Holy Angels Cemetery
She was amazed at how easy Julie’s funeral was.
Déjà vu. Didn’t I just do this last week?
Rory studied the crowd, glad that this time she was a member of it and not part of the main attraction. Next to her, stood Alex.
Just days after Paul’s funeral, Isadora called to inquire about “that Cayden,” and to make it clear to Rory that she was in no shape emotionally to begin another relationship.
“A man who is ‘just friends’ with a woman hands her off to those who care about her. He does not linger. There was no reason for that man to insist on staying after we got you into the limo, but he wasn’t letting go. While I’m grateful; I certainly don’t have the strength to carry you, it would have been much more seemly for Alex to help. He is a friend of the family, after all. I’m just glad the media wasn’t there to snap pictures of that scene you caused. He won’t be at Julie’s funeral, will he?”
“No. It’s closed to the public. Just a few of us were invited.”
“Well that’s a relief.”
Rory disagreed, but said a polite good-bye and hung up instead of challenging her mother. There were some days that Isadora was better left placated.
Standing at Julie’s grave brought Rory a sense of relief. It was almost over. As she stood there, sensing Alex’s misery as he stood next to her, she realized that she felt nothing more than a general sense of sadness, a feeling of regret for her friend’s unlived life.
Rory absently toyed with her college ring. Every report said that Julie had decided to leave the club that night because she fought with Alex. Nowhere in the report did it note that she fought with Alex because of what Rory had told her. Only Rory knew – or at least suspected. Alex had followed after he’d cooled down. It had been assumed she’d taken a cab home as she had before. Rory glanced at Alex, wondering if Julie would be alive today had he followed her immediately. Julie left. Alex followed, but it was too late.
Julie had always had a temper. She was always impulsive, she remembered Charles’ words verbatim, knowing their accuracy. Surely you remember how much she fought with Laura? Julie had such a future, Rory. She was going to be someone. We’d talked about it, about her working with me to get her sea legs.
Charles had begun to cry then, no longer the man some once thought would be president. He was a man whose wife was dead from a cancer she refused to fight, whose favorite child had been murdered, and who was estranged from his remaining adult stepchildren. Holidays were quiet, polite affairs between the three of them, he had told Rory. There were no grandchildren. There was no laughter.
Nothing turned out as it should have, he’d sobbed. Julie’s killer took everything.
She looked at him now: standing before the casket and before the media, remembering the human side of him while he stood there staring at the world, sober with grief, yet with his famous confidence nonetheless.
Julie left. Rory frowned, wishing she knew exactly what she and Alex had argued about that night.
“Julie’s death put Charles back in the spotlight,” Alex whispered as stood at the gravesite, listening to Charles eulogize Julie. “He’s going to use it to springboard back into the game. He’ll advocate victim’s rights as his campaign. We talked last night, in fact. He wants me to work behind the scenes, be his legal advisor. I might just do it.” When Rory said nothing, he continued. “I always wondered if he knew something about her disappearance, or if someone he was connected to was guilty. It wouldn’t be the first time someone suffered for a politician’s opinions. You know what I mean? Someone got to Julie to shut him up – or he got to her himself.”
“Impossible, Alex. Charles loved her. Julie was his favorite because she wanted to go into politics.”
“How do you know she didn’t want too much? Julie talked about being an ethical politician. She said she wasn’t going to be corrupt like he was. I have to wonder if she didn’t know more than either you or I.”
“I never heard anyone questioning Charles’ actions. Besides, I just talked to him for the article, Alex. He’s too broken up to be guilty of having her murdered.”
“You never know.”
True, she didn’t know. But remembering how he cried at the interview, seeing the pictures of her that he carried in his wallet, made it impossible for Rory to fathom Charles as being the one to order her execution.
Watching him now, as both Natalie and Richard stood only as close to him as they had to, seeing him shed not a single tear, she had to wonder.
The service finished, Julie’s casket began its descent. From the corner of her eye, she saw Alex square his shoulders and tug at his collar. There would be no show of emotion for the media’s cameras that zoomed in from behind the wooden sawhorses keeping them at bay. Stoic, emotionless, he stood there watching his once-upon-a-time girlfriend’s coffin sink into the ground. It was over.
The cemetery emptied but for the Sarazens. “You go on,” Richard told Charles and Natalie. “I’ll be right there.” He waited until they were gone. He allowed the rage to hit him then, welling up and knocking him to his knees. He sobbed. His sister’s bones were all that remained; a few ragged scraps of fabric and a single bullet hole were what the world would remember. They would wonder about what had been done to her first, wonder at the details and use words like assault and rape but pair them with speculated or assumed because the dead don’t tell all of their secrets.
No one would remember Julie. They would remember the titillating details. Isn’t that the girl who… the beginning of the sentence would be the same. It was the ending that would vary… was raped and murdered, who was dumped in a shallow grave, who was shot in the head… His baby sister didn’t deserve this.
Who killed you, Jules? Do you even know? He imagined her with the gun against her head and hoped she didn’t feel anything. Hoped it was so quick that she knew nothing. It was only right. The thoughts roiled about in his brain. His mother died because of this, because someone didn’t want Julie to come home. She worked herself into the grave, ignoring the small lump until it was too late and all that could be done was wait until she could join her daughter. Laura never believed that Julie was still alive. She never held hope, never believed in miracles, and cursed those who did.
If he could, he’d demand the blood price for their lives and relish the sight as he extracted it. But how remained the question. He sobbed, choking on his fury and impotence and loss. A decade without Julie, even more without Rory. She’d never be his, he knew. She never was his. For those brief months in college, Rory had been someone he was with, someone he followed willingly because she was everything he wasn’t.
Alex didn’t understand. He thought Rory could belong to him just as he’d tried to own Julie. He wasn’t going to learn from Paul because he didn’t know what Paul had been. No one knew because Rory wasn’t the sort to trumpet her misery.
I just made you, darling.
No. No one made her. She was complete already, from the moment he’d first met her to the moment he laid her down in the woods and tried to show her how much he loved her. He had to talk to her.