THE DAY AFTER MY FUNERAL by NataliaDrepina
Jesse had never given too much thought to happiness and what it meant.
Sure, he’d felt happy, and could tell when others felt it, too. But what was it, really? Something to achieve, and keep hold of? An on-the-horizon goal that was unattainable for long periods of time, only sparing you a moment when the clouds decided to shy away from the sun?
Jesse thought about it now. He had the time for it, anyway.
Had he been happy? Looking back at his life, he couldn’t really see anything to fuss about. He’d had it easy, compared to the majority of the world. A home, a family, good health. He could say he felt a general detachment to life most days, but nothing that would make him say he had well and truly been… unhappy.
Idly, he traced the bottom half of the coffin lid in front of him, following the simple ridges in the dark wood. Jesse avoided looking inside. Poor sap’s life was over–had he been happy? He still didn’t have an answer.
Looking down at himself, Jesse let a grimace twist his mouth. He felt under-dressed, considering it was a funeral and all. Did it matter too much, though? He was here at least, he guessed, and it’s not like he could change now. Quantity over quality, right?
He snorted–probably not the situation that saying was meant for.
He spots someone approaching from his periphery, and out of respect and habit Jesse shifts to the side to allow them room. Glancing over briefly, he sees it’s his mother.
She had always been a strong woman, rarely showing fatigue or weakness even when a long day had run her ragged. She could smile through a stab wound, he’d always joked with her, and she would playfully slap his arm in return for the dark thought (still smiling, though).
So it was both unsurprising to find her not crying, but shocking, in a way, to see her mouth set in a sad frown. Death did have that effect on people, he supposed.
She didn’t say anything as she stepped up next to the coffin, and neither did he. She just stared down at the body inside, frown dark and immovable.
As if mimicking his earlier actions, Jesse’s mother raises her hand and slowly traces the edge of the coffin, a soft but heavy sigh escaping her.
“I…” she starts, stopping herself. She swallows thickly, as if that will help the words she wants to express come out. It doesn’t seem to help much. “I love you. I miss you so much already. I.”
There’s the tears. A shaky huff of breath and an equally shaky hand raises to cover her mouth, trying to stop herself from being too loud. It’s before the ceremony, though; no one else is in the room yet. Even so she tries valiantly to keep herself in check. Trying to remain as stoic as ever.
But Jesse can’t see her smile like this.
“Mom,” he croaks, throat tight. And he reaches for her shoulder, hoping to provide a calming pressure to steady her, keep her grounded. Right now more than anything he wanted to see her smile. This sadness was murder.
But he couldn’t even do that.
As if made of mist, his hand shimmered and disappeared into her shoulder, and at the ‘contact’ she shivered. She clutched the bicep of the same arm with her free hand, trying to stave off a phantom chill in an otherwise temperate room.
Pulling his hand back, now in one piece again, Jesse clenched it into a fist.
His mother reached out again, trembling fingers brushing stray locks from the body’s forehead–his forehead.
Maybe he didn’t know what happiness was, but he knew his mother deserved it. Not this, never this.