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In A Week
The cell phone was cold against my heated skin. Harley’s voice came in, crackling along with the phone’s static symphony. I walked across the parking lot, heavy step, book bag weighing down on my shoulders. She said nothing. Her breath skipped. “Harley?” I asked, pulling my keys from my pocket. Some friends called my name. I ignored them, still waiting on Harley to speak. I climbed into my rusty van and threw my backpack in the passenger’s seat with intense curiosity.
"Lacey," she said.
“What about Lacey-“ I asked, face flushing.
“She’s dead,” Harley said softly.
I exhaled. A tear fell down my face. My phone slipped from a now visibly shaking hand to the floor. I cried a deep cry from the heart-wrapped roots of my being. A group of senior repeats laughed from a few cars over.
I drove home, music blaring, speeding. I could hear her quiet laugh as my mind flashed back to her pouring pink glitter on a purple castle while we laughed with her. I weaved through cars, trying to stop the waves of tears before I returned to an all-too-cheery household.
I slowed down as I neared my neighborhood and house. Ignition off. Face whipped free of tears. I pulled myself out of the van, dragging my book bag limply behind.
“Laurie?” my brother called through the garage door. “I have a question.”
I lowered my head.
He met me just inside of the door, eager for an answer. I let my book bag drop kissing the floor with a thump.
“Did you know that Lacey chick?”
I pushed pasted him, feeling the tears rush back to my eyes. I ran to the corner of the kitchen, leaning against the counter. He looked at me apologetically. An eye witness neighbor stepped past my oblivious mother to hug me. She backed away. The three of them starred at me, waiting. I stood, trying to avoid eye-contact.
“What happened?” my mother asked in her mother-preacher tone.
The tears grew angry. “What happened? WHAT HAPPENED? Do you really want to know?” I yelled. “She died in her sleep. That’s what happened!”
I ran out of the house crying. I took refuge in the night air and stood, starring at the stars through a windshield of tears.
I showered early. Pulled my khaki pants to my waist. Buttoned the dark maroon shirt, and slid on my smooth, black shoes. The house was warm, but my soul cold. I sat stiffly on the edge of the couch, waiting on Harley.
My mind shut down, only returning to reality when a knock hit heavy on the door.
I walked, opening the door when I heard my cue. She stood, starring at the floor mat. Hair wet, gray sweater.
I stepped towards her through the door and wrapped her in a deep hug. I walked backwards, still hugging her, pulling her into the living room. The door was shut. She sat. I slid back to the couch, gripping a water bottle tightly.
“How are you?” she asked out of pure habit.
I shrugged. “You?”
She said nothing. And, I, nothing in return.
The funeral home smelled of tissue and perfume. Red faces and soulless bodies walked the abnormally silent halls. Harley and I slipped in the back of the chapel, watching as our group of friends huddled together next to her. Their sobs were heard, ours soon joined the sound. I felt my face join the reddened theme of death as tears washed my checks. We stepped slowly and daringly towards her opened casket, afraid of how death would look.
She laid silently. Peacefully. A scarf kept her cold neck warm. She looked natural laying there, holding a necklace that a stranger weaved through her fingers. She looked of porcelain, frail but beautiful. She was as beautiful in her death as she was in life.
We retreated to my house after the service, after the tears, after our brain accepted the inevitable truth. Harley silently pulled a Crunch Bar from her purse and opened it, splitting it in half. I smiled and ate my half quickly as we had five years ago when we first meet.
“Ya know,” she said about three bites in, “I don’t even really like these. “
I laughed louder then I had all week. “Me either.”
We laughed. It was a relief. We both stopped laughing when the pain was remembered. My mother walked in the house. Phone to ear. Shocked to see us both smiling, even if it was only slightly. She exited into her room with no hello.
I looked at Harley and shrugged. Mom walked back into the living room and sat next to me on the couch. Her phone rang again. She answered and ran out of the room.
“So,” I sighed. “What will our new candy be?”
Harley said, “no clue. Anything but those.”
Mom poked her head into the living room. “Laurie,” she called, “Can I talk to you?”
I stood up. Walking out of the room I apologized to Harley.
“I didn’t want to have to tell you this,” she started. My heart sank. “Grandma is fine. Dad is fine. Your brother is fine. “ A tear rolled down her check.
She looked me in the eye. “Matt was in an accident.”
My mind flashed back to when other former youth directors had gotten into accidents. Broken legs, cuts, bruises.
I gulped. “How is he- He? He okay?” I felt a tear form in my eye.
She shook her head and looked to the floor. “He passed away instantly.”
I fell back into the grip of uncontrollable tears.
We rode silently to Birmingham. Mom drove. Steven listened to the radio. I fell to an all new low, texting my ex while I silently cried to myself as Simon & Garfunkel serenaded me through my dingy headphones.
We pulled into the parking lot as we had six months earlier when Grandfather passed away.
It made it real. The cars, the people, the building. We braced ourselves. WE joined the line of people that weaved through every single room in the funeral home. In one room, out, in, out, down the hall, in, out, across the hall, through the lobby, and, finally, into the chapel where family members had gathered around and friends grouped together to mourn.
His casket became visible. With every step, we became quieter, afraid to speak of anything. A slideshow played pictures of Matt through his life. His smile equally goofy and abnormally large in ever picture that followed his childhood and adulthood.
The line drew closer. With pain, I filled the gap that had developed. My soul became numb as my body walked on, controlled by a stranger.
He looked unnatural. Too pale. Too sad. Too plain. We cried until we could cry no more. Tear ducts dried, drained, and damaged.
It was all with in a week.