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talking to herself, there's no one else

You step into the room with all the wooden boxes and brass handles and flower arrangements and you think you must be suffering from temporary insanity. You can think of no other reason why you would be willing to sacrifice an afternoon to pick out a casket with Dick Casablancas and his mother. Granted, neither had invited you to come, but you had heard through the grapevine that they would be here today. You think that maybe, after an eight million dollar windfall, this is the least you can do for the kid. Though if anyone asked, you were going to blame it all on the temporary insanity you're quite positive you must have.

"Why are you here?"

You turn and find the former Mrs Richard Casablancas looking at you with her arms crossed. You lift one side of your mouth in a half-smirk. "I was his step-mother. Isn't it, like, part of my duties or something to help with this sort of stuff?" You figure it's smarter to tell her that, than to tell her that thanks to her son you have eight million plus reasons to be here.

Before she has the chance to reply you're distracted by the arrival of Dick Casablancas. "Hey, you know what? We should have 'Beaver' written on the headstone." Dick laughed at his own horrible joke.

You narrow your eyes at the idiotic funeral director who had been about to write down Dick's instructions. "Don't you dare," you hiss. You hear the man gulp as you glare at Dick. "His name was Cassidy and that is what is going to be engraved on his gravestone." You turn back to the director and feel satisfied when he takes a small step backwards. "That's Cassidy, C-A-S-S-I-D-Y, Casablancas. Don't mess it up."

The former Mrs Richard Casablancas glances at you in surprise. You don't blame her. You just surprised yourself as well.

You look at Dick again, only to find him knocking his knuckles against the caskets as if he were playing bongo drums. His brother was dead and he couldn't even show any sort of respect for that. A small part of you knows that the jokes, and the obnoxious comments, and the loutish behaviour are all a cover to hide the fact that he's sad and hurting. But somehow you can't bring yourself to care about how Dick feels. He had never shown any concern for you so why should you show any for him?

You spin on your $500 stiletto heel and walk out of the funeral parlour. You think you might be sick if you stay there with Dick Casablancas Junior and his mother any longer.

As you step into the bright Neptune sun you wonder why you're letting Dick Casablancas' lack of respect for the dead get to you. You wonder why the death of one boy that you didn't even like is affecting you so much.

- - -

"Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."

You watch as the coffin is lowered into the ground. The sound of one person, and one person alone, crying reaches your ears. You hadn't thought that the former Mrs Richard Casablancas was able to feel any emotion at all. You wonder if she regrets her decision to not take her son to Europe with her now that she is staring right at the outcome of everything.

The minister closes his Bible and goes to speak with Dick Casablancas and his mother. You stand and turn to leave and that's when you realise just how few people had come to see Cassidy Casablancas being buried. You hadn't bothered to see how many had come earlier or who they were. But you can see now. Seven people. A grand total of seven.

There was Dick and his mother. Logan Echolls was standing with Keith Mars and his daughter. A dark-haired girl that you had never seen before was sitting by herself away from everyone though occasionally the Mars girl would look at her with a concerned expression on her face. And then there was you.

Dick Senior hadn't turned up. Of course, considering that he had fled the country and all, you hadn't really been expecting him to be there. In fact he probably didn't even know that his son was dead. You think he probably wouldn't care anyway if he did know.

You find yourself hoping that there are more people at your funeral and yet you can't think who would actually go. Certainly none of the girls from high school that you cut all ties with. Most definitely no one here in Neptune. The only people that you think would care enough to go your funeral are your parents. And your little brother will probably be there because you know he tends to feel obligated about that sort of thing.

Then you find yourself wondering if your family will even be told you're dead when they don't even know that you go by a different name these days. And if they don't know then no one else will care about you or miss you when you're gone.

You walk out of the cemetery, pushing aside the realisation that no one will be at your funeral.

- - -

The wake is to be held in Function Room 1 of the Neptune Grand Hotel.

That was what the announcement in the newspaper had said. As you walk into the crowded room you wonder who in their right mind holds a funeral reception at the very building that the deceased jumped from. You think it's possibly the stupidest and most inappropriate thing you've ever heard of (and that includes everything you have done over years).

You glance at Logan Echolls and that Mars girl as you pass them. They're sitting together on a lounge excluding themselves from the rest of the gathered "mourners". The two of them aren't speaking, just sitting there, holding each other's hand. If you were still living with the same mindset that you had when you were fourteen and a half then you would think they looked sweet together. But as it is you're not the same girl you were ten years ago. Now, you've moved so far past sweet that it's not even in your vocabulary anymore.

Logan Echolls and the Mars girl had been the last people to see Cassidy Casablancas alive. Of course they hadn't mentioned that fact to anyone outside of the sheriff's department. But then again, this was Neptune. The hometown of gossip. You didn't need to hear it direct from them to know they were there. Everyone knows they were there.

Sometimes you wonder why. Why he jumped. And as you stand there watching them the curiosity gets to you. You almost walk over to ask them about that night but the sight of Keith Mars joining them with a plate of food stops you. You're not curious enough to endure making small talk with him until he leaves.

A small part of you (the same small part that knows Dick Casablancas was upset about his brother's death) feels sorry for them because you know that whatever happened that night was bad. Really bad. Like end of the world kind of bad. But Logan Echolls and the Mars girl are none of your concern. So you suppress that small part of you and turn away.

The room is absolutely packed with people. Hardly any of these people had attended the actual funeral. These people were all businessmen, and trophy wives, and Neptune High students. They were people who had probably never known Cassidy Casablancas as anything more than "the other son" or "Beaver". They had probably never cared to take the time to know him as anything else because they were all too caught up in their own sordid lives.

You grab a glass of champagne from a nearby waiter and down it in one go. As much as the small part of you (the small part which seems to be intruding more and more) is disgusted by it all, you find that you can't really fault them. Because you know that if you hadn't been his step-mother and if he hadn't given you a job then you wouldn't know him as anything more than "Richard Casablancas' younger son" either. You would still think exactly the same as them. You wonder when you started thinking of yourself as being separate from them.

Neptune's elite were all congregated in one room, not because they wanted to honour the passing of a soul but because they felt they ought to be there. The son of an elite had died. And so they came to be seen. This was exactly the same as the world that you grew up in, the world that you had been desperate to enter again, the world that (thanks to Cassidy Casablancas) you will never have to leave. But suddenly you want nothing more than to escape it all and go back home.

- - -

You hang up the phone after booking your plane ticket to Tennessee. You know that right now is certainly not the best time to be choosing to visit your parents. Sheriff Lamb still wants to question you about the Aaron Echolls murder and Keith Mars probably wants to keep questioning you about the briefcase you gave him. But you decide that they can both wait a couple of days. There are things you need to do.

Your mother is sick and probably won't be around much longer. You think that maybe you should apologize to your parents and try to make it up to them for everything you put them through while you still have the chance rather than waiting until it's too late. And that one thought scares you because you haven't thought like that since you were fourteen and a half.

Again you wonder how the death of a boy you didn't like could be changing you so much.