The nights are quieter now. The only noise to disturb the dark air is the hoot of the owl or the blood-chilling cry of the vixen. Annie and Dora still sleep, and their grave is tended and watched over. The house reverted to Emily after Liam’s freak accident, and with the help of Cora, Marie, and an assortment of nursing staff; it is now a retirement home. Its occupants the inmates of Hillcrest enjoy a freedom denied to them for so long. Between them they have restored the gardens. Marble statues appeared, haphazardly dotting the ground, when the trailing vines were stripped back. Everything was cleaned and polished, giving a sense of renewal. The old take pleasure in Laura and Shelly’s childish chatter and they in turn, love their newly acquired grandparents. They sit together at night and swap news, the two young girls just beginning their life, the others contemplating the end, but safe and content at last.
Still, there are times, when the dark closes in and the house lays quiet, when Cora stands at her window and watches. She looks across the gardens at the statues glowing white in the moonlight and standing like silent sentinels over the grave and wonders how long the peace will last. The red band on her wrist, burnt there by Annie’s hand, shows stark against the whiteness of her skin, and is a constant reminder of the eternal battle she witnessed. She traces her finger along the mark and her mind strays back to the day of Liam’s funeral. Many dismissed her lack of emotion for shock and her sob one of anguish, on seeing Liam’s latest pillow friend. They tut-tutted and whispered about bad taste, but Cora cared nothing about social niceties. What caused her to cry out was the unmistakable bulge in the front of the woman’s coat?