She said, “There wasn’t enough,” and placed a bottle down on the counter. “I’m still awake.”
And she walked back outsite.
Teddy saw her walk toward the gazebo, taking long, meandering steps, swaying. And he put his drink down on the counter and picked up the bottle and saw that it was the laudanum the doctor had prescribed after her hospital stay. If Teddy had to go on a trip, he portioned out the number of teaspoonfuls he figured she’d need while he was gone, and added them to a small bottle in her medicine cabinet. Then he took this bottle and locked it up in the cellar.
There were six months of doses in this bottle and she’d drunk it dry.
He saw her stumble up the gazebo stairs, fall to her knees, and get back up again.
How had she managed to get to the bottle? That wasn’t any ordinary lock on the cellar cabinet. A strong man with bolt cutters couldn’t get that lock off. She couldn’t have picked it, and Teddy had the only key. a14 He watched her sit in the porch swing in the center of the gazebo and he looked at the bottle. He remembered standing right here the night he left, adding the teaspoons to the medicine cabinet bottle, having a belt or two of rye for himself, looking out at the lake, putting the smaller bottle in the medicine cabinet, going upstairs to say goodbye to the kids, coming back down as the phone rang, and he’d taken the call from the field office, grabbed his coat and his overnight bag and kissed Dolores at the door and headed to his car...
. . and left the bigger bottle behind on the kitchen counter. He went out through the screen door and crossed the lawn to the gazebo and walked up the steps and she watched him come, soaking wet, one leg dangling as she pushed the swing back and forth in a lazy tilt.
He said, “Honey, when did you drink all this?”
“This morning.” She stuck her tongue out at him and then gve him a dreamy smile and looked up at the curved ceiling. “Not enough, though. Can’t sleep. Just want to sleep. Too tired.”
He saw the logs floating in the lake behind her and he knew they weren’t logs, but he looked away, looked back at his wife. “Why are you tired?”
She shrugged, flopping her hands out by her side. “Tired of all this. So tired. Just want to go home.”
“You are home.”
She pointed at the ceiling. “Home-home,” she said.
Teddy looked out at those logs again, turning gently in the water.
“She’s too young for school, honey.”
“Not my school,” his wife said and showed him her teeth. And Teddy screamed. He screamed so loudly that Dolores fell out of the swing and he jumped over her and jumped over the railing at the back of the gazebo and ran screaming, screaming no, screaming God, screaming please, screaming not my babies, screaming Jesus, screaming oh oh oh.
And he plunged into the water. He stumbled and fell forward on his face and went under and the water covered him like oil and he swam forward and forward and came up in the center of them. The three logs. His babies.
Edward and Daniel were facedown, but Rachel was on her back, her eyes open and looking up at the sky, her mother’s desolation imprinted in her pupils, her gaze searching the clouds. He carried them out one by one and lay them on the shore. He was careful with them. He held them firmly but gently. He could feel their bones. He caressed their cheeks. He caressed their shoulders and their rib cages and their legs and their feet. He kissed them many times.
He dropped to his knees and vomited until his chest burned and
his stomach was stripped. °
He went back and crossed their arms over their chests, and he
noticed that Daniel and Rachel had rope burns on their wrists, and he
knew that Edward had been the first to die. The other two had waited, hearing it, knowing she’d be coming back for them.He kissed each of his children again on both cheeks and their foreheads and he closed Rachel’s eyes.
Had they kicked in her arms as she carried them to the water? Had they screamed? Or had they gone soft and moaning, resigned to it?
He saw his wife in her violet dress the night he’d met her and saw
the look in her face that first moment of seeing her, that look he’d
fallen in love with. He’d thought it had just been the dress, her insecurity
about wearing such a fine dress in a fine club. But that wasn’t it. It
was terror, barely suppressed, and it was always there. It was terror of
the outside—of trains, of bombs, of rattling streetcars and jackhammers
and dark avenues and Russians and submarines and taverns filled
with angry men, oceans filled with sharks, Asians carrying red books in one hand and rifles in the other.
She was afraid of all that and so much more, but what terrified her most was inside of her, an insect of unnatural intelligence who’d been living in her brain her entire life, playing with it, clicking across it, wrenching loose its cables on a whim.
Teddy left his children and sat on the gazebo floor for a long time, watching her sway, and the worst of it all was how much he loved her. If he could sacrifice his own mind to restore hers, he would. Sell his limbs? Fine. She had been all the love he’d ever known for so long. She had been what carried him through the war, through this awful world. He loved her more than his life, more than his soul. But he’d failed her. Failed his children. Failed the lives they’d all built together because he’d refused to see Dolores, really see her, see that her insanity was not her fault, not something she could control, not some proof of moral weakness or lack of fortitude. He’d refused to see it because if she actually were his true love, his immortal other self, then what did that say about his brain, his sanity, his moral weakness?
And so, he’d hidden from it, hidden from her. He’d left her alone, his one love, and let her mind consume itself.
He watched her sway. Oh, Christ, how he loved her.
Loved her (and it shamed him deeply), more than his sons.
But more than Rachel?
Maybe not. Maybe not.
He saw Rachel in her mother’s arms as her mother carried her to the water, Saw his daughter’s eyes go wide as she descended into the lake.
He looked at his wife, still seeing his daughter, and thought: You cruel, cruel, insane bitch.
Teddy sat on the floor of the gazebo and wept. He wasn’t sure for how long. He wept and he saw Dolores on the stoop as he brought her flowers and Dolores looking back over her shoulder at him on their honeymoon and Dolores in her violet dress and pregnant with Edward and removing one of her eyelashes from his cheek as she pulled away from his kiss and curled in his arms as she gave his hand a peck and laughing and smiling her Sunday-morning smiles and staring at him as the rest of her face broke around those big eyes and she looked so scared and so alone, always, always, some part of her, so alone... He stood and his knees shook.