Chapter 20 Saying Goodbye and Dealing with the Aftermath
The sudden loss of a classmate can bring on many different emotions. Most people feel surprised, sad, or even confused. News of the event can be upsetting to some fellow classmates for days. Death is not something any of us think will happen to us or someone we might know so it can be very shocking to learn of someone that we know has died. When you were close to the person the effects can last even longer and we tend to wonder if we could of saved them.
It is times like this we can see how precious life is and something we shouldn’t take for granted. We feel vulnerable and become more careful and try to avoid anything that reminds us of death. It’s a hard thing to deal with because sudden deaths leave us without any closer. No chance to say goodbye is a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially if you’re a teenager.
This isn’t something one has to go through alone; cutting everyone else off in your life won’t make the loss of a friend easier. Trust people find someone who will listen or may be able to relate to what you are going through.
The days following the death of James Whistler were full of shock and sadness. As the students returned to school no one was the same as they were when they had left for spring break. The hallways were quieter then normal and whether they knew James personally or not they paid their respects.
In the atrium at the front of the school was a memorial set up for James. A large brass frame held James’ school photo and the ground surrounding it was covered in flowers and cards of sympathy for the family. His fellow classmates would stop by and place flowers on the ground and say a prayer.
The loss was a shock to everyone but especially those close to him. Michael found himself very distracted this week and spent more time standing in front of the memorial area for James thinking about what happened when he died and replaying what he did that day. He should have been there that night, to stop him from going to far and possibly saving his life. Sucre was by Michael’s side most of the time, he felt so guilty himself as he was so high himself that night to even realize how bad things were until it was too late. Out of fear of what would happen if the police had found him in the room full of illegal drugs he ran, hiding out while his friend was dying.
Thursday was the day of the funeral and most of the school attended the afternoon service at a cemetery just outside of Chicago. The warm sun shone down of the service while the big oak trees did little to shade them from the sun. It was quiet and peaceful, no car engines or people yelling. Everyone was able to focus on what was happening as the minister stood at the front beside the light oak wood coffin which was James Whistler’s final resting place. As the minister talked, the song Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley played softly in the background.
His father and brother, Conner wore their black suites and just stared straight ahead, still in shock and unable to follow what was being said on behalf of James. His mother was absent much like she had been for the majority of James life.
A couple rows away from James’ family, Michael was dressed wearing a black suit and white-collar shirt with a navy blue silk tie. He sat still, eyes looking at the minister but his mind miles away thinking of memories he had of James. Beside him was Sucre and although he was dressed up, he was having a hard time trying to prevent himself from crying. Beside Sucre was Gretchen, who wore a black knee length dress with spaghetti style straps. Her raven color hair was dead straight with her side bangs covering her right eye slightly. She held a tissue up against her nose and mouth as she cried uncontrollably for her friend.
Near the back, Sara sat with Lance and Veronica who had noticed Sara when she arrived and decided to sit with her. Sara was happy to see Veronica and quickly introduced her to Lance before the service had started. In a way Sara and Lance felt a little awkward about this whole situation, James wasn’t exactly their favorite person in fact he was nothing but mean to them all through out the four years they had gone to the same school. Yet he was a fellow classmate of theirs and one who was taken from this world too soon.
Sara had her auburn hair with loose curls at the ends and a few strands rested over her shoulders. She wore black dress pants with thin silver pin stripes up the legs, a black silk top with a side tie strap just below her rib cage finished off the outfit and strangely enough Sara felt like she had a few random eyes on her through out the service.
As the minister finished his final prayer the volume on the song Hallelujah increased and people got to their feet to place a final rose on the coffin to end the service. One by one Michael and his friends walked by the coffin saying their final goodbyes to their friend.
Once Michael, Sucre and Gretchen had placed their roses down they moved aside to let others through and went to stand next to a nearby oak tree. All had been very quiet since they had arrived and now as the service ended they all let out the breaths they had been holding.
“God this is so unbelievable!” Sucre sighed as he scratched his head agitatedly.
Michael just nodded his head and leaned against the tree trunk stuffing his hands him his pockets. Looking up at his friend he could see how guilty Sucre was feeling wondering how James died and he lived, “Sucre there was nothing you could do. James has had a problem with drugs for a long time but he was in deeper then any of us could of thought.”
Gretchen was pacing back and forth in front of Michael in her silver high heels. “It’s like a nightmare that I can’t wake up from!” she said with a sigh. “I need a smoke,” she claimed and Sucre agreed before pulling out a pack and after taking one for himself passed the box to her. She took one herself and then held the pack up for Michael.
“No” he told her shaking his head turning down the offer.
“Oh, that’s right… you quit!” Gretchen said as she rolled her eyes and then lit her cigarette.
Michael just ignored her and kept his gaze on the ground in front of him. He zoned out the conversation Gretchen and Sucre were having not really in the mood for talking. His mind drifted for a bit but was brought back to reality when he saw a pair of black flats style shoes came into his view on the ground standing in front of him.
His head shot up in surprise and he saw a nervous looking Sara standing there. “Sara…” he said in a soft voice as he quickly stood up straight. As he stared at her feeling speechless, he stared at those brown eyes that seem to make his heart skip a beat.
Since the night of their date and James’ sudden death he hadn’t talk to Sara at all. He had seen her a few times in the hall over the week but couldn’t deal with his feelings or what ever was going on between him and Sara until after everything with James as over. He had felt bad avoiding her but as he realized Sara was giving him space as well giving the circumstances he was relieved in a way for the space.
“What do you want?” Gretchen spat out in a harsh tone to Sara.
“Gretchen, don’t start” Michael warned her. He looked back at Sara and noticed Lance standing a few feet behind Sara glaring at Michael intently. Michael could tell Lance didn’t like him but then again Michael didn’t really blame him really. Over the years him and his friends haven’t been then nicest to him or Sara so Lance was just trying to protect Sara.
After Gretchen had snapped at her, Sara looked down at her feet, questioning why she was even bothering. With a deep breath she looked up again and looked at Michael trying hard to ignore Gretchen’s viscous stare. “I just… I just wanted to come over her e and give you my condolences.”
Gretchen’s laugh cut through the already awkward speech then blew smoke in Sara’s face. “Yeah, I bet you are” Gretchen snapped at her as she waved her cigarette around. “You never liked James and the fact is he never liked you so don’t bother coming over here acting like you care because the truth is we don’t like you so do us all a favor and get lost!”
“GRETCHEN! THAT’S ENOUGH!” Michael yelled at her and stared at her until she backed off. Shaking her head Gretchen turned and walked behind the tree to finish her smoke but kept her glare on Sara. Once she was gone Michael looked up at Sara and nodded, “Thank you,” he said as he didn’t know what else to say.
Sara gave a slight smile and then with a nod turned on her heels and followed Lance towards the parking lot of the cemetery. Michael watched her as she left and she didn’t once look back at him. So focused in watching Sara leave he didn’t see Veronica come up to him until she was right in front of him.
“Yeah, Mike how’s it going?” She asked him and then leaned in to give him a hug. Coming back from around the tree Gretchen stared at Veronica intently, knowing full well the girl never approved of her relationship with Michael and being the person she blamed for the break up in the end. Veronica gave Gretchen very much the same look from over Michael’s shoulder. When she pulled away she turned her attention to Michael and smiled. “Are you okay for getting home?”
“Yeah I’ll see you later” he told her and with a nod Veronica smiled and waved as she left.
With a sigh Michael gave a wave to Sucre and Gretchen and then headed off towards his car. He heard Gretchen calling out to him about something but he didn’t want to deal with her. Grabbing his keys out of his pocket Michael stood in front of his car door when a shadow appeared coming from behind him. Turning around he saw Linc standing there looking very awkward.
“Hey man…. Look first I ah I want to say how sorry I am about your friend” he said sincerely. “After it happened I ah… I wanted to give you some space but um I just want to thank you for taking care of the Sara thing and here.” Linc added and handed Michael the envelope of money. “Two hundred dollars as promised”
Looking around at everyone that was leaving Michael gave a sigh and quickly stuck the envelope in his pocket. “Yeah whatever” Michael mumbled.
Linc gave a slight smile and then turned his head to wear Sara was standing talking to Lance. “You know when I fist saw Sara on Monday, I was completely shock. Who knew something so fine was hiding under those baggy clothes and big glasses the size of China” Linc laughed.
Gritting his teeth and glared at Linc with a death glare he snapped, “Hey don’t.”
Linc shook his head and then looked back at Sara, “Hey could image if she went from being invisible to being some everybody knew and almost prom Queen. You interested in making some more money?”
Michael quickly shook his head and backed away from Linc. “No I’m done” Michael said firmly and got in his car. He left Linc standing there all shocked and confused as he drove off. Leaving the parking lot he saw Sara as she walked with Lance and at one point she looked up at him for a brief second. Feeling the pain in his heart for using her to get the money that was now in his pocket Michael looked away and sped out of the parking lot as quickly as he could.
The next day at school Michael was sitting in his math class trying to pay attention but couldn’t. He looked over a few desks away from him and saw Sara writing notes down in her notebook. He hadn’t talked to her since seeing her at the funeral and could tell she was doing her best not to come over and talk him in the halls.
He had the money in his bag Linc had given him in his bag because as he sat in his room looking at the envelope he couldn’t bring himself to do anything with it because he felt so guilty. Sara deserved so much more then to have people paying and betting a guy to go out with her. He had decided he didn’t want the money and was going to give it back to Linc and Jane. It wasn’t fair because what started as something simple was now so complicated.
Unable to sit in class anymore he left the room and stepped outside to get some air. As he walked his mind race thinking of what he should do. He liked Sara, she was fun to be around but did he deserve to be with someone he used like that? He figure it was best that he just leave her out of his life for now on and allow her to find someone better.
“Hey Mike!” he heard someone calling and as he looked over at the parking lot he saw James’ older brother Conner.
Finding it odd that he was here Michael walked over to Conner’s truck to see what was going on. “Hey what’s up?”
“What’s up is that the night James died he went to see Lechero earlier” Conner started to say and by his tone what ever he had to say wasn’t good. “James was suppose to sell some drug for him but now it’s all in the custody of the police.”
“So, what does that have to do with me?” Michael asked.
“He told Lechero you were his partner” Conner stated.
Suddenly for the first time since the conversations started he noticed someone in the passenger seat and then saw the guy step out of the truck. The guy was big, huge muscles and a scare by his right eye. As he came closer Michael stepped back unsure as to what was happening.
“James was supposed to sell those drugs and get me my money. Now he may be dead but I’m still out two grand” Lechero growled.
“I have nothing to do about that,” Michael told him.
“Well since Whistler’s dead you, his partner needs to get me my money!”
Michael shook his head and backed away from Lechero and Conner. “Look I wasn’t his partner, I’ve never heard of you before. Conner can’t you…” Lechero wasn’t having any of it and took hold of Michael’s collar and slammed him against the side of the truck.
“I don’t think you understand me kid!” Lechero growled as his hand went around Michael’s neck. “When someone owes me money I always get paid! One way or another, it’s up to you pretty, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
Michael felt Lechero’s hands pressing harder against his throat making it very hard to breathe. This guy wasn’t messing around and Conner wasn’t doing anything to stop him. “Conner… Please!”
Conner shook his head sadly, “Sorry Michael I lost my brother but his is yours and his mess!”
“What’s it going to be kid?” Lechero growled.
Couching and struggling to breathe, Michael finally gave in, “There two hundred dollars in my bag. Take it and I’ll find a way to get the rest I swear.” Michael said in desperate need for air.
Lechero gave a nod and then released Michael and watched him collapse on the ground gasping for air. Moving to the side of Michael he grabbed his backpack and ripped it open looking for the money. Once he had it he smile and threw the bag back at Michael. “I’ll be in touch for the rest.”
Michael remained on the ground trying to catch his breath while Conner and Lechero got back in the truck and drove off. Sitting there watching them leave Michael thought about all that went down and wondered how on earth he was going to get his hands on $1,800.