Underneath the Waves: Chapter 10

The funeral was fast approaching, but the body was nowhere to be found. If Blackwater was the type of town to hold a late-night vigil, if Edward were perceived as a loving father left to raise two children on his own, the street outside would be full of small candles, flowers and words of prayer. Edward would have his arms around his two grieving children, offering shelter from the chaos surrounding them. As it were, Edward stood alone, his forehead pressed against the glass sliding door that lead into his abandoned backyard. 

Edward was feeling helpless and alone. His frustration was boiling inside. Jordan had been pushing him all week, testing his boundaries and throwing crazy ideas into the atmosphere. To give his soul a break from its grief, Edward would fantasize about what he would do if he ever bumped into the man that verbally abused his wife on the day she died. 

Hank’s monotonous voice came from Edward’s phone, “We found some unusual activity on Gabrielle’s phone.” 

“What do you mean?” Edward asked, his mind snapping away from his fantasy.

“Somebody called triple zero from Gab’s phone.” 

Silence swelled between the two men. 

“Listen, just leave it to me. It’s possible Gabrielle was calling for help, or she was even trying to save someone who was caught in the rip.”

Silence. 

“Edward?” 

“OK, Hank. Keep me updated.” 

Edward hung up the phone. 

The long shadows of the afternoon sun pushed the last patches of light out of the yard. The back shed stood ajar, left open by Gabrielle. 

“I’ve been asking you for months now. Unless you want me to do it myself?” 

Her voice echoed in Edward’s head. He marched into the living room and grabbed the paint tin, the paintbrush and the blanket off the floor and threw the glass door open so violently that it came off its rails and smashed. Edward forced his way to the back shed and threw everything inside. He grabbed the pickaxe that leant against the steel wall and felt its weight in his calloused hands. 

In the middle of the yard, the tree stump stared at Edward mockingly.  Edward placed his large workboot on the corner of the stump in a firm kick to see how much it would give.  It wasn’t going anywhere. It was a black hole, drawing everything in, surrounded by overgrown grass and fallen branches. 

Edward took a step back, widened his stance, took aim at the base of the stump and swung down heavy; right where the roots ran under the soil. Each time he brought the pickaxe down the dull thud would be followed by the shy sounds of dirt particles falling from the stump like exhausted breaths. 

Every hit of the stump made little impact. It seemed a near-impossible task to remove the monstrosity. It was like a dog biting down on its victim every time it tried to flee. Yet, Edward didn’t cease hacking and chopping and kicking the stump with all his might. His pickaxe came down and shattered a plastic tea cup that was wedged between the stump and the earth. 

Sweat made trails down his face like diverging roots in the soil.

The night grew darker and the yard became lit by a small rectangle of warm light that issued from the broken glass door. He wedged the pickaxe underneath the stump and used it as a makeshift lever to lift the stump from the ground. The root-sown gap between the stump and the earth began to tear open like a wound. Edward’s arms started to shake and gave in. 

Edward could see the ocean. He could hear Hank telling him there was no hope – that he was too late. Edward could feel they were both gone, forever. 

He lifted the pickaxe high above his shoulder and brought it crashing down into the earth. Water shot up into his face, getting under his eyelids and in his mouth. He fell to his knees and tried to block the flow with his hands, but it was too powerful. Ed had pierced a water pipe and he had no way to stop it. 

When he removed his hands, the water shot straight up into the air. He frantically took off his shirt, folded it over itself and pressed it into the source of the flow. A voice yelled from the house, “What happened?”

A pool of mud slowly swallowed Ed’s shirt. He stood with one foot on his shirt in the hole between the earth and the stump that he’d created. He looked over to Elizabeth’s silhouetted figure standing in the shattered doorway. 

“I’ve hit a pipe!” Edward yelled, “run out the front and turn off the water, it’s by the letterbox!” Edward’s directions were calm and clear, with a strange lack of urgency. 

When Jordan peered out into the yard, all he could see was a man shivering, covered in mud and unable to lift his head. He had no desire to help.

A knock upon the open door echoed through the house. Jordan tried to retreat to his bedroom, but was too late. 

“Hello, Jordan, how are you?” 

Samantha greeted Jordan with a hug he had no way of avoiding. Beside her stood her husband, Uncle Andrew, with grocery bags in his arms. 

“So sorry for your loss, Jordan,” Andrew said with robotic syllables. 

“That’s ok. She’ll be found.” Jordan shot back sharply. 

Jordan turned and retreated upstairs.

Elizabeth pushed past Samantha and Andrew to check if the water had stopped flowing. 

Samantha and Andrew exchanged a glance and proceeded into the backyard. 

Edward had no energy to make himself presentable as he picked up his shirt from the hole in the ground. Elizabeth stood beside him, waiting for further instructions. 

“What happened here?” asked Samantha. 

“Nothing. I just his a water pipe.” Edward answered, wiping his face with his hands. 

“Hey Edward, how are you doing?” Andrew waved in an awkward manner. Edward didn’t lift his gaze. 

“The tapes are in the shed. I’m sorry for the mess.”

“Do you need anything?” Samantha asked sincerely, “Would you like us to get dinner sorted?”

Edward wiped his face and gave Samantha a small nod. 

Andrew stepped carefully into the shed and around the mess. He could see a camera bag on top of a stack of plastic storage containers. He navigated his way through the boxes and unused garden tools and an old lawn mower and grabbed the bag. Hidden beneath was a small open shoebox of photographs. 

Edward was sitting at the table, covered in mud as Samantha looked through the kitchen cupboards for ingredients to cook. 

“I think we have enough here for a stir fry.”

Andrew entered through the entrance where the door had been.  

“Do you want me to call someone about this?”

“No, It’s ok. Andrew. You should have everything you need.” 

“I found this as well.”

Andrew put the photos on the table. 

“Can I take these?” 

Edward looked away from the shoebox. 

“Yes, it’s fine. Just take it,” Edward said quickly. 

“Just,” Edward hesitated, “Sam, can you take one up to Jordan for his poster.” 

Samantha paused her rummaging of the cupboards and looked over to Edward. 

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Edward didn’t look over at her. 

“Just do it, please.” 

“Can I have this one?”

Edward hadn’t noticed Elizabeth next to him. She had taken the top photograph from the box. It was a photo of Gabrielle doing up her ForeverGo running shoes on the front porch of an old house. 

Edward stood up and put the rest of the photos into the camera bag. 

“You can have that one. The rest have to go with Uncle Andrew so he can make the video.” 

Elizabeth felt slightly guilty for asking, but she held gold in her hands. She immediately took the photograph into her room and lay down on her bed. 

 “Can you finish this?” Samantha asked Andrew as she put shredded beef into a hot pan. 

“Sure.” 

Samantha maneuvered her way past Andrew and sat beside Edward. She placed her hand on his naked palm, blistered and raw from the friction of the pick axe. 

Samantha took a deep breath. Her voice was low and smooth. 

“Edward, you know, we can help wherever we can. If you need us to take the kids, you know, there is no shame in that. You know that Andrew and I have-” 

“I’ll need your help to organise the funeral.” 

Samantha sat back in her chair and loosened her grip on Edward’s hand.

“Of course. Whatever you need.” 

“One week from now. We should have her body by then. I’m going to shower and head to bed. It has been a long day.” 

From her bedroom, Elizabeth listened to her father’s heavy footsteps as he climbed the stairs. She rolled over onto her side and stared at the photo of a young Gabrielle. 

Gabrielle was only fifteen in the photo, and Elizabeth had never seen her mother how she was portrayed in the photograph. In fact, the photo seemed to capture something in time that Elizabeth only noticed in small fleeting moments growing up. An enthusiasm rested in her eyes. A quiet enthusiasm that one could label as natural confidence. Her two hands engaged in tying her ForeverGo shoe, her smile and eyes caught mid-laugh. Elizabeth ran her hand along her leg as she looked at Gabrielle’s strong, feminine calf muscle.

She to cried into her pillow as silently as possible. Beyond her walls, hidden underneath the sound of the shower, Edward did the same. 

The food was prepared, but nobody ate. Andrew wrapped it all in plastic and stacked the meals in the fridge. Samantha washed the dishes and turned off the kitchen light. They left the house as if nobody lived inside.  

Jordan sat in his room, surrounded by black, all but for a slice of light illuminating his sketch pad. He sketched and wrote and sketched and wrote. He drew to think without words and wrote to remember and plan his search. “I’ll find her”, he thought. The door to the despaie was locked and bolted. His entire being was set to find his mother, lest the floor beneath him would crumble and leave him falling into the black forever.  

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