“You all right?”
I glance at Stan. His eyes are on the road ahead, and his voice is quiet. I don’t know why he’s even asking. Of course I’m not all right. “Fine,” I say.
He doesn’t ask anything else.
Mom would pry. She’d dig the secrets out of me with the dexterity of an archaeologist, leaving my feelings intact while letting the truth rise to the surface. Like I said, she knew my buttons.
Then again, Stan is a detective, so he can probably do the same thing. Maybe he doesn’t want to pry.
The dead heat of summer gives me a big wet kiss when I climb out of the car, reminding me why I don’t wear suits. Reminding me that I probably should have gotten a haircut when she asked me. My neck already feels damp, and I’m glad I didn’t mess with the tie.
I’ve never been to this church, a long, squat brick building with a steeple at one end and an aluminum roof. Stained glass windows glitter with the Stations of the Cross. Nice. Colorful depictions of suffering and torture. Great place. I don’t know why we’re having the funeral in a church anyway. Mom dragged me to church all the time when I was a kid, but we haven’t gone in years. Maybe she and Stan went. I don’t know.
Cops are everywhere. Clustered in groups clinging to the shade along the side of the building, off by the parking lot grabbing a quick smoke, slapping Stan on the shoulder. They ignore me. Good. Sort of.
The atmosphere is wrong here. There’s no sense of loss, no anguish and grief. I feel like I’m trapped in a glass box with my own twisting emotions, watching everyone else at a social event.
I don’t know anyone except Stan. I’m sure I met a few of these people at the wedding, but it was a small ceremony at the courthouse, and no one stands out. Mom’s two friends from back home called to tell me they couldn’t get time off again, couldn’t make the drive out for the second time in two weeks. I said fine, whatever. The only thing worse than being here alone would be mom’s friends treating me like a six-year-old who can’t get a straw into a juice box.
Everyone is standing in groups. Only one other guy is across the parking lot, standing under a tree. He’s not in uniform, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a cop. He’s built like one. He looks like he’s texting. Must really be feeling the loss.
He feels me watching him, because his eyes lift from his phone.
I look away before he can catch my gaze, then pull into the shade myself. It doesn’t help. Part of me wants to put a fist through this brick wall. Another part wants to run from here, to pretend none of this is happening.
Suspicious glances keep flicking my way, as if I’m the oddball here, instead of all the people who don’t even know the woman they’re supposed to be mourning.
Maybe it’s just me. Cops make me nervous. Always have. Maybe it’s a teenager thing, the way they always look at you like you’re on the cusp of doing something wrong. Maybe it’s the year Mom and I spent avoiding the law because Daddy was a very bad man, and we couldn’t risk any kind of trouble.
Maybe it’s the interrogation I had to sit through after finding Mom’s body.