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lack umbrella sheltering her frame as rain beaded and pooled together near the top before trickling down the sides. Everything about the funeral felt wrong, it felt like I had been robbed like my parents got the short end of the stick. They looked too young to be stuffed into two identical black walnut coffins. The gray sky, billowing black clouds, and light rain seemed almost fitting for the occasion. It looked as dreary as everyone’s mood. After lowering my parents into the ground I was ready to get out of the cemetery, I was not feeling festive. I wanted no part in feasting after the funeral. I seriously lost my appetite, and I couldn’t picture Mom or Dad being offended if I didn’t eat right after seeing them dead. After the service, Aunt Lisa insisted that we go to a nearby church hall for the wake. The guests filed into a big cafeteria-like room in the church basement. A brunch buffet had been set up along one wall, with fresh fruit, croissants, and pastries. Another table presented coffee, juice and a pitcher of water. A few cookies and confections had been spread in yet another location, drawing the interest of a couple of small children who were among the group. My Aunt Lisa picked at a few pastries, but didn’t eat; I could tell that she was just as torn up inside like me. We took a seat at one of the tables, away from most of the other mourners. My aunt greeted a few of the family members she recognized, and I offered a hello when appropriate. A lot of strange people that I never met previously offered sympathetic words and condolences about my parents. I secretly wished that they would stop. I understood that they meant well, but it rehashed memories of the things I was trying to not think about. Finally, the gathering began to thin out. “Davis, how about we head back home. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.” “I can’t wait to get out of here!” Getting out of here was a huge relief. I was happy that I got through it all without breaking down, and the suggestion of going home was a welcoming thought. “We just have to find your grandfather.” Aunt Lisa murmured. I located an older man speaking to the priest and instantly knew it was grandpa; he was wearing a worn dress suit that probably was popular in the 40’s. He ended the conversation, immediately turning his attention on me. “Davis!” Grandpa had a twinkle of sadness in his eyes. He gave me a firm handshake. “Sorry for your loss my boy, wish we were getting together on happier terms.” “Hi, grandpa!” I was glad to see my grandfather. He always had a very kind way about him that brightened my mood, but I was too overwhelmed with grief to enjoy his company. “I know this wasn’t easy for you, to be up in front of all those people,” Grandpa said. “No, it was ok, grandpa.” “Good.” His grandfather turned to Aunt Lisa. “Thank you so much for bringing him, Lisa.” He gave her a hug. “It was no problem, Mr. Finch, you know I…” “Please, call me Jonathan!” He smiled; Aunt Lisa returned the gesture before starting again. “Jonathan…you know I would never have let Davis miss this. I am so sorry for your loss.” Aunt Lisa said. “My dear, I am old. I miss my son dearly, and the world will not be the same without him. However, it is something we all must endure.” His voice cracked slightly but still he remained

steadfast in his convictions. “One day I will be with him again. Until then, I will continue to be strong.” He immediately changed the subject. “Davis, it has been so long since you came to the ranch. Perhaps one day you and your aunt could pay me a visit?” He rested his hand on my shoulder. “Sure, Grandpa.” The thought of taking a trip to the ranch again sounded like a good distraction. I could still remember certain parts of it very well, especially the old barn. I used to spend hours playing in the hay, petting the horses and looking for mice in the old building. It felt like centuries had passed since I last visited the ranch. “Wonderful.” My grandfather laughed. He steadied his gaze on me and then on Aunt Lisa, “I suppose you have a long drive ahead of you. I will not keep you any longer than I already have. It was wonderful seeing you both.” “You as well, Jonathan… have a safe trip home.” Aunt Lisa said. I gave grandpa a hug and said goodbye. I couldn’t wait to get back to Aunt Lisa’s, once inside the car I secured my seatbelt, loosened my tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of my dress shirt. “I can’t wait to get out of these clothes!” I said. Aunt Lisa muttered, tugging at her stockings. “There, that looks good.” The drive home seemed so long. Aunt Lisa put on the radio, I figured she was not in the mood to talk. So I reclined in my seat, thinking about all the fun I had at my Grandparent’s ranch. *** The following day I found myself sitting in my room gazing listlessly out the window. It was a bright sunny day with a dark blue, cloudless sky. I was trying to keep a positive outlook, but the funeral weighed on my emotions like a bar of lead. I focused my eyes on two gray squirrels bouncing about and playing tag in the backyard; if not for watching them I would have never noticed Alicia Thomas next door. She went inside the front door of a medium size log cabin, it was the only log cabin on the entire dead-end street. She had a white tank top, black shorts, and her golden mane was tied back in a ponytail. Alicia had been my secret dream girl from the very first time I laid eyes on her, never in a million years would I have guessed she lived next door to my Aunt. I had never had enough courage to get into a lengthy conversation with her yet the few times I could remember spending any time with her I had been enchanted, totally completely captivated. Our only real connection had been school. Although I was thrilled to learn that Alicia lived right next door, it brought back a kind of hopeless longing. Alicia was one of the most popular girls at Mill Creek, the type of girl who would never consider an average schmuck like me. The kind of girl I’m talking about, stunning looks, perfect grades, and an active social life, I’m sure you know the type… I watched her for several days, trying to build up my courage. Mostly in her yard, which was a large tract studded with ancient oak. The trees blocked my view of her activities sometimes, and that was kind of frustrating. Alicia was part of the gymnastics team in school and would practice her routine that was a mixture of bending, stretching and acrobatics. She was fun to watch. I honestly never knew anyone who could move with such grace. It was obvious how serious she was about the sport, with all the hours of practice she put in every week.

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