“They did,” Aunt Margaret answers and I’m quick to add, “I’m glad everyone could come.”

I hate lies, but tonight they slip through my lips so easily. Even as the emotions make my throat swell up when I see the same group of girls doing another round of shots.

Maybe it makes me a hypocrite, seeing as how I just came from drowning myself in vodka and Red Bull at the bar down the street, Barcode. I tend to swing by after a lot of hard shifts, but that particular group doesn’t need any more drugs added in the mix.

“The funeral was beautiful.” My aunt’s words bring a numbness that travels down my throat and the false expression I’m wearing slips, but I force the smile back on my face when she looks up at me.

I take a sip of cheap Cabernet and let the anger simmer.

Beautiful.

What a dreadful word for a funeral.

For the funeral of a woman not yet thirty. A woman who none of these people spoke to. A woman I tried so desperately to save, because at one point in my life, she was my hero.

The glass hits the buffet a little harder than I wanted.

“Sorry I didn’t make it. I’m glad it went well.” My voice is tight.

“It was really kind of you to pay for everything… I know there’s nothing in the estate or…” she says, but her voice drifts off, and I nearly scream at her. I nearly scream at all of them.

Why are they doing this? Why put on a front as if they cared? They didn’t come to visit any of the times she was in the hospital. They didn’t pay a cent for anything but their gas to attend the funeral and come here. And whatever those fucking casseroles cost. All the while I know they were gossiping, wondering about everything Jenny had done to land herself in an early grave.

They’re from uptown New York and all they do is brag on social media about all their charity events. All their expensive dresses and glasses of champagne, put on full display every weekend for the charity that they so generously donated to.

I’m sure that would have been so much better.

Or maybe this alternative is their charity for the weekend. Coming to this fucking wake for a woman they didn’t care about.

I could scream at myself as well; why open my door to these people? Why tell my aunt the reception could be held here? Was I still in shock when I agreed? Or was I just that fucking stupid?

They didn’t see what happened to her. How she morphed into a person I didn’t recognize. How my sister got sucked down a black hole that led to her destruction, and not a single one of them cared to take notice.

Yet they can comment on how beautiful her funeral was.

How lovely of them.

“Oh dear,” my aunt says as she hugs me with both arms this time and I let her. The anger isn’t waning, but it’s not for them. I know it’s not.

I’m sorry they didn’t get to see those moments of her that shined through. The bits of Jenny that I’ll have forever and they’ll never know. I feel sorry for them. But her? My sister? I’m so fucking angry she left me here alone.

Everyone mourns differently.

The thought sends a peaceful note to ring through my blood as I hear footsteps approach. My aunt doesn’t pull away, and I find myself slightly pushing her to one side and picking up a cocktail napkin to dry under my eyes.

“Hey, Beth.” Miranda, a twentysomething string bean of a girl with big blue eyes and thick, dark brown hair, approaches. Even as she stands in front of me, she sways. The liquor is getting to her.

“Do you guys have a ride home?” I ask her, wanting to get that answer before she says anything else.

She blinks slowly, and the apprehension turns into hurt. She shifts her tiny weight from one foot to the other. Her nervousness shows as she tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, swallowing thickly and nodding. “Yeah,” she croaks and her gaze drops to the floor as she bites the inside of her cheek. “Sorry about last time,” she barely whispers before looking me in the eyes. “We’ve got a ride this time.”

It’s when she sniffles that I notice how pink her cheeks are – tearstained pink – not from drinking. Fuck, regret is a spiked ball that threatens to choke me as I swallow.

“I just don’t want you guys getting into another accident, you know?” I get out the words quickly in a single breath, and pick up that glass of wine, downing it as Aunt Margaret turns her back on this conversation, leaving us for more… proper things maybe.

Miranda’s quiet, looking particularly remorseful.


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