The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 25

by Shane MIgliavacca


The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief chapter 25 Emily Marsten




The girl sat in her room waiting. Staring at the dingy tan wall. Most of the time she spent here was waiting. Today, the nurse had told her, would be something special. Her doctor, a big man with who looked like a bear with a large bushy beard that covered much of his face had promised her that this would help her get better. Would take away the nightmares and bad feelings. Then she could go home. That’s all she wanted for everything to be the same again.

The door lock clicked. Metal groaned as the door opened. A dark-haired nurse stood in the hall with one of the orderlies. Thomas. A skinny man with a bald head. The girl didn’t like him one bit. He was always staring at her. Out in the day room she’d look away from the TV and there he was…watching her. A grin on his face.

“It’s time,” The nurse said. She stepped aside as Thomas and another orderly pushed in a stretcher. “Come here,” The nurse motioned to her.

The girl walked towards them slowly. She wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go. The nurse instructed Thomas and the other orderly to lift her up onto the stretcher.

“Where are we going?” She noticed large straps on either side of the stretcher.

"To see Doctor Richman. He has ready for that special thing we talked about.”

“Are my parents here?”


“Can I see them?”

“Soon. Soon. Now lie down.”

The girl did as instructed. The nurse then ordered the two men to strap her down. Roughly pulling the straps tight against her skin.

“I don’t like this, stop it.”

“It’s for your own protection.”

The girl watched the lights pass overhead as they took her down the hall. The wheels of the stretcher squeaking as they rolled over the linoleum floor. From behind one of the doors another patient moaned. Yet another was humming a song. The girl counted the water stains on the ceiling as they went. There was a loud bang as they entered a large room. Two large doors were pushed open by Thomas. Inside Doctor Richman stood by a big machine. Some of the nurses and a few other doctors stood nearby. Whispering and pointing. But she didn’t see her parents anywhere.

“Where’s mom and dad?” She squirmed under the straps.

Richman put a hand on her shoulder. “Easy now. They’re here,” He pointed towards a large mirror. “They’re watching us from the other room.” He waved at the glass. “See? Everything is fine. Hello mom and dad.”

The girl strained to turn her head, but all she could see was her reflections in the glass. She turned back to the doctor, he stood toying with the machine.

“What are you going to do?”

“Make you better. This is a very special machine. It’s going to help you.”

The nurses began attaching wires to her forehead. Another tried putting something in her mouth. But she shut her mouth tight.

“Open up.” The nurse said.

The girls shook her head from side to side.

“C’mon. Open up?” The nurse asked again. This time sounding mad.

“You have to open up. Let her do her job. You don’t want to hurt yourself, right?” Richman said. His voice soothing.

The girl hesitated, nodded and then opened her mouth.

“Good,” the doctor smiled. “We’re ready then. Put her under.”

One of the nurses approached her with a long needle. She felt the needle prick her arm. Since coming here they’d poked her with needle after needle. Everyone hurt as bad as the first. They’d told her she’d get used to it.

As her eyes became heavy, she heard the machine hum to life. 



“You okay?” Sam asked.

“Just tired. Haven’t slept much lately.” Anne set the birth certificate down. “Hope he comes back with that address soon.” Her mind was still trying to process what she’d read. Emily Marsten. She has a sister. If so, where was she? Why had her parents never mentioned her? She’d once talked with Beth Kroger, who worked in the clothing department of Save-Mart during a lunch break. Beth had mentioned she’d had a brother who’d only lived a day after being born. That could have happened in this case. Maybe Emily had died like that. 

“When he comes back we’ll just take the address and go, okay?” Anne said. She wanted to tell Sam, just not here. Back in her truck where it was more private would be better. She’d already decided she’d take the birth certificate. Steal it. She could ask for a copy sure, but in asking him, she’d have to tell him. For now, she didn’t want anybody outside of her and Sam to know.

When Bettis returned. He gave her a copy of the deed with the address. As they helped him put everything back in the box. Anne slipped the folded-up document into her jacket when Sam and Bettis were busy chatting about the pretty guide upstairs.

“It was a pleasure meeting you both. I hope our efforts will be of some help on your quest.”

“Thank you.” The paper felt heavy in Anne’s jacket. “I hope so.” Remorse choking her words.

“Cool man,” Sam said. “Thanks for everything.”

“And thank you.” Bettis said. “I’ll be paying attention to her more closely.”

They made their way back up. The morning sun given way to a gloomy afternoon haze. Abby with the freckles waved at them. Anne went over to her.

“Going now?” Abby asked.

“Yes, Thanks for everything.” Anne said. She fidgeted, a little uncomfortable with the question she had to ask. “Could you give me directions to the cemetery?”

There were two in Pottersville Abby told her. Circling them on a map of the town she handed to Anne. 

As they walked back to the truck, Sam shot Anne a weird look. “What was that about?”

Anne pulled the stolen certificate from her jacket. “This.”

Sam looked it over, stopping and looking at Anne. “What…What is this? Emily?” Conflicting emotions played over Sam’s face as she processed what she’d read. “Wait…You stole this?”   

“I did.”

“What does this mean? You have a sister?”

“Or had. I think that she died after she was born. The date is hard to make out. The ink is smudged. But it had to have been when I was young. Mom and dad never mentioned her. Maybe that’s why we moved.”

Then realization played across Sam’s face. “And you think she’s here?”

Anne nodded. “I do.”

Driving through town Anne noticed Pottersville wasn’t exactly like Frostwood as she’d first thought. True there were a few closed stores here and there, but overall the town looked to be doing a hell of a lot better than Frostwood. It didn’t share the more rundown, grimy industrial look of Frostwood either. The first cemetery on the map was the Box Hill cemetery. According to Abby it was the smaller of the two.

“How are you going to find her...Grave?” Sam asked.

“Well I’m hoping there’s a caretaker. Otherwise there might be a lot of looking.”

“Needle in a haystack.”

Anne frowned. “Thanks for the encouragement.”   

At Box Hill Anne was surprised to find there was directory listing all the plots. There was no Emily though.

“Looks like no luck here.” Anne said. “Her finger running over the names a second time. Just to be sure.

“Only one place left. What if she’s not there, kiddo?”

Anne took a deep breath. “Then she’s still alive or buried someplace else. In which case I may never know.”

The second cemetery was quite larger then Box Hill. The Holy Word was a sprawling graveyard covering a large hilly area. Anne parked outside the large rusty metal gate at the entrance.

“Sure hope they have a directory here.” Anne said. Sliding out of the truck. Snow crunching under her boots. As she made her way around the truck, nearly slipping on a patch of ice under the snow. “Careful. There’s some ice.”

“You’re not kidding.” Sam leaned on the truck for support as she walked.

If there wasn’t a caretaker or directory Anne wasn’t sure how she’d proceed or if she’d even be able to proceed. She’d made it this far though. It couldn’t end here. She wouldn’t let it. No. If this was a dead end she’d go home. Present what she’d found to mom. She’d demand an answer.

They trudged through ankle deep snow to a small building housing the directory of plots.

It had to be here. It had to.

Anne’s eyes flicked from name to name till at last she let out an excited gasp. She memorized the location before turning to Sam.

“She’s here. It a bit of a walk to the plot. If you-”

“No. I’m with you all the way.”

“All right then.”

They headed out through the snow. Past a large dead tree, crumbling tombstones and a couple old looking mausoleums. The place felt ancient to Anne. She remembered the ghost story she’d read as a kid. About a woman out for an afternoon stroll in a park who briefly ended up a hundred years in the past. Here it felt like they could slip right through a crack, back to Colonial times. 

They found it on a hill near a dead tree. Not far from a cliff looking down on a frozen creek. It was just as Anne had seen it that day next to her father’s grave. Peeking up through the snow. Anne brushed off the stone with her sleeve. Her heart beating fast in her chest. She read the face of the stone, sweat on her brow despite the cold.

Emily Marsten  

Beloved Daughter and Sister


Anne fell backwards into the snow. It couldn’t be. She looked again. The date. Emily was born before Anne and she had died when Anne was eleven. How? How could she have no memory of her? As if she’d been erased.

“Are you alright?” She felt Sam’s hand on her shoulder. “Anne?”

Anne couldn’t form any words, only managing a grunt.

“What is it? Is it the right one?”

Anne pointed at the stone. She felt sick to her stomach. Instead of finding the answer she’d hoped for, the ground had given way under her. Plunging her further down. Deeper into something she couldn’t fathom. There was only one thing left to do now before she went back to Frostwood. She had to go home.


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