I can hear soft piano music filtering through the muggy afternoon air as I cross the threshold, making my way down the cold stone isle towards the alter. I can feel people stare, their gazes penetrating my skin, as if each one physically presses upon me with the intensity of a searing hot branding iron. I’m all too conscious of the hushed whispers that are floating around in the desolate atmosphere. I’m shivering as I make my way to the front; I can’t get a hold on my nerves.
Voices that I don’t recognize uttering; “Is that the girlfriend? She was in the accident too, wasn’t she?” infiltrate my senses.
Are these people really that ignorant, that they have all forgotten by design, this place is built to carry noise?
Each comment I catch as I near my destination feels more scathing than the previous. I focus my attention on the vast grandeur of the stained glass window at the front of the church, and watch as the suns midday rays are passing through the colored panes, casting a rainbow that cascades down over the congregation of mourners.
The bright hues are a stark disparity against the sea of black suits and white collared shirts.
There doesn’t seem to be a single fleck of color on anyone’s clothing, except that of the police decoration pinned proudly to the uniforms of the officers sporting them. They’re a welcomed break in the monotonous army of glum clones.
My fingers are closed tightly around the stem of a single white rose I’m holding. I didn’t know if I should bring flowers or not, but now I wish I hadn’t. I need to walk over to his coffin to lay it down; I hadn’t thought of that. Bile rises in my throat, and the tears that have formed are threatening to fall. I’m holding my breath, eyes wide, willing them to dissipate, as I return my focus once more to the window instead of the casket. It’s too soon to be doing this again.
The painful memory of Emily’s funeral, still raw and exposed, lay’s unwelcomingly at the forefront of my mind. It’s playing on an agonizing loop, taunting me, reminding me. The aesthetics couldn’t be further from hers though; Emily’s funeral service was akin to walking into a child’s birthday party. Balloons adorned the ends of each pew in varying shades of shiny pink and purple latex. Cheerful, bright gerberas had been placed on every available surface, and there wasn’t a single solitary piece of black clothing to be found.
We had been given explicitly strict instructions to wear ‘happy clothes’ or she would ‘haunt our asses for all eternity,’ Em’s words, not mine. There was to be no gloomy piano music either, no nineties power-ballads singing songs of heartache and pain. Instead, the church was filled with dubiously dulcet tones from One Direction’s Story of my life. I’d practically scoffed when Em announced to me that she’d found the perfect funeral song. She proceeded to tell me that she’d narrowed it down to 1D or Bon Jovi’s Sleep When I’m Dead.
In any other circumstance, I’d have voted Bon Jovi all the way, but I had to concede on this one. I almost smile at the memory before realizing where I am and what I’m doing. I slow my pace further; not wanting to reach my destination but there’s no avoiding it. Within my next three steps, I’ve reached the coffin. I can’t prolong the inevitable any longer; I look down to the long mahogany box, laid before me, topped with what must be hundreds of roses.
My whole body trembles as I reach out to place my flower amongst the other tributes.
I catch my reflection against the highly polished surface of the wood and begin to feel dizzy. I blink my eyes attempting to refocus my vision as my fingers loosen their grip on the rose. My hand brushes against the cold hardwood and I pause briefly, wondering if it’s time to wake up yet. Wishing for a different reality to the one I exist in at this moment. I hear Ethan’s mom softly call out my name, but I can’t move. I’m frozen in place by… I don’t even know what, fear? Memories?
“Blair, honey… come sit by me,” it’s an order rather than request; suddenly she’s by my side and ushering me to take a seat.
I let her lead the way; there’s only her sitting upfront.
“My mom couldn’t find a parking spot; she’ll be here any minute, is it okay for her to sit here too?”
“Of course, it is,” she smiles weakly. “You’re family.”
I look at her and take in her appearance; her eyes are puffy and tired, and she looks completely worn out and defeated. A shadow of the woman Ethan fist introduced me to months ago. The piano music stops and a minister appears at the lectern; I look wide-eyed at Moira and then glance at the empty seat where my mom should be right now. I need her here; I can’t do this without her.
I can’t bear to sit through another funeral.
Moira senses my anxiety and runs her hand down over my hair, she squeezes my shoulders and then pulls me into her side, and it’s much the same as what my mom would do. The minister starts to speak, but I don’t hear any words through the sound of the blood rushing in my ears. I can’t do this I’m not ready. I blink and let my first tear fall, no doubt carving the way for more to follow. I had agreed to come for Moira, I felt bad that she would have to face this alone. I look blankly out to the front, but I can’t see anything past my pain.
*Excerpt is unedited and subject to change. The above material is protected by copyright.