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Black and Blue
Mom had made me wear blue. Yeah, Mom, thanks. You just made me—us, actually, our family—the object of every scathing look from The Aunts Gertrude And Eunice. You wear black to funerals. Even I know that.
You do not wear bright blue, no matter if it was your five year-old cousin’s favorite color, and especially not if it was the color of the pajamas she was wearing when she died.
The funeral home was crowded with family members. Most of them I hated, and all of them hated me. Mom had forced me, my sisters Jade and Terra, and Dad to come to the ‘viewing’ before the funeral. I didn’t know why she insisted. I mean, she was Chastity’s God-mother, but that tie had long since been dissolved. And we all loved Chastity, she had been my favorite cousin, but no one loved us.
As soon as we walked through the doors, every fear I’d had about this came true. There they were, my great-aunts Gertrude and Eunice. And they weren’t the only ones who looked. Everyone looked at us. They all looked away and immediately started talking. Chastity’s mom—my mother’s sister—glared at us. But Aunt Dorothy didn’t make a move to stop us from entering. Instead she started talking, that stupid look on her face that I hated, that said she hated Mom. I wanted to throttle her and everyone else.
I should have gone with Mom to the casket, which was actually devoid of Chastity’s mangled body. But I was embarrassed, and a horrible son. I should have walked beside her to shield her from those looks, but I just stood near the door with Dad—who was in no way happy about coming here, when the majority of the room had tried to stop his and Mom’s wedding at all costs—and with Jade and Terra.
I sat on an empty plastic chair.
I saw Dad lead the girls out of the room and into the hallway, where they could run around. I saw Mom at the casket, in her bright blue dress. I saw my cousin Joseph, who used to be my best-friend, but now had slipped into his family’s way of thinking. I saw him check out some girl someone had brought. I saw Aunt Dorothy tense as she felt my eyes on her.
The rumor was that Chastity had run away. She’d waited until night and tried to make into the woods, where no-one-knows-what she thought she would find. Peace?
Dad was still in the hall. Mom was drifting away from the empty casket, reluctant to leave. I was still sitting there, in that stupid plastic chair with no idea why I was sitting there. If I had been five, I would have been at my mother’s side, half conscious of the service of sonly duty I was performing. She wouldn’t have had to be alone. The point was moot, of course, because if I had been five, Chastity wouldn’t have been alive, so she couldn’t have died. But I was aware that I was too embarrassed to go to Mom’s rescue and just be there with her.
And then the song started. It was Muita Bobeira. I couldn’t understand the lyrics, which were in some other language, but I could understand the history behind it. Aunt Dorothy had listened to it every day when, after her therapist had asked her if there was something that calmed her, she’d said that song. Her therapist had suggested that it might calm her nerves and lessen her violent tendencies. It hadn’t worked.
The rumor was that Chastity had run away. The hard-core, stone-cold, bone chilling truth was that her mother had beaten her every day after my uncle had died. Aunt Dorothy had blamed everything on Chastity, and dragged her child into the muddy sludge that had become her life.
My mother had been on thin ice with the family for a long time, but she was Aunt Dorothy’s sister after all. And Chastity was her God-daughter. And my favorite cousin. So she’d offered to take Chastity. Maybe she hadn’t worded it right; I don’t know. But Aunt Dorothy cussed Mom out in front of Chastity and never let us near her again.
Mom had tensed at the song. She’d wanted them to play Hallelujah, which didn’t go over too well with the fam. Mom broke. She screamed a lot of stuff, including obscenities, but the gist was that all Chastity was to Aunt Dorothy was something in the way, and that she had probably pushed her in front of that train. Aunt Dorothy then proceeded to attack Mom with icy comments, none about Mom’s virtues, and reduced Mom to tears.
Mom, who loved Chastity, who would have done anything for her. Who deep down was bothered by being shunned by her family. I proceeded to shrink into my chair. But then suddenly stood. Aunt Dorothy looked in shock to my face, which was set in a steely expression. I was not five, but I was Mom’s son. I took her hand and led her to the door. I paused only once to bestow a look of hate onto Aunt Dorothy.