The crayons had colour in them, at least. Sharon could switch off the TV set, busy herself with drawing, and stop listening to how people die around the world.
But she wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it anyway. The speaker was just telling the story of two children abducted from their parents. Sharon didn’t know the word “abduction” but the pain on the couple’s faces felt familiar. Were her parents abducted from her, too? Would it help if she went to television and tell about it?
The black one was half-used-up; she had been drawing her father’s bearded face with it time and time again. And besides father’s, there was Abigail’s face: pretty, but the colour of ash, marked with short slanted lines, and dead tiredness were more conspicuous than the regularity of features.
“The kidnappers threaten to kill the child,” added the speaker with a neither-here-nor-there smile that signified a happy family life. Killing again, Sharon thought drearily, and replaced the black crayon in her hand with a brown one.
On the piece of paper before her, trees were growing one by one in the foreground, hiding her father. His face was still visible behind them — one more — it wasn’t.
She put the brown crayon back and heard sobbing from the other room. Not loud, but Sharon was expecting the sound, and so she heard it as soon as her mother began to sob.
“Gail?” Not knowing whether to stand up and go to her, or stay put in front of the TV, Sharon froze. “Gail?” she asked again, not realising that what came out of her tightened throat was really a whisper, and that her mother couldn’t hear her.
She didn’t in fact want to go. Abigail’s room was dark with the curtains drawn and no light on, and Abigail was probably sitting on the bed with her head drooping low. Sharon didn’t like hearing her mother cry. Neither did she want to see her sitting in the dark.
Sharon had tried time and again to bring Abigail to the middle room, make her talk, and wake her up from the state of sullen slumber she’d been in since the news of father’s death was confirmed. They didn’t even go to collect the body, or do anything about arranging the funeral; uncle Jim took care of everything.
So it had lasted for seven weeks, and all of Sharon’s attempts passed to the repository of failed-things-you-do-for-love, which she didn’t even know existed in her mind.
Gail wasn’t calling for her. She was just sobbing quietly, and apparently didn’t hear Sharon’s voice. The girl turned her attention back to the news speaker.
It was war again. This time it was taking place at a university. 148 civilians got killed, and Sharon wondered why. It made no sense to her although it managed to produce worldwide agitation — it had been on the news for three days in a row.
She began to feel restless hearing about war again. Each time it made her think about why it had to be her father — just why it had to be him travelling in that targeted car. He wasn’t even a soldier. He was a rescue worker. Why didn’t anyone —
Sharon didn’t notice when the crayon she was holding slipped from her hand. She was getting dizzy from trying to understand; stupid from going over the facts; weary from questioning death. Reaching for the settee for support, she stood up and slowly went out on the porch.
It was so bright out there she squinted immediately, but before a minute passed, she was able to see objects distinctly again. The beautifully decorated columns around the porch; the flowers, which haven’t died so far only because aunt Mary came once in a while and watered them; the round wooden table and, standing on it, father’s ashtray, now filled with rainwater. It glistened in the sun; for a moment, Sharon wanted to call on Abigail to come and see it.
“It’s so beautiful here, Gail,” she whispered, and the well-known fear gripped her again. She was scared of going back inside to hear her mother cry, see her lying on the bed for hours, slipping away from reality; but she was scared of leaving her in the house alone for too long, too.
She turned to the door and opened it. Again, she had to wait a minute until her eyes got used to a different kind of light. In the living room, the crayons lay scattered on the floor, and the TV was still on — she forgot to switch it off — showing some cartoon. Abigail must have been there to change the channel.
Coming up to the settee in front of the TV, Sharon noticed there was also an open notebook left there. The cold grip on her chest tightened even more when she stooped to read the notice scribbled there in Abigail’s handwriting.
“Sharon Will you go from here with me? I can’t bear any longer Sharon I need to find him”
And Sharon knew for sure that death was here to stay. Apparently, he felt welcome here in this house. She also knew that she would have to take better care of Abigail now so that she doesn’t “go find him”.
And that from now on they would go hand in hand with death; like partners; like enemies.