While Jack was with Ed, Audrey was called by the Master to visit her sister. Bee went into the house after the funeral. She was wiping tears from her eyes; no matter how many times she wiped them away, her face was streaked with tears. She wished she would have been able to talk to Audrey one last time. Alas, she had not called her sister, not even to say she could not make her wedding. Instead, she attended Audrey’s funeral.
Bee knew her face had to be a mess. Tears and makeup do not make for a beautiful complexion. She walked into the bathroom, switched on the light and looked in the mirror at her tear-soaked face.
As she stared, her mind contemplated why she and Audrey had grown apart. It was as much sibling rivalry as anything. Their mom and dad––who were now passed away––had been super proud of Audrey. Bee felt like they did not have much pride in her and that caused her to feel a resentment she now regretted.
That was when she noticed the complexion on the reflection in the mirror changing. The streaks were gone and the face looking back at her was smiling although she wasn’t smiling.
Her hand reflexively rose to her cheek but the reflection simply looked back at her, smiling.
This freaked Bee out and she turned and stumbled into the living room. She was sure she was going crazy.
“I’m sorry,” the words came a from a voice behind her. Bee turned to see Audrey sitting on the sofa.
“I couldn’t resist the temptation,” chuckled Audrey. Bee was still in shock and said nothing.
“Listen,” Audrey began. “I was sent here by the Master to give you closure. After all, you were not the only one who didn’t bother to visit her sister. I could have come to see you. I just never did.”
Bee finally took a breath and managed to speak. She couldn’t fathom why Audrey was here. She was in a box six feet under ground at the cemetery.
“My body is there,” Audrey explained. “My Spirit is anywhere the Master asks me to go. The first thing he wanted me to do was relieve myself of the guilt of a horrible transgression. I should have come to see you, but I didn’t”
“I should have come to see you,” said Bee. “But, I was jealous of you. Mom and Dad were so proud of you. I don’t think I could ever live up to their expectations and you did. I wish I had been more proud of you and thought a little less about my hurt feelings.”
It was then that Audrey cut her off with an admission that took her breath away. She raised her hand to shush her sister and then she breathed a statement which she had never admitted until now.
“I flaunted that at you,” she proclaimed. “I should have been a source of comfort to you; instead I chose to enjoy my feeling of superiority. I am sorry, Honeybee. I was selfish and completely ignorant to treat you like that.” Then she sighed heavily and added.
“It’s sad that I would only understand this now. We could have had some wonderful times together.”
There were tears welling up in Bee’s eyes. She couldn’t remember when Audrey called her Honeybee last. It was a term of endearment that she had used a lot while they were growing up.
Then Audrey smiled and reached out to hug Bee. She had forgotten that she couldn’t touch, and Bee almost walked into the wall as she passed through the image of her sister.
“Oh, sorry,” Audrey apologized. “I forgot. I don’t have a body any more. Try to remember something for me, Honeybee. Always know that as sure as there is a God I will be with you always, just as Jesus will be with you always.”
Then she faded away and Bee sat down in the chair. As she contemplated what had just happened she fell asleep. When she awoke, it was as if she had dreamed the whole thing, but there was a feeling of peace that she thought she would never feel again.
Bee got ready to go to work. Before she left the house she looked up Ed’s phone number and wrote it down on a note pad. Tearing the page off, she put it into her purse.
The first opportunity she got at work, she took a break and phoned him. When she got the answering machine she told him who she was and asked if they could get together. Bee felt a little self-conscience about calling a man that she had only met once, but he knew Audrey and she needed to vent. She could feel Ed’s pain over the loss of his friends, so she took a deep breath and began talking.
“Hello, Mr. Wingert,” she began. “This is Beatrice Edmonson. If you have a chance, I need to talk to you. I really don’t have anyone else and I am feeling the loss of my sister and your friend to be a heavy cross to bear.”
She also gave her phone number and hung up. She wasn’t sure Ed would reply but something told her to try.
As it turned out, Ed would not get home until late that evening. True to his word he took a long lunch break and went to visit Joe at the prison.
The guards did not cut Ed any slack. They made him go through the same routine that any visitor to the prison had to endure. After he left his gun and anything else that would set off the metal detectors in a locker, Ed walked through. When it did not let out the shrill sound, he had his hand stamped and a wrist band placed around his left wrist. Then he sat down and waited. Soon Joe’s name was announced through the loud speaker and Ed got up and went through the first gate, waited on it to close and the second gate to open and then walked into the next building where Joe sat.
Joe had been on suicide watch and was not allowed in the visiting room, itself. He was in a booth with a Plexiglas window and a telephone.
When he saw that it was Ed, his face dropped. After a moment of silence in which both tried to find some words without success, it was Ed who finally said something.
“I thought I would stop by and see how you are doing,” he said. Even as he heard himself saying it, Ed could not help but feel rather lame.
From the look on Joe’s face, Ed expected something like, “how do you think I am? I’m in prison.” Instead Joe studied Ed’s eyes for a moment and then his look softened somewhat.
“I’m here,” he said. Somehow he could not come right out and say what he was feeling. He hated himself for what he had done. What made matters worse for him was the fact that he had time to think about why Sarah had been seeing that other guy. Deep down, inside, Joe knew he had driven her to do it.
“Listen,” Ed began. “This is a little awkward. I promised Jack I would stop by and see how you were doing. He said he felt you were really sorry for what happened and he wanted to help you deal with the sorrow.”
“I’m dealing with it,” Joe said flatly. “If Jack cared so much, why isn’t he here?”
Ed sighed as his eyes dropped down. Joe couldn’t tell what he was saying, but the despair that showed on Ed’s face made him nervous. Finally Ed broke the thirty-seconds of silence.
“He’s dead,” he said. He and Audrey were on their honeymoon. The car went off the road and they were both pronounced dead at the scene.”
“Bummer.” It was a weak response but it was all Joe could say at first. Then after a few breaths he looked from Ed’s eyes and gazed at his free hand, clinched on the table between him and his visitor. “If God wanted to take someone, he should have taken me. I deserve to die. I killed the only person on Earth that I could ever love.”
“It’s hard to think like God,” Ed exclaimed. Now he was lost in thought. He was staring but not focusing on anything.
“I take it, you’ve tried,” answered Joe.
“Not until now,” said Ed. “Now, I am trying to figure this creator out for the first time in my life and it took the death of a friend to make me do it.” He wanted to tell Joe about his visit with Jack but he was sure Joe would think he was crazy or simply hallucinating out of grief, so he kept it to himself.
“Well, if you do figure him out, let me know. I would like to ask him some questions,” Joe retorted with a hint of skepticism in his voice.
Suddenly, without knowing why, Ed felt empowered. He didn’t know where this insight was coming from, but he felt a need to comfort a man he hardly knew other than the man he had helped convict of a murder.
“What would you ask him?” He enquired. “More importantly, what would you tell him?” Ed didn’t even understand where that last sentence came from but he would, eventually.
“I would ask him why I was so blind for all those years and I would tell him I was sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Ed prompted.
Joe’s eyes dropped down again. As he stared at the palm of his free hand he took a deep breath and then spoke softly into the phone.
“I drove her away,” he started. “She wanted me to be romantic and loving and for a while I was. She wanted kids but I didn’t want the responsibility. She wanted me to love her like she loved me and I did, but I simply didn’t show it. I became caught up in my job. I was working long hours and when I came home I was tired. I wouldn’t even notice the romantic way she hinted at her desires, even when it included wearing scanty night clothes. I had become completely dysfunctional. After a couple of years of trying, she simply gave up on me and went looking for someone who could make her feel loved.”
Joe was crying now. Tears were running down his face. He reached into his pocket for a tissue and wiped his face.
“I got angry and pushed her. I didn’t mean to kill her but I was blaming her for what she had done to me. All along, it was me who had done it to her. I was too dumb to know what I wanted. I should have wanted kids. I should have wanted to hold her in my arms. I should have loved her but I chose to become a sexless tyrant.”
Now there were tears beginning to well up in Ed’s eyes. He looked at the man on the other side of the glass with a brand new point of view.
“One moment of insanity and you pay for it for the rest of your life,” Joe sighed. “You don’t know how close I have come to killing myself. I should have done that before I hurt Sarah.”
“Sarah is in Gods hands now,” said Ed. He wondered where that kind of talk was coming from. It didn’t sound like the kind of thing he would say or even think.
“Listen,” he continued. “Maybe there are others in here who you can help. Maybe there are a lot of people who need to find their peace with God. Maybe it takes a lot of heartache to make a man, I don’t know. I do know that you are a good man. If I could, I would get you out of there. Unfortunately, the laws of this state are not forgiving, but God is. Ask him how you can make amends.”
After a few more minutes of talk, the guard came up and announced that their time was up. Ed got up and left but not before he promised he would return and visit Joe again.
Ed found his frame of mind was changed. He looked at the cases that floated past his desk with a completely different attitude. He wasn’t looking for convictions as much as he wondered what caused the people to do what he knew some of them did. Others, he wondered if they were even guilty at all.
He got through the day with much soul searching and after stopping at a restaurant he headed home.
When he got there he pushed the button and there was Bee’s voice repeating the message she had left earlier in the day.