he had said she would sleep in Joey’s room but must have changed her mind. She was beside me now, asleep, with an arm around my waist. For a while, it was peaceful. Then she began twisting, turning, mumbling. I couldn’t understand what she was saying.
“Angie …” I whispered to her.
She stopped moving and fell silent. Seconds later, she sprang up and gasped. I switched the lamp on and saw her hand over her heart, her eyes wide with fear, and beads of sweat trickling down her forehead.
“Angie, what’s wrong?” I asked.
She didn’t answer or look in my direction. Then she went back to sleep.
I was half-asleep myself, drained by all the emotions of the day, so I, too, went back to sleep, leaving the lamp on. I felt her moving again—releasing the arm she had once more wrapped around me. I heard the bedsprings as she rose. Licorice meowed from his spot at the corner of the bed. I sat up.
She walked at a frenetic pace around the room—almost in circles, as if the room was on fire and she wanted to get out but didn’t know how. In her pure white nightgown, she had an ethereal aura about her. The gown was ankle-length, with long sleeves, and revealed little more than her tiny bare feet. She looked like a Victorian doll or, more aptly, a centuries-old ghost. I considered whether all of it was a dream, as I was not fully awake.
“Angie!” I called to her.
She didn’t turn or acknowledge me.
I threw the covers off and approached her, grazing her shoulder. When she turned to me, her vacant stare—so disengaged and expressionless—chilled me to the bone.
“Angie, wake up!” I pleaded, gently shaking her shoulders.
She became enraged. I could see the fury in her eyes. She was far from the sweet, fragile Angie I knew, and she pushed me away with such violent force that it flung me hard against my bookcase, causing one of the hardcover books to fall on my head. I caught a glimpse of her bolting from the room before everything went dark, and I could feel my body sinking. You have to get up, I kept telling myself. You have to find her. But my head hurt. My back hurt. And I was out.
It would have been the typical nightmare for me—except it wasn’t a dream.
I couldn’t have been on the floor more than five minutes before I frantically awakened everyone. Bruised and in some pain, I threw a coat on over my pajamas and slipped on a pair of boots. The day was dawning, but it was still mostly dark, and there was no trace of Angie. My mother and grandmother huddled in the doorway, looking anxious and afraid, as my father, Robbie, and I headed for the driveway.
An impulsive glance at the sky halted me in my tracks, or perhaps I sensed it. The omnipotent gold of the sun was rising against a backdrop an artist might have painted—ominous charcoal gray, flames of orange, nuances of blue, and an invigorating, most passionate, purple. In that exquisite hour, when hope reigned with the promise of a new day, I saw her— as if a divine force had illuminated her. She was on the roof in that virginal white gown, her dark hair blowing behind her like a child lost. My heart pounded. I made a dash for the stairs with Robbie close behind.
We raced up three flights to the gloomy old attic door with its dark, rustic stain and antique handle. It was slightly ajar, and I could feel the draft now. The first streak of sunlight in that murky chamber came from the small window and the open roof hatch. We hurried along the creaking floors, beneath the angled ceiling, through the room dusty with cobwebs. A scissor stairway led to the horizontally placed roof hatch.
Angie was at the edge when we got there. Her back was turned, but she heard us and turned. I thought it was possible she could hear the beating of my heart that was thumping so violently.
Robbie looked panicked. “Should I grab her?”
I pulled his arm. “Don’t scare her.”
“What’s going on with her?”
“I don’t know if she’s awake.”
I held my hand out to her.
I saw the vacant stare turn to confusion. “Dani?” She blinked.
“Come inside, Angie,” I coaxed gently. “It’s cold out here.” I took a step forward. “Just walk toward me.”
“I remember sitting in the attic, crying,” she said. “Then I saw the stairs.”
“It’s okay,” Robbie told her. “You’ll be fine.”
My parents and grandmother were there now. I moved closer to Angie.
She began to cry. “I tried to hang on. I tried hard. My parents deserve that. They lost Dom. They can’t lose me, and my dog needs me. My parents do criticize me a lot, you know, and they may talk too much sometimes, but they love me. I know they do. They’ve been great parents to me, and you’ve been a great cousin and friend.”
“It’s not over,” Robbie said.
“I thought about talking to my mom about what happened,” she went on, “but I couldn’t. They deserve better than that, than me. You’re stronger than I ever could be, Dani. You always were. You can do this. I can’t. I don’t know how.”
“No one’s better than you,” I told her, “and I’ll help you to be strong. I’ll show you.”
I went to grab her, and, at the same time, Robbie moved in closer. I saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes, and then I saw fear. She shook her head then turned suddenly and quickly, backing up. I don’t know if she lost her balance or intentionally let go, but she fell.
I let out a blood-curdling scream.
She landed on the right side of the lawn, a couple of feet from the front of our house. Robbie went to call an ambulance, and I rushed downstairs to her side. I pressed my head to her chest. She was still breathing, and her heart seemed to be beating as fast as my own.
“Can you hear me, Angie?” It was my voice posing the question, but I barely recognized it.
My mother placed her fingers upon Angie’s wrist. “It’s weak,” she said, “but she should be okay. The grass is soft.” Yet she looked so deeply saddened and wiped away a tear, saying, “This will break Zuza’s heart.”
I lost it when Dom and Zuza arrived. The pain I imagined they felt only heightened my own.
“Wake up, my little girl,” Zuza cooed, kneeling over her daughter. “Mommy’s here.” She caressed Angie’s face and kissed her head.
My heart bled.
My father tried to explain it to a baffled Uncle Dom, apologizing for not having locked the attic door.
“That has nothing to do with anything,” my godfather told him. He cursed in Italian.
“Pray,” Zuza told him. “Pray for your daughter.”
Emergency responders and neighbors came from every direction. As paramedics examined and assessed her, I gathered what information I could. They said she had landed headfirst, with progressive contact to the spine. They opened an airway to assist her breathing, which they documented as rapid and shallow. They noted dilated pupils, an irregular heart rate. They said she was in shock. I watched them look at the cuts and scrapes on her legs. They provided her with oxygen, immobilized her spine, and elevated her legs. At some point, they recorded a decrease in blood pressure. Then she went into cardiac arrest, and they could not revive her. She died at the scene.
Amid the hysteria, I felt dizzy, nauseated, and disoriented. I would have fainted if my father hadn’t caught me. Paramedics offered to treat me for shock, and I refused at first, not wanting to leave Angie. When I acceded, they had me lie down on my grandmother’s bed. They removed my coat and boots. I kept asking for Angie. They were kind and tried to soothe me, saying things like, “Sorry about your friend,” and “You’re going to be okay.” They took my vitals, covered me with a blanket, and monitored me.
In the whirlwind of the next day, Zuza passed along what the doctors had reported about Angie’s condition—prolonged shock, fractured ribs, dislocated shoulder, her spine fractured in two places. Her head had snapped back. She had a concussion and the wind knocked out of her.
At breakfast, my grandmother said, more than once, that the angels had come for Angie, and that she was home with her brother and grandfather. “God—he wants another angel in heaven,” she reasoned with a shrug.
My father’s eyes widened in horror. “So he throws a girl off a roof?”
My mother tried to shush him.
He didn’t let it go. “You want to talk about God? Okay, my sister has the biggest heart of anyone I know. She is always praying and going to church, and he robbed her of two kids.”
“Nobody knows what God’s reason is,” my mother said. “Maybe he has a good reason that we don’t understand.”
“A good reason for a little boy to die like that, so young, so innocent, and to suffer so much? A good reason for a young girl, seventeen years old, to be killed falling off my roof? For my sister to go through all that hell?” His voice was shaking. “They brainwash you to think that! Ah, what’s the use?” He cried then. It wasn’t for long, and we all reached out to comfort him. He rebuffed us.
I wasn’t sure when he had lost his faith in God, but I was convinced it had happened way before this. I remember in grade school, telling him what the priest had said during Mass.
“He’s full of shit!” he bellowed, waving his hand in disgust. “They’re all full of shit.”
My mother would clench her teeth and admonish him. “Stop,” she’d say. “It’s not for you to question. That’s the wine talking, and whatever you say, the kids will repeat.”
My grandmother went to church every Sunday and hounded him to go. He wouldn’t, so she went with Zuza.
“Angie and Dom Jr. are with God,” I said to him now. “He’s taking good care of them.”
“I hope so,” my father replied. “I really hope so.”
About an hour after that, I went to see Farran, half expecting her not to believe the sequence of events. I could easily convince myself that it had never happened, if not for the pain in my tailbone and back.
Sitting beside her on her bed, I blamed myself. “I shouldn’t have awakened her,” I said. I made ridiculous assertions: I should have barricaded the door before confronting her. I should have grabbed her sooner.
“How could you know what to do?” Farran asked repeatedly. She assured me she would have done the same thing.
We cried together.
“She wanted the memory of what happened to stay buried,” I said.
“But deep down, she knew,” Farran replied. “She couldn’t remember it if it didn’t happen. If we’d known she was hell bent on self-destruction, we could have done something, but she didn’t want us to know. God bless and love her.”
“The doctor mentioned her cutting.”
Farran grabbed a couple of tissues from a box on her dresser. She handed one to me and used the other. “Did your aunt and uncle ever suspect?”
“No idea. I had her purse, you know. I had to go through it. She carried a razor blade.”
“Jesus …you think you know someone,” she said. “I wish I had paid more attention.”
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.