Coldness, darkness and emptiness. Florence didn't lift her eyes from the floor as she walked into the room that was once occupied by warmth, light and purpose. Now she was greeted with nothing. She had no reason to be there any more. Isa wasn't there any more.
She placed her keys into the usual bowl. She avoided the lights. She didn't want to see anyone, even more so, herself. The only person she wanted to see was Isa, but Isa wasn't there any more.
Even if she wanted to remember what had happened, she couldn't. She didn't want to be reminded. Her eyes still stinging sorely, from continuous hysterical crying. She just wanted to shut the world out and let herself drown. Isa wasn't there to save her or give her that helping hand. As far as Florence was concerned, she could die and wouldn't be saved, because Isa wasn't there any more.
Carefully, Florence tried to avoid stepping on broken glass, but didn't care if she hurt herself anyway.
The past few hours are still a blur to Florence. Police cars, officers, strangers offering sympathies, condolences for someone they had never met. It annoyed Florence how someone can pretend to know someone that she had wanted, needed … loved. They knew nothing and their false pretences had pissed Florence off.
She didn't know where to be. Isa was everywhere, everything. The furniture, the fabric, the family; Florence knew nothing else but Isabella. And Isa wasn't there.
For the first time Florence was completely alone. She had no other choice but to go to bed. If Isa was anywhere, Florence knew that’s the only place Isa would be. Her smell, her clothes, her feeling, her. It swarmed around the house they had once shared together as one.
Florence entered the kitchen to get herself a glass of water. Sometimes it helps her to sleep. Who was she kidding? Florence knew full well she wouldn't be getting any sleep. She could only sleep with other people when she couldn't sleep. They calmed her, especially Isa and Grace. But Isa and Grace weren't there.
Grace had offered to come over, but Florence had declined. She didn't want anyone she just wanted Isa.
The water was cold. It ran down the back of her throat freezing her senses at each point it touched, to the point it almost felt like burning. Her throat was so dry, instead of the water refreshing her, it stung and tasted like poison. She couldn't take any more, so she carried it with her to bed.
As she ascended the stairs, Florence was working on autopilot. Her body functioning to keep her alive, she needed to breathe, walk and talk. She might not have understood what people were saying to her but her subconscious took it in. Had Isa been there, Florence would have found these normal functions easier, if not completely natural. Her autopilot would not have been needed.
She stopped halfway as she reached the mid- point of the staircase. She turned her head around to the violent sound of sirens piercing her ear drums. Naturally, as soon as you find sirens, you find blue and red flashing lights. Florence paused, concerned for the sudden influx of lights and noise practically outside her home. She stepped down one step, keeping her eyes on the door windows to see any approaching figures.
It wasn't long before Florence heard the slam of a car door. The sirens had been turned off now, but still left a shrill ringing in Florence’s ears. The lights remained on and illuminated the wooden flooring of the entryway.
She saw what appeared to be a man and a woman approaching Florence’s front door.
“Miss Welch? Miss Florence Welch?” Florence could do nothing but nod.
She couldn't find the words to speak out of shock.
“I'm sorry but your…”
The officer seemed to be careful as to how he worded the following sentence, but he spoke with a calm tone.
“Partner, Miss Isabella Summers, she, she passed away earlier this evening. I'm very sorry…”
Florence dropped the glass of water in her hand, leaving it to smash into microscopic pieces on the floor. Her heart sank and increased its beating rapidly. Something was wrong, she found herself struggling to breathe. She collapsed on the floor, the officers that greeted her quickly assisted her before she fell fully to the floor.
The apology from the officer wasn't heard. In fact, Florence had drowned out the sound of speech after ‘passed away’. She couldn't comprehend what she had just heard.
“What? Isa? Where’s Isa?”
Florence was dazed. She just stared at the officers currently supporting her, so she didn't fall to the floor. The male officer spoke again. This time slower, and again with the calming voice, he aimed to reassure Florence.
They sat her down on her brown sofa, the female officer sat next to her holding her hand. The male officer sat in front of her on the pouf chair.
“Now Miss Welch, it is important to keep calm, and just try and take in what we have to tell you. It won’t be easy, I understand, but I’ll try and answer any questions you have.”
Florence looked up to the man sat in front of her. Her eyes vacant and distant. She repeated her first question.
“Where is Isa?”
“She’s at the hospital. They’re taking care of her now.”
“You said she was dead, is she alive?”
“She is Miss Welch. What I meant was, Miss Summers is being looked after by the Hospital chaplaincy. I'm sorry”
Florence’s voice broke, she tried to keep it together just for her next question. Perhaps the hardest one yet, Florence looked directly now into the eyes of the calm officer before her.
The officer looked now to his colleague, who was still holding Florence’s hand. He looked back to Florence.
“Miss Welch, Miss Summers was involved in a car accident. An ambulance was called, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. As far as we can tell it was quick, there was that. I'm so sorry for your loss.”
Florence broke down. The thought of Isa being trapped, hurt or damaged in a car accident caused her to hysterically cry. The hand that was comforted by the female officer was removed and Florence covered her face with both hands as she cried into them.
“NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. Not my Isa. Not my Isabella. I need to see her. Can I see her?”
Florence choked out between outbursts of sobs.
“We can take you to the hospital to collect her belongings. As for seeing her that’s not up to us I'm afraid; hospital’s jurisdiction.”
Florence nodded. She was handed a tissue from the female officer, taking it gratefully.
“Is there anything you need to take with you Miss Welch? It’s just if you are wanting to see Miss Summers, then we only have a limited time before the body gets moved to somewhere else, you understand.”
Nodding had become her knew speech communication. But when she did speak, it was soft, timid and tearful.
“No. Thank you”
She lifted herself from the sofa and followed the officers out of the house and into the car. She cried the whole way to the hospital.
Florence had found her autopilot guiding her to her bedroom. Isa’s scent occupied Florence’s nostrils. She had to step back and pause for a minute to allow herself to adjust. She wanted to cry but couldn't, her function to cry had stopped. This didn't mean that Florence was any less sad of course, in fact the entire opposite, she just couldn't produce any more tears.
She got straight into her side of the bed. She imagined that Isa, was in her usual spot, Florence turned onto her side. She waited for the hand to wrap around her waist, and for Isa to kiss the top of her shoulder like she usually did. Florence wanted her big spoon to hold her and tell everything was going to be fine. She wanted to feel safe.
“Everything will be fine, Florence. I promise you. I'm here and I'm not going to leave you.”
Florence heard the voice, but the voice wasn't a physical being. Isa wasn't actually talking to her because Isa wasn't there. Florence fell asleep to the imagined comfort of Isa being there. But it wasn't a sleep undisturbed by terrors.
Florence found herself encompassed in darkness. She called out for help and wanted to hear a reply or sign or something. She was searching for something, someone. Isa. She turned around to the sound of a growl. It wasn't Isa.
“I can make a deal with you, Florence. But I ask a sacrifice from you.”
A booming, almost possessed sounding voice punched through the blackness. Florence searched for a face to match the voice but couldn't. Instead, she had no option but to reply, and hope that the voice, heard her.
“WHAT! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”
Florence fell to her knees. She didn't even know what her knees had fell on to. It was like she was floating on black clouds. But the darkness was making her dizzy, she felt her head spin, getting faster and faster. Florence placed her hands on her head, in hopes of calming down the spinning feeling that she was experiencing.
Confronted by a face, one she didn't recognise. It was demonic. But Florence had a blur on the vision before her. She couldn't describe it. It was something that burned into the image of her mind, but could never physically explain what it was she saw.
“Like I said a sacrifice. From you.”
Florence looked up still trying to see what it was in front of her.
“In exchange of what?”
The name rolled of the tongue of the demon. Florence, immediately getting to her feet, tried reaching out for her beloved Isabella.
“ISA? ISA? WHERE ARE YOU?”
As if by magic, Isabella appeared in front of her. Florence ran towards her to embrace her, but only found herself falling straight through the silhouette of Isa and on to the black floor once more.
“HAHAHA FOOL you don’t think I’d give you the actual Isa do you?”
Florence agitated and distressed now calls out in anger to the demonic voice.
“WHERE IS SHE? WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
“Isabella is safe. For now. That depends on you, Florence.”
Florence scowled, and sighed, feeling like she had been fooled. She spoke through gritted teeth now, her anger rising.
“What do you need me to do?”
She felt that if she could see the voice, she could imagine a smug look being given to her.
“My proposal is simple. A swap. She continues her life as the living. Simple.”
Florence considered for a minute.
“What’s the catch? A swap for what?”
“Hmm you’re smart. The catch being, Miss Welch, that the very first person you see when you wake up will die. Balance of life and death cannot be unequal, Florence. One life must replace, the one removed.“
Florence hesitated before she spoke. She’d stopped crying now and she couldn’t quite figure out if this was a real offer. If she swapped someone else for Isabella, would Isa really be there when she awoke the next morning.
“And that’s the only catch? The first person I see will die and replace Isa’s place with them. I can’t… I can’t do that. What if it’s Isa I see? What then? All this would have been a waste of time.”
“I will place Isa in a position so that she wouldn't be harmed. I guess just don’t turn around when you wake up. But that’s my offer take it or leave it.”
Florence again considered, she wanted to find any loop holes. If this was a creation of her imagination, she knew how difficult it could be to have something ‘simple’ offered to her. Florence imagined every scenario possible, but could not predict the correct ending.
She stood up now, the image of Isabella stood on her right. She was smiling, Florence couldn't resist when she looked at her like that.
“Decision time Florence. Make up your mind.”
Without hesitation this time Florence answered. She felt she could work her way around this if it was real. Maybe she could find an alternative, a dog, a cat or some other animal. Maybe it would count as a life, she thought.
“YES, YES I’ll DO IT. BUT DO YOU PROMISE ME THAT ISA WON’T BE HURT, THAT SHE WILL BE SAFE? “
“Yes Florence, I keep my word, and you have to now keep yours. No re-negotiation.”
Florence found herself plunged into the darkness below her. Instead of black flooring she felt the softness of her sheet and covers encircling her warmth around her. She feels a tugging at the side of her stomach. She moved her hand down to feel what it was, only to be greeted by another hand.
That’s not mine. Florence thought. Her eyes widened in a swift motion, her hand holding on to Isa’s arm tightly. Constantly checking that it was real, and wasn't something she was imagining.
But that means that if it isn't my hand, then it must be Isa’s.
She’s alive! It must have just been a dream.
Florence felt Isa pull her closer under the covers. Finally. Florence had her sanctity, her protective church, her angel.
Florence looked to the photo frame sat on her bedside table. A picture of the pair of them together. Florence stood smiling like Isa was giving her a piggy back. Isa just looked like a dork and Florence loved it.
Smiling at the photo her eyes were drawn to the shadows of the picture. She saw the reflection of the demon within the frame itself. Florence jumped out of bed she couldn't turn around to see Isa. Her dream was real, if she turned around, Isa would die, again.
Florence heard Isa sleepily call out to her as she ran out the room.
“Baby, where you going?”
Florence panicked and just wanted Isa to stay there, while she tried to stay calm and find out a loop hole she could jump through.
“Nothing baby, just going to the loo. Go back to sleep.”
She heard Isa grunt and turn over in bed. Florence ran into the bathroom.
She placed her hands on her head to think, pacing up and down the bathroom. She lifted her head and saw her own reflection staring back at her.
Florence looked at herself in the bathroom mirror and saw the fear overtake her face.
“What have I done?”
Hearing the demonic voice once more Florence cried out, pleading for a re-negotiation, but nothing came.
“That the very first person you see when you wake up will die… One life must replace, the one removed. “
Florence looked down and saw her body evaporating bit by bit. She started crying, screaming, and calling for Isa. But it was too late, by the time Isa got there Florence was nowhere to be seen.
When Florence found herself, she was once more surrounded by darkness, her own obscurity, her own personal abyss of nothing.
Isa, wasn't there any more.