She was unharmed. Sore and somehow knocked to the ground, but unharmed. When she looked up, she found several soldiers bent over their employer, who fell to the floor. Her attention was soon diverted, however, by a low groan. She pushed herself to a half kneel and snapped around to find its source. Her throat ran dry. “Sirius!”
She somehow managed to flung herself towards him, who barely remained above the ground with his knees and a hand. She seized his shoulders to forcefully turn him onto his back. The second she pulled his cloak away, she weighed the inevitability pounding in her heart.
He moaned, “Esther…” Her hands were but sieves pressed against his wound, a steady stream of scarlet seeped through her shaking fingers, soaking her sleeves. “My love…I-I am…”
“No,” She stopped him, biting her lips as though that would stop the tears from falling. “No, no, you agreed that we would leave together…” The last syllable cracked and she said to herself, I must stop the bleeding, I must…His life continued to fade through her hands. “Sirius, love, please look at me.”
“Es…” He began again in a quivering whisper, his dark eyes drowsy. “…ther…I’m…so-sorry…”
“No, an apology does nothing. Save you breath for later,” She almost yelled, but choked instead.
She could measure the agony in each gasp for breath yet she was…helpless. She summoned the willpower that she did not know she was in possession of to not burst into tears, reassuring him to fight, to seize the last wisps of bitter life as she, alongside his mother, attempted to bandage, call and cling to him. He met her forced smile with one of his own, chapped lips opened to utter syllables that were forever unacknowledged, before his hand, originally resting in her grasp, made a slight wave.
Then darkness overcame her.
She woke in a bedroom — not unlike the one she shared with her husband — as though from a nightmare, though she later learned from Madame Crisiota, who made her entrance so silent as to startle her, the hard truth that her reality and her worst nightmare were indifferentiable. After inquiring after her health, her mother-in-law began to explain the entirety of the happenings starting shortly before his demise: the elderly lady took the pistol from Esther before the latter’s attempt at self harm while her father shot Sirius fatally, which prompted his mother to try upon the Council member’s life.
“Your husband…he used his dying breath to send us here…”
Esther bit her lips and inquired after her sons to distract herself from the gory visions of her beloved’s end.
Madame Crisiota answered her question with too much hesitation for Esther to feel ensured, “Gabriel and Canopus are both here…but there have been some complications…You see, the time is very different from ours: recall that you were born in the last quarter of the 18th century? Well, as of today, it is 1977, and both your sons and I have been here since 1975.” Her mother noted how deeply knitted her brows were, so she prepared to explain the complexities of time traveling when a shrill call interrupted them.
“Grandma!” a toddler burst through the door in excited chatters, closely followed by his doppelgänger.
“Sorry, Madame, I wasn’t able to stop them,” A nurse, clearly too out of shape, practice and breath made her appearance leaning upon the door hinge in minutes delay after the two boys flocked to their grandmother’s side. “The second they heard their mother was awake, they just abandoned their walk and ran here like little –”
“– Don’t worry, Anne, it is quite alright,” Madame Crisiota excused the rumbling nurse and chastised the two troublemakers with pretended chagrin, which was immediately brushed aside after several solemn nods from the two-years-olds.
Having spent a good five seconds repenting for their enthusiasm, the two began anew, “Grandma, grandma, is that my mom–” “– Our mommy, not just yours –” “– Are you my mother?” “Are you okay, now?” “I’m Canopus!” “And I’m Gabriel!” “Ma…”
Esther was awestruck by growth that she missed in the span of two years, and instinctively, she drew both of them to her in a tight embrace, mumbling spoiling affections onto their bonny heads as though that may fill the gap. She thought that she already shed all the tears that she was capable of for her entire life, though she was wrong as her eyes watered from the sheer happiness of being able to hold her beloved children again.
Later on, as her ankle was well patched and Madame Crisiota helped her into the improper set of strangely tailored clothes, she was conducted on a brief tour around “town” by the two over-zealous children and their contrasting grandmother. The world was so much altered. The dull scent of wet earth was replaced by a putrid acidity that made her gag and reel. Walls moved upon her, rough bricks and calloused structures sharp and concrete. Dismal screeches of discord erupted against her ears in whooshes of pitches, rising then falling with the distance.
All was so overwhelming, yet she appreciated the struggle in her adapting to the current society: anything, anything that could distract her from the recurring nightmare of her lover forever bleeding to his painful death in her arms was welcomed.
Many, many years had passed since then. She had performed her duties as a parent to the best of her abilities in pretending comfort in this hazardous world and in giving the two a perfect transparency of their origins when they were old enough to understand without confusion. She retired from the busy world and her productive life originally in hopes of keeping the aged Madame Crisiota company, though the old woman passed before Esther could do much to repay her kindness.
Now the narrative had chased her to her current, hermit state in her isolation from the world, her pains had greatly subsided. She thought to read Canopus’s letter: he writes unusually well for men of this time, and the script nearly distracted his mother from its important content. It was a kind reminder for an arrangement the brothers made with her scheduled this Sunday, which she, surprisingly, actually still remembered. So, she sat idly for a good couple of minutes to contemplate if her reply would be received before then.
“You ought to tell me where we are heading.”
Gabriel turned from the front seat to meet her command with a grin that was more or less forced, “Should we, Canny? I think it might take away the surprise…”
“You just don’t want to be the one to tell her,” his brother was almost bitter, but not demanding.
“…” Gabriel turned his attention back to the scenery flying past the window while his brother began after a moment’s silence.
“We found where he was buried, mother,” Esther had a glance of hesitance and solemnity in the same deep, dark eyes that still haunted her from the back view mirror.
At that moment, she was too filled with the awakening of dormant emotions to question the brothers’ source. The long silence left the three of them mindful of the passing of other cars and each rough bumps upon the increasingly sparsely traveled road. Canopus, keenly aware of the distress the two of them might have inflicted, added.
“We really don’t have to go if it’s…too much for you.”
“No, no, no I would like to see it, and we absolutely have to,” She didn’t mean to sound offended or sarcastic, but she was misunderstood as both of those qualities; the brothers exchanged a quick look while Gabriel muttered something that Canopus merely turned away from.
Yet, still she didn’t realize how much the first part of her statement was a lie until she was immediately before the engraved stone. It was…too simple and understating, with only a faded, hardly legible name and two dates too close to each other, both in terms of time and their position on the stone. His supposed criminal actions had stripped him of epigrams, titles and relations to mark him, condemning him to his final slumber among crooks and felons.
After Canopus and Gabriel retreated to the car for her privacy, she dared to reach out and rest her hand upon the weathered monument, made even rougher with its recent freedom from ivies. She wasn’t sure what her gesture was meant to symbolize, but really just an unconscious belief that the earth may stir below and knock her off of her feet.
Thankfully, the earth remained as deathly unmoving as its quiet inhabitants.
Instead, the constant light breeze brushed over her; cold, though not harsh. It wisped against her coated frame and shifted her scarf. Delusions placed words that were whispered unacknowledged centuries before in the breeze’s mouth, and just like the first time she heard the utterance of these syllables, she replied aloud in a low sigh only audible to her sole audience below and herself.
“And as do I.”