3: The Funeral

           I ran a shaky hand through my dark hair, a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I already wished the day was over when it’d just barely began.

          After that talk with my father and his wife, he reluctantly dropped me home where I’d stayed the past three days. Tomorrow, I would pack my things and move in with him and his family.

          I spent my last days at home in my mother’s room where her perfume still lingered. I often read the note she left, running my fingertips along the words knowing this was the closest I could ever feel to her.

          Don’t ever let sorrow touch those bright eyes, my mother had written. I stared at my reflection in the mirror now, but didn’t recognize the pair of blue-green eyes watching me. I didn’t see sorrow or grief or pain or loss in them. I saw nothing.

          My phone buzzed twice on the bathroom counter before falling silent. I averted my gaze from the mirror, reaching over to read the text.

           Be there in 30. Hope you’re okay. Love you –Dad

          My hands remained unstable, trembling, as I ran them along the soft material of my black dress, smoothing it out. A thin, silver band hugged the third finger of my right hand. I remember seeing the flash of silver on my mother’s finger when she’d take my hand as we crossed the street, or pulled a fresh tray of muffins out of the oven, or typed away at the keys on her laptop, writing love stories.

          I ran my thumb along the smooth metal, willing the thoughts away. My father would be here in thirty minutes, and I couldn’t be late today. Not the day of my mother’s funeral.

          I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, cupping my elbows in my palms when I heard the car pull up outside and honk. I took a deep breath, trying to slow down my heart's rapid beating, before heading out to the car.

          "Hey, how are you feeling?" my father asked, as I slid into the backseat. I shrugged, watching the heavy rainclouds floating across the sky.

          "I'm sorry about your mommy," a little voice said from next to me.

          Six years ago, my father and his wife had a son. I’d never forget the look on my mother’s face when she opened the email with pictures of baby Gabriel. The faint trace of hope that once lived in her eyes was gone. It was after that night I swore I’d never forgive my father.

          This was one of the few times I'd ever seen Gabe. His eyes were a swirl of blue and green like mine, but his hair was blonde like his mothers. I reached over, gave his hand a squeeze, before turning back towards the clouds again.

          I didn't expect many people to show up to my mother's funeral. She didn't keep any close friends. And my father was the closest thing to family we had. But when we arrived and went to find parking, almost every spot was filled. A white van sat near the entrance, the words Channel 4 News written along the side. A reporter in a black suit and tie stood with a microphone in hand, a serious look on his face.

          "...here at the funeral of the best-selling author, Jayne Hart. It is said that her body was found late Monday afternoon by her seventeen year old daughter," he reported, concern coloring his tone.

          We entered through the back door, avoiding the crowd.

          My father urged me to speak at my mother's service. "Just say a few words," he said. What he didn't understand was that right now, I could barely remember how to breathe, let alone speak.

          I shook my head, averting my gaze down to my hands in my lap. I listened to the chorus of sniffles, sobs, and noses being blown. They cried because they lost Jayne Hart, the novelist. Why was I finding it so hard to cry when I'd lost so much more? Along with everything else, it seemed my tear ducts were broken, too.

          When we left for the cemetery, the skies were weeping. I almost smiled at the thought of how cliché this felt as a streak of people with black umbrellas walked to their cars. My mother had written a scene similar to this for her book. It was like the pages were torn straight out of her novel and turned into reality. I silently hoped she was smiling, wherever she was.

                                                                            * * *

          The rain had slowed, tiny glass droplets falling in quiet whispers. I stood next to the gaping hole in the ground, my eyes fixated on the dark soil. My stomach clenched and unclenched. An uneasy feeling settled in my bones as I thought of my mother sleeping alone in the dark. Wouldn't it be hard to breathe down there? 

          My father broke down as they lowered my mother in the mud. His wife sniffled as she rubbed his back, leaning her head against his arm. Little Gabe huddled between them, his eyes full of confusion. My father reached out to me, putting his arm around my shoulder and pulling me to his side. I stiffened as his hand squeezed my arm.

          I pulled away from his grip, taking a step closer to the open grave. I leaned down, my palm resting against the wet soil. “Why did you have to go?” I asked in a whisper. “And why did you take my heart with you, but leave the rest of me behind?”

          A flicker of anger ignited in my chest. My hand clenched into a fist, the wet earth staining my skin. I swallowed past the lump in my throat as I stood. I turned, walking away from my mother without uttering goodbye.

Author's Note: I added a picture to the right of what Lyla wore to her mom's funeral. :) Please tell me what you think<3 -Shahira