Chapter 29

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Evelyn was devastated by the news. She blamed herself for not visiting more, blamed herself for not acting when she sensed how ill Tina was during her last visit. She had healing powers! Why hadn't she used them? Evelyn was furious with herself over that day. If she had kept herself from being so selfish trying to re-unite with Puck she may have acted on her instincts and healed Tina.

Questions, doubts, and second-guesses refused to leave Evelyn's mind. Where Puck had always been her lifelong companion and brother, Tina had always been her surrogate mother and protector. How could Evelyn forgive herself for blindly looking past one to find the other? The thought that she could have done something to help burrowed into Evelyn's mind and latched on tightly, eating away at Evelyn's pleasant memories and leaving only guilt.

Brandon did what he could to console her. At first reminding Evelyn that she couldn't have known how bad Tina was, that she didn't have control over her abilities. Besides, if something as relatively simple as moving vines caused her to pass out for hours, what effect would curing someone of a terminal illness have on her? Even Puck warned of just how difficult and draining it would be for her to use magic on a person.

Lenny allowed Brandon to stay late that night, but his efforts to comfort Evelyn yielded little results. Becca had even less success, her own efforts falling on deaf ears. So they gave Evelyn her space that night, even allowing her to stay home from school the following Monday in preparation for the funeral the next morning.

Evelyn barely slept. The physical exertion from her efforts in magic conspired with the mental stress of her inner guilt to rob her of sleep. It was as if her body and mind were at war with each other, neither giving into the other's desires. Evelyn moved deliberately slow, as if hoping to delay dreaded prospect of the day ahead.

Choosing as somber an outfit as she could manage from her meager wardrobe, Evelyn concentrated on closing herself off. She stared at herself in the mirror thoughtlessly. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying, their melancholy look enhanced by dark bags that stood out sharply against her pale skin. She looked like death, a vision Evelyn thought perfectly reflected her mood, a vision she almost envied.

Death would at least be a relief from her anger and guilt, an escape from the self-loathing she had been unable to escape the last couple of days. Not that she had any desire for death, only the blissful numbness its embrace would deliver. If ever there was a time Evelyn wanted to just be numb, this was one of those times. The thought of facing the overwhelming flood of grief she would be forced to endure at the funeral was almost overwhelming. Evelyn closed her eyes and redoubled her efforts. She had to close herself off.

A light rapping on her door caught Evelyn's attention, breaking her trance. "Are you about ready, sweetie?" Becca called softly from the hall.

"Yeah, I'm... I'm coming," Evelyn called back quietly. Taking a last cursory glance into the mirror, Evelyn sighed deeply. The hours ahead would be exhausting, that much she knew. At least Brandon was leaving school to join her, thank God for that.

Outside the sun was shining brightly against a cloudless sky. A warm breeze smelled slightly of wildflowers, giving just enough relief from the steadily warming air to make the day feel exceedingly pleasant. Evelyn cursed the weather under her breath. She wanted grey and cold, wanted rain and wind. Evelyn wanted the weather to be as awful as the day, the pleasant ambience seemed almost an insult to Tina's death.

They arrived at the church almost an hour early but still had to park several blocks away. Tina may have had a reputation for being serious and tough, but she was also known for her dedication and compassion. How else would she have been able to stick with Evelyn all those years? Even Evelyn herself knew how difficult a prospect she had been.

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