Slipping into her one black dress, she looked into the mirror one last time, readjusted her already neat bun and tried to avoid the regret filling her eyes. She pulled the sleeves of her dress over her bruised arms, flinching as she did so, but tried to make her way to the stairs anyway. Another wave of sorrow washed over her, and she didn’t know how she’d do this.
“Hey, I’m right here.” Mark’s hand squeezed hers, and even though she didn’t feel worthy of having a family who sympathized with her, she still made her way down the stairs with her little brother to where their parents were patiently waiting.
The day seemed to know that many were grieving. The clouds barely let the sun grace the earth with its warmth, and even though there was a warm breeze, it was still eerie. The walk to church took longer than it normally would, the grass seemed wilted rather than glad for some cloudy weather, and even though Ann was alive, she didn’t feel it. She knew this tragedy wasn’t something she’d only regret in 10 minutes or in 10 months or even in 10 years. This was something she’d carry with her, forever. Feeling Mark guiding her to the left, she realized they had arrived at the little chapel.
They walked in, they sat down. They bowed their heads, they listened to the sermon. But nothing was the same. Nothing would ever be the same.
They made their way outside, heading towards the cemetery that had been sitting behind the chapel for decades. It took awhile, because everyone’s pace was the same. Slow and sorrowful. They all knew that death was as much a part of life as life itself, but human nature made that hard to accept.
Ann made her way through the crowd toward Spencer’s Mom. She put her arm around the mother’s already shaking shoulders, knowing she needed the comfort more than Ann did. Together they made their way to the grave, together they stood over it, together they watched their best friend and daughter slowly being lowered into it, and together they broke down in sorrow and grief, holding each other as though the whole world was falling apart, because to them it was.
The sun was beginning to dissolve behind the trees, and the crowd seemed to do the same. Ann’s family, the pastor’s family, and a few others stayed behind, however, knowing the single mother would need much care and comfort.
Ann felt especially responsible to stay behind. She felt guilty, even though there was probably nothing she could’ve done to prevent this from happening. Maybe I could’ve convinced her not to drink and drive. Maybe I could’ve called a taxi. But she knew that wasn’t true, because she had been more hammered than Spencer. Flashbacks started going through her mind, but John interrupted them before they got too out of hand.
“Ann, it’s time to go,” he said in a soft tone. Looking up from where she and Jill had been sitting for the past 3 hours, she slowly nodded and got up, giving Jill one last squeeze.
As the family walked down the path to their house, Ann stayed back with her father.
“I know it’s time to get serious about life. I know it’s time to start making decisions that I won’t regret in 10 anything.”