Sandy woke much later. It took her a few minutes to remember why her head hurt. She felt like she had a hangover. Luke was still gone. She sat for a moment gathering her thoughts. Diane would have woken her if Luke had shown up, so he was still missing. Tears gathered in her eyes, but she fought them back. She forced herself to get out of bed and went to wash her face. A living corpse stared back at her from the mirror. She was very pale and drawn.
She found Hugo and Diane in the living room, cuddled together on the couch. It hurt to see them like that, so she went to the kitchen before they noticed her. Not hungry, she passed on food, but a bottle of wine caught her attention. While searching for the corkscrew, she found some emergency candles and decided she was going to have a long soak in the tub. Reaching for a wine glass, she spied the book Luke had been reading last night. She picked it up to read it in the bath. Slipping back upstairs, sure her friends never even knew she had come down.
She filled the tub with scented bubbles, lit some candles, and put the bottle of wine and glass within easy reach. She downed her first glass while getting undressed. The second just after sliding into the water, and finished a third in less than five minutes. Deciding she had enough to get a buzz started, she refilled her glass again, but only took a small sip as she settled in to read.
It didn’t take long for the wine to take effect. Because of the wine, her sadness, fear for Luke, and the horrifying sad story, it wasn’t long until her body was wracked with quaking sobs. Wailing, she threw the book across the room, where it landed outside the bathroom on the bedroom floor. Her tears of grief and pain drowned out the ghostly echo of another’s wretched misery. With every moment that passed, she became more and more inconsolable and another cry matched her sob for sob.
Sandy leaped from the tub. She slipped and slid on the wet floor to the French doors. She didn’t see the shadow of a woman hugging herself, a complete picture of misery. Sandy flung the doors open to the raging storm outside, so lost in herself she felt nothing on her bare, wet skin. The wind blew the doors closed again as soon as she stepped out. Fighting against the snow and wind, she crossed the terrace, mounted the railing, and flung herself into the arms of the waiting storm.
Diane placed her hand over Hugo’s mouth to keep him quiet, as they watched Sandy run back up the stairs with wine, a book and candles.
“Good, she’s going to take a long soak in the tub.” She moved her hand and replaced it with a kiss. “Let’s go to bed, it’s been a long trying day, and I’m tired. She’ll know where we are if she needs us.”
Hugo kissed her in turn and agreed. “Do you think she’ll be okay?”
“I think, she probably wants to be left alone or she wouldn’t have snuck down here without saying anything.” Together they mounted the stairs and went to bed.
Late into the night, they lost power, neither noticed as the generator kicked on automatically.
The next morning, Diane knocked softly on Sandy’s door, hoping not to wake her if she still slept. She knew sleep was probably the best thing for her right now. When Sandy didn’t answer, she debated, cracking the door to check on her friend, but decided against it. She’s check on her later.
Diane met Hugo in the kitchen for coffee and breakfast. “Anything from the Sheriff?” Hugo checked the computer while she’d checked on Sandy.
“It’s off, no power. I went and checked, and the generator is running. It looks like the kitchen, furnace and hot water heaters are the only things running” He shrugged his shoulders. “How is she?”
Diane sighed. “She didn’t answer the door when I knocked. I’m letting her sleep a while longer. Unless she asks, let’s not tell her the computer is down.” Sad deep down in her heart, Diane comforted herself by slipping her hand under his collar to touch his skin. “I just don’t know what to do or say to her. Until she’s up, I’m not going to think about it. Let just have some food and find something to do to pass the time.”
A few hours later when Sandy had still not come down, Diane went to check on her. This time she entered the room when her knock went unanswered. Moments later, she flew out and down the stairs screaming for Hugo.
Together they searched the house, but the only sign of Sandy was the still full tub of cold water, guttered candles, and a mostly empty bottle of wine.
Distraught, Diane paced back and forth across the library floor, muttering to herself over and over. “I should have gone in and checked on her. I should have just gone in. What was she thinking, where is she?”
At a loss for what to do, Hugo finally halted her and wrapped her in his arms while she cried softly. The only thing he had ever seen this woman do quietly was cry. It tore him up inside, it was as if she felt sadness so deep, it could only trickle out.
“Come on, baby. There isn’t anything we can do but wait. Let’s go over to the couch and snuggle.” His eyes landed on the book on the coffee table. “Look, love, It’s the book Mr. Johnson left for us. Close your eyes and I will read to you.”
She sighed heavily, laid her head on his chest, and nodded.
A short while later she stopped him. “That’s horrible, stop I don’t want to hear anymore.” She shot to a sitting position, putting distance between them. “Oh, that poor woman, her husband died, then her child, and like that …” The lights went out.
They each grabbed a flashlight, and trouped into the basement to check the generator.
“Gas is good, switches are on, but I see nothing obvious.” Puzzled as to why the machine was no longer running, Hugo ran his flashlight over the generator once more. He turned the switches and dials, but nothing he did restarted the behemoth.
“Jesus, Hugo, can’t you do anything? What else can go wrong this week?” Finally, beyond the breaking point, Diane snapped. “I swear this is your fault.”
“My fault? My fault? Who found this god-forsaken place? Who insisted that we had to rent it, despite the glaringly obvious fact that it wasn’t available for this week?” Just as frightened and frustrated as she was, he yelled back at her. “My fault? I think you need to grab a clue, this is your fault.”
Oblivious to the additional sound of crying, they continued to yell and scream accusations. Finally, beyond all rational thought, Diane swung out cracking her hand across his face.
They stood there breathing hard. “I think you need to get away from me before I do something we will both regret.” At the end of his control, Hugo hissed the words through his clenched teeth.
Never having witnessed him in this state, Diane recognized her danger and ran up the stairs. Hugo heard the slam of doors and knew she must have returned to the Library. He followed much more slowly. Blood flowed hot and volatile through his veins, pounded through his ears, and drowned out the sound of a woman sobbing behind him.
In the living room, the fire burned as hot as his blood. He paced back and forth, mind racing. Every step he took, pumped his anger higher. Her words, her blame, and her slap tumbled over and over in his mind. His cheek, where her hand had landed, burned. Every time he remembered the slap, it burned brighter until he felt white hot, flaming in his skin. He snapped.
Ripping open the library door, it took seconds for him to reach where she sat crying her heart out at the desk. He reached out, covered her mouth and nose with his large, strong hands, hands she loved, hands he love using on her body. He pulled her back against his chest where she had rested her head a short while before. He applied more pressure to the hand cutting off her air. She fought with everything in her. With all the passion he so loved in her, she fought for life, but it wasn’t enough.
Panting from exertion, Hugo let her lifeless body go and stepped back. The rage left him and staring down at her, grief over took him. It drug him under farther and faster than the rage. He screamed out her name and tried to revive her, but failed.
He vaguely heard the voice behind him. “All I loved died, so I gave myself to the storm.”
What could he do, but the same? He gathered his love into his arms and took them both into the storm.
Seymour Johnson drove up the drive of his Mountain Chalet, the annual holiday storms were over, and the snow melted. He could see a car sitting in the circle drive at the front of the house. Unease bloomed in his soul.
The front door was unlocked. Upon entering, he found evidence of the house still occupied, but charging extra rent was not the first thought that came to his greedy mind. In the living room, he spied the book. He knew what had happened, but he picked it up and opened it anyway, and read.
‘Martha Johns, had been widowed when her husband Robert died overseas serving his country. She went mad with grief when she received the devastating news. While in the grips of this madness, she suffocated her two-year-old daughter, Bea. When she realized what she had done, she wrote her name and the name of her child on her husband’s death notice along with the words, “It is too much. We join him.” Clutching it in her hand, she carried her dead baby into the raging storm. She died wrapped around the small body in the Gazebo her husband had built for her as a gift while she was pregnant. Since that fateful Christmas, every year brings another storm, and any who occupy Johns House dies. Two bodies always found in the gazebo.’
Mr. Johnson, now a believer and sickened at what his greed had caused, laid the book back on the table. He went to inform the police there were bodies in the Johns House Gazebo.