Until Harry(4)By: L.A. Casey
“When I’m dead and buried.”
“Don’t talk like that.” I wagged my finger at him. “You aren’t going anywhere.”
“Uncle Harry,” I whimpered as I was pulled from my memory and brought back to the present. I moved closer to the coffin, my stomach brushing against the wood. “I’m . . . I’m so sorry I wasn’t here.”
Remorse filled me, and in that moment I was sick with myself. I hadn’t been here for him when he needed me most. I’d put my own selfish needs above a man who had done nothing but love me all of my life.
A soft cry came from behind me, then I felt arms wrap around my body. I had no idea who was comforting me. I could smell the aftershave he wore, which cloaked around me just like his arms did. I placed my hands on top of the hands that rested on my stomach.
“It’s okay, my love.”
I burst into tears and, turning into my father’s embrace, I wrapped my arms around his waist. My father held me and swayed us from side to side until my sobs became sniffles. After a few minutes I turned and looked back to my uncle. I placed my hand on top of his head, squeezing my eyes shut when I found it was ice-cold to the touch.
I reopened my eyes and looked at his handsome face.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, leaning over and kissing his soft cheek. I then gently pressed my forehead to the side of his head. “I’m so sorry.”
I let everything go and cried and cried and cried.
I had wept when I read Lochlan’s letter, but it was nothing compared to the emotion upon seeing my uncle. I was just short of wailing in sorrow. I was heartbroken, and the more I looked at my wonderful uncle, the more destroyed and empty I felt inside.
“How was your flight?” a voice asked from the parlour doorway.
I didn’t need to look to know it was the voice of my brother Layton. I hadn’t heard his voice in close to a year, but it was still the same. It was just a little huskier, probably from his bad habit of smoking. That wasn’t surprising, though. He was twenty-nine now and had smoked for as long as I could remember.
“Long,” I replied to Layton without looking away from my uncle.
My father stayed behind me, holding me tightly. I was aware that the close contact was probably going to change after my uncle was buried in the cemetery tomorrow, but I didn’t linger on it. I didn’t see eye to eye with my parents, my nanny or my brothers, but right now I wasn’t thinking of our differences; I was thinking of my Uncle Harry.
“Where is your suitcase?”
I tensed a little at the sound of my mother’s voice, then murmured, “At the Holiday Inn.”
I heard a snarl. “You’re staying in the hotel, and not here?”
I exhaled a tired breath. “Don’t do this now, Lochlan. Please.”
He didn’t listen.
“You’re not staying in a poxy hotel—”
“Lochlan.” Layton’s stern voice cut our brother off. “We’ll discuss it later.”
I closed my eyes when I heard the pounding footsteps of Lochlan as he stormed out of the room and down the hallway into the sitting room, slamming the door behind him. I wasn’t surprised that he walked away. Lochlan might be the temperamental brother, but Layton’s word was law. He was the only person who got through to Lochlan when he stepped over the line. I tried not to let my brother, or his outburst, bother me, so I focused completely on my uncle.
“I was waiting for your email,” I crooned to him and waited for his reply, even though I knew it would never come.
My father squeezed me. “It was sudden, sweetheart.”
I felt ill.
“How did it happen?” I asked the dreaded question that was on my mind from the minute I’d read Lochlan’s letter two days ago.
“A heart attack,” my father exhaled. “He felt no pain. It happened in his sleep.”
A heart attack, I silently repeated. That’s what took my uncle.
I gnawed on my lower lip as I glanced at his attire. I couldn’t help but grin as I took in the thick fleece jumper that I’d knitted him when I was sixteen. He’d loved it, and no matter how many times I’d told him to bin it, he’d refused. He’d said it was the best present he had ever received, which caused me to feel bad for him because it was downright disgusting-looking. I couldn’t knit to save my life.
My nanny forced the unholy task of knitting upon me during the summer I turned sixteen. I was more than awful at it, but my nanny didn’t care. She made me do it every weekend with her and her friends, who combined had three hundred plus years on me. If my nanny heard me say that, she would whack me. I inwardly giggled to myself at the silent jab and shook my head good-naturedly.