After the service, we went through a side exit of the chapel onto the cemetery and to the dug grave where Soraya’s urn was about to be buried.
The grave was adorned by a plain white marble headstone shaped like a monolith. Soraya’s birth and death dates were engraved on it in gilded letters.
In the meantime, a light rain had set in, so we had to open our umbrellas.
When the funeral was over, we had said our last goodbyes to Soraya and had laid flowers around the grave, we made our way to the small café opposite the cemetery.
Soraya’s aunt had insisted on a small gathering of all present after the funeral. Consequently, a laid coffee table with small appetisers, the so-called funeral feast, awaited us.
On our way to the café, Daina appeared at Malachy’s side and drew his attention by clearing her throat.
“James, I’m sorry to bother you, but I really need to talk to you.”
I disengaged myself from his arm with the words, “I’ll go ahead with the others and save you a seat.”
Malachy nodded at me and reluctantly let me go. “Thank you, love.”
Then he turned to Daina with a fake smile.
“How can I help you, Daina?”
She pointed to the chapel’s outbuilding, which offered shelter from the rain with its overhanging roof.
“Can we please seek shelter for a moment? I have important things to discuss with you.”
When they arrived under the roof, Daina got straight to the point.
“James, it’s understandable that you and Margarete needed some time off after the disaster with Soraya, but a week is a very long time and events are coming thick and fast.”
Visibly nervous, she brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear, the third time since the two had arrived under the outbuilding’s roof. Something seemed to be troubling her greatly.
The hell James would do, to accommodate her in any way. Things had become complicated between them and she was largely to blame for that. He waited silently and patiently for her to continue speaking and regarded her with a neutral, almost indifferent gaze.
“What I want to say is that it is time for you to come back. I can no longer explain your absence and some clans are using this time to work against you.”
James retorted dryly.
“I am already present again, or were you not informed of my arrival last night? I called a meeting with the four most important head of Clans to be held on Wednesday, to inform them officially about the content of the contract between Margarete and me, before the engagement ball.
For at least two heads of Clan, this is new information, if you subtract Romanov and Arone.”
At these words, Daina looked at James, startled.
“Why didn’t I know about this? James...”
Now she started pacing nervously until she stopped just in front of James and looked him straight in the eye.
“I know I’ve really messed up. You have every right to be mad at me, but this is business. I can’t do my job as your advisor, if you don’t include me in your decisions.”
Now her voice colour took on a pleading tone.
“I am afraid this meeting with the clan leaders is too early.
Please talk to my grandmother beforehand. She has urgent information that you must take into consideration before the clan meeting.
Can you see her tomorrow morning? I know you have other plans, but please don’t turn her away and give me a chance to make up for my mess.”
James considered for a moment. Daina had a point. It was one thing to be angry with her, but another to act like an offended boy.
He should act professional. Here and now he was the Regent again, no longer just James, and he should behave accordingly.
Besides, it was a rather strange behaviour on part of the powerful Elizabeth Arone to impose herself like this. She usually took her time to meet with him, being informed of all important matters directly by her granddaughter.
“Tell her I will see her in my study at ten o’clock.”
Daina exhaled visibly relieved.
“Will that be all?”
You could tell Daina was having an internal battle over how to respond to this question. Obviously, reason seemed to prevail and she did not push her luck any further.
“Yes, that will be all,” she gave in meekly.
“Good,” James replied. “Then let’s join the others in the café.”
He offered her his arm.
She looked at him, puzzled. “I thought I wasn’t welcome there.”
“You are one of us, aren’t you? As far as Soraya’s aunt is informed, you were also present when her niece died and tried to help her. That’s why you were also present at the funeral and a funeral includes a wake.”
He eyed her with a penetrating look. “Don’t worry, the others know how to behave. Are you coming now?”
She nodded and looped her arm into James’. She looked glumly at the ground the short way into the café.
In for a penny, in for a pound...
During the funeral feast, the mood was sombre. I left the lovingly arranged canapés untouched. They would probably have got stuck in my throat.
After a reasonable time, we said goodbye to Soraya’s aunt.
I was glad to have this funeral behind me. On the way to the car, Amie ran after me and linked her arm with mine.
“Maggie, you seem so glum. Do you want me to give you a hug?”
I stopped and looked at her gratefully.
“Yes, by all means. It would do me good.”
Amie didn’t need to be asked twice and wrapped her arms tightly around me. I was glad for this comfort. Why Amie, who was known to be weepy, took Soraya’s tragic death so easily was beyond me.
I resolved to ask her about it later.
Our embrace was interrupted by Darius, who generously put his arms around both of us.
“Girls! Don’t hang your heads low. My nerves can’t take more tears today. What can I do to lift your spirits?”
He let go of us and seemed to think for a moment.
“Got it,” he replied with a mischievous grin.
“We have dealt with the parting and mourning of Soraya long enough in the last few days and weeks. It is sad that she is no longer here and we will miss her and not forget her, but for us life goes on.
Let’s have a toast to life.
Today is Saturday and especially for you Maggie, but also for us, it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate life and forget everything negative for an evening before it’s business as usual on Monday, again. And where better to do that than at Club Collosseum?”
I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Are you serious, Darius? The earth on Soraya’s grave isn’t quite tamped down and you’re already going to celebrate? Don’t you think that’s a bit macabre?”
Darius’ mischievous grin did not leave his face as he replied: “What’s wrong with celebrating life after such a sad event. Soraya would have been in on it if she could.
Who knows what will come next, Sis. Come on, one last time before you and James are officially back and have to fulfil your obligations.”
I looked at Amie, whose eyes were already gleaming suspiciously with joy, and shook my head in mock horror.
“Amie, what do you think of Darius’ proposal?”
Amie looked at me with a slight shrug and said that Darius’ idea wasn’t so bad.
“When else but on such a sad day is it worth celebrating life?” she added.
“Seriously? You too, Amie?”
Meanwhile, Malachy had caught up with us after discussing something with Daina, again.
Now I turned to him.
“What do you say to that, Malachy? Darius and Amie want to celebrate life at Club Collosseum - today.”
I was rock solidly convinced that Malachy would see it similarly to me and was looking forward to his support. His response, however, surprised me.
“I’m with Darius and Amie. The last few weeks have been hard and I fear that the future has some more crappy surprises in store for us. Why not switch off for an evening and forget everything?
Of course, if you don’t want to, we’ll stay at the castle, love.”
I looked at him with eyes the size of dinner plates while my jaw dropped. When I had regained my composure after a short while, I said:
“Okay. Let’s go to Club Collosseum then.”
“Yay!” exclaimed Amie, jumping slightly in the air with excitement.
Afterwards, we girls discussed meeting at the castle at 8pm so we could get ready at our leisure time and Amie announced to me that she would pick out our outfits.
Once that was settled, we got into our cars and drove out of the cemetery grounds.