CHAPTER 1: FUNERAL CRASHING
Funeral crashing is a little weird, I suppose, for someone my age. I’m sixteen, almost seventeen, and I just started my junior year at Palos High School in Palos, IL. It’s in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Still, I’m not Harold from Harold and Maude, just to make that clear. I love movies and that one is funny and dark, but I’m not like him. I don’t stage fake suicides or drive a hearse. He was dark and somber and totally weird. I don’t think I’m like that. I like normal things like regular cars. Actually, I’d really love a bright blue convertible. And, I’m not obsessed with death. I just like going to funerals.
I’m kind of young to be a professional mourner, though, right? That’s what they call it if you’re old school. It tends to be in reference to groups of old ladies, who just love to attend funerals. Maybe they’re trying to get ideas for their own funeral. Maybe they want to beat the Joneses’ and get a shinier coffin and better flowers than their neighbor had. Or, maybe they just like funerals, like I do. And, when I say funerals, I’m including the wake and the actual burial. They’re both part of the same process.
I actually once found a website advertising an exciting career as a professional mourner! I’ll admit it - I was googling. It said you could make $500 a day and all you had to do was start calling funeral homes and offer your services. Now that’s an awesome after school job! So, I called, but none of them called me back. I guess it wasn’t a lucrative career after all. It doesn’t matter. I go to them anyway for free.
I know, I know. What more can I say to explain? It’s simple. Super simple. I happen to like funerals and I completely realize that it makes me seem like a totally and utterly bizarre girl. Okay, I’m weird. Yes, I’m a freak. I admit it. Hey, I’m not going to make fun of you for singing along to the latest Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber song or anything. You know you do. Those songs are catchy. Believe me, it wouldn’t be the first time someone told me I was weird. My ex-best friend, Ariel Walker, loves to tell me how strange I am whenever she gets the chance.
“Kait Lenox is a freak!” tends to follow me around everywhere, at least when Ariel is around. I’m usually busy trying to blend into the wall when she walks by now. It makes life easier, much easier, and I’ve actually gotten quite good at it. I doubt most of the student population even knows I exist, unless Ariel points me out to them or something.
Ariel was named after The Little Mermaid. You know, the really cute kids movie? Her mother loved it. Well, my ex-bff Ariel didn’t grow up to be a sweet little singing mermaid, let me tell you. We were best friends until our freshman year of high school and then poof! She was gone with the popular crowd, like we had never even known each other. Well, we don’t know each other unless she stops to tell me how weird I am. Then she’s happy to talk to me. That was the year my mother died too. Can you believe that? See what I mean? Ariel is not a nice and sweet singing mermaid. Her mother should have named her Ursula, after the Sea Witch.
Yes, my mother died a little over a year and a half ago. She had ovarian cancer, but by the time the doctors found it, it had already spread. It was like one minute she was diagnosed and two months later she was gone. I try not to think about it. It still makes me really sad and if I dwell on it, I just get depressed. I start thinking about things like if I ever get married she won’t be there. Not that I remotely have any prospects, but you know, if I ever do.
I miss her. I really miss her. I’d give anything to have her back and wipe away those last two months. The last moments my mother was alive, she was unconscious in our living room, dying. It’s still depressing to walk into the living room. I can almost still see where the hospital bed was, even though my dad has replaced it with a leather couch and a brand new flat screen TV. We all deal with grief in different ways.