wanted me to make sure that you woke up with enough time for you and Lindsay to get ready. You said that you were having difficulty sleeping, remember?" He says quietly, his voice choked with emotion.
Even with my brain addled by sleep I remember why. Why Lindsay and I are sleeping on the pull out, why my heart aches, why eyes throb from too much crying and lack of sleep and why his voice is awash with unshed tears.
"Sara's funeral is today." I say more to myself than to him. I knew today was happening. Ever since I got the call asking me to make arrangements for her body to be picked up, I knew today would happen. It was me who made all the arrangements. I picked out the funeral home. I picked out the faux mahogany environmentally friendly casket. I picked out the songs and asked who wanted to who wanted to speak. I scoured through the phone book for the caterers for the wake. I decided to have it in my home, the last place Sara was happy. I sat my little girl down and told her that the next time Sara would come home it would be in a brass urn. I explained the cremation process to her. I held her and wiped away her tears. As I think about it, I realise that Gil actually made this day happen. The day his SUV collided with the cab Sara was travelling back home to us in, made today happen.
"Yes, it's today." Lost in my thoughts I forgot I was holding the phone and he was on the other end.
"Shit." I curse lightly as I drop the phone in fright. Picking it up I hold it to my ear again. "Thanks Gil. I'm awake now. We'll see you later." I tell him briskly, pressing the end call button on the phone instantly.
I know I can't blame him for killing the woman I love. It was an accident, I keep telling myself. But it was his SUV that slammed into the side of her cab. It was an accident. It's all because of him that my heart feels as though it's being crushed. It was an accident. My best friend killed the woman I love. It was an accident. If I let myself hate him like I would someone else I would lose another person. And so would Lindsay. Each time I speak to him, I have to keep reminding myself that it was an accident. That it was just a coincidence that he was in the same area as Sara. IT. WAS. JUST. A. COINCIDENCE.
Placing the handset back on the cradle I lie back and look at Lindsay, my heart breaks for her. In her short life she's been through so much. She's already lost her dad and now she's lost Sara, someone she thought of as another parent; someone she had placed her trust in; someone she felt comfortable enough to let into her heart. I gently stroke her head, frown lines appear on her forehead. I run my thumb over them, trying to erase them. Hoping I can chase away whatever is putting them there. Tears sting my eyes as she starts to call out in her sleep for me. Unable to hear her in such distress any more, I decide to wake her up.
"Lindsay, baby, it's time to wake up." I tell her softly, running my fingers through her hair. She stirs slightly but remains in the realms of sleep.
"No, mommy, make them stop!" Her cries wrench my heart in two.
"Wake up, baby, and they'll stop. I promise they'll stop." I tell her trying to keep calm. I hate that she's hurting and there's not a damn thing I can do to stop it. Finally she opens her eyes and looks around her wildly. When they finally settle on me I give her a smile. "Hey, baby. That was some nightmare, huh? Wanna talk about it?" I ask. Fresh tears spring to her eyes and she bites her bottom lip as she nods her head.
"Ok, come here and tell me all about it."
I lie back and open my arms to her. She hesitates slightly before lowering her head on my shoulder and clutching the fabric of my t-shirt in a tight fist as though she's scared I'm going to suddenly disappear.
"So, what was your nightmare about?" I prompt her. I can feel her take a deep shuddering breath as she begins to recount her nightmare.
"We were at the park, you, me and Sara. We had a picnic, played games, you know the sort of stuff that we usually do." She whispers. "We were having fun. It was a good day. The sun was really warm and even feed the birds with our crumbs."
"That sounds really nice, Honey." I tell her, giving her an encouraging squeeze.
"Yeah it was." She whispers wistfully. "It'll never happen though, will it?" She asks looking me square in the eye. I don't know if the look in her eyes is her begging me to lie to her. Even though the truth hurts like fresh gaping wounds in both our hearts, I don't want to start lying to her.
"No, sweetheart, it won't." A fresh batch of tears cascade over her cheeks. I scoop her up so she is lying on top of me, like she used to do when she was a lot smaller. Stroking her hair I whisper nonsense words to her. I tell her to let her tears out, not to hold them back. I tell her that she'll feel better after a good cry. I feel like a hypocrite as I fight back my own tears, preferring to concentrate on Lindsay for the moment.
After a while her tears subside and I feel her little body shake as she hiccups. Eventually the hiccups subside and her breathing returns to normal. I start to think that she's fallen back to sleep. I move to wake her again but she surprises me by talking again.
"They took her." She says quietly. If it wasn't for the fact I felt her breath on my neck I would have thought I had imagined it.
"Who took her?" I question.
"Ok, did you see what the men looked like?" I press gently. The investigator in me is fighting hard to dominate the mother in me, but I still have to tread gently. This was only a nightmare but they can still be traumatic. She starts to shake her head but it quickly turns to a nod. "Ok, so what did they look like?"
She lifts her head again and looks me straight in the eye. I can tell she's scared to tell me. Her eyes are so wide I'm scared they might fall out. I know it's not physically possible but it's always been a thought that has worried at the back of my mind. She bites at her lip a little longer before taking a deep breath.
"They looked like......"
"Go on baby." I urge. Suddenly need to know what the bogey man who were terrorising her look like.
"Uncle Gil." She wails, her head falling back on my shoulder.
Gil?! She was dreaming about Gil taking Sara away from us.
"There was more than one of him. One kept pushing my swing higher and higher so I couldn't get off. I kept screaming at him to stop but he wouldn't, he kept pushing and laughing. Two more 'Uncle Gils' were holding you back. You kept fighting them and shouting to be let go of and for them to let Sara and me go but they wouldn't. Two more 'Uncle Gil's' had a hold of Sara and they were dragging her away to a black van. She kept fighting, just like you, but one of them hit her really hard on the side of the head and she stopped fighting. She just sort of flopped like a rag doll. She looked dead. Blood was running down the side of her face. Then the other one threw Sara over his shoulder. Her body was all floppy and kept banging against his. I saw her blood drop to the ground. I knew he had killed her, just like in real life." Her last words shock me 'like in real life.'
"But, Baby, Uncle Gil didn't kill Sara. She died because of a car accident." I tell her. I haven't told her that Gil was involved too. I didn't want her hating him or blaming him like I do for taking Sara away from us.
"I know." She cries. "But it's like Uncle Gil taking her away in my dream. It's him who takes her away from us. Why did he do that? She wanted to stay with us. She didn't want to go with him."
"I don't know." I tell her. I honestly don't what else to say to her. If I tell her the truth she could end up hating Gil and essentially lose another person from her life. If I tell her a lie, I'm putting something between us. "Tell you what, let me think about it. I'll try and piece together what it all means. How does that sound?" I ask, hoping that she'll agree and I can try to work out how to tell her everything without painting Gil as the bad guy.
"Ok." She mumbles into my shoulder with a slight nod of her head.
"Ok." I mirror her words as I gently stroke her back. "Do you still want to come today baby? Nobody would think anything or say anything if you just wanted to go to Aunt Nancy's."
"No, I want to be there. I went to dad's funeral and I was a lot younger then." She says, sounding more mature than her years.
"I know, but it's a lot different to your dad's funeral. Your dad was buried. Sara wanted cremated. It's a different process." I really don't know if I'm doing the right thing. A cremation is traumatic enough on an adult, what will it be like for a child to witness?
"I know, but I still want to be there." She says stubbornly. I know I won't be able to change her mind. I'll just have to be strong enough for the both of us.
"Ok, well we better get ready then. The car will be here in an hour to pick us up." Carefully she climbs off me and heads up the stairs. Watching her go I'm struck with how much she's dealt with in such a short time. Slowly getting off the couch I hesitantly follow her upstairs, hoping I'll be able to stop myself from going into the guest bedroom, Sara's room.
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