"NO!" Paulina yelled.
Rain looked at her pleadingly and said, "Please let me say what I have to say. Please!"
"I think," Joe said, "we need to hear her."
Fr. Malone nodded at the little girl.
Rain began, "I'm not a Catholic, so if I'm not supposed to talk now, please excuse me.
I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I need to say this now. Dante was my very best friend,
and now he's gone, and it's all my fault."
"No, Sunshine, it isn't," Josie whispered.
"And I just want to tell his family and all of you, I'm sorry. Please forgive me But the one I want to tell I'm sorry
most of all and ask to forgive me," she choked out, looking at the casket, "is Dante."
A tearful Rain went back to her parents, and the Mass went on.
Paulina returned to the front and did the reading she had started earlier. Her voice was almost steady... almost.
It shook most noticeably at the words, "With a little child to guide them."
Toni led the singing of the 23rd psalm.
Sofia read 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Fr. Austin Malone read from the Gospel According to St. Mark, his voice almost faltering on,
"Let the children come to Me."
And then he delivered the homily, not dwelling on Dante's death, but on his life.
"We will all miss Dante," he concluded, "but we can take comfort in knowing that
we shall see him again in Heaven. And now, Dante's father, Captain Joseph Carlino,
will say a few words."
Joe brushed his hand across his eyes and came up to the front.
"Thank you, Fr. Malone, for that beautiful homily," he began. "Now, I'm not going to say what I had planned to,
because I think that something else needs to be said."
Everyone wondered what Joe would say next.
"A little while ago," he said," "we all heard little Rain Sinclair say two simple, but very important words: I'm sorry,
and ask us, especially Dante, to forgive her." Joe focused on Paulina before going on, "And that made me think:
what if Dante had gotten his hands on my gun, and Rain had been the one who was killed? Wouldn't he... and I...
want to be forgiven?"
That was all Joe said, all, but it was enough.
A little later, when the Mass had ended and everyone was leaving, Paulina touched Josie's arm and asked,
"Are you coming to the cemetery?"
Josie and Gary looked at Rain, and then nodded their heads.
Joe looked at Paulina. He didn't speak, but his eyes said, "Good for you, Blue Eyes."
The two families walked out together, knowing that one careless moment had forever changed things
But now, the healing had begun.