Home > Until Harry

Until Harry
Author: L.A. Casey

CHAPTER ONE

Day one in York

Lane,

I’m writing you this letter because I think there is a better chance you will open it and read it, instead of just deleting it like I know you do to my emails. I’m not going to sugar-coat anything or talk pleasantries. I’m getting straight to the point. I’m sorry to tell you this through a lousy piece of paper, but Uncle Harry passed away this morning. You need to come home and say goodbye. Mum and Nanny aren’t dealing well with Harry’s death. None of us are. We miss you terribly, and right now we need you. We all do. The funeral is on Saturday. Please, come home. Please.

— Lochlan

I pushed my glasses up the bridge of my nose as I reread the letter from my brother for the millionth time since I received it two days ago. It stated two things. One, my uncle passed away. My godfather and dear friend was gone. And two, I had to go home.

I wasn’t jumping for joy about either fact.

I looked up from the worn paper Lochlan’s letter was scribbled upon and gazed out the window of the train I was sitting inside. The Yorkshire countryside passed me by, and in seconds I was lost in the green beauty of it. Unfortunately, the glamour of the never-ending dreamlike view wasn’t enough to mask the pain in my chest. The horrendous agony quickly brought me back to the present, and it screamed that I couldn’t run from it.

Not this time, Lane, a sour voice in my mind hissed. You can’t escape this.

Nothing beautiful to the naked eye or soothing to the delicate ear could erase the inevitable reality I would soon have to face head on. I shifted in my seat as my stomach roiled at the thought of what the next few days entailed.

Why did this have to happen? I glumly wondered.

I felt guilty that I momentarily wished I were back in my New York apartment instead of travelling to my home town of York, England. I then felt shamefaced about pondering why my uncle’s death had to land me in such a horrible situation when what I should have been thinking of is why God had to take him away in the first place.

My priorities, as usual, were messed up.

I had difficulty swallowing a lump that formed in my throat. After I took a couple of deep breaths to relax myself, I took my phone out from my coat pocket and opened up my emails. My lip twitched as I scrolled through them. There were hundreds upon hundreds of messages from my Uncle Harry that I never got around to deleting and I was glad of it. He was the only person from back home who I talked to daily. Actually, he was the only person from home that I still spoke to at all. I could escape everyone else, but not my Uncle Harry.

He was a pain in the arse, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He was my truest and most trusted friend, and now he was gone.

I had questioned what was wrong when he never emailed me on Tuesday morning. We spoke over Skype the previous afternoon, and he was perfectly fine. We had a routine; I woke up to an email from him every morning, and we would chat back and forth until I spoke to him over Skype during my lunch break at work. When it was 2 p.m. in New York, it was 7 p.m. in York. Uncle Harry went to bed around 9 p.m., so we always spoke beforehand.

I immediately called his phone on Tuesday morning when I didn’t receive an email from him, but his house phone just rang until his answering machine picked up. I left a brief message asking him to ring me as soon as he could, and when he didn’t, dread filled me. I was terribly apprehensive and I couldn’t call my parents to check in on him because I’d deleted their phone numbers years ago – my brothers’ too.

The only number I knew by heart was my uncle’s because he had had the same number for as long as I could remember.

When Wednesday morning came and he still hadn’t contacted me, I decided to go online and get the number to Lilly’s Café on Pavement Street. My grandmother owned the business, but she was also on my do-not-speak-to list, just like my parents and siblings, so we weren’t close.

Not like we used to be before I moved away.

That glitch aside, I figured if I had to ring someone to check on my uncle, it would be my nanny. She was stubborn as hell, but she was the only member of my family that could be reasoned with. Scarcely.

I didn’t have Internet in my apartment – which was shocking considering I was a freelance editor – because the signal strength in my area was very poor. I availed myself of the free Wi-Fi at the local Starbucks whenever I needed it. I got dressed that Wednesday morning, with the intention of heading to Starbucks for the use of said free Wi-Fi to contact my nanny.

I met my postman on the bottom floor of my apartment complex on my way out, and he handed me a single letter. There were urgent stickers all over it, as well as stickers for next-day delivery. It had been sent the day before. The return address was from my brother, so I immediately ripped it open.

Reading that godforsaken letter was the second time in my life that my heart broke into a million pieces. The devastation that dwelt within me was a familiar emotion, but this time it was due to a completely different person, in relation to an entirely different situation. Once more I was overtaken by the kind of sadness that seeps into your bones rather than explodes in a cascade of tears. The misery that I felt filled me from head to toe, and I couldn’t escape from it.

I tried, though. I tried to think about something else as I booked a flight to London. I tried to think of something else as I landed in Heathrow Airport and took the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station. I tried to think of anything but my Uncle Harry’s face, and I did well until I got a taxi from Paddington Station to King’s Cross Station and got on the final train in my journey to York. After I stepped foot in Coach B – it was the quiet carriage – my Uncle Harry’s voice broke through every single thought I fabricated to cover him up. His voice stuck with me, and I found both comfort and sorrow in that.

I was pulled from my thoughts when the train came to a sudden stop. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and looked out the window. I was no longer looking at the countryside; I was staring at the busy platform of my final stop. York.

Welcome home, Lane.

After exhaling a deep breath, I nervously got to my feet and shoved my phone back into my coat pocket before grabbing my small suitcase from the storage compartment above my head. I was walking along the platform a few minutes later, pulling my suitcase behind me. I got a taxi from the station to the Holiday Inn, a small hotel roughly ten minutes away from my parents’ house, and checked into the hotel, settling into my small but cosy room. I was freshening up when my phone pinged. At the sight of my brother’s name, I groaned.

Lochlan was looking for confirmation that I was coming home for my uncle’s funeral. I didn’t blame him for checking in – I’d never replied to his letter. I just read it and acted by booking the next flight out of New York.

I’m here, I thumbed out. Where is he laid out?

I swallowed the bile that rose up my throat as I impatiently waited for his reply. I had so many questions, but I didn’t want any answers. I wanted to know why my uncle was dead when he had been perfectly healthy. I wanted to know why he had been living Monday night and was dead Tuesday morning. But if I got the answers my mind sought, then it would be like I was accepting that my uncle was gone, and I just wasn’t ready to do that yet.

I jumped when my phone pinged with a new email.

Mum and Dad’s house. We’re all here.

A lump formed in my throat. It made sense that my uncle would be at my parents’ house; my uncle adored my mother, and she cherished him in return. She was his little sister, his partner in crime and his twin.

I rubbed my eyes when they began to sting.

I’ll be there in 20 minutes.

I grabbed a pair of black fitted jeans, black ankle boots, a black long-sleeve T-shirt and a grey blazer. When I was dressed, I turned to the full-length mirror and stared at myself. I looked the same as I always had, but noticed the subtle differences others would see when they looked at me. My chocolate-brown hair was longer now, almost to my waist. My breasts were fuller, and hips were a little wider, giving a curve to my body that now showed me as woman, and not a girl. My porcelain skin had a splash of light freckles, and my emerald-green eyes were still hidden behind the glasses that sat atop the bridge of my nose.

I adjusted my blazer and blinked. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t want to dress down to see my family for the first time in six years. I wanted to look put together, even though inside I was falling apart.

I plaited my hair back into a French braid to keep it out of my face, and didn’t bother with make-up, because seeing my uncle would open a floodgate of emotions, so it would get ruined anyway. I picked up a pale blue scarf from the bed and wrapped it around my neck before grabbing my phone and key card.

As my parents’ house was close by, I decided to walk. It wasn’t raining out, for once, but being the middle of October, it was already pitch-black by 6 p.m. and starting to get really cold. I folded my arms across my chest and kept my head down as I scurried past my nanny’s café. It was closed as expected. I saw no lights on out of the corner of my eye, but just in case, I kept my gaze averted.

The walk to my parents’ place was quicker than I remembered, and before I knew it, I stood in front of the door of the house I grew up in. I blinked as I took in my childhood home. It was mildly adorned with some Halloween decorations – reminding me of the upcoming holiday – but that aside, it looked the exact same as the last time I’d seen it six years ago, just like nothing changed . . . or happened.

You can do this, I told myself.

I repeated the thought over and over in my mind as I lifted my hand in the air and prepared to knock on the darkly varnished door. I didn’t get the chance, though, because the door suddenly opened, revealing a pair of women in their mid-twenties who were exiting the house. I had no idea who they were and found myself staring.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman with platinum-blonde hair said on a gasp before composing herself. “Can I help you?”

Who is she? I wondered, and why is she asking if she can help me?

“No, thank you,” I replied civilly. “Can I get by you?”

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