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Her mother and two half brothers were in a car crash and she was killed instantly and the older of the two little boys the day after. When I heard the news it was just of her mother, and when you've wished for someone to be out of your life completely for so long, it's really an irksome feeling when it actually happens. In the first moment, I felt a nagging guilt and my stomach sank (although, looking back, I attribute the latter as any normal reaction to death), and the next moment I felt sorry for her daughter, and then worried for her, and then, soon enough, I forgot about her mother all together. I decided, well, why waste my time? Death doesn’t mean I have to stop hating her.

Sitting in burgundy, cloth-furnished pews and sufficiently disconnected from the place and persons and issues at hand, I think back to when I heard the news. It was from someone who tended to act almost as a mediator between her and I when times had been rocky in the past. Her, always quick to give up, and I, quick to drop contact, we got messy sometimes. I’d not talked to the newly motherless thing for over a year; the last chance for her to mediate was sufficiently thwarted by her leave to South Dakota to attend college. But here she was again, relaying information of the other to me.

It's a shame my final memory of her will be of her glaring at me and then promptly ignoring the inconvenience of my existence.

It's a shame my final memory of her will be of her pretending to like me.

I guess we could call it a life story, Mrs. Fehlman.

I assumed that at some point she had relayed the information of my decision to attend (my logic being that they are solely for the living and she was the one I sympathized with) to its wan recipient. I formulate the last piece of the puzzle as people drizzle out and I follow them, imitating them, I’m walking out into the foyer and she looks at me and oh God does she really have to look at me that way? It’s this look that comes off as pity when I know it has to be sad puppy. I can’t tell though and, either way, I’m probably giving her the same look.

We talk quietly. I’m apparently winning this competition, as she asks more than once ‘Huh?’ I always felt a little suffocated in her church and I feel more suffocated now that I’m in her church filled, packed with people I don’t know and some I would like to forget and the memories mirror these people. I’m seeing this girl I haven’t talked to in years, and her mom and half brother are dead, and I came simply to pity her. I’m so anxious I would probably die if someone snuck up behind me and scared me. I just want to get out. I want my heart to stop beating so fast and I want for her and I to again talk openly and freely over coffee and pretend everything is back to how it used to be.

She’s standing with someone I don’t recognize, though. He is tall with short, dark hair and two-by-four shoulders. He is wearing olive and standing very noticeably upright. She excuses herself for not introducing us, after what must seem to him like little kids sharing secrets, and says, “This is my fiancé.” I’m not bowled over or even remotely surprised. I smile curtly, modestly, politely and introduce myself. Typical enough. I could’ve seen this coming. It’s, what, number three? You’re getting married in June? You’re inviting me to the wedding?

At this moment, I lose hope of getting a minute alone with her. I lose the thought that I’m doing her any good at all by being there. They keep talking and the buzz of marriage soon overtakes and drowns the buzz of death. I look at her with my pity for a long time and she looks back with what is now appearing to be more like sad contempt.

She turns to embrace another relative who’s full of congratulations. I step aside and I turn my back and I leave. I never hear from her again.

I guess we could call it a life story.