Chapter Nine excerpt
The house was as still as the death that lived in it. Lachlan laid in the same bed he had as a child, listening to the ticking of the wall clock on the other side of the room. He remembered how it had lulled him to sleep as a child, but now, every second it recorded with its mechanical beat was another second of his life being stripped away. The realization that he’d done little with his life since the last time he’d laid there made him wince with each second that passed. The island felt untouched by time, just as he remembered it, yet everything had changed.
The smell of coffee wafting up the steep staircase finally roused him from his bed and the depression he’d fallen into. If he’d believed in heaven, which he didn’t, he would have pictured her looking down at him, laughing. Instead, he thought of his mother how she was; dead, laying in the morgue in Stornoway until they brought her back for burial. He had been confident that her death would bring, at the very least, a small sense of relief in his life. Even though they hadn’t spoken in almost twenty years, her memory was still a stranglehold on Lachlan’s life. All the times she’d failed him as a mother bubbled when he needed to be loved the most, preventing him from moving past the emptiness her inability to love him. Her death had loosened the noose, but the scar tissue around his neck felt permanent.
He stood at the window, peeking out from behind the curtain. The sky was the same color as dirty dishwater. The clouds were beginning to leak tiny bits of early light as the sun crept over the horizon. He strained his eyes to see what had once been Isla’s house. If there had been anything good to come of his return home, it had been seeing her again, even if merely seeing her was all that ever came of it. At least he had that.
The crashing sound of glass breaking came as he sat on the edge of the bed, mentally preparing for another encounter with his father. Lachlan jumped to his feet and pulled on a pair of dirty jeans before bounding down the stairs toward the sound of chaos. Shards of broken tableware dappled the floor from the bottom of the stairs through the sitting room and into the kitchen. Lachlan remembered the mismatched bright pink and yellow plates and bowls he ate from as a child and how he always thought that they were too cheery for the drab house they served.
The side door to the garden smacked against its frame as the morning’s breeze blew in, kicking up papers on the kitchen table. He tiptoed through the mess covering the linoleum floor, making his way to the side door but stopped at the kitchen table when he noticed a familiar face looking out at him from underneath handfuls of paperwork and old newspaper clippings.
The woman in the picture was undoubtedly his mother, but her smile and bright eyes made her almost unrecognizable. His brain struggled to comprehend the look of happiness on his mother’s face; it wasn’t something he’d ever seen before.