And So It Begins…

A war between souls ensues upon the death of David’s father.

David entered his father’s study. There, he felt it – death lingered in the room, a dark, unembellished cloak. 
“Where’s my father?” Judging by his tone, a stranger would not have known Skye helped raise him, the only mother-figure he’d ever known.

“David, your father had a massive heart attack this morning. He was rushed to the hospital but there was nothing they could do.” Her voice was crisp and business-like, but her bloodshot, swollen eyes gave her away. “He was whispering your name.” Losing her composure, she whispered the final words. “We called you and paged you, but we couldn’t reach you.” She reached to hug him, then immediately shook her head and held her head down as her fingers brushed his side.

David shifted, avoiding her touch. A mere touch would shatter his composure, and the last thing he wanted was to be emotionally exposed. ‘He was whispering your name.’ Those words would stay with him forever. His father had always been whispering his name in attempts to make him better. He sat, guilt and anger warring inside him as he suited up, shielding himself from pain, at least on the outside.

“Where is he – his body? I’ll need to make arrangements.” He set his jaw and welcomed the cold stone as it covered his heart, protecting and consuming him at once. His mother had died in childbirth. He always believed her death was the reason his father had been so hard on him. Now, as Aidan Stringfellow’s only heir, the last vestiges of responsibility fell on his shoulders. He was not ready, but he would die before admitting that to anyone.

Skye moved, putting more distance between them before she picked up a large safe-box and held it out to him. “This contains your father’s important papers, his final requests.” Tears drifted slowly down her face as she continued. “Everything else is with the family attorney. He’ll contact you after the arrangements have been made and carried out.”

He felt her gaze on him, obviously trying to make eye contact, but he could not allow it. “He loved you more than he loved himself,” she said, her words tearing at his soul.

David glared at her, his eyes stinging with anger and pain. “And what is that supposed to mean? That he died for me, too? Like my mother? Dammit, I don’t need you to tell me how he felt!”
Skye put the safe-box down and reached for him again as tears poured down her cheeks. “I didn’t mean…”

He allowed her to hold him for a moment this time, then stepped away and picked up the box, his recently stormy gaze somber.
David held the box reverently, avoiding Skye’s tears. “Thank you, Aunt Skye. I’m sorry I yelled at you.” His tone was devoid of emotion. Skye had moved in to help raise him when his mother died, but nothing, not even her warm smile and tender heart could mitigate the dark pall that lingered, always crouching inside him, waiting for a chance to lash out. He kept most people at bay for their own protection.

David ran his fingers along the cold hard surface of the metal safe-box and carried it up the winding stairs to the bedroom that had once been his. He had sound-proofed the room in his teens and he was grateful for that now as he closed the door. The urgency to call out was overwhelming. He wanted to wail the passing of his father who until the end, had never given up on him. No sooner had he entered the room than he fell to his knees, clutching the box. No sound, no tears, just deep, bottled agony ripped through him as he doubled over. ‘Thank God you finally called. He was whispering your name.’

He had always been a disappointment to his father, but until this moment, he’d always hoped he could make it up to him. The torturous thoughts continued to pound his psyche. Time seemed to stand still as he knelt, reduced to a helpless heap of trapped emotions there in silent mourning. This side of him, no one else ever saw. He made sure of it.