Everything was deathly quiet and nothing moved in the house as if all life had died along with his brother. Jared was as numb as when he first got the news of his brother’s death. He sat in the same spot that he sat in when he first got back from Greg’s funeral. Jared couldn’t move, couldn’t think. The air felt suffocatingly dry and threatened to choke him. For the first time in his life, he felt lost and unsure of himself. Having the responsibility of another life thrust upon him so suddenly made him want to curl up in the fetal position. On one hand, he felt like his life had been completely changed—almost ruined—because he had so many things he wanted to do; however, on the other hand…as much as he didn’t want to admit it, Jared was scared—no, terrified. What if he couldn’t live up to be the father that his brother was?
Even more incredulously, how could he be practically a single father? He had never even thought of having children and now he had no choice. Emily was currently at his mother’s house while Jared mourned and he just couldn’t see himself ever getting through it. That night at the hospital, his niece had said nothing at all. Instead she looked up at him with the saddest blue eyes he had ever seen—the same blue eyes that he always saw first thing in the morning when he and his brother were children. Jared had so many questions but there was no one to answer him.
Jared sat in the arm chair facing the window, the curtains were drawn and his lips were dry. How long had it been since he ate? Slept? Or even took a shower? Jared had turned his phone off as soon as he got home and he knew that Daniella was probably freaking out. He closed his eyes and couldn’t help but to think back to the funeral again.
Light rain dripped from the sky ceremoniously as it preceded a heavier rain that began earlier that morning. Dew coated the leaves of trees, flower petals, and hung on the heavy coats of the funeral attendants as the previous rain left a light fog over the cemetery. The morning was drearier than usual for the usually bustling city, but of course, it almost always seems to rain on the day of a funeral. Were the heavens mourning just like everyone else?
The service first began with a song by one of the family’s friends and was followed by a few words from the pastor. Afterwards, Jared stood up and walk to the front. He took a crumbled piece of paper from inside his suit Jacket, and after clearing his throat, started shakily:
“Gregory Thomas Matthews was my brother, my friend, and my business partner. He was a family man over everything else and he loved his wife, Celine, and his daughter, Emily. I wish that he was here to take care of his daughter like he dreamed, but he gave the responsibility to me, and I am truly amazed that even in his passing he gave me a great gift. His last encouragement to me was to start a family of my own. I will never be able to live up to the wonderful father he was but I know that I will try my best. ” Jared’s eye began to water before he finished, “My brother was a great man…and even in death, he will continue to be great.” Jared bowed his head for a few seconds before walking back to his seat.
The rest of the funeral processed as a few other family members spook about Greg and the pastor said his final words. Greg’s coffin was carried into a large hearse to be taken to the cemetery that was across the street from the church. Cars lined up in a procession behind the Matthews family as it followed the hearse to the cemetery where Gregory would be buried.
As the black town car rolled up to the graveyard, Jared wanted to tell the driver to just turn around and leave. Could he face all the people now that everything was on him? He wanted power and control but not this way. He glanced over at his niece as she sat quietly beside him, not a single tear slipping from her glassy blue eyes. She stared ahead, having not said a word since his mother took her home from the hospital. The hardest thing for Jared was going to be seeing his brother in this little girl for the rest of his life and knowing that the last words he ever said to him were words of hate and resentment.
The coffin had been buried and the sun had begun to peak behind the clouds. Jared could hear the murmurs in the background, crying a multitude of “those poor things” and “such a shame.”
Jared opened his eyes again and sighed. He really did stink though. He walked to his bathroom, undressing as he walked towards it and throwing the clothes on the floor behind him. The shower turned with a blast of cold water and Jared jumped in before the water turned warm, not bothering to even flick on the lights. The cold water turned his body icy before the warm water thawed the numbness. The bathroom steamed up around him as the water turned almost scalding hot.
The sun was almost completely set as Natalie sat in the driveway of her mother’s house, staring at the text from David. My fiancé and I want you to be in the wedding. She couldn’t believe he would even suggest that when he knew she was still working on her feelings for him. Now she would have to suffer through being in their wedding as well. After the engagement party she had convinced herself that she wouldn’t have to see the two of them ever again. Natalie contemplated replying ‘no’ but decided against it and threw her cellphone in her purse.
Natalie got out of the car, slamming the door behind her, and walked up the driveway. As she walked up the path her nephew suddenly ran out of the front door and slammed his tiny body into her.
“Oh,” Natalie exclaimed as the wind was almost knocked out of her. “Hey, Brian!”
“Auntie Nat,” he buried his face into her shirt as squeezed her tight.
Natalie couldn’t help but to laugh as she saw her brother walk out on the porch and wave to her.
Inside the house, Natalie’s mother stood in front of the stove with an apron on, stirring a pot of some mystery liquid on the stove. “Hey mom,” Natalie called as she entered the kitchen. She went up to her mother and hugged her from behind.
“What’s all this for,” Natalie’s mother answered, slightly startled at Natalie’s weird behavior.
“Just because.” The text drifted from Natalie’s mind as she settled in with her family.
“What are you cooking,” she said as she sat at the counter a bar stool.
“Eh, just throwing something together.” Her mother’s shoulders shrugged as she continued to stir.
Natalie phone suddenly rang. After fishing it out of her purse, she cleared her throat and answered on the second ring. “Natalie Allen speaking.”
“Detective Allen, we need you to come in right now.”
Jared jumped out of the shower after the water began to burn his skin, finally giving him some sort of feeling. He wrapped a towel around his waist before catching his reflection in the mirror. He really needed a shave. Jared began to run his hands on his chin, turning his face from side to side to determine how much he needed to shave.
His phone began screeching its standard ringtone. He sighed and quickly walked to his room, his cellphone vibrated on the corner of his desk, threatening to fall off the edge.
“Hello,” Jared answered gruffly.
“Jared,” his mother exclaimed on the other line. “You’re brother’s death has been ruled a homicide.”