What Follows

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4.1: Funerals and Dead Things

AND MAYBE I PUSH YOU AWAY TO SEE IF YOU CARE ENOUGH TO PULL ME BACK


Before I died, there were days when I wanted to be lonely despite how much I hated it. There were days where I could just about stand loneliness, and appreciate it. And whenever I looked forward to being lonely, I spent time in my room’s balcony, alone with the usually incomplete moon, high in the dark, starless sky.

Really, it’s where I designed my whole suicide plan- slit wrists, candles, and all.

So when I find myself standing right in front of it, I gulp nervously. Has God sent me here knowing that this balcony was my demise, and should probably be my punishment?

It stands wide open with the translucent mauve curtains billowing against it, taunting me, and I wonder...why the hell am I sent here?

"And that is definitely not a funeral,” Tobias mutters from next to me, detaching his hand from my arm, and reminding me of his presence.

“Yeah-” I say dreamily, turning, and letting my eyes go over my neat bed with its arranged pillows, empty desk, dresser, and my closet. This is where I’ve spent my seventeen miserable years. I turn to Tobias, anticipating his reaction.

He is standing by the wall that has my desk pushed against with lifted brows, letting his index finger trace a flipped-down frame.

“I suppose that’s your room?” He says, giving me a sidelong glance.

“Yeah-” I shrug. “Lots of-”

I then get interrupted by a door creak. Someone’s very carefully pulling the door open. Tobias and I share glances before we stare back at the door; before we stare back at Jacob entering the room, looking very tidy in a black tuxedo, and slicked-back, golden hair. I never thought I’d see him look like this.

He glances over his shoulder before licking his lower lip, getting inside, and shutting the door behind him.

“I think he’s dressed up like that for your funeral-” Tobias says as matter-of-factly as I watch Jacob shut his eyes, and exhale loudly.

Jacob then reaches inside his jacket, and pulls out a neatly folded paper before clearing his throat, and unfolding it. He breathes in nervously and stares at the paper.

“I told Mom that I won’t write a eulogy-” Jacob starts talking softly, facing the balcony. “But I figured I’m too much of a wuss to not do that-” He smiles brittly. “And I honestly don’t know what the hell I am doing-” He sniffs loudly. “Dunno if this will somehow reach you. Dunno if that’s the point of it all, you know? Writing all that so that we’d feel better about not having time to say our goodbyes-” Jacob shrugs, and I shut my eyes, feeling his words reach deep within me. “But hey, we’re all gonna die, right? We all have that same one-way ticket to hell, yeah?” He blinks at the ceiling. “So Imma be right there in a while, packed with stories...I hope-” He shifts with a sniff.

“Of course, I’m not gonna say that in front of a crowd who’s pretending to care. In fact, I’m not gonna say anything at all, just to spite Mom, and Dad-” He sucks in his lower lip. “You have no idea why I resent them so fuckin’ much-” He purses his lips. “You don’t know the reason behind-”

The door gets yanked open, and I gasp as Jacob sharply turns to where Aiden now stands next to an amused Tobias, looking tall, and decent in a navy-blue tux, and a shaven face. His dark hair is parted from the middle and is falling over his thick brows.

“I knew I’d find you here-” He says slowly as Jacob clenches his jaws. “Come on, we have to go-”

Jacob’s eyes water. “You know-” He sniffs. “I don’t wanna go-”

Aiden sighs. “I know how this all disturbs your little poetic heart but people will start talking if you don’t show up-”

“Aiden, there are uncles I haven’t spoken to in decades-” He frowns. ”Decades, Aiden! And they’re all here pretending to care. Pretending to have some memory of her that they don’t-” He shakes his head. “They’re simply all here for free coffee-”

“That’s what I thought of at my funeral too-” Tobias adds, and I sigh, watching how stressed Jacob looks as he tries to prove his point. His sea-blue eyes are wide, and unblinking, attacked by an ocean of tears.

“Even if you’re right, you owe this one last goodbye to her-” Aiden reasons with him. “I mean, what if she’s there? What if she’s waiting for you to show up? What if you let her down?”

Jacob stares at him for a while, processing his words, before rolling his eyes.

"Bullshit, and you know it-” He shakes his head. “She’s dead, brother. In fact, she killed herself-” He frowns, and locks Aiden’s appalled eyes. “So if there’s anywhere she’ll be, brother...it’ll be hell. Or eternal darkness or whatever-” He says bluntly, and I try not to flinch. “But even more importantly, Aiden-” His voice drops an octave. “-she’ll be with me wherever I go. Whether or not will I attend her stupid funeral. She’ll be here-” He pauses to wipe away at his eyes. “-in my heart.”

Aiden looks at his brother like he knows he has lost.

“You’re right-” He chokes out, and Jacob smirks sadly, staggering closer to him. They’re almost each other’s height.

“Going to that funeral, Aiden-” They lock eyes. “-is equivalent to kissing Mom’s, and Dad’s asses. And I’d rather be caught dead-”

“But they’ll freak out without us-” Aiden counters.

“Let them-”

“I invited Tracey-”

“Bring her here-” Jacob says solidly. “Funerals are for the living. They’re for people who feel bad. They’re for uncles, and aunties who’re ashamed they haven’t seen her in decades. Tracey surely doesn’t care, and nor do I if it’s an occasion filled with hypocrisy!”

Aiden looks too overwhelmed by Jacob’s position in this whole scenario, and I am too surprised by the venom in his voice, and stance. Is my death the reason behind all this change? Where has the soft boy gone under all those rocky layers of hatred? Is this how far I’ve poisoned him?

“Jake-” Aiden says, looking apologetic. “-I-I can’t-” He shakes his head. “I know she’s dead. And I know they’re one of the reasons why... but she’s dead. And they’re alive-” He looks away from him. “I’m sorry but they need me the most now-”

Jacob looks unamused. His eyebrows furrow as he clenches his fists. “Clearly everyone who has called me an ass-kisser, haven’t met you-” He then storms off, leaving the room for Aiden, and two other dead things.

“Something’s off about your parents, darlin’-” Tobias mutters, and I nod.

“Jake is way too vulgar. He’s all edge. Do you think they’re hiding something from me?” I ask myself more than him as I watch Aiden fix his hair in my dresser’s mirror.

“I don’t think. I’m certain-” Tobias tilts his head with a lazy smile. “But you know, it doesn’t really matter. When people die, so do their secrets, and so do the secrets concerning them. It doesn’t matter-”

“Well, I suppose that’s true for normal people who die, die, not die, and go through whatever shit that is-” I sigh. “Secrets like the one my idiotic brothers are hiding could be the reason why I killed myself-”

"So you’re looking for pain-” Tobias comments as Aiden leaves the room.

“I’m looking for answers-”

Tobias shrugs with a small smile. “Pain it is-”

“I’m starting to rethink this whole acquaintance thing-” I say, giving him an all-over glance.

“So am I-”

I frown and smile at the same time. “What? How-”

“Look, I’m gonna be honest with you-” Tobias says with a small smile, and cast down eyes. “You have a poetic brother, parents who seem to not care, a jerk of an ex-boyfriend, and a bitch of a best friend-” I lift my brows. “Basically a recipe for heartbreak-” He looks up at me, and tilts his head. ”So, do I want to witness you get heartbroken, and be incapable of doing nothing about it because of some ‘acquaintance limitations’ that you put forward, that- by the way- includes not knowing your name? The answer’s ‘no’, really-”

I look at him slightly surprised. “I thought I was saving you from eternal boredom-”

“Well, that’s- I mean I can’t say it isn’t one of the reasons-” He locks my eyes, and I blink.

“Reasons, huh?” I narrow my eyes at him.

“Look, forget about this, okay?” He tells me, lowering his head, arching his brows, and locking my eyes. “Let’s just focus on your funeral-”

I blink, breaking our contact, and sighing. “I will know those other ‘reasons’ one day, you know that right?”

Tobias straightens up, stares at me for a while before smiling. Then he says, “Let’s head downstairs, yeah?”

I shake my head at him, and his ridiculous smile before turning away, and leaving the room. I start descending the stairs, not waiting for Tobias to get over himself, and follow my ass.

I stop at the last step from where I can see Mom in a tight, knee-length, full-sleeved black dress, and an elegant white hat, stand while drinking a glass of water. Dad, in a white button-up shirt and black pants, enters the scene with a crimson tie in his hand.

Mom, upon seeing him, leaves the water glass and fixes her husband’s tie. I watch them longingly, knowing that this harmony between them was all I wanted in my short life.

Dad then gives Mom a small smile before pecking her forehead. The pain this action causes, makes me look away. Because couldn’t they’ve given me that when I was alive? Couldn’t they’ve been decent?

“I hated my parents too-” Tobias whispers from behind me, and I respond with a sniff. Because he’s wrong.

I loved my parents, and that’s why I’m hurting that they didn’t love me enough to stay strong together.

Aiden then steps in with the car keys jingling in his hand, and his jacket on his forearm. He says something to them to which Dad responds with a nod and Mom with a headshake. Mom then pulls out her handkerchief from her white, leather handbag, and dabs her eyes.

This was probably about Jacob.

I glance at Tobias who’s now standing by my side, looking intrigued. I look back at them to find Aiden standing by the door, and holding it open for his parents. Always the sickeningly good boy.

When they all leave, I stand heartbroken at how easily they left. How they hadn’t sobbed for a little longer. I had wanted my death to be phenomenal. Something that gives them sleepless nights, and empty eyes. I had wanted them to know my worth.

I had wanted my death to be more poetic. I wanted no ordinary funerals at plain churches. I wanted the fire that lit my soul to engulf my corpse. I wanted my flesh to burn in front of them. I wanted them to feel the pain they’ve put me through.

I wanted chants of my name. A rose so dead, so beautiful. I did not want to be easily swallowed. I wanted the thought of me to be that gigantic pill that stands in their throats every time they remember me.

I wanted to be so much more than a passing funeral, and a staining tear.

And seeing this? Seeing my mom, and dad leave so easily to a thirty-minute funeral? It’s underappreciative to my efforts. To my death.

“You look like you’re gonna shoot that door with laser eyes-”

I snap my head to Tobias and stare at him, still spaced-out. Tobias’ light hazel eyes dilate under my gaze before he clears his throat.

“I mean if you insist on using your laser eyes, maybe you can look at the paper your ma dropped from her bag-” He says slowly, and I blink at him.

“What paper?” I ask, slightly disturbed.

Tobias smiles, shaking his mop of red hair. “C’ mon, focus a bit, darlin’-” He lifts a brow. “Your ma dropped it when she picked her tissue or whatever that was-”

“My mom, wha-”

Tobias sighs, and smiles, stepping closer to me. “You are very distracted, you can’t even complete your tasks-” He tilts his head. “Do you wanna talk about something?”

I shake my head, blowing out air. “I need to focus on my tasks.” I look at the ground Mom once stood on, and where a folded paper now laid.

I walk toward it, and gingerly lift it. It smells like Mom’s expensive Dior perfume. I let my fingers explore the paper despite my lack of sensation, and then with a deep breath, I unfold it.

I look back at where Tobias leans against the staircase, looking at me, a hand on his hips, and a small smile on his rosy lips. I look back at the paper and squint at Mom’s intricate, cursive handwriting.

“It’s a eulogy-” I whisper to myself and purse my lips. And it’s only three sentences. “It’s only three sentences-” I say loudly for some reason. My worth is three short sentences.

“The paper holds three sentences?”

“The eulogy does-” I counter.

“Your ma’s eulogy?”

Very slowly I turn to him and nod. “Yes.”

“Read’em out-” He tells me, arms crossed, and copper curls somehow pushed away from his face, fully exposing his wide hazel eyes, and apparently freckled cheekbones.

I hesitantly look down and read. ”A mother for three. A mom for two. I’ve lost this game, and I ask who killed you?”

I blink at the paper before looking at Tobias who has a blank facial expression.

“That’s it?” He then asks. “Is that a riddle or a eulogy?”

I turn the paper on its back to find it blank. “This can’t be the eulogy-”

“Well, yeah, but what the hell is it?” Tobias asks, and I clear my throat.

“Mom has this habit-” I say slowly, trying to relax. “She loves writing riddles. When we were young- me, and my brothers- she’d- uh-” I glance up at Tobias. “She’d ask us, on rainy days, to solve those riddles she’d make up. Jake is usually the one who answers them-” I breathe out. “And now she leaves me this riddle,” I furrow my eyebrows. ”By accident-” I shut my eyes for an angry moment. “And I’m just about the dumbest person ever!”

Tobias snicker snaps me out of my thoughts.

“You’re laughing?”

Tobias’ eyes are crinkling, and his lips are pulled in an easy smile. “Yes, I am-”

I crumple the paper in my hand and groan.

“Why are you so worked up about this riddle?” He asks me.

“Because it must be about me-” I stress out.

“Really? Who said that?” He asks. “It’s just a riddle. Riddles, for your information, are usually for entertainment purposes. They usually won’t hold deadly secrets that would, say, explain the mysterious reasons behind your unholy death-”

“Is it even a riddle?”

“Well, here’s the thing-” He says, lifting an index finger, and pointing it at my closed fist. “If you can understand what it’s about then it’s not a riddle. And clearly you don’t understand what it’s about, nor do I. Plus, you said that your ma loves riddles-”

“Well, what the hell are we supposed to do now?”

Tobias smirks. “Well, we’re seemingly not going to the Darkoom. This means we’re stuck here. With this paper, you happily crumpled. And luckily to you-” His eyes twinkle. “-I love riddles.”

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