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Jackie stood at the fore of the funeral home next to the fine oak casket that contained her son. She had run out of tears after crying non-stop for the last two days. Now she felt uncomfortably numb as each person in attendance made the circuit from the pews to the coffin to sharing their condolences with her for the hundredth time and back to their seats. Once everyone had paid their respects the funeral director called the funeral to a close and shut the casket. The pallbearers hoisted it up and out the building to the hearse waiting outside with everyone else streaming out to their cars behind them.

She drove silently with her mother chattering beside her. She didn't hear her. She simply and automatically followed behind the hearse. All that ran through her mind was the night she found Elijah passed out on the bathroom floor and not breathing. Overdosed on something called fentanyl that was in some weed he smoked while she was out at work.She'd suspected he had taken up smoking, but never had any proof to confront him with. She knew beyond doubt now and wished she'd done something sooner to curtail it before this happened. This would have been prevented had she just done something sooner. She wished to god that she had.

When they reached the cemetery everyone piled out of their cars and gathered around the grave. The minister said a few final words but she wasn't paying attention. Then the casket was lowered into it's final resting place.Everyone went back to their cars, some stopping to hug her or say something supportive, before leaving. When most of them were gone she noticed a young man standing back from the crowd. He was wearing a black suit and tie like everyone else, but he wore a backward black baseball cap on his head. He lingered after everyone had moved on and when he finally moved to leave she intercepted him.

"I thought I knew all of Elijah's friends." She said as she approached him.

"I wouldn't say we were friends. Acquaintances maybe. A friend of a friend is probably the best way to describe our relationship." He replied stopping in front of her. "Regardless, I'm very sorry for your loss."

"Thank you." They stood there awkwardly for a moment before Jackie looked over her shoulder at her car. "I should probably go. My mother is probably getting impatient." Without further word he walked passed her, climbed into an expensive looking car, and drove off.

"Who was that?"Her mother asked once Jackie slid into the drivers seat.

"Someone who knew Elijah." She answered.

"How disrespectful wearing that hat to a funeral. I don't understand kids these days."

"He seemed nice enough."

"I'm starving.Let's get to the restaurant."

"I've barely eaten in days. I could us a good meal." Jackie put the car in gear and drove out of the cemetery.

They met the rest of the family at a loudly decorated chain restaurant and sat down in a booth with her brother Kevin and his wife Shannon.

"It was a lovely service." Shannon said to break the ice.

"Sure was. Quite the turn out too. Who knew Elijah had so many friends." Kevin added.

"A lot of his teachers from the high school came. They always had great things to say about him." Jackie said poking at a bread stick before picking it up and taking a small bite.

"He was a smart kid." Kevin reminisced. "I remember when he was little he got into the kitchen drawer and pulled out the tool kit to get a screwdriver the proceeded to dismantle the DVD player. I didn't even know where to begin trying to put it back together, but he knew. He showed me where each and every little piece went and in what order.What was he six or seven when he did that?"

"He was five."Jackie answered.

Kevin slapped a hand on the table. "Five years old and he knew just what he was doing."

The food came and the conversation lulled while they ate. Slowly everyone said their good byes and went on their way. Eventually Kevin and Shannon excused themselves leaving Jackie alone with her mother.

"I guess I should go pay the bill so we can get out of here." Jackie said finally.

"What are you going to do tonight? You can stay with me if you don't want to be home alone in that apartment." Her mother offered.

"No, I'll be okay. I have to get used to being there by myself sooner or later."Jackie slid out of the booth and waited for her mother to follow."I'm going to go to the bathroom before we leave. Meat me in the car." Jackie first took care of the bill then she located the bathroom. When she came out she glanced at the cork board hanging on the wall where local businesses left their business cards. Dead center of the board hung a large flyer that caught her eye. She stopped to take a closer look at it. "Victims of wicked men." She read aloud. She took one of the tabs at the bottom and placed it in the small pocket inside her purse then she walked out to the car. She returned her mother to her house and then headed home.


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