The Broken Swing

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Dying from embarrassment would be the way I'd go. The thought shouldn't be funny, but Tara, my best friend in the world, would have laughed if she wasn't in a box, buried in the ground right now.

The sniffling sobs of her family and friends, dressed in black, set my teeth on edge. I didn't want to think about them anymore. Their tears and condolences made me as nauseous as their failed attempts to comfort me by squeezing my arm or embracing me in awkward side hugs. Right now, all I wanted to do was find Tara's cousin, Jeramy.

I blamed him. I'd practiced the damn song for the last two days, and was counting on him to be in the front row at the funeral for support. But, when the moment came, he wasn't, and I choked. Though, no one could blame me; Tara's parents sure didn't. They chalked it up to the grief we all felt over the loss of their daughter. It took me all weekend to pull myself together after her accident. The realization Tara wouldn't be at school Monday, waiting for me at our lockers with that ridiculous grin on her face...

Where the hell was Jeramy?

I spun on my heels; the ones mom made me wear, even though I tripped down the stairs three times before I made it to the car. Searching through the sea of bodies navigating Tara's family mansion, my eyes caught sight of her mom. Curls bobbing with her head, a tissue in one shaky hand, she offered the other to relatives, who filed through the sitting room like ants then poured out onto the wrap-around porch.

Ducking out of the house, I made my way to the back garden, almost running smack into Caleb, Tara's older brother.

"Sorry, my fault." He fiddled with his black tie. "What are you doing out here?"

I shrugged, nodding toward the hoard of mourners inside. "Hiding."

Caleb wiped sweat from his forehead, his eyes glimmering in the summer sun. They reminded me of Tara's; those baby blues, like ice, piercing your very soul when she was mad, or tingling laughter at her own bad jokes.

I choked back a sob. Caleb caught my sullen expression and shoved his hands in his pockets. He kicked at a thick rose bush beside him. "It sucks."

All I could do was nod. Words escape me when it comes to expressing emotion. My hands get clammy and my throat goes dry. I focused instead on my heels, looking for balance and fumbling over the gravel, around a batch of lilies toward the lake at the bottom of the lawn with Caleb following.

Shaded by the oak tree—our oak tree; mine and Tara's since we were kids—the water stood motionless.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I dabbed them with my sleeve.

The crunch of rocks under another pair of heels behind us made Caleb and I turn to see, to our displeasure, Jeramy's ex, Mila. Her thin frame swayed in a tight fitted, skimpy dress.

She came to a stop beside me, looking down at the pond then back at me with a mischievous grin. I struggled to remain stoic, refusing to give her the satisfaction of any emotion, though I felt the heat of my blood boiling as she flipped her shimmering locks off her shoulder.

Mila gasped dramatically as if she'd just realized we were standing there. "Abigail, I'm surprised you showed up after your embarrassing little performance." She twiddled her fingers at Caleb, who frowned at her. "Hey there, Caleb."

She inched closer. The smell of her overused, citrus perfume burned my nose, causing me to twitch.

I gazed past her, back toward the giant tree. "Tara was my friend."

She shrugged. "Still, couldn't have been easy, choking in front of everyone you know on such an important day. You should have seen their disappointment—"

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