There was no casket. Ava and Leo had decided to have their girl cremated. Tory had often professed her greatest fear was the idea of being buried alive, and so to Kahlan at least the act made sense. As Kahlan knelt before the small square ebony urn, the painful throb in her leg served as a reminder of what her cousin had sacrificed. “Is this all that’s left of you Cousin?” She thought with her hands clasped out in front of her. “All that you were; your laugh, your stupid pranks, every memory, every day we spent together…is this all that it really adds up to in the end? This little box I can probably fit in my coat pocket?” Tears leaked from her eyes no matter how hard she tried to contain them.“Is this all you came down to?”
Her eldest sister ducked her head close to Kahlan’s ear and whispered and old Irish blessing, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” She gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Keep her in your heart Kahlan; cuimhnigh i gconai.”
Kahlan wanted to tell Aria that this was impossible, that Tory couldn’t have died the way it had been explained to her. She clearly remembered. Kahlan remembered being in the hospital, waking up briefly after her surgery and seeing Tory standing beside her bed. ‘I’ll see you when you get out.’ She had said.
Her aunt and uncle had cried the hardest when they saw her. Ava had pulled her in close and whispered close to Kahlan’s ear, “She loved you so much. Kahlan, I hope you know just how much your cousin cared about you.”
Terra had thrown her arms around her, careful to avoid her stitches, and squeezed tightly. Kahlan hugged her back, wanting to say something but incapable of finding the right words. What did one say to comfort someone who had been torn from their twin? She knew there was nothing, just like there was nothing anyone could say to her that made the tear across her heart ache any less.
Later, though she wasn’t sure how much later, Kahlan remembered opening her eyes and being back home in her bed with her Nym licking her face with her rough pink tongue and whimpering at her in concern. Kahlan stretched out and scratched her behind the ears.“Good pup.”
Hours passed by in an incoherent haze that melded into days, and then two weeks. Sometimes the door to Kahlan’s bedroom would open and one sister or the other would slide in through the crack, sit beside her and try to invoke her to come downstairs, or speak or eat and as much as Kahlan wanted to talk back, she found herself able to do little more than nod.
Kahlan hated herself for how she felt; she loathed herself to her core when she thought about how furious Tory would be at her if she knew what state Kahlan had put herself in. Sometimes she swore she saw her cousin standing at the foot of her bed, her form shimmering as it looked down disapprovingly. “Stop it!” Tory would demand her eyes on fire as always. “You stop this right now and get out of this bedroom for Christ sake!” But Kahlan didn’t know what else to do with the pain besides making herself numb to it.
One night she crept downstairs to the Céilí an hour after last call. Her twin brother was down there alone behind the bar taking final inventory for the night. “Hey Kahlan.” He said as he continued counting quietly to himself. “You should have come down earlier, everyone’s asking for you.”
“I don’t want to see anyone.” Kahlan muttered.
“Don’t blame you. I usually don’t either, that’s why I stay in the kitchens.” He took something off the shelf and walked around from behind the bar. “Here.” Kieran passed her an amber bottle. “It won’t solve anything, but it will make you numb. At least for a little while everything goes away.”
Shocked, Kahlan took the whiskey and held the bottle tightly by the neck as if she meant to strangle it. Kieran nodded and clapped his sister on the shoulder as he walked away without another word. He flipped the lights off so that only the two dangling lamps right above the bar remained lit. His footsteps echoed on the stairs until they faded. Kahlan turned towards the shelf where the glasses were kept. Her eyes scanned the rows when suddenly the smell of smoke entered her nostrils.
“You know you can’t smoke in here.” Kahlan said and peered over her shoulder.
Across the bar Tory flicked the top of her lighter shut, extinguishing the flame. “Screw it.” She murmured a tilted her head back, blowing a series of smoke rings. Tory nodded to the bottle of whiskey on the countertop. “And you shouldn’t be drinking alone.” She commented with a smirk. It appeared to Kahlan suddenly that both she and her cousin had switched their dialect to Gaelic, as they often had when they’d been alone.
Kahlan took two shot glasses off the shelf and set them down in front of her. The glasses were crystal clear, a single speck or cloud hadn’t escaped Kieran’s attentions. She filled them with whiskey and slid one glass across to her cousin. Tory set her cigarette on to the counter. The burning embers glowed brightly against the dark blue granite. She curled her nimble fingers around the cool glass and lifted her arm upwards a few inches. “Sláinte.” She muttered and tapped her glass against Kahlan’s with a soft clink.
"Níl sé'n lá.” Kahlan answered and tipped the amber liquid down her throat. It burned but she simply wiped her mouth and filled both their glasses again. “Screw it.” She agreed and plucked the cigarette from the countertop. Kahlan took a long drag and blew out a spray of white smoke between her teeth. She let the butt drop to the wooden floor and ground it to ash beneath her heel. “Drink up princess.” She said bitterly and tipped her glass backwards for the second time. Once empty she slammed it on the counter so violently that it shattered. Bits of glass shard pricked the palm of her hand, drawing small droplets of blood to the surface. “Damn it!” She hissed and quickly retracted her hand back towards her.
Tory emptied her glass in one clean swig. She pushed it away a few inches with her index finger. “You’re angry tonight Cousin.”
Kahlan grabbed Tory’s shot glass and hurled it at her cousin as hard as she could. It passed right through her and shattered against the nearest wall. “It’s your fucking fault!” She roared and hit her fists hard against the bar. The flecks of glass in her hands bit deeper, but the fire in her belly squelched any pain she might have felt. “Why did you have to go do something so stupid? Why the Hell did you die!”
“Kahlan?” The cousins turned in unison. Arella stood in the doorway, one of her hands clutching the threshold. “What are you doing?” She asked in a small voice. “Why are you down here alone in the dark?”
“Go back upstairs Arella.” Kahlan said hotly and turned away from her younger sister. “Get out of here.” She repeated, this time in English.
“Who are you yelling at?” Arella pressed and took a step forward. “What are you even doing down here?” Her hand twitched and reached for the light switch on the wall.
“OUT!” Kahlan yelled and took a threatening step towards Arella. “Get out of here!”
All her life Tory knew she had never seen her cousin so angry. Kahlan’s bright green eyes were alight with fury but they were also broken, defeated. Tory watched as Arella ran back upstairs, tears in her eyes as she fled Kahlan’s rage. She ran her lighter across her knee and drew it back quickly again to ignite the flint. She let her fingers tips linger teasingly near the flame and frowned. “That was cruel.”
“You can shove off too.” Kahlan snapped.
“Funny thing Cousin, when you’re dead you remember how something is supposed to feel,” Tory muttered and placed her hand completely over the fire. “And you can almost feel through the memory.” She withdrew and snapped her lighter shut. “But you can’t. Nor can you taste the food you once loved.” She nodded to the bottle. “Enjoy the burn of the whiskey you once drank.” Her frown deepened.
Kahlan muttered something incoherent under her breath. She was breathing heavily, her shoulders rose and fell unevenly. She looked as if she’d been running for a very long time. Tory drummed her fingers against the bar before leaning in on her elbows. “So” she began. “Is this my beloved Kahlan McDara has been reduced to? Has she become just another angry girl drinking alone in the dark? Talking to the dead?” Her blue eyes darkened. “You never should have snapped at Arella like that.”
“I know.” Kahlan admitted her anger fading rapidly, morphing into a sickening sense of shame. “Why did it have to be you Tory?”
Tory gave a short, sad laugh. “Oh Cousin, you give me far too much credit.” She pulled the whiskey towards her and wrapped her lips around the top of the bottle. After take a sip she wiped her mouth and continued, “I’ll be the first to admit I was no saint. Sure I wasn’t a bad sort of person, there’s plenty worse than I was. But I wasn’t an angel.” She smiled kindly at her cousin. “We all die sometime kiddo. We always knew one of us would have to go first. It just turned out to be me.” Tory reached across the bar and placed her hand on top of Kahlan’s. “It just isn’t the same.” she admitted sadly.