Admittedly, I considered not going. I didn't see the point. The task of burying a body was a job for four or five men at the most. We needn't all gather round to bear witness. The job would be completed either way. The body within the box wasn't Satine. I wouldn't have expected anyone to come and watch me be buried.
Yet, we all found that her memory meant more to us than common practice. Toulouse had made rounds and collected a bit of money from each of us to chip in for a headstone. It wouldn't be anything fancy, only her name. Just so that any passerby in the churchyard would know that Satine Diamant had lived.
Did I have to be present? How could any of them ask me to watch the shell of the woman I loved be buried six feet under Paris soil? A body I'd explored each inch of condemned to the darkness of a coffin. I didn't want to watch. She was more to me than that.
But, as they do, the days passed (at an agonizingly comatose rate) and the morning came that I found myself tying my bowtie in front of a mirror. My attire was modest. I couldn't imagine anyone else from the Moulin Rouge would be putting too much extra effort into their appearance either.
I could see the church steeple from the view of my apartment. I was grateful that the rows of gravestones below it was out of my sight.
The sky was cloudy and bleak, unsettlingly fitting for the mood of the afternoon. I popped my hat on, and as I headed out the door, I retrieved an umbrella. I prayed that it would not rain on my darling's last day above ground.
I met Zidler and a gaggle of the Moulin Rouge crew near the entrance of the theater. Only a few of the dancers had come, including Nini, who, I noticed, hid her eyes beneath a black veil drawn across her face. Chocolat shook my hand as I approached, as did the Argentinian. Zidler looked distracted, staring off into the bustle of the busy street.
Toulouse rested his hand on my arm, and I looked down to meet his eyes. "Are you ready?" He asked quietly. The question infuriated me down to my core. Of course I wasn't ready.
I nodded. With that, Zidler mechanically put one foot forth before the other and began to lead the few of us to the church.
Satine's death had made the papers the day before. The Moulin Rouge postbox had already received a few cards of condolence from men who were sad to hear that she had passed. Zidler had taken the sympathy wishes and tossed them onto the fire. Zidler wouldn't speak to anyone about his feelings regarding her death. No matter the affection he'd had for Satine, the business truth of the matter was that he had lost his star, his largest source of income.
I'd almost forgotten that the world hadn't stopped for anyone else. It wasn't until we were fully submerged in the crowd of Olly Avenue that I remembered Satine's death hadn't interrupted the lives of others as it had mine.
When we got to the church, we immediately spotted the mound of dirt beside the hole in the earth where Satine's body would be laid to eternal rest. The sight of it made my stomach twist, and I thought for sure I would vomit. I felt sweat break across my forehead.
From within the church, a priest crossed over the threshold, waving his arm. "Welcome!" he exclaimed. His cheerful tone offended my morose attitude. "Who among you is Harold Zidler?" He had reached us, standing under the archway of the gate which wrapped around the entire perimeter of the grounds. Zidler stepped forward, holding out his hand. The priest put both of his thin hands around Zidler's large one, promising God had blessed Satine's soul.
Toulouse handed him the purse of money, which the priest solemnly accepted. I glanced up at the sky to see the clouds turning. If there is a God, I thought, He will not allow a single drop of rain to fall before she's in the ground.
"Right this way," said the priest, who had introduced himself, but I hadn't been listening. He was insignificant. They all were. Losing the one who meant most to me put into a cold light how little my need for anyone else truly was. I felt no connection or responsibility to anyone.
We surrounded the hole. I stood between Zidler and Toulouse but looked at no one in particular.
I looked upon the headstone and felt a chill in the pit of my stomach. Satine's name was chiseled into the cheap stone, where it would solely remain until I would be able to bring myself to taste the syllables on my own tongue once more. I couldn't say her name. She'd asked me to tell our story, and I couldn't even say her name. I was deeply ashamed.
All of our heads turned in the direction of that damned priest's voice as he exited through the church doorway once more, this time chanting a blessing as he walked, waving what looked to be a baton in his hand.
Then, in tow, four men emerged from the chapel, carrying the casket which contained the body of my dearly beloved. My knees became weak. I couldn't help myself as I dropped one hand onto Toulouse's shoulder to steady my stance. He looked up at me. I could see the glazed wetness of his eyes. I guessed I had forgotten that Satine had meant something to him as well.
The Argentinian and Marie, who had been standing across the gravesite from myself and Zidler, parted to allow the men to get through. Their faces were stone as they set the casket down and separated, two of the men moving to the other side of the rectangular hole in the ground. There were ropes in their hands to gently set the box into the earth.
It was then that I felt a drop of water upon my cheek. I checked my eyes to see if I was crying. I wasn't. I looked up at the sky. The clouds had darkened. Then, the rain began to fall. My hands shook at my sides. "No," I hissed. Zidler looked at me for a moment, and then returned his gaze to Satine's casket, now wet from the cruel rain shower of a God who didn't care.