It was all so heavy. Staggeringly, bone-breakingly heavy. I glanced around me. Both of my remaining best friends were crying, too. Even Seth and Erin watched the grownups unravel with sober, wide eyes. The last few years of my life—of allour lives—had been heavier than anybody should have to muck their way through. It felt like I was going to splinter and break under the pressure of it all.
Rachael slid her hand into mine, then reached for April. “Come on.”
I pulled my hand free. “I… I don’t want to.”
Rach slid her glasses onto the top of her head. “We should say hello.”
“I can’t.” I backed away. “I’m going to finish this bouquet.”
April tilted her head at me, a tear slipping out of her left eye. “You okay, Moll?”
“Yes!” I answered to quickly, and too loudly, and Jamie stopped walking. Pressing my hand to my chest, I felt my heart thudding so hard, I was pretty sure my clavicle would crack. “No. I just… I… it’s hot out. And I’m feeling... you know…”
“Hung over?” Erin offered from behind her veil of black hair.
“Erin, hush,” scolded April. She reached for me. “Come on. We’ll go together. We’ll say hello, and then you can go to lay down until the service.”
“I’ll say hello later.” Grimacing as Zane opened the backdoor of the Four Runner and pulled out little Maddie, I drew a shaky breath. “I can’t right now.”
Jamie wiped his face, watching me. “Moll?”
Rachael hiccupped. “We need to at least say somethingto Zane. We’re being rude.”
I bit my lip until I tasted blood. Iwas being rude. But I couldn’t help it. The air felt thick, and my skin tight. Glancing up at the dirt lot, I noticed Zane’s mother had lifted a sleeping Max from his car seat. He opened his eyes with the jostling, and took stock all of the crying adults around him before releasing a pitiful yowl.
My chest tightened, making each pound of my heart even more arduous. The pain between Bree’s family clung to the ferns and the pine needles like cobwebs. It stuck in my mouth like a gluey piece of gum, choking me.
Those poor, motherless babies would never know their incredible mother. That poor widower lost the one person he loved above all else. Those poor parents were getting ready to say goodbye to their only daughter. It was too much.
Maddie joined in Max’s wails, and my stomach twisted itself into a square knot. I observed through swimming eyes as Sue took Max from Zane’s mother, and cradled him. Her shoulders shook as she rocked him back and forth, and my breath caught in my throat. Owen took his glasses off, and used a bandana from his pocket to wipe at his eyes. Aside from a couple moments where she’d lost, then quickly regained her composure, Sue had kept herself together the whole week. She and Owen were the picture of strength. But now that their son-in-law and grandchildren had arrived, their resolve cracked.
A sob crept its way up the back of my throat, escaping with a jagged gurgle. “I’m sorry. I need to…”
I didn’t finish my sentence. Instead, I turned and stalked into the woods. The bushes whacked against my arms and legs as I stomped towards the cabin, forgoing the actual path to cut a trail through some thimbleberry bushes. When I reached the leaning front porch, I stumbled on my way up the steps, landing on my knees. I covered my face and let the sobs overcome me.
How was it that life went on—clouds still dropped rain, sun still shone, plants kept growing, and water kept lapping up on the rocky shore—despite the fact that someone so monumental was gone forever?
“Come on,” a soft, warm voice comforted me from behind my back. Gentle hands took hold of my shoulders, helping me to my feet.
Blinking, I looked over my shoulder to find Jamie, his face tear-streaked, his hair mussed, and a streak of dirt on his cheek. “I’m fine,” I lied in a strangled voice, trying weakly to move away from his touch.“No, you’re not. None of us are.”
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About That Summer!