Dean R. Koontz

(as Deanna Dwyer)

The Dark of Summer



Gwyn was not expecting anything unusual in that day's mail, and was certainly not expecting a letter that would change the course of her entire life…

She got up at eight o'clock, to the insistent shrill of her radio-alarm, went straightaway into the kitchenette where she tried to coax herself all the way awake with a cup of strong, black coffee. Sunlight streamed through the one large window over the sink and splashed on the tiny, round table where she sat. She squinted and hunched forward like a gypsy woman straining to cast a spell, her face puffy and lined with sleep. She had gone to bed rather late, for she'd stayed up studying for a Creative Drama exam; now, she was quite tired, bone tired. For a moment, as she closed her eyes against the warm fingers of the morning sun, she seriously considered re-setting her alarm to give herself another hour between the sheets, just sixty more minutes of lovely…

She snapped her head up as if she had been hit, and she forced herself to drink the rest of the bitter coffee. She dared not return to bed. For one thing, she'd miss the exam which she'd spent so much time preparing for. And for another, she knew how easily she could again slip into the sick, unnatural routine which had possessed her for six months after her parents died.

A temporary breakdown, Dr. Recard had said, an understandable psychological reaction to the tragedy. Yet, no matter how understandable it had been, she did not want to go through something like that again, for that had been the worst period of her life: it had been more horrible than the months after her sister's death when they'd both been twelve years old and inseparable, worse even than the morning the police had come around to tell her about her parents' accident. An understandable psychological reaction to tragedy… She had begun to sleep away the better part of each day. Anything but sleep became a chore, an unbearably arduous task. She began to get out of bed just before lunch, napping away part of the afternoon, retiring early after a meager supper, sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. In sleep, there was no agony, no fear, no desperate loneliness. Her days passed in sleep, until it seemed as if she would never get out of bed, could not get out of bed except when she grew very hungry or thirsty. She had realized that something was terribly wrong with her, but she had not gone to a doctor for nearly six months. Then, when she had gone, it was only because she slept a whole day through without getting up for any meals at all and, the following morning, could not remember anything about the lost day. That terrified her. That sent her, thin and drawn and weeping, to see what Dr. Recard could do for her.

Now, for eight months, she had been able to resist the lure of lengthy sleep, and she felt she was gradually making solid contacts with life again, achieving, growing, putting her loss and her agony behind her. One moment of weakness, one extra nap when she really needed no nap, would send her spiraling back down into the bleak despair that had made her so cherish that unneeded sleep.

By nine o'clock, she'd showered, dressed and was on her way to the college campus which lay on a hill only six blocks from her efficiency apartment. The day was warm, bright, almost like a painting entitled “Spring,” with the cherry trees in blossom along Hudson Street, and birds darting like tiny kites between the eaves of the quaint old buildings which, though well-kept and attractive, had ceased to be single family homes and had been divided into student apartments much like her own. The walk, amidst all this bustling life and color, revived her spirits and made her forget about bed altogether.

The exam went well, and she knew that she had gotten a high grade, one that would insure the A for the course, which she had been working so hard to get. She stopped for a time in the student union building, but she did not remain long after she'd finished her Coke and sandwich. She had many acquaintances, but no real friends, for all her energies had been put toward re-making herself, rehabilitating herself. She had little or no time, these days, for friends. But that would change soon, when a week passed and there was no morning that she wanted to stay in bed unnecessarily long. Then she would know that she was better, was healthy again, and she would be able to open herself more fully to the world around her.

When she reached the apartment house at quarter past two o'clock, she stopped at the hall table to examine the stack of mail there, and she found only one thing addressed to her: a letter from her Uncle William, an impossible letter that, because it was the last thing in the world she was expecting, left her somewhat tense. She was frightened and shaking by the tune she had let herself into her three room apartment on the third floor of the old house.

She put the letter on the small kitchen table, went to change clothes, poured herself a tall glass of soda over two ice cubes, and sat down to read the daily paper which she'd picked up on campus.

She tried not to think about the letter.

That wasn't easy.

She finished the paper, folded it and stuffed it into the trashcan, rinsed out her glass and put that on the drainboard of the sink.

When she turned, the first thing that caught her eye was the white envelope lying in the center of the blue, formica tabletop. It was a beacon, a flare, and it simply would not be ignored.

Sighing, beginning to tremble a bit again, she sat down at the table, picked up the letter, ripped it open, extracted two sheets of fine vellum paper on which were neatly typewritten lines followed by her uncle's unfamiliar, bold signature. This was the first time in nearly fifteen years she had heard from him — encounters having anything to do with her mother's brother, William Barnaby, were exceedingly rare — and she did not know what to expect, though she expected the worst.

The letter said:

“Dearest Gwyn,

“There is but one way to begin a letter of this sort, after all this time — and after all that has happened between us — and that is with a sincere and heartfelt apology. I apologize. I cannot begin to explain how genuine and important to me this apology is, but I must plead that you not pass it off as some shallow devise used to gain your attention. I do apologize. I have been a fool. And though I have required so very, very long to understand my foolishness, I see now that nothing in the past was anyone's fault but my own.

“You know that I was quite against the marriage of my sister to Richard Keller, your father. At that time, twenty-two years ago now, I was frightfully class conscious, and I felt that your mother was marrying far below her station in life. Indeed, my own father felt this way too, and he eventually cut your mother out of the family inheritance because of her marriage; the family's holdings devolved to me, on Father's death, some ten years ago.”

Gwyn looked up from the letter, stared out of the window at the incredibly blue spring sky, and she thought, somewhat bitterly, How simple and undramatic he makes it sound — how sterile in the recounting!

Though the biggest fight and the bitterest scenes between her Grandfather Barnaby and her parents had occurred before Gwyn was five years old, she still remembered those awful events as if they had transpired just last week. A few times, at her mother's insistence, Old Man Barnaby and William, who was eight years his sister's senior, would come to the Keller house for dinner; Louise, Gwyn's mother, was always certain that a good family get-together would help iron out their differences — especially with Gwyn and Ginny, the old man's only granddaughters, to lend an air of enchantment to the afternoon. But the old man never liked Richard Keller, looked upon him as an inferior, and always fomented a serious and roaring argument to end the visit. Gwyn remembered

Вы читаете The Dark of Summer
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату