Chapter Six ~ The Funeral

Chapter Six ~ The Funeral

A Chapter by aubreydiamond

It had been two whole days since Luke’s passing, and still I wasn't ready to feel any better than I did when I found out. I'd practically spent the whole time in my bedroom, internalizing. I still couldn't wrap my head around it, but each day that passed I felt it sink in a little deeper.

My mum hadn't bothered to interfere or barge her way into my privacy. She may be a b***h but she was no fool, she knew how much I was hurting, and although the best she did was knock on my door, or leave food outside, I think this was her own weird way of showing that she was feeling guilty. Regardless, I was still pissed off at her.

On the morning of Luke’s funeral, I lay in bed scrolling through Facebook. I hadn't moved from my bed except from going to the toilet to vomit from the morning sickness that'd taken up residence in my body. It was a disgustingly painful reminder that I was pregnant, and that I still hadn't thought about what my next move was. I still didn't want to think about it.

An article on Luke’s death that was published earlier the previous day had popped up on my newsfeed. Carzel had shared it:

 

“A horrific car accident involving three cars on the main state highway, south of Auckland on Monday the 20th,  resulted in the deaths of an elderly man (Steve Arnold, 73) and a teenage boy (Luke Hartley, 19)

The impact of the crash was caused due to intoxication, but it is believed there were gang altercations leading to a high speed chase and this messy result. An autopsy and forensic evidence shows the two fatal victims of the crash were both sober. The third driver, who was suspected to have gang affiliations managed to escape the scene before authorities arrived.

Their whereabouts are currently unknown. If you have any information regarding this case please call 111 immediately.

The funeral for Mr Steve Arnold commences on Wednesday, and the Funeral for Mr Luke Hartley will begin today.

This is a sobering reminder to take extra care on the roads during holiday periods. Our sincerest thoughts and condolences to the families affected.

-Samantha Wilson”

 

An image of what used to be one of the vehicles showed it smashed and scarily bent out of shape. I didn't recognise it as Luke’s, but it still gave me a horrible shiver that shook me to my core.

So they managed to catch Luke and kill an old man in the process. What pieces of absolute s**t. I wanted to find them myself and wrap my hands around their throat. But as Luke used to say, violence is not the answer.

I didn't want to get up. I didn't want to face the day. This day had been looming closer, and now it was here, I wanted to bury myself in the sheets and vanish from existence. I'd already snoozed my alarm too many times to count, and there was unread messages and missed calls on my phone from both Juniper and Zeb.

 

[BERRY: 1hour ago

You awake hun? X

 

BERRY: 55minutes ago

Hope I'm not disturbing you. Did you want me to come over before we go? X

 

ZEB: 53minutes ago

Hey babes. You all good? Silly question I know. Just hope you're alright. I’ll happily come along with you today if you want support? X

 

ZEB: 27minutes ago

Just got in contact with Berry. I can come with her? X

 

BERRY: 26minutes ago

Zeb is gonna come over with me, is that all good with you? X

 

BERRY: 16minutes ago

(1) Missed Calls.

 

ZEB: 10minutes ago

(4) Missed Calls

 

ZEB: just now

We’re coming anyway xx]

 

I felt bad for not responding, but I didn't know what to reply. I didn't want to sound fake and say I was okay when I wasn't. I also didn't want to bring them down with my depressiveness. They already did so much for me as it is. But I just wanted the world to go away. But I owed it to Luke to go. I owed his memory the love and respect that I still felt, no matter what state I was in.

I pulled the duvet off of me and felt the air touch my body for the first time in a while. I leaned off of the bed and took a deep breath. I can do this.

Very slowly, I dressed myself in blue jeans and a big baggy navy sweater that felt like I was wearing my duvet. I didn't care if you were supposed to wear black to a funeral; I was wearing Luke's colours. Black always made me feel heavy, and I was heavy enough as it is.

My ghastly reflection caught me by surprise when I walked past my mirror. I looked like s**t! No wonder I didn't feel like myself, I didn't look like Aroha Hinerangi. That scared me.

I reached for the top drawer in my desk where I stored all my makeup. Single palettes of contour shades and eye shadows lay practically untouched. I didn't experiment too much with makeup but I always had it there. But this time I only took my foundation and sponge and shut the drawer.

As soon as I opened the foundation bottle, the scent of the chemicals pierced my nostrils and plummeted into my stomach. I dropped the bottle, spilling some of the creamy liquid on the carpet. But I didn't have time, my stomach was in my throat, and I’d only just made it to the toilet before it burst out of my mouth.

I had nothing substantial in my system to vomit other than water and soup. But my body wasn't giving up rejecting the aroma of the foundation; I continued dry reaching until I could catch my breath and force it to stop.

The floor of the bathroom was so cold and refreshing; I had to squish my face against it to relieve the intense hot flush that was coming over me. This was so s**t. My throat was on fire and my stomach was hollow and sore. I needed to eat something, but any strong smell was setting me off. God, why do some women choose to do this?

There was a knock on my door. I thought it was Juniper and Zeb arriving, but my mum’s voice called out to me from behind it.

‘Aroha? Aroha, are you awake?’ She called. There was a softer tone to her voice, but she was still using her usual sharp tongue.

‘I'm going to work,’ she continued. ‘Are you planning on getting up today? There’s still food out here… I know the funeral is today… I…’ she trailed off. This must've been very difficult for her. ‘Text me if you need anything,’ She finished.

The familiar sound of her heels told me she was descending the staircase. I heard them stop for a few seconds, and then continue. The front door opened and shut, followed by the ignition of her car started, and she was off.

I sighed to myself, I was always relieved once she'd left the house and had taken the tension with her. Having the house to myself was a luxury when I didn't have anywhere else to be, but I did, and I had to keep telling myself that I could do it. Once I'd gotten off the cold bathroom floor tiles.

I gave myself a second to stop my head spinning before i flushed the toilet, washed my hands and went back to my room.

I've never been lost like this, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed wondering what to do next. I should've just stayed in bed.

Remembering the multitude of texts I hadn't responded to, I pulled my phone out and opened one of Juniper’s messages to respond. Before I'd started typing however, the front door opened, and a set of footsteps started ascending the stairs towards my room.

I got up off the bed and opened the door. Juniper and Zeb jumped slightly as I stood in front of them. Judging from their faces I could tell they were looking at me and the lack of effort I'd put into my appearance this morning.

Jesus,’ Zeb said, looking between me and the three cups of soup and cold toast outside my door.

‘Hey,’ I said quietly to them. I walked back into the room and they followed behind me. They were both dressed in smart black outfits; Juniper had a long black maxi-dress with a short jacket accenting. Zeb was wearing a black kimono with skinny jeans and another oversized top. I felt underdressed.

‘Sorry I didn't reply,’ I said as Juniper perched on the edge of the bed. Zeb was looking at the spilt foundation on the floor looking confused.

‘It's alright,’ Juniper said. ‘Sorry for harassing you. We just had to make sure you were alright.’

I smiled half-heartedly at her to show my thanks. I wasn't really alright though. The truth had sunk in now, but there was still sadness that wasn't draining away.

‘Aw, darling,’ Juniper put her hand out and rubbed my back in circular motions. ‘How’s your mum been?’ She asked.

‘Fantastic,’ I joked. ‘I kinda yelled at her yesterday. She was having a go at me about Luke and school, so I told her he was dead.’ It felt weird saying it so casually.

‘S**t, how did she take that?’ Zeb asked, leaning against my desk.

‘She didn't have very much to say after that. I haven't spoken to her since. She only just left about five minutes ago.’

‘I wondered why the front door was unlocked.’ Juniper said. That wasn't like my mother to leave the house open…

‘I can't be around her at the moment.’ I said.

‘You are always welcome to come and stay at my place for a while if you need it,’ Juniper offered.

‘You have a full house as it is though, I don't want to intrude.’

‘Are you kidding? You're family. Mum would have you over in a heartbeat.’

‘And failing that,’ Zeb said, ‘there's room at mine. If you can handle my brothers, but it's there if you need it.’

‘Thank you both.’ I didn't want to keep dumping my s**t on them, but they were taking stress off my shoulders without asking me or thinking twice. I had such incredible friends.

‘What time does the funeral start?’ I asked, knowing that I had read it somewhere. Even remembering things was an effort.

‘10 o'clock,’ Zeb replied. My phone read 9:24am. My heart lurched knowing that in less than an hour, Luke’s final farewell would be starting.

‘What do you need to do to get ready?’ Juniper asked, sitting up straight and looking ready to do whatever she was required to make this morning easier.

‘I pretty much am ready,’ I said, not bothering to worry about any other aspect of dressing myself.

‘Umm, no you're not,’ Zeb said looking at me. He went into my makeup drawer and grabbed a couple of tubes and palettes. He sat next to me on the edge of the bed and began setting up the makeup. ‘Do you have a blending sponge?’

‘It's on the floor.’

‘Who puts their sponges on the floor?’ He exclaimed, leaping off the bed and picking it up along with the foundation bottle. I could see him looking at the tan blobs on carpet. ‘Did you drop this or something?’

‘Yeah. It was the smell,’ I said. ‘Made me puke.’

Juniper gave me a look of sympathy, but Zeb looked utterly confused. It was in this very moment that I realised I hadn't told Zeb I was pregnant. Juniper was the only human I'd told, and her reserved face told me she was pretending she didn't know anything until I gave her the all clear to talk about it. But we didn't even need to; Zeb was looking at our dumb-founded faces and had put two and two together himself.

S**t,’ he whispered, ‘F**k. Fuuuuuck.’ He dropped the foundation bottle. Zeb was very strong within himself and his emotions, but I could see this news had shocked him, especially once he'd clicked that the baby was Luke's, and what we were about to do today. ‘Have you told your mum?’

F**k no!’ I exclaimed. ‘I don't want to be murdered before I figure out what to do next.’

‘True… I take it you're not sure whether or not you want to… you know…’ Zeb trailed off.

‘Keep it or abort it?’ I finished for him. ‘No, I have no idea what I'm going to do. I just want to get through today first.’

‘Right. Fair enough,’ he said. I could tell as he was mucking around with the makeup that he was heavily internalising everything. This didn't stop him from asking me to sit still as he began gently patting the foundation on my skin. It felt nicer having someone else do it for me, and I could block the smell out a bit easier.

‘Do we know how many people are going to be there?’ I asked, thinking about large crowds of emotional people and how much I would rather not immerse myself in it.

‘Quite a few people I think,’ said Juniper. ‘A lot of the school is coming. I don't know about anyone else though. His family I'm presuming?’

‘His mother will show up once she's finishing selling her tinnies… sorry,’ Zeb said to me. I didn't know Luke’s mother at all, but it wasn't any secret that she deals weed. The stoners from school would buy off of her, but she was always made fun of for being the crazy gardening lady. Didn't stop any of them from buying pot through her though.

Zeb stepped back after he’d finished my makeup and was satisfied with his handy-work. When I looked in the mirror, it was like I had reunited with past self. I had Colour and life in my skin, even though it was just cosmetics, it looked so natural and normal. Call me superficial, but it actually made me feel more like myself.

‘Thank you,’ I said to Zeb and gave him a hug. He wasn't the most affectionate person, but I'd learnt over time to just force my love onto him. I felt his skinny arm pat me on the back like I was a strange child hugging someone they didn't know very well.

‘Are you wearing that?’ He said looking at my outfit.

‘I was planning on it.’

‘Mmm…’

He and Juniper both started going through my clothes and trying out different colour and pattern combinations after I told them I didn't want to wear black. Eventually they'd managed to convince me to wear a casual blue dress with flowers on it. I turned down everything else. I still wanted to be comfortable though, so I put the oversized sweater over the dress. Although my stomach wasn't showing anything, having it covered and protected just made me feel better.

Yes, I am wearing this,’ I said firmly to Zeb who opened his mouth to retaliate, but thought better of it.

It was now 9:40, the funeral was drawing nearer, and whether I was ready or not, it was almost time to go.

‘Just gonna run to the loo before we go,’ Zeb said and darted out of the room.

‘Got everything?’ Juniper asked me, standing near the doorway. I looked around at the room but all I needed was my phone. Nothing here was of importance today.

‘Yep.’ I said, taking a deep breath in.

‘I've got something for you,’ Juniper said sweetly, and reached into her shoulder bag. She pulled out a black, plaited string at least a foot long. I was watching her a bit confused, but then i saw the chunky pink stone wrapped fishnet style, swinging from her palm. She was holding it out for me to take.

‘This is… for me?’ I said.

‘Of course it's for you,’ she said smiling. ‘It's Rose Quartz.’

‘Oh, Berry,’ I could feel my eyes welling up slightly. ‘Thank you so much.’

‘Mum picked the crystal and I made the string and secured it. It's the stone of unconditional love. I thought out of anyone at the moment, you deserved a bit of extra love.’

I couldn't speak anymore I was so overwhelmed - in a good way. I just stepped forward and gave her a silent hug that I know she understood. When we broke she rubbed my shoulder, then wiped a single tear from her cheek.

‘Let’s go aye?’ She made her way to the stairs where Zeb met her halfway down.

I pulled the loop hole over my head and tightened the string. The stone landed directly over my heart with a gentle thud. I wouldn't say I was the most spiritual person, but I could feel a gentle warmth coming from the stone that I couldn't help notice. It felt really nice.

I walked down the stairs and the others were waiting patiently at the door for me. They opened the door, and after slipping my sandals on I locked it from inside and shut the door behind me.

This was the first time I'd been outside since id arrived home the other day. The fresh air felt good in my lungs and the sun on my face was very welcome.

Parked where Mum usually parks her car was the black vehicle that Zeb was dropped off in for Hayleigh’s birthday.

‘Who’s car is this?’

‘Damon's. He May or may not know that I'm driving it,’ Zeb replied hopping in the driver’s seat with an I-don't-give-a-f**k expression. Damon was Zeb’s older brother. He had great love for his cars, evident by how immaculate and shiny this one was. Zeb was living rather dangerously.

Juniper automatically hopped in the back, freeing the front passenger’s seat for me. I opened the door and felt the stuffy heat from inside spill out over me, making me feel queasy. The leather seat just about burnt my a*s as I sat down too, so I waited until Zeb had started the car before shutting my door and winding down the window.

We reversed out of the driveway and drove off, heading straight for McClean Gardens on the beach front. Zeb flicked the radio on and skipped through every station, commenting on each stations s**t choice of music, before flicking it off. He handed me his phone and the AUX cord to play something from his phone. Estelle was last playing, so I pressed the sideways triangle and just about gave myself a heart attack when the music blasted at max volume.

‘SORRY!’ Zeb cried spinning the volume wheel rapidly. ‘Stupid brother. No wonder he can't hear jack s**t.’

Zeb turned the corner onto the main road, and we drove onwards listening to the chilled out melodies.

 

McClean Gardens was humming when we arrived. I wasn't expecting to see so many people walking in through the entry gates. There were easily a couple hundred people, and they were all dressed in black looking sombre.

My heart rate began to increase again as I told myself that I could do it, and to be strong. Zeb and Juniper would be beside me the whole way.

We pulled up in the only available car park in the area, and hopped out onto the hot concrete.

We waited for Zeb to lock the car and join us before we started walking.

Here we go.

I felt quite out of place wearing colours. A few people looked in my direction when my floral dress caught their attention, a few muttered to their friends who looked back in my direction. I forgot I was going to be seen as the grieving girlfriend by almost everyone here, little did they know what else was going on…

Zeb walked in front of me to block me from the sight of those staring. He gave them an intimidating grunt which made them embarrassed and look the other way.

‘Take a f*****g photo,’ he muttered under his breath. God I love him.

Juniper had linked her arm with mine when we entered the Gardens. Once inside, I remembered how huge McClean Gardens were. Signposts with maps of the park were every fifty metres or so, as people had a tendency to get lost within the tracks. The park even had its own cemetery, which was the reason we were all here.

People were sort of scattered all over the place which told me the ceremony hadn't started yet. There were huddled groups of varying ages, mostly younger people. I recognised most of them as others from school. Hayleigh was standing not too far from me with her friends Olivia and Channel. They looked like they didn't want to be here. A larger group of boys who I knew were somewhat friends with Luke, most of who were on the island that night, were standing in an exclusive circle. Most of the sporty guys, Caspian, Brett, Marco, Carlos, all looking smart in their black dress shirts and shoes. They were the most reserved and well-behaved I'd ever seen them. The impeccably long and rustic dreaded head of Carzel was just visible over Marco’s head. We walked a little closer and he lifted his head and spotted us approaching. He broke away from the guys and made a b-line for us immediately. He looked like how I did earlier this morning.

His bottom lip trembled as he approached me, and I found myself hugging him without any words spoken. If there was anyone feeling anything remotely close to how I felt, it was Carzel. Our hug shared the same sadness and loss that I was feeling inside, it brought me back down to earth a bit and made me realise I wasn't the only person struggling to come to terms with this.

When we separated, I found myself wanting to ask him how he was or if he was okay, but these were self-explanatory questions. Instead we just gave each other grim smiles, and squeezed each other's hands. Juniper was rubbing Carzel’s back, something she was an expert of.

‘Thanks, June,’ Carzel sniffled. Juniper smiled in response, she was holding back tears. I knew her well, and could tell the amount of sad people in one space was quite overwhelming for her. But that didn't stop her from sharing her kind heart to those who mattered.

The four of us stood in our little circle observing the crowd. An older woman had begun to hand out the programmes, and took her sweet time doing so. When she eventually got us, I almost snatched it out of her hands to have a look.

The front of the folded card was an incredibly beautiful, charming and handsome photo of Luke. He was wearing a baby blue tuxedo and his cheeky grin I knew all too well. This was from the night of my school dance. He was so excited to wear his tuxedo and show me, I remember the way he modelled it like a Victoria’s secret angel up and down the hallway, campy and silly. I remember how stunning he was when we danced, and how he made me feel like we were the only people there. The dork even had a rose in his mouth just for a laugh. And made me laugh it did.

The caption below the photo read “Luke Jack Hartley ~ 17.03.99-20.01.18 ~ gone but not forgotten”

The inside of the programme was only one sided, and listed where the service would take place, and what time it started. I'd only been to a few funerals in my life, but I knew there was usually songs and a line-up of chosen family members to speak, followed by the actual burial. This seemed very vague, and almost rushed.

Zeb was looking at the programme with a raised eyebrow and I knew he was thinking the same thing. I folded mine up and stowed it in the pocket of my sweater. It was the photo I wanted more than anything else.

Looking around, I saw a girl standing a little behind us by herself. She was looking around almost as if she were lost, but saw me and gave me a half-smile. It took me a moment to realise that it was Chloe. She walked slowly towards me, a little hesitant of the hordes of people.

‘Hi,’ she said quietly. ‘I'm really sorry for your loss.’ She said. It sounded rehearsed, but nonetheless I appreciated it.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I didn't realise you knew Luke?’

‘I didn't really.  My father is the funeral director.’ She said, though that didn't explain why she was here.

‘Oh, right,’ I said. ‘What made you want to come along then?’ I knew she was quite socially awkward. I would have thought this was enough people to put her off. It almost put me off.

‘I thought I'd pay my respects… seeing as I did know who he was…’ She looked uncomfortable with the whole situation, but I still thought that was very sweet of her, considering half of the school who bullied her was here.

‘Thanks, Chloe,’ I said. I invited her to come and stand with us but she was adamant she was happy where she was. I wasn't going to argue with that.

We stood under the shade of the parks trees for another ten minutes or so, quietly talking to one another. A low, deep rumble became louder and the people began looking around for the noise maker. When I saw it, I felt my whole body cover itself in goose bumps. The hearse had arrived.

The long black vehicle slowly pulled into the Gardens main gates, forcing groups of people to part as it drove through the crowd. As it passed me, I saw my reflection staring back of its tinted windows. Knowing that Luke’s coffin was inside was an unsettling truth.

The hearse continued down the entry path and pulled up in a small courtyard a little further down from where we were standing. Everyone was silent now, looking towards the new arrival. A man wearing his funeral-uniform hopped out of the hearse with a couple of other men that I had never seen before. I assumed that one of them must have been Chloe's father. They opened the boot of the vehicle, and wasted no time.

There it was. A long, wooden box that was holding the lifeless body of Luke was only metres away from me. I felt my knees tremble, but Juniper had put both arms around me to hold me up as we watched. Zeb’s warm hand was rested on my shoulder. If they weren't here I would have already fallen apart.

The men pulled the coffin out of the hearse completely, and sharing the weight, carried it slowly through the crowd towards a set of stone stairs just around the corner from the crowd. The ocean of black jackets and shoes ambled after them in silence.

Climbing the stone steps up and over a hill took much longer than I thought, but this was a good thing. I was happy taking my time. Juniper was walking along side me, fingers entwined around my own. Zeb was behind us, and Carzel was in front walking with his mother and his three other siblings, arms around each other in support.

When we reached the top of the stairs, we found ourselves in a huge open patch of grass. There were several rows of seats set up in front of where the men had lowered the coffin, though clearly not enough for the amount of people here. A little further past the seats an old wire fence was visible, and just past that was the cemetery where Luke’s body would soon be put to rest.

There was something quite peaceful and beautiful about being outside for the service. I knew Luke would have been pleased with his. He would have risen from the dead if this had been hosted in a church. He was always very passionately atheist.

It took the crowd another ten or so minutes to figure out where they wanted to position themselves. People were debating whether or not they were significant enough to take up some of the seats. I probably could have been, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself. We were standing off to the side slightly under the shade of a tree, and decided not to move from here.

An elderly couple were sitting right up the front, looking impatient to get on with it. I wondered if they were Luke's grandparents… Carzel and his family took up a whole row of seats several back from the front. I know whole heartedly that they deserved to be there. Carzel caught my eye and gestured me to join them, but I shook my head and pointed to the ground that I was happy here. He gave me a thumbs up and turned to face the front, where a man was shuffling what looked like prompt cards waiting for the crowd to settle so he could begin.

Ahem.’

No one heard him over the flurry of whispers and chatter. He looked a little impatient waiting for everyone to shut up. This man was definitely Chloe's father; he had the same frizzy blonde hair that she did and wore an identical expression of awkwardness.

‘Hello everyone,’ he said quietly. Still no one heard him. He was looking very uncomfortable.

‘EVERYONE SHUT UP!’ The old woman in the front row stood and yelled at the crowd. She sat back down without another word and the man continued while everyone looked a bit taken aback.

‘Hello everyone,’ he repeated. ‘Thank you for coming out today. My name is John, and I've been given the honour of performing this eulogy today - on behalf of the Raumu funeral home we would like to extend or sincerest condolences and support to those deeply affected by this tragedy.

‘We are here today to celebrate the life of Jack Hartley, who's time in our world has sadly come to an abrupt end,’ he said, glancing up and down from his cue-cards. I've never seen so many faces turn silently angry as the man failed to realise he’d said the wrong name. Zeb and Juniper were shaking their heads along with most of the other people. I heard a few people call out ‘Luke! Not Jack!’ But not loud enough for him to hear, He simply continued to read the eulogy.

‘… Jack was a kind hearted and polite young man with much potential. He enjoyed his sports, friends, music and school, and will be missed dearly by many people…’

Where did this d****e get this crap come from? Google!?’ Zeb whispered in my ear.

He may as well be reading a eulogy for a dead cat off a cereal box. I knew more about Luke than this tosser did, like his actual name for starters. Yes Luke liked those things he listed, but what about his favourite song from the Beatles, (Come together)? Or how his favourite colour was blue because it reminded him of his childhood teddy, blu the whale? Or that when we would eat out he would never ask for his tomato sauce on the side because he didn't want to be rude, despite his severe tomato allergy. It almost felt like a mockery of his memory, and I was not the only person fucked off about it. Carzel and his entire family looked furious. I'd hate to be John right now; you didn't need to be an empath to feel everyone's energy right now.

As John continued rambling on, I zoned out and started looking around at the crowd. Everyone was staring at the front with unimpressed expressions; this'll be one they'll talk about for years. But my eyes were caught by someone arriving from the top of the stairs; it was Luke’s mother.

If I thought I looked out of place in my flowery dress, she made me blend in much easier; she wore grass-stained ripped blue jeans that were rolled up at the bottom, emphasising how short she was. Despite the hot weather she was wearing a cheap grey zip-up hoodie, and had her greasy red hair in a tight ponytail. She looked terrible. If I thought I looked like s**t, I was kidding myself.

I'd never seen someone with skin so pale and sallow; her cheeks were gaunt and almost collapsing in on themselves. Her eyes were hooded heavily and holding up heavy, dark bags, and she looked much older than she really was. Even though I'd only met her once, she looked almost exactly the same as i remember, but much more defeated.

She trudged through the crowd, cigarette in hand, not looking at anyone or acting sorry for being late to her own sons funeral. She took a seat that was furthest away from anyone and puffed away. I could see several pairs of eyes roll at her, one of them being Carzel’s mother, but she was none the wiser. She was staring at the coffin, not breaking her gaze. I couldn't imagine what was going through her head right now.

Once the initial shock of her arrival had died down, John continued with the pathetic speech which thankfully didn't have too much more until he closed it off, and offered anyone a chance to stand up and say anything if they desired.

Carzel was the first to his feet. He made his way rather quickly up to the front of the group, followed by one of his younger brothers. I saw him say something to John on his way past; who went very pink and disappeared in the crowd straight afterwards.

‘Jack was like a brother to me,’ he started, making the crowd giggle. ‘I remember when I first met him in kindy. I got really annoyed with him because his picture of a great white shark was way better than mine and he got stickers for it. I put wet sand down his pants as revenge for being more talented than me,’ Carzel grinned and the crowd laughed. ‘Needless to say we were super tight after that. I even think he made an effort to make his pictures worse than what they could of been so I didn't get upset. That was Luke in a nutshell; he just always wanted everyone to get along and to be happy.

‘Living with him was a riot. Some of the best years, they were. He was our voice of reason when we wanted to get up to no good, but he would surprise us sometimes. One time we snuck… actually i probably shouldn't say that one,’ he grinned. The crowd laughed again. Luke’s mother was still sitting stone-faced looking at the coffin.

‘It's hard to think that those times are long gone now,’ Carzel continued. ‘For someone so full of life, we weren't expecting you to go like this…’ I could hear his voice crack at the end, and see the glisten of tears as he spoke. His young brother had his hand on Carzel's back, who was now trying so hard to keep his tears back.

‘I love you, bro,’ he said facing the coffin, ‘I'm sorry s**t turned out like this.’ I knew he would've been referring to the last time he saw Luke, and I know He would've been really struggling to accept that their fight had carried on into death.

Carzel touched the coffin with a hand and muttered something I couldn't hear. He then wiped his eyes and joined his family back in the seats.

Surprisingly, John appeared back at the front of the crowd.

‘I now welcome immediate family and friends to come to the cemetery where we will begin the burial.’

Before the funeral workers had a chance to get to the coffin, Carzel and his brothers had already made their way to it and were all carrying it to the graves. Luke’s mother got out of her seat and marched after the coffin, still ignoring everyone as she went. Juniper, Zeb and myself followed the smaller crowd until we were all standing within the allocated plot of land.

It was quite a large and beautiful graveyard; it wasn't put on a flat piece of land, the ground rose and fell with the natural shape of the land and also had an incredible view of the ocean and the island from here. It was really a beautiful place to put him to permanent rest, it almost felt like we weren't in Raumu.

We formed a semi-circle around the rectangular hole that had been dug in preparation earlier that day. Yellow straps lay beside the hole; Carzel and his brothers rested the coffin on top of them, and grabbed the excess strap from each side, hoisted the heavy box over and lowered it slowly into the earth.

Just when I thought I was okay, the tears came again. I watched them lower the love of my life into the earth, and begin to shovel the fresh soil on top until the coffin was no longer visible.

Juniper and Zeb were both hugging me from the side in a tight, loving embrace. The three of us stood where we were until the hole was now a level mound with the earth around us.

Luke was now a part of the earth, and it was over.

The others in the graveyard silently said their goodbyes and walked back towards the bigger crowd, now dispersing back down the stairs, until it was just us three and Luke's mother.

I wanted to go and talk to her, but i couldn't remember her name for starters, and she didn't look like she wanted to engage with anyone. She just starred at the earthy mound, looking completely empty.

I wanted to tell her what Luke was to me, what I was to him, but I couldn’t guarantee she’d give two s***s. I couldn't tell her I was currently carrying her potential grandchild either, that was a whole other story that I wasn't going to divulge yet. Especially not right now.

‘Valerie,’ said a man’s voice. John was standing a little behind us holding a small piece of paper, looking at Luke’s mother. She turned her head to look at him. I’d never seen a death stare like this before. He became visibly more nervous.

‘I… uh… it’s just…’

What?’ Valerie snapped. She was clearly not interested.

‘The bill…’ he said, handing the piece of paper to her. For a second, I thought she was going to burst into laughter. But she took the piece of paper from his hands and read it in silence, before ripping it into several pieces and throwing them into the air.

‘We’ll talk later. Yeah?’ John called after her as she stormed away towards the stairs. Valerie didn't even acknowledge she’d heard him.

F**k,’ Zeb muttered under his breath watching Valerie disappear.

‘I don't suppose one of you would be able to get this to her?’ John said, turning to us, handing a copy of the bill that he must've had in preparation in case Valerie did exactly what she just did.

‘I don't know if I’ll be able to but I can try?’ I said, speaking before thinking. I took the bill and John walked away rather quickly, clearly in a hurry to get out of here. I didn't blame him.

Holy s**t!’ I exclaimed, reading the time piece of paper.

‘What?’ Juniper said peering over my shoulder.

‘Five thousand dollars for today? It's in a public park for f**k sakes!’

‘That's not even that bad for a funeral,’ Juniper said. ‘My dad’s was thirty grand.’

‘Who the f**k can afford to die these days?’ Zeb said. ‘Can we go? I need a durry.’

I stowed the bill in my pocket with the programme. Before we left the grave, I stood before it and said my final farewells to Luke in my head. It was hard to think he was seven feet beneath my feet, and that his memory was all that existed of him now. I guess you could call it closure, but I still felt like I was floating through limbo. And I didn't have a map.

I had absolutely no idea how I was going to manage to give Valerie the bill. I don't even know why I said I could, now that I was really think about it I totally regretted it. I was going to have to confront Valerie and most likely tell her who I am. And to top it off slam her with a five thousand dollar bill. Nice way to introduce yourself to someone.

Juniper, Zeb and I walked down the stone steps much faster than we did arriving as almost everyone had gone already. It was only 11am.

Once we’d reached the car, Zeb pulled out a cigarette and leaned against the vehicle, happily smoking away with gusto. Juniper and I watched the cars drive away in different directions until there were only a few cars left.

I felt exhausted already. I'd only been out of the house not even two hours and I felt like I'd worked a full day shift. It even felt like the afternoon. As much as I felt like it, I really didn't want to go home. The thought of having to be around my mother when she got home was even more draining to think about. I needed my friends who know what I need better than I do at the moment.

‘Arie, there’s Valerie,’ Juniper said.

Across the road where we were standing, Valerie was marching towards her car at the other end of the car park. It had a red door, a blue bonnet and a white body; it'd definitely seen better days.

‘Should I?’ I said, hoping they'd talk me out of it. But Juniper encouraged me to go over and talk to her. I took a breath, and walked across the street.

She was frowning to herself so much that she hadn't noticed me approaching her. She stopped at her car door and started fumbling with her keys.

F**k… F*****g c**t…’

‘Um, Valerie?’ I said.

‘If you want weed you're gonna have to wait till tomorrow. I'm out,’ she snapped.

‘Oh, no it's okay. I mean… Hi, uh- I’m Aroha…’

She spun around and looked me up and down with wide eyes, but didn't seem to recognise me at all.

‘… Okay?’ She said, cigarette bobbing in between her lips.

‘Aroha…’ i said again. ‘I was Luke’s girlfriend.’

She looked even more surprised when I said this, but going by the next look she gave me she definitely didn't recognise me.

‘Okay. And what do you want?’

‘Oh… I, uh… just wanted to come and introduce myself,’ I said. ‘I'm really sorry about Luke.’

‘Well unless you had anything to do with it, I don't know why you're sorry,’ she said coldly. ‘But thanks. You two were close, yeah?’

‘We we're together since primary school.’

‘Hmm. Never mentioned you,’ she said turning back to unlock her car door. ‘What does it matter now anyway?’

I didn't really know what to say to her. I just sort of stood there with my mouth open, trying to talk. She turned back around.

‘Do you want something?’ She was getting angrier.

‘I- no.’

She turned away from me, hopped in her car and reversed so close to me I thought she was going to knock me down as she went. The motor of her car was loud, grunty and in need of replacement, clattering horribly as she drove off up the road and out of sight.

Jesus, what a b***h. I didn't even give her the bill. Not that I could of. What is it with mothers?

Just as I thought that my phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and was disappointed to see a message from mum. Speak of the devil and she shall appear…

 

[MUM:

Can you put washing on when youre home and get dinner out thanks]

 

Classic Paula reverse-psychology. Give me space and then act like nothing has happened at all. I put my phone back in my pocket, feeling myself becoming really angry, very quickly. I wanted to scream, punch something. I was sick of this day, this whole F*****g week.

‘I'm just gonna go to the beach quickly. I'll be back.’ I said to Juniper and Zeb from the other side of the road.

‘Okay?’ Zeb said confused, but I'd already started to march towards the beach. I needed to remove myself, I'd somewhat held it together to this point but I needed to burst, but I didn't want to do that to my friends who didn't deserve it.

I got to the beach very quickly, sand flying through my sandals and up my legs, but I didn't care. I kept walking until I found a spot far away enough to just -

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

I screamed at the top of my lungs and forced every ounce of anger, frustration and tension out into the world. A woman down on the beach front looked up towards me very startled but it didn't bother me; damn that felt so good.

I fell back into the sand and closed my eyes. It sucked when I thought about the events from the past week; if this isn't the fucken pits then I don't know what is. But I needed to push through this, I wasn't going to let this feeling and these experiences swallow me whole. I wanted to go back to how I felt and pretend like none of this happened, but that wasn't the reality I lived in. And that was a hard truth that I had to take small bites from, but wanted to eat.

I grabbed the Rose Quartz from around my neck and squeezed it in my palm. I could feel the criss-cross net that it was sitting in, all of Juniper’s knots and handicraft and how it delicately wrapped around the beautiful stone.

And then I had a moment of clarity. Somehow, something in my being shifted. I definitely felt like I was supposed to have this, like it represented this time in my life and was charged with the strength to press through it. I also felt like it was Luke in a way. He was my love, and now I wear him around me and over my heart. He is gone, but he is still with me.

 

I will always be with you, Aroha.

 

I lay there for a while. Listening to the ocean waves with my eyes closed. Clutching the Rose Quartz until the stone became hot from my grip.

I can do this.

I got to my feet and stretched, feeling like I'd just had a nap. Before I could leave the beach however my phone buzzed once more in my pocket. If I only knew who that could be…

 

[MUM:

Also I think we should sit down tonight and make a serious plan regarding this year and what you want to achieve. I have some ideas, but we will talk when I'm home]

 

Strangely, this didn't piss me off at all. I recognised it as her weird mental games of making sure she was always in charge and that I fell in line where I needed to. But not this time. This time, I was ready to speak up for myself.

I pressed her name on my phone and a phone icon popped up. I pressed it, and it began to dial her number.

I listened to the ringing tone for a while, before the sudden distant background noise of offices and people talking started.

‘H-Hello?’ She said sounding very surprised to receive a call from me at this time.

‘Hi. I was just calling instead of responding to your messages.’ I said very factually.

… Look now is not really a good time, Aroha. Can this wait until home?’

‘No. It can't actually. Because I won't be at home tonight.’ My heart was pounding, but I was silently encouraging myself to keep going.

What? Where are you going?’

‘I'm not going to tell you because I seriously need space right now. Space from you.’

…’

I need to start making decisions for myself because I don't think you really understand me, or what's going on in my life right now. I'll come home when I feel ready.’

Aroha…’

I hung up. I was in part shock and part glee with myself for standing up to her like that. But I realised it needed to happen, it wasn't worth the energy I didn't have when she wasn't aware of how she was controlling me. Not when I am the only person I need to worry about right now.

I felt a little bit of Luke when I was talking to her. He was always so confident in making his point known without being aggressive, something I’d learned off him. I could almost see him smiling at me.

I turned around and set back off towards the car, where I had almost forgotten I'd left my friends suddenly. But they were still there, leaning on the car talking, Zeb probably on his third cigarette.

‘There you are!’ Juniper exclaimed, spotting me approaching them.

‘Where the f**k did you go?’ Zeb said, ‘you look like you just got laid- s**t, sorry…’

‘It's okay,’ I laughed. They both looked surprised to see me smiling. ‘Sorry, i just needed to vent out some s**t.’

‘It's all good girl, I do it all the time,’ Juniper smiled. ‘Feel better?’

‘Loads,’ I smiled. ‘I think I felt Luke.’ I put my hand over the Rose Quartz, and Junipers eyes welled up with tears. ‘I also stood up to my mother.’

Really?’ Zeb said, intrigued. ‘How did that go?’

‘I did more talking than she did, shall we say,’ I smirked, ‘but I think I might need a place to stay for a couple of nights…’

‘Consider it done,’ Juniper grinned.

‘Let’s go then. I'm done with this park,’ Zeb said hopping in the car without another word. Juniper and I took back our same seats and we set off, heading towards Junipers house instead.

I gazed out the window for the duration of the journey, smiling to myself. S**t was still fucked, things were all up in the air, but for the first time in what was probably too long, I felt at peace. At least for now and that was enough for me.



© 2019 aubreydiamond


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Added on February 2, 2019
Last Updated on February 23, 2019
Tags: pregnancy, young adult, drama, comedy, teenage, birth, love, death, life, fiction, coming of age, baby, friends, family, murder, drugs, swearing, course language, aroha


Author

aubreydiamond
aubreydiamond

New Zealand



About
I come in peace! My name is Aubrey, I’ve been a creative witch for as long as I can remember. Writing, drawing and all of the creative outlets have been my source of magic since I could craf.. more..

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