The following afternoon, Willow sat in the shade of the portico with one of my first watercolor journals, and Prairie pulled a clattering contraption on a string no longer than her arm. All across the garden, bees crawled over blooms, their legs round and fat with pollen, but none bothered Willow. She stared at the rocks marking Thomas and my graves, and she longed to speak to her father.
She hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours, but she was too restless to try, and she didn’t want to close her eyes on Prairie. Tory’s disclosures and her death were cruel and crushing, and Willow doubted she’d ever feel real safety again. Suppose she tried to sleep and woke, and Prairie was gone, too?
She’d suffered the police and ambulance sirens racing up the long hill, the invasion of their red and blue flashing lights panning over the windows, the sheriff’s boots striking the wood floors through the foyer and up the wide staircase, the sight of Tory’s body being carried down in a zippered body bag, looking longer and more substantial in death than it had in life. All of it brought back the panic she felt that icy night in March.
No mention was made of the state of Tory’s room, though after finding the body, Willow swept everything from the desk into the wastebasket. Tears flowed and anger made her hands swipe in wild motions: the pills, pestle, mortar, and drying Datura. Still, those who took away the body saw plenty. By now, word of the mess had likely passed through town, along with the news that Tory died of a heart attack. Dr. Mahoney had asked Willow if she wanted an autopsy, and when she said, “No,” he agreed. “No point in it,” he said, “I know a heart attack when I see one.”
Prairie ran to Willow, sinking against her legs, and Willow rubbed her back, kissed her cheek, and just as quickly Prairie was off again as if she’d been refueled. I have her, Willow thought, trying to refuel her own depressed spirits, and Clay. And Jonah is back. Though she doubted the two of them would ever be close again.
She drew her legs up, her heels on the edge of the chair seat, and hugged her knees to her chest. On her jeans, a tiny red spider crawled over the rise of one knee and only inches from her face. She wanted to press her thumb down onto its small hairy back, and she wanted to take it up and keep it safe in the palm of her hand.
Forgetting the spider, her gaze crept back over the garden and the bees to the grave rocks. It all started there, and now Tory, too, was dead. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, Tory sat in the library, her thin fingers lifted the pansy cup—that marked cup—her eyes steady and piercing over the rim as she drank. Now she was dead.
Though Willow lacked the will to paint, all art healed, and she forced herself to open my old journal. In a moment of silence, when Prairie dropped her string, she heard the paper and binding whisper awake. The page corners showed the most disintegration, crumbling as light as the flaky tops of too-dry piecrusts. She ran a finger over the dusty edges and then down over lines I’d drawn.
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