Funeral homes were typically places I stayed away from, because wandering souls tended to get stuck in them. Today however, I sat beside Miranda holding her hand firmly in both of mine. We were put in the family section by Wyatt’s mom. She’d said the two of us were as close to him as any of his family. Considering we’d faced every year of our lives together since preschool I’d have to agree. The Halloween we’d dressed up as the Three Musketeers came to my mind and a small smile played on my lips. I hadn’t felt like smiling the past two days. Miranda and I had grieved together. Just yesterday we’d spent hours talking about different things Wyatt had done to make us laugh over the years. It had been bittersweet to remember him. After awhile Miranda had gotten so worked up again her mother had given her another sleeping pill.
Then there was the fact that I missed Dank. It felt almost as if I was betraying Wyatt to miss Dank but it couldn’t be helped. I loved him. But I wasn’t ready to face him just yet. Maybe after we’d buried Wyatt and adjusted to life without him I’d be able to talk to Dank. To look him in the eyes and not scream out in fury. I’d had enough time to think about it and I knew there must be a reason Dank didn’t tell me. But I just wasn’t ready to hear that reason yet.
My attention drifted to Leif as he walked inside and hugged Wyatt’s mother then shook Wyatt’s dad’s hand before taking a seat among the other students who’d come today. Which was just about everyone. He just walked among them like he was one of them. Like he cared about Wyatt’s death. It made me angry to think of how disrespectful his presence felt. Wyatt had thought Leif was his friend. He’d trusted Leif. All along Wyatt had never been more than a tool for Leif. A way to get close to me. Shifting my attention away from Leif before I completely got myself worked up I scanned the room.
The funeral didn’t start for another thirty minutes. By that time the place would be standing room only. My gaze drifted over everyone I recognized from school. Some I knew, others I didn’t. It’s odd how when one of us dies we all come together as one. Even if we don’t know each other or if we hate each other we come together for that one day.
I searched for my mother. She’d flown back home as soon as she’d heard and would be leaving again tomorrow. I’d assured her I wouldn’t be leaving Miranda’s for a few days so there was no need for her to stay home and miss the last two days of the convention for me. She was sitting beside Miranda’s mother and father. I was glad she was here. Seeing her gave me some much needed strength.
The doors opened and in stepped someone I hadn’t expected to be here today. Jay Potts had been my boyfriend from ninth grade up until the end of school last year when he’d decided to go off to college and his parents moved away as well. We’d broken things off because long distance relationships never worked. Seeing Jay saunter down the aisle I felt tears well up in my eyes. The four of us, Miranda, Wyatt, Jay and I had been a group from freshman year until the end of our junior year. So many of my high school memories of Wyatt were ones Jay was also a part of. His dark brown eyes found mine and he gave me a sad smile.
“Jay’s here,” Miranda whispered as she lifted her head and watched as he spoke with Wyatt’s parents.
“I know.” It seemed fitting that he was here at the end. Wyatt would have loved to see him.
“I’m glad,” Miranda replied through her sniffles.
“Me too. Just seems right,” I agreed.
Miranda laid her head over on my shoulder and we sat there huddled together while the preacher spoke and then the casket was closed and carried to the gravesite already prepared for Wyatt.
“I can’t watch them lower him into the ground,” the anxiety in Miranda’s voice mixed with the trembling in her body told me it probably was a good idea for this to be as far as she went. I led her over to the steps on the far side of the funeral home so that we couldn’t see the gravesite.
“Let’s just sit here until they’re finished.” I coaxed
“Okay,” she agreed and sank down on the cold cement beside me.
“That was awful, Pagan.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“Do you think his soul was around long enough to see it?”
I knew it wasn’t but I didn’t think that was the answer she wanted to hear.
“I don’t know. Maybe. I guess anything is possible.”
She nodded and twisted the handkerchief in her hands. I stared out over the cemetery and noticed a few lost souls hovering over gravesites. Those were the ones who’d seen their own funeral. They’d not wanted to go. I was glad Wyatt hadn’t put up a fight. It was easier knowing he was going to have another life soon.
“Why’re you mad at Dank?”
Miranda’s question surprised me. I didn’t think she’d have noticed my separation from Dank the past two days. She’d spent most of her time crying and sleeping.
“I never said I was mad at Dank,” I replied.
“But you are. You don’t have to say it.”
Sighing, I rested my chin in the palms of my hands and leaned forward pressing my elbows into my knees.
“Just a little relationship drama. Not something worth talking about right now.”
Miranda nodded and reached over for my hand.
“I love you, Pagan,” she declared in a raspy voice.
“I love you, too.”
Pagan and Miranda sat hip to hip holding hands as they stared out over the cemetery in front of them. I stood off to the side hidden from Pagan’s sight and watched them. I knew she wouldn’t want me here today. The thought made it difficult to function. She ran her hand over Miranda’s curls in a comforting gesture I’d seen mothers use with their children. As much as I wanted to talk to her, to explain, I knew right now this is what she needed to do. It helped her grieve to comfort Miranda. They’d both lost someone special in their lives. Wyatt may have been the soul that was connected to Miranda’s so therefore her pain was more intense but Pagan’s soul was a kindred to Wyatt’s. This was Pagan’s first life and Wyatt’s soul attached itself to hers.
Miranda laid her head down in Pagan’s lap and Pagan reached up and wiped a tear from her eyes. I wanted to do that for her. I wanted to comfort her the way she was comforting her friend. But I couldn’t. This was so damn hard.
Movement out of the corner of my vision caught my attention and I turned to see a guy making his way toward the girls. He was tall with long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. The dark suit he wore meant he’d been at the funeral but I didn’t recognize this kid from their school. Pagan had noticed him and Miranda was now sitting up. Both girls stood up to greet him. I watched as he hugged Miranda tightly and she cried softly in his arms as he spoke to her. He was assuring her that Wyatt was out there watching over her. He even said, “We know he can’t stay away from you long. He’ll always be hovering around you protecting you.”
Then Miranda stepped back and he turned his gaze to Pagan. The translucent glow that intertwined connecting souls to their soulmates slowly wrapped around Pagan and the boy. Frozen in place, I watched in horror as Pagan stepped into his arms and he held her tighter than he’d held Miranda. With more familiarity. She’d been in his arms before. When Pagan stepped back from their embrace he seemed reluctant to let go. My legs began to move. This was not happening. His soul could go find itself some other soul to connect with. Pagan was mine. I already had a freaking voodoo spirit claiming her; I didn’t need a damn human soul doing the same thing.
Pagan’s eyes lifted and met mine. Instantly, she stepped back putting distance between her and the boy. I knew the blue in my eyes had gone from the normal human color to the glowing orbs that manifested when I felt emotion. I couldn’t control their glow when I couldn’t control my fury.
The guy finally tore his gaze off of Pagan and turned his head to see what had caught her attention. A small frown appeared on his face until he noticed my eyes. Then the fear all humans felt when met with Death’s gaze came over his face. That’s right buddy, I’m Death, now move away from my girl. I didn’t say a word. Instead, I walked up the steps passing the boy and stopped in front of Pagan.
She swallowed nervously as she stared up at me. Then her gaze shifted toward the boy watching us. “Um, Jay, this is Dank Walker, my boyfriend.”
I wanted to fall on my knees and beg her forgiveness. Hearing her still claim me as hers sent relief pouring through my cold form. Reaching for her hand I squeezed it and her thumb gently caressed the side of my hand. That was all the reassurance I needed. The soul behind me, obviously the soul meant to be her mate here on earth, meant nothing as long as Pagan wanted me.
“Dank,” she said peering up at me, “this is Jay Potts. He’s a, uh, friend of mine. He graduated last year and moved away for college. He and Wyatt were very close.”
Jay Potts hadn’t just been her friend. He’d been her boyfriend from the time she was a freshman until he broke it off at the end of last year. I knew she was worried about upsetting me and I couldn’t blame her since I’d stalked over here with glowing eyes and a snarl. I turned my head and glared back at him. It couldn’t be helped, I’d never like this guy.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jay,” I managed to say in a calm even voice.
A small snicker came from Miranda and I felt Pagan’s body ease some. This was amusing Miranda and right now Pagan would suffer through anything that would put a smile on her friend’s face.
“Uh, yeah, you too,” he studied me a minute. My eyes were no longer glowing so he was probably trying to decide if he’d imagined it. His human brain would convince him it had been the sun hitting me just right or some other concocted story in order for it to make sense. Then something lit up his eyes, “Wait, Dank Walker, aren’t you the lead singer for Cold Soul?”
The excitement and awe in his voice caused Pagan to completely ease up and she moved a little closer to me. I didn’t want to talk to this guy. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and beg her to listen. To forgive what I was. But she wanted this meeting to go well. I could read it in her emotions.
“Yes, I am,” I replied but as much as I loved her I could not even force a smile his way.
“No way, oh man, wow,” he began shuffling through his pocket and pulled out his wallet. An old ticket stub from one of Cold Soul’s concerts and a pen were shoved in front of my face. “Could you sign this? I’m a big fan. My ATO brothers will never believe this. This will get me out of clean up for at least a week.
Before I could even begin to understand what he’d just said Pagan replied, “Oh, congrats, Jay. I didn’t know you got into Alpha Tau Omega. That’s awesome. I know that was your main goal when you got accepted at UT.”
He was a Greek. I knew what that was. I’d been to more frat parties than I cared to recall due to drunken stupidity.
Jay beamed over at Pagan, “Yep, rush was hard but I suffered through.” He was still standing there with his pen and concert ticket in my personal space.
Pagan squeezed my hand and then let go. She wanted me to do this. Okay fine. I’d do it for her but I’d do it my way.
I took the ticket and pen and wrote a short note to Jay then scrawled the signature I’d adopted when I started the group Cold Soul. Shoving it back at him I then reached for Pagan’s hand again and brought it to my lips.
“I miss you,” I whispered and tears welled up in her eyes. I kissed her hand then brought it back down and let it go. I had somewhere I needed to go. Nothing was going to interfere with us again. I was tired of waiting around for Leif to make a move. I was ending this today.
Stepping back from her I nodded my goodbye and left the three of them there. I didn’t worry about leaving Jay with Pagan this time. I was sure he’d get the message when he read his ticket.
After all when a guy reads,
She’s mine. That’s your one and only warning.
He knows if he isn’t ready for a fight he can’t win then he’d better back the fuck off.