WARNING: Contains a lot of discussion about the deaths of loved ones.
Inside the hospital, Amelia was immediately faced with more apologetic looks. The small spark of hope that had been ignited in her when she had heard that Philippe had got a call was immediately gone. Ice replaced it, almost suffocating her right there in the hospital’s waiting room.
No… I can’t walk out of a possible tragedy and right back into another… I…
“I am sorry, Miss Sprigg,” the doctor who had been called to see her said, “I think you should come with me.”
“Is mum…” Amelia started, but couldn’t finish the sentence.
The doctor said the words pretty much every loved one of a patient hated to hear:
“We did everything we could.”
With that, Amelia’s world was shattered. Again.
Julia Sprigg had died less than half an hour before Amelia had got into her room. Philippe was sitting at her bedside, refusing to let anyone move the body before Amelia got in too. Mum looked so peaceful, almost like she was sleeping. Except something was missing. She looked more like a puppet version of the real mum. Amelia shuddered at the sight, but in a painful, twisted way she needed to see it anyway.
“Philippe?” Amelia choked out through her tears, “I’m sorry.”
Philippe didn’t say anything. He just moved out of the way and let Amelia take his place. Amelia placed her head on her knees and cried for longer than she cared to keep track of. Mum was gone, and it… it wasn’t fair! It never was. And it hurt so much! Amelia was alone now… well, as far as family went. Just when she was almost starting to get over dad’s death! Mum… mum couldn’t… they hadn’t even managed to have a proper, long, honest conversation after dad’s death. And now they would never have it.
“You know…” Philippe said very quietly, his French accent thicker than usually, “For what it’s worth, she was happy. Both in Champs Les Sims and here.”
He paused and shook his head.
“She missed your father a lot. But I… I was glad to know her for at least this little while.”
His voice broke, and he had to take deep breaths in order to stay calm.
“I’m so sorry you had to lose both parents like this… life is just not fair.”
“No. It’s not,” Amelia managed to say. She stroked mum’s hair, “I’m so sorry, mum. I… I hope you can be with dad again, at least.”
She stayed with mum even when Philippe went to talk to the doctors. Or perhaps to be alone and let her be alone. Or with mum. By that time Amelia had reached some sort of numbness. When dad had died, she had been so distraught. It was as if a part of her had died with him and that had made her fear the world more than she had before. Now… this… mum’s passing hurt as well. It was still breaking her from the inside. But something in her mind was different. More accepting. Like she may be able to deal with this better.
It still didn’t hurt any less, though.
Amelia wiped her tears and took a few deep breaths like Philippe had some time ago. It helped a little. But little didn’t really mean much when her world was in shambles. Why did mum have to die just when they had fixed everything?
Amelia was startled when she realised that Tad was standing next to her. He looked sad and apologetic. Amelia was so tired of seeing those expressions.
“Hey,” she said wearily, “I… I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
Or did she? Maybe she did. How long had she been alone in here, crying because of mum? Hours at least. Not enough. Tad turned to leave, but Amelia raised her hand.
“Wait. I changed my mind.”
Did she? She didn’t know anymore. It was difficult to think when she was so broken and so empty. So alone. Tad stopped and turned back. Amelia looked at mum’s face and tried to ignore how something was clearly missing from it.
“Why do we die?” she could only say, finally letting some of the questions she had stored for later get through, “What is this all about?”
“It is about the natural order of things,” Tad said, “And no, it is not fair.”
“But… we fixed things. We made it through this,” Amelia said and the tears began to fall again, “I… I was just brought back! Why did mum have to die, then?”
“Because even at its most adventurous, life is still life. It has no narrative, no sense of what is appropriate. Things just… happen.”
Amelia knew that. She had started to realise that some time ago.
“It doesn’t make things any easier,” she sniffed.
“No… I did not think it would.”
Tad shifted, looking at Amelia hesitantly, almost fearfully.
“Amelia… your mother’s spirit is still in my garden.”
Amelia looked at him, eyes wide.
“Yes. She is stuck. Sometimes it can take a lot of time for a ghost to figure out how to get unstuck. But in this case, I think I know what she wants.”
Tad paused and then added sheepishly:
“Mostly because it is what she asked of me.”
“What? What is it?”
“She wants to talk to you.”
Amelia was on her feet in an instant. Some twisted form of her hope-spark was back. She could see mum again! She could… she tried not to think about how it wouldn’t be the same. How it would be a goodbye anyway.
“Could I?” she asked, voice shaking.
“Of course,” Tad smiled, “It is a part of my job… to help souls pass on, that is.”
Something about his tone told Amelia that he was perhaps again bending the rules a little bit. But at the moment she didn’t pay it much mind. She had other things to think about.
Tad’s garden was still as gorgeous as ever, with every plant imaginable painting a beautiful mess of colour and flowers. With fake birdsong in the background and with the sound of almost real water calming Amelia down. And there, not far away from where Amelia found herself, stood Julia Sprigg, smiling sadly when she noticed her.
“Amelia,” she said, without a hint of the fake French accent in her voice, “I’m so glad to see you, honey.”
Amelia walked over to mum and for a moment they just hugged. Amelia didn’t want to let go, but she realised with growing sorrow that she had to. That this was what she had come here to do.
“No, I’m sorry,” mum said, “I should have been more careful. And maybe… maybe listened to what was going on around me more. Also not walking into a gang fight would have been smart.”
She stepped away from Amelia and smiled again. It wasn’t one of her overly happy fake smiles. This one was real, with the genuinely happy and real mum shining even through her sadness.
“Well, what’s done is done. I didn’t want to die, but here we are. And I… at least I can see Alex again now.”
“I love him so much. And you… and Philippe… I wished we could have been a family again. But I was too caught up in my own grief and my denial about everything. I knew that. But… it was so difficult to stop, you know? And then I saw you in danger in that gang fight and I realised again how short life was and how I should talk to you and really start listening again. And… well, it’s pretty ironic, isn’t it?”
“I don’t care about irony,” Amelia said a little childishly, “I don’t want you to go.”
“I don’t want to go either. But I have to.”
Amelia nodded. She suddenly found it very difficult to form words.
“I know it’ll hurt,” mum said, her hand brushing Amelia’s cheek, “But I know you can get through it. You’re my brave baby girl. Well, not a baby anymore. You’re a grown woman, and you’ll be fine. I’m just sorry Alex or I can’t be there to see you find a man and have kids and all… if that’s what you want, that is. But you know, grandkids would be great.”
“Mum… how are you so calm about this?”
“Oh, I’m slipping into denial again, aren’t I? Sorry. And I’m sorry we couldn’t really talk when I was still alive. And that I ran from this… left you alone… I haven’t been a good mum, lately. If ever.”
“You were a great mum,” Amelia said, “I love you.”
Mum smiled gently.
“I love you too. And so did your dad.”
“I don’t know how I can… I don’t want to let you and dad go.”
“You don’t have to,” mum said, “But you can’t let the grief… take over too much. I think I let it. And sure, I managed to land Philippe somehow, and that helped. But… oh, I didn’t handle it well at all. You can do better. I know.”
She looked around.
“You know, I think I know where I need to go now. Our tenant told me that I would know when I could move on.”
“So, the Grim Reaper was our tenant this whole time? Did you know about that?”
“Wow. I wouldn’t have guessed. Or believed if you had told me. It’s a quirky world we live in.”
Despite everything, Amelia chuckled.
Mum looked around again, and then at Amelia, looking so motherly and like herself that Amelia wanted to cry and grab onto her and never let her go. She restrained herself, but only barely. Well, she couldn’t suppress the tears, but what did that matter?
“Is there anything else you want to say?” mum asked, “I think it’s my time to go.”
“No!” Amelia blurted out, “I… You… I’m so glad that you came back, mum. Even though you… ended up… That part I’m not happy about.”
“It was good to be back,” mum said, “Riverview was always my home, no matter how much I loved France. You take good care of our house, Amelia. If you want to, that is.”
She opened her arms and they hugged one more time. They exchanged teary “I love yous” and whispered goodbyes. Amelia didn’t want to let mum go at all. But mum pulled away from her, the part of her that knew she could not go back trying to make things easier.
“Goodbye, Amelia,” she said. Then she turned and walked away into the brightest flower bushes.
Amelia thought she saw a silhouette that looked somewhat like her dad waiting for mum at the end of her path. But her vision was too blurred by tears to tell for sure.
The next few weeks were a blur, just like after dad had died. Just because Amelia knew that she had a new kind of understanding of things didn’t make the emotions any weaker. She cried a lot. She had to ask her friends and distant relatives for help with the funeral arrangements because she could barely even start anything before she dissolved into tears.
At this time, she was especially glad that she was a social person. Both new and old friends were around her, expressing their sympathy to both her and Philippe and helping her the best they could. She was infinitely grateful, and as the funeral approached and especially after it was over, she felt like she could breathe easier. Like all the shoulders she had cried on and all the hugs and all those who listened had really helped.
She knew it was still not going to be easy, but she also knew that she could keep going. She was alive, with things to be alive for.
Less than a week after mum had been buried into the same grave with dad, Philippe left Riverview and travelled back to France, stating that there was nothing for him here anymore. Amelia wished him all the best and also hoped that she could have known the man mum had loved a bit better.
And then Amelia was alone in the house again. Just like she had been before this all had started.
Except almost everything was different.
Tad’s room was empty again, but Tad had still visited her a couple of times. He told Amelia that he would have to keep his visits brief in the near future, but soon he might be able to spend more time with her. He said he was very busy and that the other cosmic beings were watching him extra carefully. Amelia missed him when he wasn’t there, but she was also glad that she had time to mourn. To sort things out before she was ready to really be comfortable around Death again.
Both Amelia and Tad visited the Grisbys sometimes as well. After getting back from Twinbrook, the first thing Amelia and the others had done had been returning Emily back to her new family. The Grisbys had been overjoyed to get Emily back, but they had also immediately got concerned after Tad had told them that Emily may have some psychological trauma after her kidnapping, though he stressed that she hadn’t been physically assaulted in any way. They had promised to do their best to help her. There had been uncertainty in Walter Grisby’s eyes as he had said that.
“Sometimes I think that we’re not cut out for this,” he had said tiredly, “That… well, we are so privileged. Sometimes we trick ourselves into knowing what these kids have been through, but it’s… maybe it’s not enough.”
Tad had looked very sad at that. He had tried to smile.
“I know what you mean,” he had said, “I… I have another job aside from gardening. I guide people through a difficult transition in life. And I know what it is like to feel second-hand pain. Understanding is important, but I think what matters even more is making sure they know that they are cared about, that they can feel safe.”
“Yeah,” Yvette Grisby had spoken up with a gentle smile, “That sounds about right. We’ll do our best.”
She had then shaken Tad’s hand.
“Thank you again. Thank you so much.”
Emily was apparently sleeping a lot lately, having a lot of nightmares. She had been put in some more intensive therapy, and the Grisbys were reluctantly even talking about letting her spend some time in a specialised hospital for troubled children that was located near Riverview. Amelia really hoped they could help Emily get better. Nowadays Emily was even quieter than before, with eyes that had seen a bit too much and desperately tried to comprehend where she was.
Amelia wanted to think that Emily would get better. She too had things to live for now, and people who helped her live.
Amelia herself spent a lot of time with the Nexus. Basil had recovered from the vampire bite excellently and didn’t exhibit any symptoms from the vampire venom aside from slightly sun-sensitive skin. He could even joke about it, and said that he wasn’t planning to get a lot of tanning done in the summer anyway. Brigitte was her usual, happy self, and Amelia was so glad to have her as a friend. She was so patient and supportive with Amelia, always ready to listen and often inviting Amelia over to talk or enjoy a dinner with the Nexus.
Even Dewey and Mimosa sometimes came out of their shells and talked a bit more. Dewey, who clearly had his own trauma to deal with, offered to talk to Amelia about it, to share some not-too-painful experiences. Amelia often found herself watching Dewey sculpt something while they talked, sometimes about trauma and sometimes about happier things.
Other lives were also moving forward. Novak had told them soon after officially getting out of the hospital that he would find a way to take Beagle down for good.
“That son of a bitch is going too far,” he had said, “I’m not going to run anymore.”
Vanja had surprised them all by immediately declaring that she wanted to help.
“Don’t look so shocked,” she had said, “He had me shot too.”
After that, no one had asked any questions. Vanja and Novak had stayed at Vanja’s house for a while, but now they were gone, and Vanja’s shop had been temporarily closed. Sometimes Amelia wondered where they were and hoped they’d be okay.
Life was like a rollercoaster, and Amelia often felt exhausted when she realised how many times her rollercoaster had not long ago almost tumbled off the tracks. And she felt a spike of grief in her chest whenever she thought of those who really had been derailed. Sometimes she felt so alone and like things should have gone differently. But now things were at least settling down. Amelia was breathing. Many of her friends and so many other good people were breathing too.
That short moment when Amelia hadn’t been breathing had made her truly realise how precious it was. Even though Death was not so bad and was in fact quite sweet when you got to know him.
“Hey,” said Tad, who had appeared on Amelia’s backyard once again “I uh… I was checking up on you.”
“Oh, go ahead,” said Amelia, who sat at the table with a cup of tea in her hand, wrapped in a sweater and enjoying the contrast between cold and warmth, “I can get you some tea too.”
“That would be nice.”
As the sun started to set, they sat down with Amelia’s kitty tea set, looking out towards the frozen river behind Tad’s small, hibernating garden. Amelia took as sip of her jasmine tea and felt it warm her.
“How are you?” Tad asked.
“Better,” Amelia said, “Well, getting there. I think.”
“I am well. I am still on… pro… probation, as you might say. But I am back to a good routine. I think that perhaps I can visit you more again very soon. If you want that.”
“I’ve told you, you’re-“
“-always welcome here,” Tad finished for her, beaming like a sun, “I know. Thank you.”
Amelia spun her teacup between her hands.
“I was thinking of… well, life,” she then said, “You know, it’s weird to be back to… all this.”
“Back to what?”
“To what I was before you moved in. Except with… well…”
“Except with more people to grieve? I am sorry.”
“That part isn’t so great. But I… I think that things are different otherwise too. You helped me heal.”
“Yeah. And I’m glad I met you.”
Tad looked almost bashful and tried his best to hide behind the steam rising from his tea.
“I am glad that I met you too, ” he said, and there were so many other things he seemed to want to say as well, but he settled for a, “Thank you, Amelia. For everything.”
They sat in a comfortable silence, and Amelia realised that despite her pain, there were very few things she regretted in her life. She had friends, she had a home, and a life to look forward to. Her house was still half empty, and she still had some money troubles. She was still quite broken but again healing. In a way, things had gone full circle like in some of the books she had read. Sometimes it was corny, sometimes it was effective. Sometimes it was just life. It wasn’t perfect, because it never was.
But maybe it was enough.
The End of Arc 1.
Author’s Note: So, there we go. It’s done. Yay! And it didn’t take more than… slightly over 400 pages in word with 11 Calibri font? Oh, well, I’ve pressed lots of enters. 🙂
I debated whether or not to really kill Julia for SO LONG, but eventually I had to admit to myself that she doesn’t really have much to do in the story except to die at this point. If she didn’t die now, she would have died later or at least talked about death to give some closure to Amelia’s character arc. Sure, it wasn’t necessary for Amelia to be taught how to deal with the death of a loved one and then kill off ANOTHER loved one, and I’m still wondering if it was needlessly mean, but it was also a part of this story’s theme, which is that despite its fantastical moments, it’s still about life. And life sucks- I mean, life is unpredictable and merciless. I’m sorry, Julia! I liked you a lot! 😦
Thank you all who have been reading this and giving lovely comments, likes, support, or even a passing glance! You have inspired me an encouraged me to write this and given me ideas! You guys are way too kind to me. I’m so glad that you have liked this story.
As you can see, there are still plenty of loose ends that can be bloated into more story arcs, so this isn’t the end of the story! I’ll take a break from this now, focus on my other stories that I have neglected because I’ve had a flow about this one, and then I think I’ll maybe write some shorter story arcs for this story. I have some ideas for them already.
In the meantime, I’ll still be writing pen pal letters and publishing them on this blog. And you guys can find me on my other blogs and on the Sims Forums.
Take care and have a lovely time. Thank you!