“Ah,” said Pauline. “He’s young. Maybe eight years old. Seems sort of small for his age. Hair disheveled. And…” Pauline stopped. I knew she had been about to mention Jacob’s wounds but caught herself. “And he loves you. But he still remembers you as his piano teacher’s killer, Eli, so you will need to speak with him.”
“What do I say?” Eli was still looking at his hand. His forearm was completely covered in gooseflesh.
“First, let’s sit.”
And Pauline led the way over to the wide first step leading up to the raised stage. She sat and patted the spot next to her. Eli slouched over and sat there.
“Invite your brother,” said Pauline.
“Just ask him to come over.”
Eli looked at her for a moment, clearly trying to decide whether or not she was crazy—or perhaps trying to decide if this was another drug-induced hallucination. Finally, he nodded, resigning himself to accept as true the strange events unfolding around him.
“Jacob…” he said quietly, looking over at Pauline as if to ask, Is this how I do it?
She nodded approvingly.
Encouraged, Eli raised his voice. “Jacob, it’s me, Eli. Your brother. Come sit with me, okay?”
Jacob didn’t move. Instead, he looked at me, eyes wide, mouth open, confused as hell.
“Go on,” I urged him. “It’s okay.”
The confusion turned briefly to fear, then to hope. I encouraged him again, and finally, he drifted over and sat cautiously next to his brother on the carpeted step. All three of them—Pauline, Eli, and Jacob—were now facing out toward the empty church. I stood behind them.
“He’s sitting next to you now,” said Pauline to Eli.
And, surprising the hell out of me, Eli said, “I know. I…I can feel him.”
I moved off the stage and sat before them in the front pew. Pauline glanced over at me. “I owe you big,” I said to her.
“I know,” she mouthed quietly.
Needing no further prompting from Pauline, Eli said, “Hi, Jacob. I’m your brother, Eli. Do you remember me? We were twins. We are twins. We did everything together. Do you remember any of that?”
Jacob, who was about half the size of Eli, looked up at his twin brother in complete confusion.
“Keep going,” urged Pauline. “Keep reminding him of who he is. Talk about anything that comes to mind.”
And so Eli did. He opened up about everything, especially about their immediate family, speaking at length about their mother and father, repeating names often, telling funny and sad stories. As he spoke, Eli broke down often, fought through the tears, picked up where he had left off, and went on. All the while, he held out his hand for little Jacob to hold on to, which the boy did.
“And I had no idea you were still here, Jacob. If I had known, I would have visited you every day. I’m sorry you were alone for so long. I’m so sorry you lost your memory. I’m so sorry I stole the money and you got blamed. I’m so sorry you got killed. It should have been me. Not you. I’m so, so sorry, so sorry…”
Pauline was in tears. Eli was in tears. And Jacob was hugging his twin brother with all his ghostly strength. After a while, the boy turned and looked back at me.
“This is my brother, Eli,” he said excitedly.
I smiled and nodded, and he went back to hugging his brother.
“He’s hugging you,” said Pauline, wiping her eyes.
Eli nodded. He knew. He was getting used to this stuff. He and his brother hugged some more while Pauline and I watched them, saying nothing. Finally, the boy pulled away and looked up at his brother.
“Where have you been, Eli?” asked Jacob.
“He’s asking where you’ve been,” relayed Pauline.
Eli, aware that the physical connection with his brother had been broken, sat up a little straighter and dried his eyes on his sleeve. “Tell him—”
“No,” said Pauline. “You tell him. He can hear you.”
Eli nodded. “I’ve been away, Jacob.”
“He’s asking where,” said Pauline.
“I’ve been in jail. I’ve done some bad things, Jacob. Very bad.”
“Why?” asked Jacob.
Pauline repeated the question. Eli, who was still seated, suddenly stood. He ran his hand through his oily, unkempt hair and paced the wide carpeted area between the front pews and the stage.
Eli answered, “It was the only thing I could think to do, Jacob.”
We were silent. Jacob was still sitting next to Pauline. He looked up at her. She smiled down at him. He then looked at me, and I smiled, too.
“I don’t understand,” said Jacob. I wasn’t sure whom he was addressing, but I sensed it was my time to step in, and so I did.
I drifted over and settled next to him.
Pauline spoke. “Your brother is still very confused, Eli. James just sat with him.”
“Why is James sitting with him?” Eli paused, spitting the question.
“James is here for a reason, Eli. He has his own issues, and he needs to resolve them with Jacob. You need to let this happen. It’s okay.”
Eli didn’t like it, but he resumed pacing. Jacob alternated between watching his brother and watching me.
“I don’t understand,” Jacob said to me. “Eli keeps telling me I’m dead, but I’m not dead.”
Some days were better than others for Jacob. Today was a bad day—he remembered little, if anything, of his death. And it would only get worse for him. If ever there were a correct time for him to move on, now would be it.
Pauline caught my eye and nodded. I knew what she was thinking: Yes, now is the correct time.
I said to the boy, “About twenty years ago, Jacob, you fell from up there.” I pointed to the rafters above.
Jacob followed my finger. His mouth fell open a little, although he said nothing.
I went on. “Do you remember falling and hitting your head?”
His eyes traced the path from my finger to the altar below. “I…I fell on that?” he asked. It was partly a question, partly a statement.
“There was a lot of blood,” he said. He was remembering.
“I got killed.”
I nodded, unable to speak.
“I was a bad boy,” he said.
“No, Jacob,” I said. “You were a good boy. I was a bad boy.” And so, after many days and weeks and years of living with the guilt—and dying with the guilt—I knew it was time. “Jacob, do you remember the boys who dragged you up to the rafter, the boys who hung you over the edge?”