Hey all, I hope you enjoy the next installment of Whispers!
“Check out with us at the administration office before you leave, Miss Billings,” the nurse reminded Sarah. She left before Sarah could thank her.
Sarah reached Malcolm, and they stood among the graves. Above them the pines and aspens stirred in a gentle breeze. A wild thought winged through her mind. The trees are whispering.
She shook off the ridiculous notion “Malcolm. It’s so good to see you.”
He reached for her outstretched hand and took it between both of his big, warm palms. “Sarah. Thank you for coming.”
His voice, always deeply masculine and husky, brushed over places inside her she hadn’t realized she’d had until now. A low hum vibrated in her stomach and the attraction she’d always felt for him increased sharply. Whether he was insane or not, she couldn’t pretend she didn’t have a keen desire to be near him.
Her fingers tightened on his. “When I got your telegram it sounded so urgent I couldn’t refuse.”
One side of his mouth lifted in a half smile. Doubt filled his deep brown eyes. “Mom and Dad haven’t visited.”
Surprise and disappointment struck her. “But you’ve been here a month.”
He shrugged and let go of her hand. “They aren’t too pleased with this situation.”
“Of course not. They want you happy and healthy the way …” How could she say this without maligning his present situation and making him feel worse?
“The way I used to be,” he finished for her. “I know. Things would be less messy if I’d come back from the war without any scars and the same man I was. That hasn’t happened.”
Darkness marred his handsome features, and that’s when she saw the bump in his nose, the telltale sign it had been broken at some point. “You broke your nose? When did that happen?”
He drew in a deep breath. “Several months ago.”
“Are you … you weren’t wounded anywhere else were you?”
A wicked gleam touched his eyes, and she saw the old Malcolm. “All the essential parts are there. The ladies will still recognize me.”
Heat filled her cheeks. “Malcolm.”
His smile disappeared. “Ah, come on, Sarah. You always understood my humor. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”
“You haven’t been gone that long. Now tell me. Why did you send me the telegram? What’s happened?”
He released a sigh. “I almost sent the telegram to my parents, but they’ve washed their hands of me. They wouldn’t have believed any of it.”
It pierced her soul to think of his parents disowning him; they’d always seemed such lovely people. What had twisted them so much they no longer acknowledged they had a son? “Why?”
“It’s too strange.” He glanced around as if he expected the tall trees to listen in on a private conversation. “All insane.”
Worried, she asked him softly. “What is? Malcolm you’re scaring me.”
His gaze landed on her. “You know those voices you used to hear as a kid? The ghosts you saw?”
She nodded. “How could I forget?”
“I remember telling you that you were the silliest girl I knew.”
She smiled even as the old memory pinched. “Yes, you did.”
“I’m sorry. It was cruel and I was wrong.”
This was a huge change, and she didn’t know what to think. “That can’t be the reason why you asked me here.”
“Like I said, I was wrong.”
“You believe me now, after all these years? What changed your mind? In your telegram you said I had to come here because it was a matter of life and death.”
“Yes.” His eyes, so dark and intense, slid over her with special attention. “It is a matter of my life or death.”
Alarm rose inside her, choking off her breath for a moment. “Have you talked to doctors about it here? Are you thinking of harming yourself?”
He snorted softly. “No. And the doctors just think I’m just here because of … because of the war.”
Pained, she spoke in a tone as quiet as his. “Aren’t you? What happened to you in the war?”
His serious eyes assessed the area, as if searching for something. “What didn’t happen?” He shrugged those big shoulders again. “Nothing happened to me in the war that didn’t happen to thousands of other men. Such horrible things I can’t tell you. But the war did make me want a full life. It made me want more than what I had in the past.”
“You mean you want to finish law school.”
“No. I don’t want to be lawyer. I never did. Father wanted me to be a lawyer like him. I feel there’s something more meaningful out there for me. The war made me see that.”
“I always thought you were just following your father’s footsteps. I’m glad you’re rethinking what you want to do.”
He held one hand up. “We’re confusing things here. Yes, I want a different occupation, a different future. More than that I wanted you to know that when I was a child, I saw ghosts, too. But the one time I told my parents, they didn’t believe me. Just the way yours didn’t believe you. All this time I’ve lied to you and pretended I didn’t see them. I did such a good job of denying it that I did stop seeing them until I got here. Now they are all around me. All the time.”
Her mouth dropped open and surprise punched her. Whatever she’d expected him to say, it hadn’t been this. “We could have leaned on each other when we were children, when no one else believed us. Why did you deny us that?”
“Fear. Plain and simple I was afraid of what my parents would do, and what other people would think. It was easier to be a selfish child and mock you than to be brave enough to admit everything to you.” The grim expression on his face told the truth. “I can never apologize for that enough.” He glanced around. “The woods are alive, though. There’s this evil that exists in the soil itself.”
She could have cried to see her handsome, strong friend like this. He was over six feet tall, and though she was five feet eight inches tall, his broad shoulders had always made her feel protected. Today, perhaps, he needed the protecting.
“I’m not insane.”
She crossed her arms and gave him what she hoped was a stubborn look. “Did you tell someone while you were still in Europe about the ghosts? Is that why they sent you back?”
“I got a knock on the head. A shell blew me back into a trench. I guess when I woke up I was babbling about it. They decided I was insane and sent me back.”
“Do you? The war has set me free, as strange as that may sound. It’s taught me what really matters to me.” Once more he grinned, and the warmth in his eyes almost melted her on the spot. “You are beautiful today, nymph.”
Nymph. His childhood nickname for her rang sweetly in her ears. She’d always secretly loved when he’d called her that, but never would admit it. “Hush, Malcolm Seaton.”
His expression returned to stoic. “Who’s to hear but the trees?”
Later this week, Part 3.