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Deborah was pleased to note that peace and order had returned to Serenity in the weeks following Old Jimmy’s death.
Things seemed to be going well; without the need for them to be making weapons and patrolling the Wastelands in search of King Solomon’s guards, they were able to devote more people to the production of food.
They had a large supply ready to trade with the Freelands in exchange for labour/meat.
Things were looking up.
Peace was something that Deborah felt confident would never have come under her husband’s reign and she was proud to be the one leading the U-turn.
It seemed God had indeed chosen her, but not for the reasons that her husband had thought.
Serenity looked perfect, the food production was slicker than ever and everyone was in agreement that, after a shaky start, Deborah’s way was best.
A few of Serenity’s men took food donations over to the Freelands.
The first week’s supply was given as a goodwill gesture after what had happened to Davey and the King.
Everyone was getting along famously and Deborah proudly watched the scenes and said to herself, ‘I did that.’
Life was starting to get back to the old ways.
The good old days.
The before days.
And it felt great.
She’d been showering, rinsing away the day’s exertions, when she’d felt the unmistakable feeling of being watched.
The feeling hadn’t been there for a while and its return was jarring.
In spite of the blazing heat of the shower, goosebumps covered her flesh.
Her nipples hardened and a chill went right through her.
Like seeing a ghost, she thought with a frown.
She suddenly didn’t dare get out of the shower, even though the apparition had gone now.
It had undeniably been her husband.
He’s haunting me?
What the fuck?
Her eyes were wide open, in spite of the suds going in and stinging them.
She didn’t want to take her eyes off the bathroom for a second.
Panting hard, skin growing tight from the icicles gliding down her spine, she finally shut the water off.
She threw the towel around her and climbed out, quaking with the fear that gripped her.
She didn’t believe in ghosts.
Before Wayne and her introduction to God, she had, but now she didn’t.
Wayne had drilled it into her that the very thought was blasphemous.
So what the hell did you see, Deborah?
She moved out into the bedroom, grabbing the gun off the sideboard and making sure the safety was off.
‘Anybody there?’ she said, embarrassed by the quake in her voice.
The silence consumed her.
She searched every inch of her quarters.
The door was locked so it seemed no one had come through there.
There was no one.
Relief flooding through her, she set the gun back down where it had been and breathed deeply a few times.
‘You’ve been under a lot of stress,’ she said aloud, trying to breathe deeply to calm herself.
Calm finally wrapped itself around her and she went back into the bathroom.
She screamed when she saw, ‘Jesus saves,’ written in the condensation on the mirror.
The gun was back in her hand within seconds and she again searched the entire room.
There was no one there.
Her mind screamed to her how impossible this all was, but there was something happening here, although she wasn’t sure what it was.
She dried, dressed and went back downstairs.
‘You ok?’ Bob Armstrong said. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’
The words went through her like a Samurai’s blade.
Bob beat a hasty retreat as she began a furious stream of obscenities.
She wandered awhile in the orchards and tried to clear her head.
The barn was still being cleaned up.
Old Jimmy’s bullet holes still adorned the wooden walls and his blood remained thick on the barn floor.
A few men were cleaning it up, but Deborah had told them to prioritise the food production.
After the walk, she’d cleared her head and went back inside.
She arranged a town meeting for the following morning then went for an early night.
She’d been working hard, had thrown herself into her work to try and blot out the horrid memories of what had happened, first with Wayne and then Old Jimmy.
‘You just need a break, lady,’ she muttered to herself.
She laid down and tried to sleep, but images of what she’d done to Wayne haunted her.
His blood warm on your hands.
That sickly feeling as the knife had punctured his flesh.
His pained grunts.
The betrayed look in his eyes.
He killed my unborn baby.
He imprisoned me in a cell for a month and made me eat my own flesh to survive.
He was a fucking psychopath and the world is better off without him.
‘Don’t you think you have something to confess?’ His sickly sweet parish tone said in her mind.
‘No I fucking don’t,’ she snapped, then shook her head at the realisation that she was having an argument with her dead husband.
‘Just. Go. To. Fucking. Sleep,’ she hissed to herself.
Sleep eluded her for most of the night, but finally claimed her in the early hours.
She awoke with that strange feeling of being watched.
She found it had stopped when she was staying with Preacher Kelly and his wife, but now she had returned home after the repairs, it was back again.
She looked up, semi-comatose, and saw a pale figure that was unmistakably her husband.
It was gone a second later.
‘Why does this goddamned ghost keep mocking me?’ she hissed, head in hands.
She shook her head hard, certain that she was losing her mind.
Seeing her husband’s ghost like this was too much.
She decided to take her husband’s advice, despite it coming from beyond the grave.
She dressed and went out to find the priest.
She brayed on the door of the priest’s house, startling him out of sleep.
His eyebrows were wild and bushy, seemingly pointing in every direction.
He wore a comical bemused expression.
‘Sorry, I just have something I need to confess,’ she said.
The priest nodded as though he was used to this burden by now.
‘Give me a minute,’ he said.
She followed him into the church, noting that he had shoved his sweatpants on back to front.
If she’d been in a better mood she’d have smiled at this, but her thoughts were preoccupied.
They sat in their respective booths and she felt certain she could feel eyes on her.
She poked her head out of the booth and looked around.
There was no one there, but the feeling remained.
‘I think I’m losing my mind, Reverend,’ she said.
‘Why, Mrs Cross?’
‘I keep seeing my dead husband everywhere I look. He’s watching me when I’m in the shower. He’s leaving notes for me on the mirror. He’s there while I’m asleep. I’m pretty sure he’s watching us right now.’
‘Mrs Cross, it’s normal to feel the presence of a loved one after such a shocking bereavement. I’m sure Reverend Cross is just looking out for you.’
‘I doubt it.’
‘I’m sorry, Mrs Cross, but you can’t smoke in here,’ he said as the cloud of tobacco hit his nostrils.
‘Forgive me for that Father, and believe me, that is just a drop in the ocean.’
‘I’ve sinned, Father. I’ve sinned alright,’ she said, taking a huge draw on her cigarette and doing her best to make sure it didn’t go through onto the priest’s side of the booth.
She gulped hard, took another look outside the booth as she again felt like there were eyes upon her.
Again the place was empty, though she still felt someone was lurking.
‘I don’t know where to start.’
‘What is it you need to confess, Mrs Cross? Start with that and we’ll go on from there.’
She nodded, took another lungful of smoke.
‘Ok. Well I guess I want to tell you that it was me who killed Wayne.’
After the confession, she felt much better.
And knowing that the priest took his role and his religion seriously, she knew that her secret was safe with him.
He wouldn’t break his vow, of that she was certain.
And it was like a cloud had been lifted.
What was it they said?
A problem shared is a problem halved.
Her poor dead Wayne had been right.
‘Finally got something right,’ she muttered under her breath.
And, just like that, the feeling of being watched lifted.
‘Thank you,’ she said, a faint smile crossing her lips.
The next few days were good.
She went on in a state of bliss, now that the unexplained eyes on her were gone.
It felt like she was starting to finally get her life and her sanity back.
She spent a few hard days helping to harvest food.
Lead by example, that was one of her mottos.
And the sleepless nights stopped too.
Until about a week after her confession.
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