When I Look at You

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Chapter Twenty Nine

An hour later, there was a knock at my door. I knew it was my dad before I even opened it. He looked surprised when he saw me. He was wearing a black suit with a red tie. His hair was gelled back and it looked nice. Very different from the usual beach bum look he always had. He gave me what looked like an attempt at a small smile. “You ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” He turned to walk up the hall.

“Daddy?” I said softly. He glanced back at me. Stepping forward, I gave him a hug. I practically collapsed into him, feeling all the emotion wash over me like a tidal wave. He wrapped his arms around me, squeezing tightly. His chest rattled, telling me he was crying too. I sobbed into his chest, my body rocking against him.

“I know. I know.” He whispered. We stood like this for what felt like an eternity. Finally, I stood up straight and wiped my face with a tissue that he pulled from his pocket.

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re fine, Ker-Bear. It’s okay to cry.”

“No.” I said, shaking my head. “I’m sorry for the way I acted. This whole summer. Especially that day at the police station. I was so mean when all you’ve been trying to do is make things right. I’ve been so wrapped up in how the world was against me, I never realized how much I was against myself.”

“That’s how I know you’re my kid. C’mon. We gotta get going.” Wrapping an arm around my shoulders, he led me out to Tammy’s van. She was sitting in the middle seat with Hannah, letting me in the passenger seat. I gave Tammy a small smile as I climbed in which she returned, seeming relieved I was alive.

The funeral home was a short drive from the house. Lines of cars were already parked out front when Dad pulled into the parking lot meant for immediate family. Like before, he wrapped an arm around me as we walked towards the beautiful victorian like house. It was a dark grey color with black shutters and trimming. A man in a dark suit opened the front door for us and gave us a supportive smile as we passed. Inside, we found ourselves standing in a hallway with white and black striped wallpaper. It was lined with coat racks and hangers which were empty except for the occasional purse or sweater. We walked up the hallway, Dad and I being trailed by Tammy and Hannah as we stepped through a door way into a parlor. There, stands were set up with poster boards filled with pictures on Mom. Most were of her and I doing various things in Maine. Some were of her when she was a kid. Others were of her and dad. Their wedding photo was tacked up there next to a photo Tammy had Blaine take right after Mom arrived here. It was the three of us sitting on the bench that was in the backyard. We all smiled at the camera. I was amazed at what the difference of a month could make.

“Hello.” A woman with dark brown hair said, stepping towards us from behind a set of sliding wooden doors. She was about my height and Tammy’s age, a sad expression on her face. “You must be Kerri. Your mom told me a lot about you while she was planning her arrangements. I am so sorry for your loss. She was quite the unique woman.”

“That she was.” Tammy said, rubbing my back.

“The side parlor is full of guests already but we like to give the immediate family some time to say their goodbye in private if you’d like.” All three of them turned to look at me. I nodded, wrapping my arms around me. She nodded, walking over to the sliding doors. She opened them enough to let us in and then shut them behind us. Hannah was no longer with us I noticed.

Looking up, I saw the large arrangements of flowers first. They were all different sorts of flowers and colors. Mostly carnations and roses. I did notice, however, near the front was a vase full of several deep purple orchids. In the center of all the flowers was the white oak coffin that held my mother. The top half of the coffin was open but I couldn’t see the inside from where I was standing. I felt my hands begin to tremble as Dad and I stepped closer.

She was wearing her favorite dress. That was the first thing I say. It was a bright tye-dye dress that tied behind her back. She would wear this every where during the summer and around the house during the winter when she was feeling “springy” as she use to call it. Laying there on white satin, she looked like she was sleeping, her eyes closed. Her hair was tied back with a hair pin I had made her in the third grade for art class that was suppose to be a cat but resembled a orange and white blob hot glued to a hair clip. Her hands were folded on her stomach and her lips were painted a soft hue of pink that went well with her dress.

It was sickening to look at her like this. It still felt surreal that just two short months ago, we were sitting in the car on the way down here. We had stopped at a diner on the way where she pounded a double bacon cheeseburger with a double order of fries in one sitting. Now she was laying in a wooden box looking as frail as could be. Even though every fiber of my being wanted to be mad at the world for this, a large part of me felt a kind of relief. She was no longer in any kind of pain and she looked peaceful. All of her problems didn’t matter now. She was free. And that’s how she should be and feeling anger towards something that was out of my control would make no difference any way.

Dad let go of me and stepped forward towards the casket. Leaning over, he smiled down at Mom before placing a kiss on her forehead. “Don’t worry, Lynnie. I’ll take care of her.” He whispered. He reached into his coat and pulled something out. Grabbing her left hand, he slipped a silver band on her finger. Her wedding ring. I recognized it from her bedside table. She kept it there ever since Dad had left. I always had wondered why she didn’t try to sell it or put it away. I understood now. He kissed her hand quickly before setting it back down. He glanced at me quickly before stepping off to the side.

SLowly, I took his place next to her. “Hey mom.” I said softly, leaning against the casket. “I still can’t believe you’re gone. It’s not fair. I know what you would be saying right now. That no one said life had to be fair. I forgot to tell you before that Blaine gave me a promise ring. I thought you and Dad would freak out if you knew.” I whispered, looking at my hand where the ring still sat. I had taken it off while I was staying with my mom at the Tallman’s Center but something made me put it back on today. “I really hope you hang around sometime, give me some guidance some how. I’m sure you of all people would figure out how. I’m gonna try my best to live up to that promise I gave you. Forgive me though if I end up stumbling sometimes. Like you said, I’m still learning as I go along.”

After saying our good-byes, they opened the doors and allowed the general public in. People lined up from the parlor all the way out the door to say their good-byes and pay their respects to my father and I. At first, I tried standing with him as people came to give their condolences but after awhile I couldn’t stand any more of it. I excused myself to hide among the rest of the people waiting for the services to start. In the crowd, I found Cooper. He was in the back of the room dressed in a nice button up shirt in khakis. He hugged me when he saw me.

“I’m so sorry, Kerri.” He said as he let me go.

“Thanks, Coop. You didn’t have to come.”

“Yeah I did. How are you holding up?” I shrugged.

“I’m okay I guess. She’s not in any more pain and she’s finally at peace.”

“That’s a good thing. You look a lot alike.”

“Thanks.” I replied, smiling. “Uh, how’s Blaine doing?” He bit his lip.

“He’s seen some better days. He was here a few minutes ago. He said he was going to pay his respects and slip out.”

“Oh.” Chimes played over the sound system above our heads, signalling the beginning of the funeral services. Coop gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before heading to his seat.

The service was very short. Dad stood up and said a few things as well as Aunt MAggie. She had come to town the day before services and was staying at a hotel in town. She spoke about their childhood and what having Mom for a sister was like. The pastor spoke some more before ending the services. Everyone said their final good-byes before heading back to their lives unlike Dad and I who would live with this for the rest of ours.

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