"Fuck!"

15 2 0

Eli ends up outside the Rosemont Heights Rec Centre a little before six, clothes damp from the rain and backpack still heavy with the weight of Jake's chem book.

Jake hadn't been home. Eli had found the address easily enough, and had been . . . sort of surprised, actually. It's not like he's been to a lot of trailer parks in his life, but the neat, modern, wood-paneled trailer with the double glass front doors and rooftop patio is not what he'd been expecting. Seemed like nothing in Rosemont was immune to gentrification.

No amount of knocking or ringing of the doorbell or peering in through windows had enticed anyone—Jake or his grandmother or otherwise—to appear, however, and things had been getting late. So Eli had moved on.

At the rec centre, Arthur and Zoe greet him at the door which, Eli has to admit, is a sight he thought he'd never see.

"Dude!" says Arthur, at the same time as Zoe announces, "You're soaked!"

Zoe has changed since Eli last saw her, into a simple black dress. He almost thinks she's out of cosplay until he sees her earrings, shaped like tiny silver bees. "Are you . . . dressed like a witch?" he hisses at her, while Arthur is busy off to one side doing something with a table full of finger food.

Zoe draws a sort of triangular shape in the air with her fingers. "My hat is full of sky," she says, then winks.

Eli finds Morgan doing something with her violin in one corner of the room, not far from where a table has been set up with a memorial for Val. There's a photo of him in a sombre, black frame, surrounded by pale white lilies and roses, plus a big book and fancy looking fountain pen for people to write messages. Morgan comes over while Eli is studying the arrangement, wondering if he should write something and, if so, what. Sorry I couldn't save you, seems like the sort of thing that Zoe would sneer and call "manpain," although maybe it doesn't count when it's another dude.

"I still can't believe . . ." Morgan trails off. Her fingers are resting lightly against Eli's forearm even as she focuses on the photo of Val on the side table.

"Yeah," Eli says, because what else is there to say?

"Should we, um. Warm up? There are some, like. Side rooms?"

Eli nods, and lets Morgan lead him through a door and out a short corridor. The rec centre is laid out a bit like a house. One big den, when the main wake is being set up, plus a few smaller rooms tucked away down one side. Eli glimpses tables and armchairs and so on, so assumes they're used by, like, the Rosemont Bridge Club or whatever, for when the main room is too noisy.

Morgan takes them into the third room down the corridor, which turns out to have a large bay window looking out towards the woods.

"This is pretty cool," Eli says, walking over to the window. It's one of the ones with the little built-in couch thing, an assortment of pillows making the whole set-up look pretty inviting.

"I practice here a lot," Morgan says. "The way the morning sun comes through the glass . . . it's so beautiful. And sometimes there are deer."

"Wow." Eli, who grew up in Manhattan, and didn't see a wild animal bigger than a squirrel until he was a teen. Right now, however, there are no animals, deer or squirrels or otherwise. The rain has settled in like it means to stay, and the bay window's glass is smeared and blurred with the downpour. Somewhere, far off in the distance, Eli hears the low purr of thunder.

#

There's an order of ceremonies for the wake, and it isn't until Eli sees those words written on the rain-warped handout Morgan shows him that Eli realizes how much he hates them, how much they remind him of son there's been an accident and the smell of white roses and the shiny beetle black of the coffins as they lowered from the podium and away, deep down into the belly of the beast that would burn all that was left of Mom and Dad until they were nothing but two neat littles boxes of ash, hidden in the back of Eli's cupboard.

The Dragon of Rosemont HighRead this story for FREE!