Mallory arrived at the funeral home, and the funeral director met her at the door ushering her into the room where the wake would be held. The room was long and narrow; at one end the caskets were placed on opposite walls. It would allow, the funeral director noted, for her to be stationed in one spot and quickly greet visitors for both of her parents. The room had plenty of seating areas for mourners to congregate and participate in the memorial service that evening.
He wanted to make sure she had no questions or concerns, and then he left the room to give her some time alone. He could not help but feel a little sorry for her; a woman burying both of her parents at the same time and no one there to offer her love and encouragement. She saw the pity in his eyes as he turned away. Mallory sat down in the middle of the large couch at the front of the seating area. It was facing the end of the room where the caskets were situated. She noted how beautiful the casket sprays looked for each of them and took notice of the flag that was folded atop her father’s coffin. The area, on the far wall between the caskets, was filled with flowers and plants; Mallory was fixated on what she would do with everything at the conclusion of the service.
Mallory said a small prayer; she then thought about how sad it was that she couldn’t cry and felt an emptiness inside. She figured there would be a special place in hell for a child who does not mourn the death of her parents and wasn’t even able to muster a tear. After twenty minutes, Mallory stood and opened the doors to the room; letting the funeral director know that if visitors arrived they could enter.
Right at 3 pm, friends and neighbors began arriving. Mallory took her place at the front of the room and shook hands and accepted condolences. A few people commented on how grown up she looked and that they had missed seeing her in town. No one brought up the fact that her parents didn’t talk about her or that they knew she was disowned. But she was pretty sure that people were whispering about it as they congregated in different areas of the room. She hated the idea that she was the topic of gossip and conversation.
She took a deep breath, silently said another prayer and played her role for the next few hours.
~ * ~
Lisa Evans was reading the paper at her kitchen table when she was joined by Chris. He poured himself a cup of coffee and snatched the sports section to read the latest news about the Patriots. The two sat in silence reading peacefully when Lisa finally made it to the obituaries page.
“I see that the Turner’s viewing is today and the funeral is tomorrow,” she said without directly addressing Chris. “The viewing starts at 3 pm, and there is a memorial service at 6:30. You know it is horrible that she has to deal with losing them both at the same time.”
Chris didn’t respond, he just continued to read the paper and drink his coffee. After a few minutes, Lisa tried a more direct approach. “Have you changed your mind? Are you going to go and see her and offer your condolences?” Chris put the paper down and just glared at his mom for a moment; she was relentless in her quest to get him to see Mallory.
He figured he would shock her a little by revealing some information, “Were you aware that her fight with her parents was because of me?” Lisa shook her head, this was news to her. “Yeah, I talked to Josh and his parents were still friends with the Turners. He said that her parents thought I was a bad influence on her; I was going to make her quit school and shuffle off to Hollywood with me. They didn’t believe I was good enough for her.” Chris went back to reading the paper as if he had been recounting the weather instead of the reason for his break up all those years ago.
Lisa was shocked and found it difficult to form a response; it was not what she had anticipated hearing. “So they kicked her out because of you? Is that what you are saying?”
“Well, no, not exactly. Seems they told her to break up with me and she didn’t want to and continued to fight them on it. Because of the fight, they kicked her out. So yeah, it is weird and makes no sense, but this is what Josh said he was told and I believe him. We’ve been friends forever, and he wouldn’t lie to me.”
“Well regardless of the situation, her parents are gone, and you should go and see her. You need to get her out of your system, and that won’t happen until you confront her.”
“I don’t think I can do it; I’m just not sure I can look at her and walk away.”
~ * ~
It was almost time for the memorial service and Mallory had been standing in the front of the room all day. She was thankful that Darby made her wear comfortable shoes because if not her feet would be hurting much more than they were right now. Everyone was starting to get seated, and the condolence line had finally broken up. She moved to read a few of the cards on the flowers when she heard someone clear their throat behind her. She turned and stared for a moment before walking forward to embrace the man in front of her.
“Oh Josh, thank you for coming. It is nice to finally see a friendly face.” She pulled back and looked him over, “Oh my goodness you look gorgeous.”
“Well, you don’t look half bad yourself there kid,” He smiled at her. “I’m glad to see you again, Mallory, I just wish it was under different circumstances. I know everyone has said this today, but I am sorry about your folks.”
“Yeah I have heard that once or twice today,” She smiled and chuckled quietly. Her eyes began darting around the room, looking to see if she saw any other familiar faces. Her smile faded when she realized the person she was looking for was not there.
“I don’t think he is going to be here; when I talked to him the other day, he said he would not be coming.” She gave him a confused look. “Don’t deny it, you’re looking for Chris. Years have passed but that wound; it is still fresh, and I am not sure he is ready to see you. Actually, I think he wants to, but he doesn’t trust himself.”
The disappointment that she felt played across her face. She knew there was a chance that he would not be there, but she had held out a sliver of hope. “So he is in town then?
“Yeah, we got home yesterday; just wrapped production and he is going to be home for about six months. He will have a few award shows or events to go to, but overall he has some time off.”
“I’m glad to hear that his career is going well,” She looked down at her hands and began to fidget.
Josh reached for her hands and took them in his, “Look, I had to tell him that your fight with your parents was about him. I didn’t tell him the whole story, and I never said that I talk to you. He thinks I have information from my parents.” As if he feared who might overhear him, he took a quick look around the room as well. “I think you need to call him before you head home. Now, with your parents gone it might be the right time.”
“I am not sure; I don’t know that it would solve anything if I did. But I will think about it.”
She gave him another hug and, this time, it was a little tighter than the last. “Thank you, I am so glad you came here tonight, it means a lot.”
“I thought I would sit with you during the memorial service if you don’t mind. I just didn’t want you to go through the entire day alone.”
“That would be nice, thank you.” The two walked over and took a seat on the couch. Josh held her hand and provided a squeeze to show support. He also had a couple of his tissues in his shirt pocket in case she needed them.
Sitting with Josh was the first time she could say she had been at peace all afternoon. He was always a good friend to her; not to mention he was her lifeline to Chris. She only had to get through the next thirty minutes and then she could go home and have a glass of wine and a hot bath. Luckily the service began right on time. She was not an overly religious person, and neither were her parents, so it was a blessing that the service was brief.
She realized as the service ended that she had rested her head on Josh’s shoulder. She did it without even realizing it, and he never objected. He did note to himself that she never needed a tissue during the service and he had not seen her cry. She rose from the couch to say final goodbyes to some of the guests filing out of the room. She turned to Josh and again gave him a hug. It was hard to express to him how thankful she was, but she was going to try. “It really does mean a great deal to me that we are still friends. I know it is hard for you to be in the middle of Chris and me. But I am thankful that you are there and that you let me know how he is doing.” She stood back and looked up at Josh, making eye contact for a brief moment before he looked away. His brilliant green eyes were beginning to cloud over as if a storm was approaching. “Josh, what’s the matter you look like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”
He did not answer her, and she was confused as to what was happening. She slowly turned around, and he was standing in there, in the doorway, wearing a dark suit and the same clouded look in his eyes that she saw on Josh’s face.
He took a few steps forward and she froze; what was he doing here? He stood right in front of her, never taking his eyes off of Josh. Then she heard that deep velvety voice that used to whisper to hear all those years ago say, “Hello Mallory and Hello Josh.”
She blinked quickly to see if she was dreaming or if he was really in front of her. “Hello Chris, I honestly wasn’t expecting to see you.”
He never took his eyes off of Josh, “I argued with myself all day as to whether I should come or not. I have to admit I didn’t know if I wanted to see you. I finally decided, upon the advice of a friend, that if I didn’t take this opportunity, I might regret it later.”
Josh finally decided to say something, “I thought I would pay my respects, so she didn’t go through this all alone. I would have offered to bring you with me if I had known you were considering coming.” Josh looked down at Mallory; her eyes were fixed on Chris. “Hey Mal, I am going to leave so that you and Chris can talk. I will see you at the funeral tomorrow, okay?”
She nodded in acknowledgment but never looked at him. “I will see you tomorrow,” She squeaked out.
Josh walked out of the room, and Chris turned to make sure he was actually leaving. He could confront her on what he had witnessed, but that was not why he was there. He took another step towards her and nodded towards the caskets, “I am sorry to hear about their passing. Were you able to patch things up with them over the years?”
“Um, no we were still estranged. I had to come and bury them; I am their only living family in the eyes of the law. So I had no choice.”
He faced her and asked, “So what is going on with you and Josh?”
She gave him a surprised look, “Um, nothing is going on with Josh. We are friends, and he was here to offer condolences. It has been a long day, and I am emotionally drained; it was nice to have someone here for me.”
“I didn’t realize you two were still speaking to one another; he’s never mentioned it before.” There was agitation in his voice, and he was trying very hard to keep his emotions in check.
“We would talk from time to time; I asked him not to tell you because I didn’t want there to be any awkwardness between the two of you.”
“So has he known where you were all this time?”
“No, I never told him where I was. He gets an ‘a’ for effort, though; he asked every time.”
“But you asked about me?”
She hung her head, he had overheard the conversation, and she tried to think back to make sure she had not mentioned anything about Henry. “Yeah, I usually ask about you. I know you might not believe me, but I have regrets about how things ended with us and wish I could do a few things over.”
“Josh told me that your fight with your parents, when you left town, that it was about me. Is that right?”
“Yes, but it was only part of a larger fight; there were some other things that we were dealing with. But no, they didn’t like that we were dating.” She was not ready to talk to him about everything; however, she was not going to deny what he already knew from Josh.
Chris was a little uncomfortable talking to Mallory; he was cycling through emotions. He was jealous when he saw her head on Josh’s shoulder during the memorial service and was angry when he realized that they had evidently continued a relationship without him knowing it. Then came the rush of heat when he looked at her; looked into her eyes and spoke to her. She still had a hold on him, and he felt that if he just kissed her, they would be right back where they were all those years ago.
“Where have you been all of these years?” He finally had the courage to ask.
She could sense that he was nervous and she was mirroring his feelings. But she tried to remain even toned as she answered, “Atlanta, I moved in with my aunt. I transferred to a school down there and finished my degree then found a job and just settled in. I like it there; so different from Boston but it is now my home.”
“I have so many things I want to talk to you about and things I’d like to know but realize that right now is not the time or place. Is there any chance you would be willing to have lunch or dinner with me?” He could not believe the words came out of his mouth. It was as if his heart was doing all of the talking.
She had to admit she had not anticipated him to ask. “Yeah, I think I would like that. The funeral is tomorrow morning, and the reading of the will is the day after. So, just let me know when you would like to get together.”
“Ok, so when are you heading back to Atlanta?”
“Right now the plan is to leave on Sunday. My friends made the trip, and they have to drive back because of work; I can either ride with them or use my return ticket and fly out separately. Honestly, I haven’t thought about it yet because I wanted to wait to see what I might have to do after the will is read.”
“Oh, yeah I guess you need to know what is going on there.”
“Oh don’t get me wrong I don’t think I am getting anything. Chris, my parents, disowned me, so I am not in their will. I just don’t know if I have to clean out the house before it goes on the market or what the expectation will be for me in that regard.” Mallory looked up at him, she couldn’t help herself, those eyelashes and the faint hint of stubble made her body ache to touch him. She was lost in thought before she was able to say, “Would you mind walking me to my car?”
“No, I wouldn’t mind,” He said as he gestured toward the door. He let her lead, but he stayed in step with her. As she pressed the button on her key chain to unlock the car, he realized he was going to say goodnight to her. Something he wasn’t really ready to do; he was falling for her all over again.
“Thanks, Chris, I appreciate you walking me out. I didn’t really want to walk out in the dark by myself – guess I am just girly.”
“My pleasure,” He licked his lips and tried to think of what to say. “I’ll give you a call in the next few days to see if we can get together. Again, I’m really sorry about your parents.”
She flashed a smile and opened her car door. He stood by and watched as she started the car and pulled out of the parking lot; wondering to himself what he was getting himself into.