In the days leading up the funeral nothing else happened. Sally thought that maybe Chris was just saying goodbye and hadn’t meant to cause any harm. She thought that maybe being a ghost or whatever he was, it wasn’t easy to control your strength. She’d spent hours researching it online but couldn’t find anything conclusive. There were tons of stories about similar things happening, and yet even with what she’d experience, her initial reaction was to assume they were made up. It took her mind off other things though, and she was grateful for that.
The night before the funeral was a parade of calls from people, all sending her best wishes and telling her that they’d be there for her. Sally found it all a little overwhelming and had turned on autopilot for most of the calls, including her own parents. So much of what had happened over the days leading up to that point felt like a blur and Sally couldn’t really single any moments out. On a bookshelf, wedged between the tops of books and the bottom of the shelves above were stacks and stacks of cards, that were all sweet, but Sally didn’t want to put the cards out.
Chris’s mum, Jacqueline, picked her up in the morning to take her back to their house, where the hearse would arrive later to pick them all up. Sally had a feeling that the hearse not going to Sally’s house was a sly dig at her but didn’t question it. The response would be that it wasn’t anything like that and that it was because they didn’t want people to crowd Sally’s house. It was Chris’s house too, she replied in her imaginary conversation as they silently drove, and he should have made his final journey from there.
“How have you been,” Jacqueline asked.
“As good as I can, thank you.”
“I just can’t believe it. I can’t stop thinking about it. If only you weren’t driving. If only you’d gone a different way. If only you’d gone out a different day. I can’t believe it happened and people keep saying that they’re sorry. It makes me sick. I’m sorry, dear, but it makes me sick to hear from people that haven’t thought about my family in years. How do they even find out, it’s like they’re parasites. You know that old woman next door brought me flowers yesterday? I don’t even know her name. I’ve never spoken to her, but she thinks that’s okay. How did she even know? Sorry I know you’re going through it all too. It just makes me so angry.”
“That’s okay, I understand. I’ve felt the same about the number of calls I’ve gotten over the last few days. It’s been too much. I haven’t had time to think.”
“Of course you haven’t. Some person rips up your entire life like it’s nothing and then everyone comes swooping in as if them saying they’re there for you is their ticket to heaven.” They pulled into the driveway, and Jacqueline turned off the car, but didn’t move. Instead, she turned to Sally and continued speaking. “I can’t believe that other woman is still alive. You know she walked out of hospital without a scratch on her? I can’t believe it. She should be the one who died. Not Chris, not my little baby. She should be the one being buried today.”
Sally wasn’t sure what to say to her mother-in-law. All she could do what look into her eyes and try not to look away. She noticed how puffy her eyes looked in the morning sun, covered up by layers of makeup. There was so much anger and pain behind those eyes.
“They’ll all be here soon,” Jacqueline said and shifted in her seat to shrink back down. She wiped her eyes before she spoke again. “I just wanted to say, before everything happens today that I don’t want you to think that we’re not still family, okay? I don’t want to lose you too and you still have a seat at our dinner table, okay?”
“Thank you,” Sally said after a couple of seconds of silence. “I appreciate that.”
“That’s okay. I know it’s been a whirlwind over the last few days. I hope you don’t mind that I organised most of the funeral. I know you said it was in the hospital, but I hope it isn’t a problem. I also want to say sorry for not coming to see you in hospital more.”
“Oh, no, it’s okay. I was out of it most of the time, so it doesn’t matter at all, honestly. I appreciate you coming to see me at all.”
In truth, Sally had no recollection of saying it was okay in the hospital. She’d assumed that they’d blamed her for the death of their son, so wasn’t expecting to see her at all.
The house was very quiet inside. People gathered in black clothing and standing around in silence. There was a selection of drinks on the kitchen table.
“Chris would have hated this,” Simon, his brother, said. “He always hated people being down. He would have wanted everyone up and laughing. Not depressed.”
“He’s right,” someone else said. “He would have cracked a joke or two by now.”
“Maybe he’s here and has told a few jokes. Would explain the silence,” Simon replied to a small chuckle. “He was never good at jokes.”
It didn’t take long for the hearse to arrive and once it had pulled up in front of the house, everyone dropped to silence, including Simon. Sally could feel panic growing inside. Laila had appeared and had her arm around her, but it was still growing. She was shaking and couldn’t face the idea of going outside.
“Come on,” Jacqueline said reaching out for Sally’s hand.
She took it and the pair of them walked outside, with the rest of the house following close behind, climbing into various cars. Sally couldn’t take her eyes of the coffin, knowing that Chris was inside there. He was close, but there was an abyss between them.
To be continued…
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