She was too devastated to cry. The shock of losing Belle early that morning upset her beyond tears. Bryce, her sister Jenny, and Amber’s other cousin Luke, rushed to her side for support. Bryce encouraged her to stay at his home that night, and for however long it took to get her through this. He didn’t want her to be alone, fearing she might kill herself from the heartache. He would have preferred that she stay with Jenny during her time of sorrow, but knew it wouldn’t be a good environment for her or Jenny’s family. Jenny had two young children and a husband, and having a terribly distraught relative residing at their house would be stressful for everyone. He had loved Amber as more than a cousin for most of his life, and her staying under the same roof with him was going to be a challenge. Although he was an incredibly self-disciplined and confident man, he doubted his ability to hide his true feelings having her so close for an undetermined length of time. He couldn’t think of any viable alternatives. She could have stayed with Luke; however, she was closer to Bryce, and it made more sense. Luke traveled frequently, and wouldn’t have the time to spend with her.
She agreed to let them help because the thought of staying in her apartment surrounded by Belle’s baby things and an empty crib was more than she could bear. Jenny and Bryce packed her suitcases, while Luke drove her car to Bryce’s house. She let them swarm around her; she was too upset to do anything other than stand outside on the balcony and stare at the vehicles in the parking lot. The evening air was comfortable, so she pulled the screen door closed to let some air in and keep the bugs out. She was replaying the events leading up to Belle’s death over and over in her mind, trying desperately to remember if she saw something which may have prevented it.
“Bryce, check her medicine cabinet. She used to take sleep meds before she got pregnant. She’s going to need them now, or she won’t sleep for days,” Jenny said with concern while packing her sister’s underwear and lingerie. She was three years older and five inches taller. Both of them were pretty, with long blond hair and blue eyes.
“That’s true. She’s always had trouble sleeping. Won’t these drugs make her sleepwalk?” he asked seeing the bottle of prescription sleeping pills in her medicine cabinet, and taking them along with several other items.
“I’m not sure. She used to sleepwalk a lot when we were growing up. I don’t know if she still does. You need to be on the lookout for that. I think severe stress triggers it,” she replied.
“I remember you telling funny stories about her nighttime adventures. I’ve got to hide stuff from her. Car keys, knives, pills, anything she can hang herself with. God forbid she decides to take a joyride on one of her sleepwalking strolls. I better go check on her,” he said, handing the sleeping pills and other items from the cabinet to Jenny and walking into the living room.
Amber was still standing on the balcony staring at the parking lot, trying to process the day’s tragic event. Sliding the screen door to his right and walking up behind her, Bryce wrapped his arms around her asking, “Are you hanging in there, sweetheart?” and kissed her cheek. He was a little over a foot taller than her.
She leaned into him tilting her head back into his chest, placing her arms over his and replied, “I feel numb. I want to cry but I can’t. I’m frozen. I’m sorry I’m not helping.”
“You don’t have to do anything right now. We’re going to take care of you,” he said hugging her closer. “We’ve almost got your things packed.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly, appreciating the comfort his arms provided and knowing she could always count on him.
He walked back into the bedroom and helped Jenny finish packing. Amber snuck into the kitchen and quietly opened up the cutlery drawer. The butcher knife will fit nicely into my huge purse . . . she thought discreetly slipping it into her oversized handbag . . . I know he’s going to be watching me like a hawk. He’s going to lock up all the knives and pills. He’s an angel, but I don’t know if I can get through this. She closed the door to the balcony, locked it and took a seat on the sofa. A few minutes later they were ready to go.
They loaded her suitcases and other items into his black H3. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jenny said sweetly to her sister.
“Thank you so much,” Amber replied hugging her.
“You know you can call me anytime day or night,” she said. “Don’t worry about waking up Zac. You know my husband sleeps like a log!”
“I know. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jenny got into her car and drove away. Bryce opened the door for Amber, and she stepped inside. It was dark now, and the sky was cloudy with no moon or stars in sight. He got in and started the engine. Pulling onto the highway for the ride to his house in Vienna, Virginia, he reached for her hand. She took hold of it with a death grip and closed her eyes. They rode to his house in silence except for the radio which was tuned to a classical music station. He hoped that type of music would be soothing to her, and she didn’t complain. She was so shattered and lost in thought that she didn’t even hear it.