He handed the receiver back to Mrs. Nolan and uttered, "I'm sorry. I gotta go. My mother's being rushed to the hospital."
She followed him into the kitchen and patted him on the arm, "I'll pray for your mother, Steven. Mildred and I go back a long way."
He nodded in gratitude, "Thank you. I'll tell her you were thinking of her." When he grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair the broken eye glasses fell from the pocket onto the floor by his feet.
"Eddie's glasses! You found Eddie's glasses!" she shrieked. She bent down and picked them up. "Where ever did you find them?"
"Uh ... I ... er ... found them outside ... over at the brook ... near the bridge," he lied not wanting to say where he'd really found them.
She held the glasses tight against her heart. "Eddie looked everywhere for them! You can't imagine how upset he was when he lost them." She hugged him hard and added, "He's going to be so happy they've been found."
Steve turned for the door, "Uh ... Yes, I'm sure he will be." He was shaking. He couldn't get away from there fast enough. The urgency of getting home for his mother was beginning to get lost in a sea of terrifying confusion. It was as if the entire populace of Soddy-Daisy was consumed by the existence of a ghost ... the ghost of Eddie Nolan!
He didn't remember throwing gravel and stirring up a cloud of dust as his tires thrust his car forward. He didn't remember hurtling much too fast across the rickety old bridge. He scarcely remembered pulling into the driveway of his mother's house five minutes later.
Indelible, however, would be the image of his mother's supine frail form strapped to a stretcher as it was hoisted into the back of an ambulance. He was numb, almost incoherent as Catherine rushed to his side. She sensed his state and steadied him as they walked to where Doc Andrews stood.
He extended his hand, "Steven, it's been a long time." He cleared his throat as if to acknowledge that it wasn't the time or place to exchange pleasantries. "I'm afraid your mother has slipped into a coma. Her heart is very weak."
Steve slipped from his sister's grasp and slumped onto the front stairs. Fighting back tears he muttered, "I ... should have been here."
Catherine sat down next to him and placed her arm around his neck. "You couldn't have known. There was nothing you could have done."
The paramedic nodded to Catherine. She looked at her brother and said, "Steve, I'm going with mama in the ambulance. Jack is on his way to hospital - he'll meet us there." He tried to get up but she shook her head to dissuade him. "No. You stay here. You're exhausted. You need sleep. Jack and I will take care of everything."
Steve nodded in concession. He was awfully tired. After the long drive from Pennsylvania he had barely slept at all at the motel the previous night. Then there'd been the accidents ... the deaths ... and the imagined spectre of Eddie. He grabbed hold of the railing and pulled himself erect.
"Steven," his sister called from the step of the ambulance, "I made the bed in your old bedroom. Get some sleep, please?"
He stood by the screen door and watched as the ambulance disappeared down the road. Driven by the need for rest, he headed to the back of the house. He paused for only a moment to look in the direction of his mother's vacant chair before opening the door to the narrow stairway that led to the upstairs bedrooms.
His hands on the door knob of the bedroom he chanced a glance at the door behind him. It was David's room. He struggled to swallow, finally exhaling to do so. The last time he'd seen his six-year old brother alive, he'd been sitting on the floor in that room playing with his plastic dinosaurs. If he'd only he'd gone in there and sat down and played with him ... he might still be alive. If only he'd been keeping an eye on his little brother like he was supposed to have been.
Behind the door at the end of the hall was his parent's bedroom. The night David had disappeared had been the last night his father had slept in there. The next morning, after nearly beating Steven half to death his father had stormed out of the house. It would be the last time he would see his father alive. If not for him, David and his father would not have died.
He tried in vain to suppress those memories that just the sight of the bedroom doors had resurrected. He entered his old room, but paid no attention to the artifacts of his past. He kicked off his shoes and threw his jacket on the desk in the corner. He fell, literally collapsing onto the bed. He did not bother to pull back the spread and blankets.
At first sleep was elusive until he finally managed to purge his mind of the memories of the past and of the recent tragic events. At some point between near sleep and deep REM sleep he thought he heard what he perceived to be a distant voice addressing him.
"Steven, it's good you are getting some rest. You're going to need your strength and wits ..."The room was chilled by a cold draft. Something blue shimmered near the foot of the bed. Steve was lost in sleep.
(To be continued... Echoes of Eddie -13)