Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 26

Friday was my mother’s funeral. There were a lot more people than I expected, most of whom I didn’t recognize. I assumed many were from one of Mom’s two jobs, people she worked with. My grandparents died before I was born and she didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and we’d never been close to any of her extended family, a fact I only later realized had been on purpose. Like most abusers, my father found it easier to control her when she didn’t have a support system to fall back onto.

I stood near the front of the sanctuary, shaking hands and accepting condolences from people whose faces I either didn’t know or only vaguely recognized. I’d declined to say anything at the service itself, leaving that to the preacher. Neither Mom nor I had been much in the way of churchgoers, so Mrs. Philips had set most of this up for me. The preacher’s offerings of sorrow and the better world Mom was apparently heading to all sounded generic. He didn’t know her. I’m not sure any of these people really did.

My emotions were a tangled mess of grief, anger, and numbness. I barely registered her casket being lowered into the ground. Something was wrong with me, that much I knew. I felt like I should be feeling more than I was. Instead, it was like a blanket had been draped over everything, making the world muted, or at least my emotions to the world.

My friends were there. Hanna and Kat, Chef and Willie, the band, a few guys from the baseball team. Sydney and her family were there, although they kept their distance. Even Warren had flown down for the service.

Afterward, most of us went over to the Blue Ridge where Chef had set up a reception. He put it in the parking lot, since I wasn’t actually allowed inside the building, and the weather had started to warm up enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable.

I spent most of the time standing off to one side letting them all talk to each other. It wasn’t hard, since most of the people I did know were outnumbered by Mom’s acquaintances or friends who I’d never met. They seemed comfortable not having to interact with me, and I didn’t particularly want to make small talk with strangers.

Hanna and Kat, however, did notice me. They probably also saw that I didn’t want to make small talk, but being my friends, they didn’t care about that. They just saw their friend hurting, or maybe thinking I was hurting, and wanted to try and lift my spirits.

“Your mom was always so nice to us,” Hanna said as they flanked me on either side. “That last day, at your party, we talked for a while. Apparently, you told her about my classes and she wanted to know all about them. I think she hoped I’d be a good influence to get you to go to college.”

“Probably. Before Dad came back, and everything got messed up, that was the main thing she always talked about. When I first started playing with Willie, she made me promise that I’d get my high school diploma and go to college if she let me play music. I guess, now that she’s gone, I don’t have a choice but to do it, as her last wish or whatever.”

“As a last wish, it isn’t a bad one. You know she just wanted the best for you. She really did love you,” Kat said.

If she really did love me, she would have kicked Dad to the curb the minute he showed back up. She would have filed charges the first time he hit her, to keep him out of our lives. That wasn’t fair, of course. She wasn’t perfect and had her own problems, and years of abuse had taken a toll on her. But I couldn’t help but blame some of what happened on her and her inability to stand up to him until it was too late.

I choked off saying that out loud, though. There was no reason to speak ill of her, especially at her own funeral.

“Yeah,” was all I could manage to say in its place.

They could see right through me, exchanging a look.

“You know we’re here for you if you need anything. Right?” Hanna said.


“Don’t try to do this on your own. Don’t hold it inside. Dr. Rothstein says that if you don’t deal with your emotions, they can build up and fester, like cancer,” Kat added.

“I know,” I said. “I’m just ... I’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it. I mostly just felt tired. Kat and Hanna exchanged another look, both looking worried. I knew my reactions or lack thereof were concerning them, but in that moment there wasn’t anything I could do for them.

“I should probably go talk to some of these people. Say thank you, or whatever,” I said before either could launch into a lecture or ask me what was wrong again.

“Sure,” Hanna said, her brow furrowed in concern.

I patted her shoulder and walked off into the small crowd, looking for another corner I could disappear into until I’d been here long enough to not seem rude by leaving.

I caught a glimpse of Sydney and her family. I was actually a little surprised to see them since they’d kept their distance from me at the funeral and weren’t any of the people who’d stopped to offer condolences before the service. I guess that was the old-style Southern guilt for you, though. It was expected that they’d go to the reception and bring food. If it was just her and her father, they probably would have skipped it, but I highly doubted her mother would have allowed that.

I turned and made my way towards them. I hadn’t spoken to her since that night when I’d run out to help my mother, and I missed her. Our eyes locked for a split second before she looked away and nudged her dad. She must have said something because he turned, looked directly at me, and then put his arms around his daughter and his wife, leading them away from the Blue Ridge.

Her mother glanced over her shoulder at me, her expression apologetic. Her look told me everything I needed to know. Sydney avoiding me wasn’t an accident and it didn’t just happen. She was actively not talking to me.

I couldn’t decide if I was sad about it, neutral, or furious. Part of me felt very sad that she’d be so willing to end things just because her father, I assumed, was pressuring her to break up with me. She’d stood up to him before, and she knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I would have hoped she’d stand up to him again.

Part of me just couldn’t find the energy to care. Too much had happened since the last time I saw her, and I just couldn’t bring myself to fight for anything else. I was barely holding on as it was.

I looked away from Sydney’s retreating back to see Hanna’s mom making a beeline for me. I also saw her glance toward Sydney before looking back at me, so I knew she’d seen their quick exit. Part of me wanted to slip back into the crowd and avoid her, assuming she was going to ask how things were going with Sydney. I already had enough to deal with and had just decided to ignore that for now, so the last thing I wanted to do was talk about my maybe still-girlfriend.

Thankfully, Mrs. Philips was as intuitive as ever.

“Charlie, I know I’ve said it already, but I’m so sorry. Your mother was a wonderful woman.”

I smiled, although the expression was forced and awkward, and said, “Thanks, and thanks for being here today.”

She touched my arm gently.

“Of course. We’re your family too, and we’d never leave you to deal with this alone.”

That actually meant a lot. When I’d been in jail, one of the things I’d kept thinking about was that I didn’t have any family left. At least not any that I knew, since neither of my parents had siblings and both sets of their parents had passed when I was little. She was right, though. Ever since Dad showed back up, they’d been more of a family than anyone else had. Well, them and Chef.

For the first time all day, I felt a little glimmer of hope. It’s amazing what one little sentence could do. I gave her what was probably the first genuine smile I’d managed all day.

“So, I know you worked on the details, but we didn’t talk about it. What did you decide to do about the service for your father?”

And just like that, my smile disappeared. The mention of that man sent me down a spiral of emotions, none of them good. Anger, resentment, and sadness were all I could give him.

“I decided not to have one. I arranged a plot and the smallest headstone I could get, on the other side of the cemetery from Mom, and that’s it,” I said, my tone hardening. “That man doesn’t deserve anything else.”

She patted my arm again in that motherly way she did and said, “That’s a good decision. I’m glad you decided to at least get him a plot. I know it seems impossible now, but one day, you might want to visit him, if only to get how disappointed in him you are off your chest. You still have so much anger toward him, it might be cathartic.”

“You’re right. It does seem impossible. I’m never going near that man’s grave.”

“And if that’s what you chose, that’s okay too,” she said and pulled me into a hug. “Just remember you aren’t alone, Charlie. You have people who love you.”

“I know,” I said, hugging her back.

After what seemed like an eternity, the reception finally started winding down, with everyone heading back home. I appreciated all of the support I’d been given, but I was also happy to have it end. It was easier to just pretend it wasn’t happening. I know people were just trying to be kind, but I really couldn’t bear to hear how sorry they were anymore or how much they liked Mom.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.