Three Years Earlier
The ringing of the church bells drowned my tears and my spotty sobs. Cynthia, my best friend, holds my hand as I continue to cry quietly. The Father has finished saying his prayer and six men slowly walk up to the casket and separate themselves so that half is on one side and the other half is on the opposite side.
People, mostly my father’s men and a few of the deceased family and friends, stood up as the six carrying the casket begins to walk. The casket, a beautiful mahogany shiny enough to see one’s reflection, is heaved on the shoulders of the men. The men walk with heavy hearts, some hiding their emotions as they carry their best friend on their shoulders.
As they walk, I follow the casket, hiding and fighting back more tears. Some of the family members look at me with disgusted faces, I don’t blame them. Who I am, who my father is, who my brother is, this life is not meant to be enjoyed. It takes commitment and honor, a person joining this life has to know that they basically signed a contract stating you’ll know how you’ll die should old age or illness does not get to you first. He knew that. He knew one day that his life would end with a bullet.
It makes its way out to the hearse where it will be delivered to the cemetery. The hearse has the cross on each side, all white, the Father sits on the passenger side as it begins to drive away. I have known him since I started Bible school, he has never aged a day. He was also the priest for my quinceanera, he is like my grandfather.
I followed my mom and Cynthia to the black SUV where I will be sitting and heading to the cemetery. My mom sits next to me as I embrace her hold, her loving warmth and her soft touch comfort me so. Cynthia sits on the passenger side, instructing the driver on where to go.
“Honey, I am sorry. I know I wasn’t supportive of your relationship, but you do not deserve this,” my father said as he holds my hand.
“Not right now Diego, let her mourn. Talk about it later,” my mother scowls at him.
The SUV starts to drive and exit the church, realization slowly seeps in my mind.
The drive wasn’t that long to the cemetery, just about twenty minutes. It is a beautiful cemetery, one of the best in Crescent City, always green when it can be. Tons of flowers are always replaced, even when the flowers are not as blooming. The owners of the cemetery try the best they can to keep it lovely as possible. People bury their loved ones because it is closest to the sea, hoping that their loved ones will walk towards it and be at peace.
I follow my mom out of the SUV, Cynthia came by and held my other hand. There was a sidewalk that leads us to where he is going to be bury. We walked passed many people who were visiting their loved ones, noticing us as they make way for us to go to our burial. I see some women doing a quick prayer and creating a cross with their motions.
My heels clicked to the pavement, my dress slowly moving to the breeze. The grass is freshly cut, some places freshly watered too. It all looks so pretty with the new flower being placed, the vibrance of the flowers almost made the mood better. But I look up and it perfectly matches the emotions I am going through. The sky isn’t blue, it is grey, dark grey forming in the distance. A couple of miles down and you can hear the lighting crack against the sky. It used to scare me a lot, but not anymore.
When we reached the area, there was the casket being held against this type of crane that will lower it six feet under the ground. I see the Father remerging, this time in a black robe, signaling that this is it.
“In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through Our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God Roberto Mendez Cruz, and we commit his body to the ground: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make His Face to shine upon himand be gracious to him, the Lord lift up His countenance upon him and give him peace. Amen.
Now, would Alexander Johnson come and say a few words.”
Alex, Robbie’s close friend and mine’s as well, wiped away a few tears from his face as he steps forward from the small crowd and said his peace.
“Robbie, my best friend and my brother, was taken away from us too soon. Although we didn’t choose the most healthy lifestyle, we loved it, every single minute of it. I made a few sacrifices and stupid decisions, but I always had Robbie by my side. It will be hard without you bro. I will miss you. I love you,” he places his hand on the casket and walks away.
“Now, Ximena Marisol, it is your turn to say a few words,” the Father looks at me.
My mother grips my hand very gently, then she lets go as she smiles at me. I step forward looking around the crowd without moving my head. I hear the very few family members mumble in disapproval, one even whispered that I don’t deserve to say anything, that I am the one that got him killed.
They don’t know what really happened. It wasn’t my fault.
Or was it?
I let out a quick breath and I began.
“Robbie, also my best friend but my boyfriend, cherished me the best he could even when my father intimidated him every second of the day,” the crowd chuckles but my dad grunts, “I will remember you for all the good and bad we went through and I promise I will move on like I said I would. Thank you for being with me and I hope you will in spirit. I love you and I am sure I would have been happy with you as your wife, but we all make sacrifices. You did when you saved me and I will today by moving on. Love you,” I smiled and then cried back to my mother.
“Finally, Diego Marisol, your goodbyes,” the Father motions.
I was shocked that my father decided to say a few words, it didn’t have too. He only does so when a high ranking member passes on but other than that, he doesn’t. Maybe it is a way to make up his displeasure with me and Robbie being together.
I just wished he accepted us sooner. It could have worked out.
“It is true, I have never really….approved of this relationship but Robbie always proved me wrong when my daughter comes home very happy. I am sorry that I didn’t approve, I am sorry that I didn’t give you a chance. Most of all I am sorry that you had to go under my watch. It is my job to protect my daughter’s happiness and I failed. You are my daughter’s happiness and I didn’t stop what happened to you,” he places the white rose on the casket then leaves.
My father did have no real way to protect us, it happened all so fast. We were on a dinner date, no one could have predicted this. We didn’t, how could he. It wasn’t his fault, he should not blame himself, but, like a father he is, he does.
I proceed to place the rose on the casket, along side the ring he was going to give to me before the pouring gun fire came. He was on one knee, opening the velvet box before I heard the first fire. He dropped the box then covered me.
After everyone placed their roses, they began lowering the casket, soon it reached the ground. Then the workers began to fill up the hole, each shovel tearing away at my heart and telling me it is really happening. Once done, the workers left, the Father gave me a tight hug and left.
I stayed there as long as I could, with Anderson, my personal bodyguard, watching me from afar. My parents left with my brother after two hours. Cynthia and her father left an hour after them. Alex decided that this wasn’t for him and he left with a group of men.
I stood there staring at the headstone, his name and date of birth and death written in a neat cursive. I didn’t cry or anything, I just stood there. I finally let go, I let him go, I needed time to myself to fully comprehend what just happened and I got it.
The clouds began to grow darker, lighting cracking even closer. I continued to look at the gravestone, replaying the whole five minutes in my head, making sure that I really did try to save him. Just when I was about to come to the conclusion, a raindrop hits my cheek.
Soon more came, then it began to pour. My train of thought crashed, I cursed to myself, I needed to make sure that I did everything I could to save him.
“Ximena, it is time to go, you will get sick,” Anderson walks up with the umbrella on hand.
“I have to know that I tried everything Anderson. I feel like I did, but something feels wrong about what happened,” I whined.
“I know Ximena, a part of you feels guilty. We are trained to protect and defend, yet we can’t do it when something unexpected happens. I am sure you’ll have it figure it out soon, you always do, since when you were a little girl. Now lets go before you’ll be staring at my headstone,” he chuckles.
I hit his shoulders and cracked a smile, “Not funny. But you are right.”
After the funeral, I thought I would be okay and move on, but it turns out that I delve myself into a deeper hole.