SUMMARY: Jonah’s adoptive parents have died within a few months of each other, leaving him totally alone in the world. Wanting to comfort him, his Guardian Angel makes his presence known. Echoes of Mercy covers their mutual journeys of discovery.
The weather mirrored my feelings perfectly being cold and dismal, the rain an almost solid curtain of water. My trousers were saturated from the knees down and clung uncomfortably against the skin of my calves, making me shiver as I stood in the grassy hollow gripping my umbrella in one fist.
In my other hand, I loosely clutched a small bouquet of freesias, letting them hang upside down by my side. Even at that distance their sweet heady perfume wafted up to fill my nose, the scent so familiar it brought an ache to my heart.
They were her favorites.
How many times had she smiled at me, imploring me to go pick her a bunch from the field behind our house? Too many times to count, let alone remember. I hadn’t minded. I’d never minded doing little things for her—she’d always been so grateful, way beyond what the act warranted.
My gaze traveled down, beyond the flowers in my hand to the earth beside my rain-darkened shoes. It was still scarred from its recent upheaval; the distinct lines crisscrossing its surface reminding me of one of her patchwork quilts.
She was under the grassy patchwork, beneath my very feet, and I had to close my eyes and brace myself as the ache in my chest turned to outright pain. I wanted to help her, like I always had, but she was beyond needing my help now.
She’d never need it again.
Raising my eyes a little, I looked across at the next grave, my gaze immediately traveling to the simple but elegant marble headstone to read its inscription: Jeremiah McGrath, beloved husband of Esther and father of Jonah. I swallowed, taking a deep breath, before returning my gaze to the headstone marking the grave upon which I stood. Just as my eyes reached its base, I closed them, bracing myself before opening them to read the words I already knew were inscribed upon its almost glass-like surface. Esther McGrath, beloved wife of Jeremiah and mother of Jonah.
That said it all, really.
She’d loved my father and she’d loved me, but loving me hadn’t been enough. Something in her had died when he departed this earthly plane. They said she’d died of cancer, but I knew better. She’d died of broken heart. Come to think of it, they both had.
Understanding that something vital in her had passed with him, hadn’t stopped me wanting to keep her with me for as long as possible though, and a wave of shame passed through me, knowing she’d hung on amidst her pain, trying to live for me. My selfishness, my fear of being left alone in this life, had caused her pain and that knowledge filled me with a deep regret.
Still, she was resting now, right where she’d always wanted to be; beside my father, her battle over, her pain at an end.
They were together again. Finally at peace. At least, I hoped they were at peace. As I began to lower myself into a crouch intending to lay my flowers by her headstone, my mind silently asked the question, needing desperately to be reassured. Were they? Were they together? Were they at peace?
The deep resonant voice that answered me was so clear, so distinct, in the stillness that up until now had been broken only by the sound of the falling rain that I paused in my descent. A flutter of panic saw my heart skitter into life, contrasting sharply with the slow heavy thud that had marked it beat up till then.
From my crouched position, I stared beyond my parents’ graves, my gaze trying to pierce the concealing wall of rain in search of the owner of the voice. Finding no one, I shook my head, deciding it must have been my imagination.
Gently, I placed the freesias on the ground, my umbrella shielding them from the downpour. They splayed out once I’d released my grip; looking small, fragile, and innocent. The delicate waxy whiteness of the petals seemed to be asking me to stay and protect them. Once again, I gave my head a shake. I really was getting quite fanciful in my notions. Where was sensible Jonah, the guy who usually inhabited my body?
Closing my eyes, I mentally thanked them for everything: for being there for me; for accepting me for whom and how I was; for being the people they were and showing me every day of their lives that true love was both beautiful and real. Rising to my feet, I looked down, saddened to see the blooms bruise under the force of the relentless rain. Silently, I promised them I’d be back soon with fresh flowers to visit.
I whipped around at the sound of the voice; water arcing about me in a spiral from my umbrella, my heart racing, but no one was there.
Taking a few deep breaths, willing my pulse to slow to a normal rhythm, I chided myself. Sleep, Jonah, if you’re hearing voices you obviously need to get some rest.
With a slow, heavy tread I made my way back to my car, realizing when I reached it that I’d forgotten to lock it earlier. Sighing at my oversight, I eased myself into the driver’s seat, closing my umbrella and shaking it off as best I could before dragging it across my body, causing a small shower of water to land in my lap. Absently, I dropped it onto the floor of the passenger side, my eyes fixated on my thighs as I watched the droplets seep into the dark gabardine of my trousers. I couldn’t seem to bestir myself to brush them off.
How could I have forgotten to lock my car? That wasn’t like me. Then again; I wasn’t myself today. It wasn’t every day that you buried your mother.
Already the dampness of my clothing combined with my body heat, creating a humid atmosphere that was fogging up the windows. Folding my arms, I rested them on the steering wheel, allowing my head to fall forward, my forehead pressing against my wrist.
Unbidden, came a memory from five years prior—the day I’d told my parents I wouldn’t be going away to college.