He couldn't handle our mum's death when I was 10 and Ava was 12. Annie and our mum had been best friends since childhood, so it was you and Carl who stepped in and looked after us. They picked us up from school and made sure we were dressed properly and had a hot meal each day. We even stayed with them during the holidays ...
My dad ran the pub, and with the cost of the funeral, the rent for the house, and all other expenses, he had little time for us at first. Annie and Carl helped us through the rough patch, but I'm not blaming my dad.
He did and he does his best.
I give him a short wave as he gets back into his old pickup and drives across the village to my parents' house.
I'll go back to Annie and free her from the cluster of people that has grown up around her. Everyone is trying to do the right thing, say the right thing, or behave right.
But there is no right or wrong in this situation and I see that all of this is too much for her and Carl.
"I'll drive you home." I look at Carl and he nods gratefully.
Only Annie's sobbing breaks the silence in the car as I steer him out of town and towards MacKenna Farm.
I help Annie out of the car, take her coat off, bring her into the living room and place her on the couch.
"Lie down a bit." I look at Carl, walk past him into the kitchen and turn on the kettle.
"I can't now ..." he begins.
"Carl." I look at him piercingly "Please, you need sleep and neither you nor Annie is helped if you can no longer stand on your feet."
"Thanks, little one." He gives up his short process, gives me a kiss on the cheek and climbs the stairs, upstairs is the bedroom and the boys' rooms. Even me and Ava each have a room upstairs in this house ...
I want to cry so badly, but I can't, I feel so tense and helpless.
I pour the hot water into the cup and sink a bag of Annie's favorite tea into it. Upstairs I hear Carl go into the bedroom and shortly afterwards muffled sobs.
He wants so much to be strong ...
But he's just a father who lost one of his sons.
He has every right in the world to cry, to mourn and to suffer. I want to help him, but I know, no matter what I do, I can't take the pain away from him, Annie, or Taylor.
My Taylor, my hero in shining armor.
I remember, I'm here to help Annie and Carl and Taylor when he finally arrives ...
Quietly walk into the living room and see that Annie fell asleep on the couch. I spread a blanket over her, close the door, and go back into the kitchen. I prop my arms on the countertop and look out over the fields.
How many times have we ridden across these fields to the cliffs?
We all ... Taylor, Jake, Ava and me.
I wish for the time when we were just children. Certainly not the simplest, but carefree and free. After we all went our own way, Annie and Carl gradually sold the horses, now there are only 2 left on the farm. Clover and Hornet, both aged Irish Tinker stallions ... the most good-natured and dearest horses in the whole world. Every now and then I get back in the saddle and Annie is grateful that the two of them get some exercise. Of course they are in the paddock all day, but a ride every once in a while can't hurt.
I put on my cardigan and walk across the yard to the stables. Carl didn't let her out this morning and I'm pushing open the big gate.
Clover comes to me immediately and hugs me.
"Well my big one." I whisper and stroke him over his black, soft nostrils.
The sun is shining from the bright blue sky and this weather does not fit a day like today.
At least not in my world ...
There should be black, heavy clouds in the sky and it should storm and rain.
That would be more fitting, but it's what it is ...
"Go on." I send him to the pasture to Hornet and close the gate again. There's a huge lump in my throat and I know I'll have to cry again at some point because that feeling almost overwhelms me. Unfortunately, crying this morning did not bring the hoped-for relief because that was nowhere near enough ...
I wipe my eyes briefly, I have to do something, I have to distract myself.
I go back into the house, in the hallway I stop in front of a framed photo and carefully stroke the cool glass. It shows us all. Me and Jake must have been 16 at the time. Jake stands casually on the bridle, Ava and I sit on a bale of straw in front of him and Taylor hugs me from behind.
We all laugh, we are happy ...
Will we ever be happy again?
At the moment it's hard to imagine for me.
I decided to cook a vegetable soup, I have to do something I can do well and I can cook soup really well. I get the fresh vegetables from the pantry and mechanically begin to cut the vegetables into small pieces and toss them into the pot. Again and again I pause in my movements and hope that this is all just a bad dream and that I finally wake up.
When the soup is simmering, I decide to do the laundry too. Annie and Carl don't have a head for something like that at the moment and who knows when they'll be better. The dryer is ready and I put everything neatly together and start a new machine. When I climb the stairs from the basement again, he smiles at me from countless photos.
I stop in front of my favorite picture.
It shows him on the day we graduate and he beams into the camera. I try to memorize every little detail of his face, I'm afraid that at some point I might forget what he looked like ...
One lives under the assumption that a loved one will never be left alone, while forgetting that the decisions are not made by the people themselves.
Jake didn't choose to die when he was 26.
The soup is ready and it is slowly beginning to get dark outside. We almost got through the first day without him. Carl and Annie are still sleeping, but they need sleep, the next few days will be exhausting and will demand everything from them physically and mentally.
When there is a soft knock, I rush to the door, because I don't want Annie and Carl to wake up.
"Hey." Ava and Matt are standing in the doorway and I step aside so they can come in.
Ava cried, her eyes are all red and even now she is struggling to maintain her composure. She hugs me tightly and I gently stroke her back.
"Where are you?" She looks around searching.
"Carl is upstairs sleeping and Annie fell asleep on the couch." I explain to her and they follow me into the kitchen.
"You're making soup?" Matt looks at me questioningly and hugs me.
"Hmmm." I just nod and try to get away from him.
"How are you?" He continues to hold me and I look at him sadly.
"I don't know." I admit and he lets go of me so I can stir the soup.
Ava sits down and I can feel her watching my every step.
"I don't want it to be true ..." she shakes her head and soft tears run down her face.