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A Song Called Will
Two bright lights emerged from the darkness. They blinded us; I couldn’t see where I was going. I twisted my handlebars around, trying to get away from all the white light. I jumped right off the seat and was flying through the air. Or was I falling? In the distance, a crunch of metal and a scream unlike anything I had heard before. The lights disappeared and the darkness swallowed me. I hit the ground hard. I let out a small moan, and then laid my head on the cold dirt. Everything hurt. I started to cry. I didn’t stop until I fell asleep.
My eyes flickered open. There were no lights on, but I could tell where I was because of the silhouettes of machinery. A hospital ward. I wondered why I was there…was I dying? Where was Will? My head swam with questions – and it hurt. I started to cry a little. Why was I alone? Where were my parents? Did they know that I was in the hospital, possibly dying? Did they care? My whimpers turned to sobs, and soon I was lost in my tears.
The door burst open, and in ran three adults. Two of them I recognized–my mom and dad. The third was a nurse. I expected them to all rush over to me, to comfort me and tell me I was going to be okay. But they all just stood there, shifting their weight from one foot to the other. This didn’t help calm my nerves.
“Where is Will…?” I stammered. A tear trickled down my mother’s face. Then she closed her eyes and walked out of the room. My eyes turned to my father. His lips mouthed, “Ariana.” My parents never call me that unless they are really upset about something.
Hot tears ran down my cheeks. I was so angry. “Dad! Tell me now! Is Will dead, Dad? Did Will die?” I was so mad that no one would tell me. I needed to know!
“Arie! Please, honey, don’t yell. Will’s parents are just down the hall, and I’m sure they don’t want to hear you say this! You must calm down!” My father looked so sad. Will’s death was not just my loss – everyone loved Will. Everyone loved his energy, his glowing personality. Everyone loved to hear his funny stories, everyone was sad that he was gone.
I reached my arms out as far as I could to my father. He took one long step into them and held me. We both started crying, but this time it wasn’t for ourselves. Or each other. It was for Will. It was for all that he would miss; the prom, his first car, getting his braces off, going to college, getting married, just plain living. I don’t know how long we sat there, cradling each other, but it was long enough to realize that this was real. I would never see my best friend again.
I look like an oversized crow, I thought to myself. I was wearing a knee-length black dress with a deep maroon shawl over it and black high-heels. There were only 10 minutes left until we had for leave to the funeral, but there was no way I could wear black to Will’s deathday party. I remember when we were eight, we went to our parents’ elementary school principal’s funeral, and we hated how dark everyone looked. Then we swore that when we went to each other’s funerals (we didn’t realize that one couldn’t go to the other’s and have the other come to theirs) that we would wear whatever we felt like that day – blue or red or even yellow. So that’s why I had to change my clothes – fast.
I raced to my room, and darted around, ripping a light green sundress from its hanger. I slipped into white sandals and pulled my hair from its mournful bun. My hair was long and blonde and flowed all the way down to my waist. I would keep it this way forever – Will said it was his favorite thing about me. I smiled a little, thinking of it. Then I flew out of the house and to the car. My parents raised their eyebrows at my outfit, but didn’t say anything. They had been letting me handle everything the way that I wanted to.
The ride to the funeral home took about 40 minutes, but that was not long enough to prepare myself. I knew that the casket would be open – but I did not know if I could look at it. I had seen Will’s face more often than my own mother’s perhaps, but it had always been alive. Always bright and cheery, Will always had a reason to be happy. I knew his face, every eyelash, every freckle. I knew every expression. But I didn’t know what it looked like dead. Lifeless. I couldn’t imagine it, and I didn’t want to. But there was another part of me that needed his face – that this cold version of Will would complete my memory of him. But did I want that memory?
Before I knew it, we were pulling in to the parking lot of Derrington Funeral Home. I peered out the car window at all of Will’s classmates and mine. Some were crying, some just looked sad, and those who weren’t great friends with him just looked bored.
Just as I thought would happen, my classmates swarmed around me as soon as I got out of the car. The air was suddenly filled with, “I’m so sorry, Arie!” “How are you?” and, “We’ll all miss him.” Everyone knew that Will and I were closer than close, and I really did appreciate that they would care how I was doing. But right now, I didn’t want to hear about it. I didn’t answer any of them for fear of conversation. Instead I gave one tiny smile and walked out of the crowd. They hushed their questions and let me go. I would thank them later.
I managed to slip past most of the teachers from our school, and even a lot of my relatives, but there was no way I could skip Will’s family. His beautiful mother looked terrible. Her eyes were red and puffy and she wore no make-up. Her sandy colored hair lay flat, matching her blank expression. But when she saw me, a tiny hint of something washed over her face.
“Mrs. Brigini,” I started. What could we say? We both were devastated, we both wanted the other to cheer up, but neither of us wanted to hear that it was going to be ok. So we just stared at each other for a meaningful moment, then she took me in her arms. Tears ran down from my eyes and into her hair, but I didn’t feel bad for it, for I could feel her doing the same to my own tresses.
I was able to pull away from Mrs. Brigini when a group of relatives arrived, to whom she walked over to greet. My parents rejoined me and we entered the main room. We took our seats on the specially-reserved-for-family pews. Will’s brother, Benji, sat down next to me.
“How are you?” he asked in a hollow voice. He wasn’t even looking at me.
“I’m alright,” I choked out. I had forgotten about Benji. We got along really well, but he was almost 17, so we didn’t hang out a lot. I am an only child, so I could not imagine what he was going through. A sharp pain seared in my chest, and I couldn’t help the tears that slid out from under my eyelids. It was then that I realized my eyes were closed. I blinked them open, and Benji was right there, looking at me, staring right into my eyes, as if he was searching. As if Will was in there. But just as soon as I was going to say something, he looked away. I didn’t know what to say anyway.
I watched the room fill with people, most that I knew. The pastor motioned everyone to sit down, and they did as they were told. Then Will’s other older brothers, his father, and his grandfather all came down the aisle with the casket. I felt my heart leap into my throat when I saw it, and my eyes instantly flooded with tears. But it didn’t feel right, crying again. I had wept enough, and although I’m not sure why, it felt like it had always been for the wrong reason. So I had to hold it in, but how?
Everyone around me rose out of the pews and began singing a hymn about heaven. I joined. The music washed over me, ridding my heart and mind of Will’s death, and replacing it with happiness that he was in heaven, a better place. So this was the answer – music. But it stopped all too soon, and then I was left with the heavy lump in my throat, threatening a weeping. Thinking fast, I sang the hymn in my head, as loud as I could, blocking out the funeral completely. I felt kind of bad for not listening to all the things that people were saying about Will, but I was sure I knew all of it anyway. Once the special speakers left the stage, the pastor walked back up to his podium.
“And now we will take this time to share happy memories of Will. If you would like to speak, just stand up, and a microphone will be provided for you.” A few people stood up. Each story was similar- just a short speech of how Will was such a good person. And although I knew that these people really meant what they said, it just seemed…not good enough. I searched the crowd, twisting my head around so I could see there was only one more speaker left.
Then I spotted it. A beautiful shiny grand piano, waiting for me in the far left of the stage. Without thinking, I stood up. A microphone-holder-guy started for me, but I was already making my way over to the piano. No one stopped me, fortunately. No one stopped me from sitting down and pulling back the cover from the keys. No one wondered what I was going to play, for I had no music before me. But the song was in me, and it was called Will.
My fingers poised themselves on the keys, and I began. They flew across the black and white, a rippling effect of music flooding the room. I got louder, then softer, then louder again. I went up and down the scale, holding notes, and then switching to staccato. I added in accents in a flourish of high notes, moved my way back down the row of sharps and flats. Tears were falling from the eyes and splashing onto the keys, but I didn’t stop. With a last, soft, slow round of plinks, I was done.
Done with my song, done with my mourning, and my memory of Will was complete. I scooted the bench away from the piano, a sign to the audience that I was finished. One pair of hands started to clap. I jerked my head to face everyone, and there was Will’s brother Benji, applauding me. It didn’t take long for everyone else to follow. Soon the whole church was filled with the thanks for my honor of Will. My best friend.