Lainey shifted uncomfortably on the couch in the far right corner of the funeral parlor. She scanned the crowded room while her aunt droned on about the changes in Vineyard since she’d left. Tessa’s popularity hadn’t diminished one bit over the years. All her life people had gravitated to her. It baffled Lainey, especially since Tessa was rarely nice to anyone unless she wanted something.
“Have you seen her?”
Lainey glanced up at her sister Kate and smiled. “No.”
She and Kate had grown up best friends. Despite their busy schedules, they still were. With Kate working ungodly hours at the hospital, it had been way too long since they’d had one of their two-hour phone conversations.
Kate had shown up an hour after Lainey settled in at the DFW Conquistador, and it was like all the years apart had never happened. Two years younger, Kate was an Obstetrical resident at County General, the biggest teaching hospital in Dallas, and had little time for anything else.
“Come on. I’ll walk up with you.”
Lainey shook her head. “You go.”
Kate leaned down. “Can’t you forgive her even now?” she questioned, her voice barely a whisper.
“I’m trying, but just because she went and died, it doesn’t mean the slate is wiped clean.”
“I’m not thinking about Tessa, Lainey. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t deal with this before it’s too late.”
“I’d say it’s already too late.”
Kate reached for Lainey’s hand and pulled her up from the couch. “I’ll be right beside you. It won’t be as bad as you think. Promise.”
Lainey knew her younger sister was right. It was too late to heal the relationship, not that she wanted to, but she had to say good-bye. No matter what Tessa had done, she was family. When she’d left Vineyard for good, Lainey swore she would never cry again, but she’d been unable to stop the tears when Maddy called. She had to get closure.
As the two sisters drew closer to the casket, the mounting volcano in Lainey’s gut threatened to explode. She exhaled noisily and prayed for strength, all the while cursing the scent of the damn gladiolas with their crosses and bright-colored ribbons. She wanted nothing to do with this kind of circus when she died.
Close enough to see Tessa’s face, Lainey gasped, raising her hand to her mouth to stifle the cry. Tessa was as beautiful as she remembered. She exhaled slowly, praying she’d get through this as Kate leaned over and squeezed her arm in support.
After a few seconds, the initial shock wore off, and Lainey leaned in to study Tessa’s face, noticing the bruising despite the thick make-up. Up this close, she saw the fine lines around her mouth and eyes, the only visible sign her sister had aged. Gone were her famous long black curls that had boys from three counties flocking to their house on weekends, replaced by a short, stylish bob. She wondered how long ago Tessa had cut off those curls.
I hate this whole freaking funeral thing.
Lainey turned to Kate, surprised at her outburst. “I was just thinking the same thing.”
Kate stared at her, a puzzled look covering her face. “What did you say?”
You know, for being the smart one, Lainey, sometimes you act like you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Lainey opened her mouth to respond, confused. Kate’s mouth hadn’t moved when she spoke.
Most of these idiots only showed up to make an appearance.
Lainey glanced again at Kate, but she had already turned away and was reading the condolence notes on the flower arrangements. Lainey shook her head to clear her mind then felt a light tap on her shoulder. Turning to her left, she looked directly into the eyes of her dead sister.
Hello, Lainey. Long time no see.