She was the first thing I saw when I entered the building, and she was crying on top of the open casket. I didn't want to stare, more importantly, I didn't want to walk down the aisle and place flowers on top of the dead man she was crying over, having to face both of them at the same time; the dead and the dying.
I was anxious and tired, the days seeming to stretch out, the hour's longer and the wait shorter. I sighed, shuffling my feet, glancing at her, something heavy settling on my shoulders. Luckily the priest finally rose to his feet, his arms extending, the symbol of peace wrapping itself around his thin frame, the crowd rising up as well, it was my cue to begin. I started to walk down the aisle slowly, my hands gripping the flowers tightly, scared of dropping them, scared of messing up. She was still crying, her mind focused on him and nothing else. The closer I got, the louder she was, the members of the church looking forward, the dread covering their faces.
I arrived quietly, lifting the flowers and giving them to her, and she received them with shaky hands. Her eyes had lost all hope, her skin had turned sickly green, she was breathing but she wasn't alive.
She rose, with unstable legs, and the members of the church stared at her in shock as she placed the flowers on top of the dead man. The man she wept for, the man she wanted to bring back from the dead but knew she couldn't. She looked down at me, giving me a look I couldn't decipher. I felt comforting words at the tip of my tongue ready to be said but I swallowed them down, too afraid of saying the wrong thing. Her eyes looked back up as everything seemed to slow down, the pain, the tears, all eyes were on her, everyone concerned, everyone mourning. So she played her part, she stood behind the designated line and allowed a group of men to settle on both sides of the casket. We stood still as the priest talked loudly, his voice vibrating throughout the church. I was supposed to hold her hand for comfort, but I didn't.
The priest stepped down from the pulpit when he finished, nodding a signal to the men to proceed with the ceremony. I gripped her skirt when the casket was closed forever, holding my breath as I saw everything settle in her eyes. A loud thud silencing the church for a long second, before she fell on her knees, her cry so loud, and so broken. All the women hid behind their spouses, their children confused and too scared to utter a word. I looked down as well, thinking of ways to help but staying still instead, no one could help her.
The priest looked down, his hand tapping the casket twice, before bowing his head in respect. The men carried the casket out of the church, but she couldn't follow after. Her knees had given up on her, her body sunk into the ground. Her cry, her tears, her love had left with him, she wasn't anything because of it.
The rest of the ceremony carried on but she stayed there, I kneeled next to her, offering warmth. People shed tears and shared stories, all casting her a solemn look as they took their seats. Each member came and hugged her before leaving, even the priest pressed a chaste kiss on her cheek, and ruffled my hair affectionately before reluctantly taking his leave. But she didn't get up until they had all left, her skin losing more color, her body straightening up forcefully. Almost instantly, like a switch being turned on, she became whole again.
We walked to the parking lot, she unlocked the car and we both settled inside. She sat in the driver's seat but didn't make a move to turn the car on, her eyes looking forward. We didn't speak, I was too scared, and she was too broken. It took her a minute before she started to shift in her seat, her eyes watering quickly. Her shaky hands landing on her chest, reaching out to touch her favorite necklace. In a split second, the rage that had been bubbling since the funeral overflooded her body. She yanked it violently, the pieces flying in different locations, a sigh escaping her lips as she did it. Her shoulders relaxed, an invisible weight leaving her body, the necklace forgotten and ignored.
She turned around, her eyes landing on me as she waited for me to say something but I didn't. She nodded her head in my silence, her once gentle face looking sharper than ever before. She looked down, her eyes noticing the bracelet that was always wrapped around her wrist, and for a moment, I thought she was going to rip it, destroy it like she had done to her necklace, but she didn't. Instead, she took it off, hanging it on the rearview mirror quickly like it might burn her wrist if she had it on any longer. The bracelet glistening in the sunlight, a beacon of hope and death for her.
"Don't touch it," she muttered, her voice lost inside her, but there was no point in her explaining any further because I understood.
I understood that the man had given it to her in the dead of night as he fought for his life. I understood that she hated him for leaving, for not fighting, for not caring enough to continue living at least for her. She didn't have to tell me that I looked liked him, that there was a burning sensation consuming her from the inside.I knew all of that so with a single nod, I answered her, "Yes, Mother."