fleetingmadness: (Default)
[personal profile] fleetingmadness
title: so full of apathy
warnings: death and grief. extremely personal piece. if i'm being honest, i am jacob and lucy.
summary: He is twenty-six when his mother dies.



He is twenty-six when his mother dies. Although he would never admit it, he is alone. He has no siblings and his father is long gone. He doesn't have any close friends, and he hasn't dated in a long time. When he gets the news, he thinks, I should call someone. He picks up the phone and stares at it, but he doesn't have anyone to call. For the first time in his life, this bothers him.

He puts the phone down.

***

"I'm sorry, Jacob."

Lilah is holding his hand, pretending she doesn't know it makes him uncomfortable. They are sitting in the quiet hospital waiting room and he is staring at his shoes. "Thank you. I hope you know that I don't blame you for anything. This wasn't your fault."

"I know," she says, voice flat. He almost laughs. She is cold and hollow and she would never blame herself for anything. He knows this. He just thought he was supposed to say that, supposed to pretend she had compassion like every other nurse he had ever met, and she was supposed to say she was sorry because he was supposed to need it.

He wants to kiss her. Instead, he says, "She always liked you."

Lilah smiles and he pretends she means it.

***

"I can promise you she felt no pain," the doctor says, trying to be helpful. "She was asleep and she just... passed. No pain," he repeated.

Jacob nods and shakes the man's hand, staring hard at the wall behind him. "Thank you."

"If you want," the doctor continues, "we can take care of everything with the coroner. We can even recommend some good funeral homes." He smiles and says with fake sincerity, "We want to help you in any way we can."

Jacob nods again. "Thank you, but I can handle everything." With that, he pushes past the doctor and leaves before they can make him see the body. There is time for that later, after a few drinks. There is time to ruin his memories of her later.

***

His mother was just a girl when her father died. He was as much of a war hero you could be in those days, and she had loved him more than anyone else in the world. This had hurt her mother's feelings, but she understood. She had loved him too.

Jacob never met his grandfather, of course, but his mother's stories of him made him feel like he had. She tried not to idealize him; she was frank about his drinking and quick temper. She did not sugarcoat things about her parents' crumbling marriage saved by his death. She wanted her son to understand him and love him as she had. And Jacob had. He would eagerly absorb any story she told him, desperate to know this man that she loved so much. He loved his own father very much, always, but it was his grandfather who became his hero.

He was fourteen when he asked about the necklace. It had hung around his mother's neck for as long as he could remember. It was a plain silver chain with the metal of the Immaculate Conception dangling from the end. The pendant was a small oval; on the front, the Virgin Mary stood, arms spread. She was framed by the words "O MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE." On the back, the letter M was surmounted by a bar and a cross; beneath this there were two hearts, meant to be the hearts of Jesus and Mary. One was crowned with thorns and the other pierced with a sword. Jacob had always noticed it, but it was only when he was fourteen that he found it odd that she wore it. She was not religious in the slightest. When he asked her, she said that it had been given to her father by her mother, to protect him. Her father wore it every day until he died, and then it was returned to her along with his other possessions.

"At the wake, I almost put it around his neck," she said quietly. "He looked so wrong without it."

Jacob cocked his head, not understanding. "Why didn't you?"

"I don't know," she sighed. "I just couldn't do it. I couldn't let it go."

Sensing her shame, Jacob moved to hug her. "It's okay, mom. I understand. I would have kept it, too," he lied.

She held him, uncertain. "Really?"

He moved back and nodded. "Of course."

She seemed to consider this and smiled softly. "Okay."

***

Lilah is holding his hand again and he wants to hit her. They are in her brother's office because he is the only lawyer Jacob knows. He's charging him half price, so maybe it's worth it.

"Okay, Lilah, she did leave you a small amount of money as a thank you. There's also a note here for you, if you would like to read it," her brother says. "It's mostly just her saying that she appreciates you taking care of her for so long." Lilah raises her eyebrows at him and he grins sheepishly. "Jacob said I could read it to make sure there was no relevant information."

"That's fine," she says, and Jacob can tell that it's not. He glances at her, trying to read her face. She notices him looking and stares back, challenging. He thinks he almost sees genuine emotion in her eyes and he wants to cry.

Instead, he turns to her brother and motions for him to continue.

"Well, seeing as you're her only possible heir, she left you everything, Jake," he says. Jacob flinches at the nickname but doesn't correct him.

"Is there anything," he starts, but pauses. "Um, personal?"

Her brother nods and hands him a small envelope. It feels heavy and Jacob looks at it for a moment before deciding to open it later, in private. "Is that all?"

"Yes, sir. You're all set."

Jacob stands and shakes his hand weakly. "Thank you. Should I talk to your secretary about payment?"

"Oh, yes, of course. She knows that you're getting a special price, so no worries. Um, good luck with everything." He stumbles over the last words and Jacob kindly pretends he didn't notice.

He turns around and notices Lilah looking up at him expectantly. He wants to ask her to walk him out, to come home with him so he won't be alone. Instead, he walks past her without a word.

***

He fixes himself a scotch and sits on the couch, taking a deep breath. He opens the envelope and pulls out a small letter. Swallowing thickly, he reads.

I first want to say that I love you. With the way that my condition will progress, I probably haven't been able to say it in a while. But I do. I love you with all my heart. Knowing you, you're alone right now. I'm sorry for that. But you were always stronger than me. You'll be fine, I know you will. I'm sorry I don't have anything better to give you, but I hope this means something. You can do with it what you please. I trust you'll know what I mean by that.

Goodbye, my darling boy. I love you.


Resting in the bottom of the envelope is that damned necklace. Jacob drinks and cries until morning.

***

There are more people at the wake than he expected, but it shouldn't have surprised him. He is always alone but his mother never was. He sits off to the side, not bothering to hide his discomfort. Dozens of strangers are cooing over his mother's body like everything is normal and he wants to scream. Instead, he watches Lilah as she stares at them all with contempt, glowing like fire in her inappropriate red dress. He almost laughs.

No one approaches him. They all look at him, stare and whisper to each other about Lucy's strange, sad son, oh, that poor boy. But none of them come forward to give their condolences like they should, and he is relieved. He is one wrong word from breaking and maybe they can all see that. They start to trickle out, one by one, until it is only Jacob, Lilah, and the funeral director standing in the room.

Jacob still hasn't seen the body. Lilah is standing before him, hands on her hips. "You should get up here," she says. He doesn't move. After a moment, she sits next to him, arms crossed. "I'm not leaving until you do."

Jacob stares at her bare legs and shakes his head.

Lilah rolls her eyes and grabs his face, turning him to look at her. He sees her eyes widen for an instant when she notices the tear tracks on his face and he tightens his jaw, preparing himself for ridicule. Instead, her face softens. She leans in close and whispers, "If you go up there, I'll let you take me out to dinner."

He wants to laugh in her face but the idea of not being alone that night makes him ache. He nods and pulls himself free of her, standing shakily. He walks over to the casket but doesn't look inside. He desperately tries to picture his mother, young and happy and full of life, cooking him dinner and dancing with his father and laughing. He sees her crying at his father's funeral and he sees his own arms wrap around her comfortingly. He sees her beautiful, tear-soaked face and wants to remember her this way, just this way.

He looks down into the casket and the body lying there is a stranger's. It doesn't look real. It doesn't look like her, except it does, so much, because it is her and he thinks he might scream. His hand is drawn tight around that godforsaken necklace and he wants to put it around her neck. He wants to make her his mother again but the necklace feel so heavy and she looks so frail, like it would break her ribcage and collapse into her. He thinks he might vomit.

"Jacob," he hears Lilah say, and he pretends he doesn't notice the concern in her voice.

He opens his fist and stares at the necklace. He expects to see his grandfather's face in his head, unsmiling and stoic. Instead he sees his mother's, beautiful and wet, and he knows what to do.

fin.
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