They sit together in the cold, small room, listening. His hand reaches out to cover hers, but she doesn't take hold of his fingers. The doctor is talking, reassuring them. This is completely normal, she says. This is a common occurrence, and as hard as it is for you right now, there is no reason to think next time won't have a happier outcome. She gives instructions: if the bleeding increases, if there's a fever, if there's extreme nausea or vomiting, get to an emergency room. Other than that, just rest. You can try again in a few months. Kyoya squeezes his wife's hand, but she remains unresponsive.
Laney excuses herself to visit the bathroom. Kyoya silently gathers the discharge papers, walking outside the office to wait for his wife. He will take her home. He will stay with her. He will figure out a way to make this better, somehow. Or at the least, less awful. Somehow.
Akito is in front of him. He doesn't quite know how or why, but it makes sense, in a way. The hospital might be large, but people will gossip. And Akito has never quite given up his old habit of keeping tabs on his younger brother.
"Kyoya," Akito says, his voice unusually soft.
"Not now." Kyoya is surprised that his voice sounds normal. He wants to scream, to punch the walls, to hurt something. But there is nothing responsible, nothing he can reasonably take his anger out on.
"I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry. Are you holding up okay?"
Kyoya just stares at his brother, unwilling to answer. Unwilling to put it into words. After all, it's not as if they've ever been close, ever been friends. "What are you doing here?"
Akito grips his shoulder. "I've been here before. A few times," he says, very quietly. "It doesn't … it doesn't get better. With time. It doesn't go away. But … it gets easier. You never get used to it, but eventually you'll get used to not getting used to it."
Kyoya's eyes widen, almost imperceptibly, as he realizes what his brother is saying. Why didn't you ever tell me? he wonders, and then immediately knows the answer. This is a grief too raw, too elemental, to be shared casually. He feels as though he is sinking under the weight of this gift his brother has given him, the knowledge of the small lives that flickered out over the years, as brief and weak as a candle flame. A sharing of grief that somehow both lessens and increases his sorrow.
"Laney … she'll be someplace else right now. Someplace you can't go. You can't … you just need to abide. And when she's ready, you need to be there, to show her the way back."
She feels utterly empty, as though she has been hollowed out by grief. As if she were marble, and some mad sculptor had scraped and scraped and scraped away at her, until only a thin, translucent shell remained. Four days ago she had been full with the dreams of new life and infinite possibility, and now there was nothing. I am become death, the destroyer of worlds, she thinks. And then immediately, she feels ashamed. Such a small, ordinary thing. It probably happens to most women, at some point. Such an everyday happening is surely not worthy of this great, tearing sorrow she feels. One day, she decides. I will sit with this for one day. Then I need to put the pieces back together.
So she sits. She is in the garden. It is high summer. When the breeze blows, she catches the scent of lavender, sharp and clean. Another day, she would have clipped several dozen stems, laying them out to dry before attempting to fashion a wreath. She remembers last summer's attempt, and her husband's laughter before he had taken over, his long, nimble fingers easily weaving the stems together. She will not cut any lavender today, though. She is done, utterly done, with cutting life short before its time. Instead she sits, surrounded by lavender and butterflies, her body still as her soul navigates the path sorrow has laid out for her. No way out but through. She imagines herself tracing the steps of a labyrinth; only when she has come to the center can she turn and begin to find her way out again.
Her husband brings her a cup of tea, but she does not take it. She forces herself to smile at him. She knows that she is not alone in this; he is here, as he has always been. But she also knows, fairly or unfairly, that he cannot walk this path with her. She knows he is not unaffected by their loss, but his sorrow cannot be compared to hers. It is separate entirely. He mourns possibility, but she mourns her body's most fundamental betrayal. His grief is external, while hers is intimate, a small, dark animal curled up deep inside. She thinks it is perhaps unfair of her to exclude him so wholly, but she doesn't know how to bring him inside the circle of her loss. So instead, she continues to sit. And he sits with her, bearing witness.
He watches her from the corner of his eye, pretending not to. He has seen her grieve before. When her grandmother entered hospice, she was frantic, torn between the need to be at her grandmother's side and her demanding coursework. Every Friday afternoon, he would pick her up from her last class and drive the 170 miles down to Williamsburg. He'd watch her on that drive, growing calmer the further south they were, until finally she was with her grandmother again. When the old lady finally passed, she cried, of course, but there was also relief. Relief the whole ordeal was over, relief that her grandmother was no longer in pain, and, according to her religion, was reunited with her savior and those who had gone before. Laney had never been particularly religious, but her grandmother's teachings about death and the afterlife had stuck, and stuck hard. Where does she imagine this one is, now? Is it with her grandmother? Or does it just dissipate, disappearing into the sky or water? There is a ceremony, mizuko kuyo, intended to honor the … the what? The fetus? The baby? The spirit. That's what I'll call it. He looks at his wife, silent, unmoving. Her face is lifted to the sun, her eyes closed. Later. We'll talk about it later. If she wants.
He has seen her grieve before, but he has never seen her so completely pulled under. Four days ago, he would not have thought it possible. But that was before the cramping, the blood, the panic. Before the hospital, and the empty ultrasound screen. She has retreated into herself. He remembers his brother's words: You just need to abide. And so he sits with her, silent. Her cousin would pray with her now, and her mother would almost certainly know the right words to say. But he can do neither. He imagines himself now as a blazed tree, bearing the markings to guide her back to herself, back to him.
They sit together all afternoon, until the sun sinks low and their shadows stretch out long behind them. They sit together as the fireflies flit about, small stars, calling each other in the twilight. He longs to be able to call her as simply and easily. Flashing his own specific pattern, and she would come to him, finding him again in the darkness. He knows, mostly, that she hasn't really left him. She is walking a trail, and will come back to him once she has found herself again. He calls to mind her hiking trips; he would drop her at the trailhead and watch her walk away, never turning back around after she'd kissed him goodbye. A small part of him would always wonder if this was the last time he would ever see her. But she always returned to him, full of new energy and a quiet clarity. Exhausted, filthy, yes, but gloriously and unquestionably herself. But this time, she'll come back changed. No one can walk this path without being changed.
It is full dark now, and she rises. Still without speaking, she walks into the house. He follows her. She makes her way upstairs, and finding her guitar, brings it into the room that would have been the nursery. She settles down, holding the instrument close to her for a moment, her eyes closed, hair hiding her face. He understands. Music, even more than English, is her mother tongue. All her life, she has navigated her emotions like this.
She has started playing, gently. Over the years he's learned to recognize the chords. She plays an F, a G, an a minor, resolving back to the F, lending the progression some stability. She moves through other chords; G again, E7, a minor, F, a minor, F, and finally, resolving to the C, G, C. He knows this song, although he's never heard her play it. She begins to sing, her voice dry and cracked.
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch,
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
She puts her guitar down, and, for the first time in four days, begins to cry. He moves now, taking her in his arms, holding her together as she allows herself, finally, to fall apart. Her arms come up, around him, holding on to him. They cry together. And when they have spent their tears, they rise, hand in hand, and leave the room, closing the door gently behind them.
Song: "Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen