This chapter is my take on Miss Peregrine learning of Abe's death. I think maybe Horace's dreams the night before should've factored into this chapter, as that was probably why Miss Peregrine was looking for Jake on the ferry, but I couldn't find a smooth way to include them.
My entry for the August one-shot contest at Caesar's Palace forum.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Jake."
"So... you know?"
"I know if Abe were alive, he would've told me you were coming."
A searing pain pulsed through her as she returned home, but she was careful to betray nothing of it to her children. She kept her head high and her back straight as she calmly gathered her children in the conservatory, telling them that she had an announcement. They put down their games and crowded around her, their curious eyes shining in the sunlight that streamed through the wide windows.
"What is it, Miss P?" Hugh asked. "Did you see something outside the loop?"
"Children, you remember that Abe has a grandson named Jake. Well, he's come to visit us. He just arrived on the island."
It had been a long time since they had any visitors to their loop, and her children all burst into cheers and excited chatter. A visitor! Abe's grandson! I wonder if he'll be like Abe? How long will he stay with us, Miss P? What's his peculiarity? Has he come here all the way from America?
"We should all act very normal when he gets here," Millard convinced the others, "as if we get visitors every day."
But Emma, standing in the back of the group, was silent, her brow furrowed. She had put the pieces together, and for a second, she looked almost as pained as Miss Peregrine felt.
"W-wait a minute," she said, her shaky voice cutting through the others, "Abe's grandson is here... but Abe didn't come with him? Did he even tell you he was coming?"
Miss Peregrine met her eyes. "No," she said gently, "he didn't." She looked around at all of them and kept her voice steady as she went on, "It's been some time since I had a letter from Abe. You all know that he had grown very old. His grandson is your age now, Emma."
Her children were quiet now, their eyes wide and sad. "It really does happen if you don't live in a loop," Bronwyn whispered to Claire and the twins in an awed voice, as if she couldn't believe it herself. "You really do grow older and older until you die." Claire nodded solemnly, as if she understood, but of course she didn't. A child who'd been six-years-old for over half a century couldn't possibly understand death.
"But you don't think Abe..." Emma fumbled for words. "You don't know that he..."
"No, I don't know for certain. But I think Abe has probably passed away, and that's why Jake has come here now."
There was silence again, and Miss Peregrine watched them closely, ready to comfort the first one of them who cried, but none of them did. Her children could all remember Abe, but it had been so long since his last letter, and even longer since his last visit, that he had to feel distant to them. His death didn't cut them as sharply as it did her, but that was as it should be. Miss Peregrine never wanted anything to trouble her children, not even Abe's death.
Olive, as usual, rallied to cheer up the others. "It'll be nice to meet Abe's grandson, though, won't it?" she asked, smiling and giving Emma's shoulder a quick squeeze. "May we go get him and show him to our loop, Miss P? Please? We'll be very careful."
She usually didn't let any of her children leave the loop without her, but she needed some time alone before the pain ripped her apart completely. "All right," she said, "but you must be very quick about it – no dilly-dallying. You know it's dangerous to spend too much time outside the loop."
Several of them hurried off to fetch Jake – Emma and Olive to make sure they all got back quickly, Bronwyn and Millard in case their peculiarities were needed. They were excited to have a new visitor, and only Emma was still thinking about Abe. Miss Peregrine could see it in her eyes. Abe and Emma had been sweethearts before he left their loop to go to war, determined to have revenge on the Nazis who'd killed his family and the Hollows who'd killed Victor.
She watched them from the front porch until they were out of sight, then went upstairs to her room. As soon as she shut the door behind her, she stopped trying to hold back her tears. She slid down the door to the carpet, sobbing quietly, one hand pressed over her mouth so that her children won't overhear. Her heart ached almost as much as it had when Victor had been killed.
She tried to tell herself that this was different, and that Abe had lived a long, full life. But it didn't feel like the wrinkled, white-haired old man who sent her letters from Florida had died. No, it felt like the frightened Polish boy she'd brought home from the refugee camp had died. Sent away to England to keep him safe from the Nazis with little more than the clothes on his back, he could barely speak English then, and Peregrine was too hard for him to say, so he'd called her Miss P instead, and that had started all her other children doing it.
Dozens of memories of Abe flew through her mind, but one stood out from the rest. Just after Victor was killed, she'd found Abe in Victor's room, staring at his still, lifeless body, repeating strange words over and over. Baruch dayan ha'emet. When she asked him what it meant, he broke down in tears.
"I... I can't remember," he got out through his sobs, and then Miss Peregrine pulled him into a hug and his voice was muffled against her shoulder. "It-it's not Polish, it's Hebrew. My bubbe taught me to say it when somebody died, or w-when something bad happened, but I can't remember what it means."
"But you remember the words, Abe, and you said them," she had said softly, rubbing his back. "I think that's what matters."
"Baruch dayan ha'emet," she whispered now, for Abe's sake. She didn't know what it meant either, but there must have been some power in those old Hebrew words, for as soon as she said them, her heart felt a little less broken. She went to her desk and took out Abe's last letter, which had arrived several months ago. It was brief, but he'd said important things in it, almost as if he'd known that it would be the last letter he ever sent her.
Dear Miss P,
It's too bad you're running a home for peculiar children, instead of a retirement home for elderly peculiars. I'm not allowed to drive anymore, and I can never remember what I went into the kitchen to get, but I still remember your loop perfectly. I miss it all so much these days – the island, you, the other children, feeling safe.
The other children. Miss Peregrine's eyes lingered on those words. Not the children, but the other children. Even as a very old man, Abe had still thought of himself as one of her children, and of course, she'd still thought of him that way, too. That was why his death hurt so much.
I wish I could come for a visit, but I think I'd scare the other children. Sometimes I scare myself when I look in the mirror and see what an old man I am now.
You know Miss P, my memory's not so good anymore, but I can't remember that I ever did thank you for taking me in.
Love from your wayward son, Abe
Wayward son were words from a song that existed in the world outside their loop. Abe liked it so much that he'd sent them a record of it years ago. When Miss Peregrine emerged from her room – after making quite sure that her eyes weren't red, her cheeks weren't puffy, and nothing about her looked at all out-of-place – she was surprised to hear the song playing downstairs. She found Fiona, Hugh, and Horace in the parlor, listening to the record. Fiona, sprawled out on the floor, held a little bouquet of white lilies in her hand and was running her fingers thoughtfully along the blossoms.
"Miss P," Hugh asked anxiously, "are we ever going to get old, like Abe did?"
Miss Peregrine smiled. "No, you never will," she promised, and they looked relieved. She lit her pipe and joined Hugh and Horace on the sofa, and they sat in silence, listening to the song that Abe had loved.
Carry on, my wayward son, there'll be peace when you are done. Lay your weary head to rest, don't you cry no more.
It wasn't quite a funeral hymn, but Miss Peregrine smiled and felt sure that Abe would've approved.