by T.G. Ayer is scheduled for July 31st and you can sign up HERE
Chapter 2 Then“I don’t think I can go,” I tell my mom, looking directly at her, wanting nothing more than for her to meet my gaze. She won’t—I already know that—because looking at me would mean facing the inevitable. Lily’s gone for good. Mom drums her French-manicured fingernails on the thatched placemat, the beat uneven and rushed. “The car will be here to pick us up in an hour.” Her hazel eyes, red-rimmed and swollen, focus on the kitchen window. From the looks of it, she’ll start crying again at any second. Five more drums of her fingers. A sniffle. Then two last beats. She turns her head slightly in my direction, still refusing to look at me, but I get a clear view of her face. My mother’s always been beautiful, and even with her skin splotchy from crying and her short, chestnut-colored hair uncombed, she’s still stunning in that tragic, ethereal sense. “The car comes in an hour,” she repeats before pushing away from the kitchen table and shuffling away. Even though it never left her mouth, I know the precise word that’s rolling through her mind as I hear her climb the steps and slam her bedroom door. Selfish. Maybe she’s right. But maybe, if she’d just looked at me, she would have seen that selfishness is rooted in an even deeper emotion: fear. I don’t want the last time I see my sister to be … this. That’s not a memory I think I can deal with and I'm scared to hell of it. But in the end, my dad stalks into the kitchen and motions for me to follow him. He gives me a gentle nudge toward the staircase with the instructions to get dressed and do it fast. Skin flushed, I find myself in my room. By the time I’m finished there are clothes all over the place and my chest is heaving up and down. I glare at myself in the mirror, at my chocolate brown eyes that are clear because I’ve been too numb to cry. Eyes like Lily’s. “You selfish bitch,” I mutter and make myself look away. “You’ve ruined everything.” On the way to the funeral home, none of us say a word to each other. The closer we get, the more and more I don’t mind the silence. Maybe quietness, solitude, is what I need to make it through today. I sit on the front row with my parents, unable to cry or breathe or think straight as one-by-one, people who knew my sister—who adored her—tell us how sorry they are. There’s her overachieving snob of a best friend, Kendra. The boy who broke Lily’s heart a year ago, the same one who tried, unsuccessfully, for the last year to win her back. There are teachers and teammates and her closest friends. There’s my own boyfriend, James. When he walks past, he stops for just a moment to give my hand a reassuring squeeze, but I don’t say anything to him. I don’t trust my words. *** So I continue to watch in stunned silence. There are so many people here that I don’t know that I barely notice the tall man who stops to talk to my parents. He’s speaking in a hushed voice, but the second, “Owen Delane’s brother” tumbles from his lips, my gaze snaps up. I don’t see very much of him through the sudden haze of tears, but I listen to every word, each one catching my breath. “…so sorry for what happened. For what this has done to your—” Before he can finish, my mother—the woman who’s never physically disciplined us a day in our lives, the same woman who hasn’t been able to look me in the eye since the afternoon the officers showed up to our house with the news—is on her feet, her eyes meeting his as she swings her hand roughly across his face. “What gives you the right to think you can come here?” she demands, shrugging off my dad who stands and tries to take her by the shoulders. “Will it help you sleep better at night? Do you think I care if you or your brother is sorry?” With every word, her volume rises, until she’s practically screaming. Every emotion that Delane is feeling passes over his tan face, and I can’t help but to feel for him, the brother of the man who killed my sister. Forcing my eyes down long enough for me to catch my breath, I dig my fingers into the pew beneath me. What happened to Lily wasn’t this man’s fault. Surely Mom knows that. But the more I try to reason with myself, the more bitter I feel. *** When I look back up, Delane’s back is straight and his expression is unreadable. His eyes sweep over me for a brief moment, just long enough for him to give me a solemn nod, and then he turns on his heel and walks away. I know every head inside the funeral home is turned on him, so I look at my mother instead. My father has pulled her back down to a sitting position, and she buries her face in the crook of his neck, sobbing uncontrollably. Dad looks ahead—quiet and tearless—his gaze pointed on the white casket that’s not even ten feet away from us. And behind us, I know there’s more crying. Hushed whispers because my mom just decked a guy. I can’t hear any of it. There’s a blaring in my ears. A pressure sitting on my chest. And suddenly, I’m on my feet, my gaze pointed down at my parents. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper, finally breaking my silence. I don’t fully realize that I’ve left the building until the brisk fall air knocks me in the face. It, combined with the tears that have begun to fall, stings my cheeks. A second after my foot touches the bottom step I feel a hand clamp down on my shoulder. I half-expect it to be my father, but when I spin around, I come face to face with Kendra. In spite of everything she must be going through herself, her eyebrows are pulled together over her dark brown eyes in concern over me. And I’ve been nothing but a bitch to this girl since she and my sister became friends in middle school. Kendra presses her lips together and then lets out a breath. “Evie … where are you going?” The sad reality is, I don’t even know. “Oh God, Kendra. I’ve fucked everything up.” Immediately, she wraps her arm around me, drawing a gasp, and a sob, from the back of my throat. I drop my head against her shoulder. “I don’t even have the—” “Shut up,” Kendra orders in a calm voice as she holds me even tighter. “Shut up and stop trying to do this on your own. You shouldn’t.” She releases me, takes a step back, and braces herself. “I don’t want to do it on my own either, okay?” For the next ten minutes, she and I sit together on that bottom step. Neither of us says a word, and I’m almost certain neither of us manages more than a few breaths, but she doesn’t leave and I won’t either. Finally, at the sound of Lily’s favorite Regina Spektor song—the one I’d suggested we use for the slideshow—Kendra stands and jerks her head to the front door of the funeral home. “Hey, Evie?” she whispers tearfully. “We can help each other, okay?” Nodding, I stumble to my feet, brushing my palms over my skirt to smooth off any dirt. But as I go back inside and take my spot beside my parents, letting a song about not saying goodbye burn into my brain, I can’t help but wonder what Owen Delane’s brother would have said if he’d finished speaking.