AN: So, here it is, after a freakishly long hiatus.
This is rattled out, and not closely proof-read, so pointing out of grammatical and content errors will be greatly appreciated. ^_^
(Also, for those who've read the earlier chapters before, and gone straight into this one, the character of James is meant to be Gloria's partner. He's been edited in to Chap 3, but only as a mention - just thought I'd give a heads up though)
Morgan had never been particularly good with feelings. They were there alright, despite what some people said – it was just easier to cope with them by making out that they weren't.
"Burying your head in the sand" is what Gloria had always called it, whenever the beloved black-sheep of the Havard family went and fucked up - again - and made out that it didn't matter.
At least, she used to, until the day the fuck-up was just too great to be forgiven. Morgan had always thought the day they met, or even spoke again would be a happy day...it had also been a day that was probably never going to happen. Not after all the shit that had happened with Claire.
Wrong on both counts.
It was very strange to be needed by Gloria for a change. For thirty years it had always been the other way around. When Gloria had called, Morgan had been over the moon, but then she'd said those few, horrifying words that had brought everything crashing back down.
Little Susie - last seen as a pudgy ten year old with a wicked attitude, and aspirations for a silver-tongue - dead.
Morgan had been numb ever since. Inside and out.
James hadn't been able to stomach the grave-side. On the way out of the church, he'd balked, and broken down. Had to be taken into the back room by a bunch of his mates, grease-monkeys like him, all suited up and grim-faced, so that he could let it all out in private. Morgan had never liked the man much, and while his upset was understandable, the fact he had left Gloria to face the hollow moment of closure with their daughter alone made Morgan like him even less. It only made sense to step into his shoes, even though it was the last thing Morgan wanted to do – but a perk to being able to fake a lack of emotion meant that faking being strong didn't come too hard. That's what the sis' needed right now. Someone strong.
Squeezing her hand as they stood at the open side of the grave, Morgan wrapped an arm around Gloria's shoulders and pulled her close. Didn't know what else to do.
Gloria didn't let any of the tension go – a part of Morgan had hoped she would cry. Somebody needed to – but she didn't shake Morgan off either. She just stood there, staring down into the dirt.
"Would you like a little more time?" the Priest said, addressing Gloria, whose glassy eyes and mask of a face didn't even register his question.
Morgan caught the pastor's eye and nodded. The man stepped back, and gave them a moment alone.
A hundred options of what to say whirred through Morgan's mind as though it where a fruit machine. Nothing seemed appropriate. Everything stuck in the back of the throat, wedged and choked.
"I don't know what to say," was what finally made it out, murmured through Gloria's hair.
"There isn't anything you can say," Gloria said, twisting her head so that half of her face was hidden in the dark lapel of Morgan's jacket. "You being here is enough."
With every breath she took, the shudders became more noticeable. They would be coming soon, the tears.
Morgan just prayed that Gloria broke first.
Something pulled at the back of Morgan's trousers.
"Excuse me," a small voice said. A child.
Morgan swallowed down the first reaction to come to mind – "Go away," – and turned to see who it was.
"Excuse me, miss," the little girl said, not noticing the look of shock that shot across Morgan's face. "Are you Morgan?"
All the moisture left her mouth.
"Yes," she said. She felt Gloria move beside her, untangling herself from beneath Morgan's arm.
"Annabelle, sweetheart, now isn't a very good time," she said, one hand clinging to Morgan's arm, tight and hard enough to be more than just a craving for comfort. She was trying to keep herself upright. She'd already started to fall to pieces - her voice was thick and unstable, and skin around her eyes had puffed up, just waiting to burst – even the little girl could see that. She bit her lip, and let go of the leg of Morgan's trousers, twisting her hands out of sight behind her back.
"I'm sorry," she said, "But...um...Morgan has a friend outside the side-gate who's looking for her, and she sent me to find her so..."
Morgan's heart plummeted, and Gloria looked to her little sister with flat disappointment.
"Can't you do anything without causing a drama?" she said, the tears coming, fat dribbles welling up and spilling out onto her cheeks.
Morgan tried to pull Gloria into a hug, but she got swatted away.
"No!" Gloria snapped, "Go – don't keep your friend waiting."
She covered her mouth with her hands, and doubled over. People were starting to stare. All were friends and familiar faces who Morgan didn't know anymore, and all had the panicked looks of those with no idea of what to say or do.
The little girl was staring at Gloria in horror, her dark eyes round as saucers, little mouth slack and hanging open. She had to be, what – six? Seven?
Could be a coincidence. Had to be loads of kids in the neighbourhood with dark, curly hair and big, dark eyes...
"Auntie Gloria?" the little girl said, in a tiny voice.
"Thanks a lot, kid," Morgan muttered, wrapping one arm around Gloria's back, and trying to support her back to standing. A hurried beat of footsteps rushed up, and a pair of freckled arms grabbed the kid around the shoulders.
"Annabelle! Come on – leave them be sweetheart," said a voice that was all too familiar to Morgan.
Any doubt as to who the little girl was got swiftly stomped on.
"Hello, Claire," Morgan said, making the woman with the dirty blonde bob stop in her tracks.
The name seemed to strike a chord with Gloria, who pulled away from Morgan again.
"Go on," she said, stepping away to stand by Claire and the kid. "Just go do what you have to do. You don't need to worry about me, I have Claire."
For a moment, Morgan could only stare at the three of them, wanting to scream, laugh and cry all at once. She swallowed it all down, and took a deep breath.
"If you're sure," she said to her sister. Her eye's shifted at Gloria's nod to the living ghost of a past life stood right in front of her.
"Good to see you again, Claire," she muttered, before stuffing her hands in her pockets, and sloping away to the side-gate.
"Mummy, who was that?" she heard the little girl say before she'd even taken three steps, in a loud rasp only a child could mistake for a whisper. If Claire replied, Morgan didn't hear it.