Shadow's mother Melissa led him through the funeral home to where his older sister lay. The casket was open so the twelve-year-old girl's face could be easily seen.
"Why is Maria sleeping here, mama?" the seven-year-old hedgehog asked his mother.
The older hedgehog sighed, letting go of her son's hand to rub her head with her own hand. After a moment of silence, Melissa looked down into her son's ruby eyes with her own gray ones and answered, "You know how your big sister's been sick lately?" Shadow nodded. "Well, she needs to rest for longer than she normally would. A lot longer."
"Okay," Shadow said as a few tears slipped down from his mother's face. This worried the young hedgehog, so he asked innocently, "What's wrong, mama?"
Melissa bit her lower lip and grimaced as she looked down at the golden hedgehog girl who lay in the casket in front of her. Her daughter had been taken down by some disease that the doctors had never seen before, and both Melissa and her husband Thomas had agreed not to let their daughter be cut up for medical reasons: they weren't going to get anything out of it other than a tampered-with corpse, so they opted for not.
"Nothing that won't heal with time," Melissa said, leading Shadow to the benches where they would sit through the service.