TITLE: FRACTURED SPIRIT
GENRE: YA ROMANTIC SUSPENSE/THRILLER
From my hiding place, at the back of the church, I watched as people dressed in their Sunday best, filtered in. Soon the only seats left were those reserved for immediate family. There were so many flowers that someone had cleared a path to the altar.
Two hundred people speaking in hushed tones filled the air with a steady hum. When it suddenly got quiet, I looked to my left and found Father Andrew standing only a few feet away. It was time. I got in line next to my mom. She took my hand and squeezed. I tried to smile but it came out like a grimace. With my free hand, I brushed at my new dress for imaginary lint so no one could see my hands tremble. On cue we walked down the center aisle, me with my head slightly bent so as not to make eye contact with anyone.
At the front of the church, we slid into the pew and waited. Despite, my best efforts I could not avoid looking at the rectangular box that held what was left of my dad. Over the next hour, I tried to take comfort from the many kind words and prayers but it was no use.
My mom, sat to my left. Her eyes glued to the coffin while her hands destroyed one tissue after another. I looked to my right and pretended not to see the tears in my cousin, Justin’s eyes. Next to him, his sister, Jenna, cried openly. I had no idea how to console them. Three months ago, we had sat inside this same church and said our goodbyes to their parents, killed in a plane crash. I hadn’t known what to say to them then either.
* * *
At the cemetery, we stood listening to Father Andrew and watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground. All I wanted to do was scream “Liar!” My dad had promised me he’d come home. This was supposed to be his last tour in Afghanistan and then he was out of the military. Well, he sure as hell was out now, wasn’t he?
Back at the house, everyone kept telling us how sorry they were and what a great man, a hero, he was. I hated myself but a small part of me wished my dad hadn’t chosen to save those women with their children and his fellow soldiers. He should be at home with us not in a box in the ground. I hated that those other soldiers would be returning to their families soon. I didn’t care if that made me a bad person.
I had to get away from all the people, stuffing their faces with food, as if that would shield them from the pain. I snuck out the back door and hid behind the old shed, in the back of the yard. No one would think to look for me back there.
"Thought I'd find you here."