The smell of fresh wood polish clung to row upon row of hard seats. People adorned in shades of black and purple occupied them, all faced in one direction. Some heads were bowed down, ever so often another hand would rise to dab away painful tears.
Tom was standing nearby the oak wood coffin. The gorgeous bouquet of lilies and roses didn't seem to have any scent, and the enlarged photograph of a pretty blonde girl with shining pine green eyes was framed in gold beside it.
His gaze drifted from the photograph to the girl inside the half closed coffin. The radiant light and brilliant life force from the girl in the photo wasn't present in the one lying down. The white velvet interior of the coffin looked almost cosy.
She was dressed in a soft, simple pastel pink dress. She looked smaller somehow. Her blonde hair had lost its shine, lying beneath her head like a pillow of pale gold. Her complexion was pale, her features peaceful. She looked too young, like a little child rather than a girl on the brink of adolescence. Tom kept a moderate distance from the coffin to allow her family and others to pay their last respects to her.
The coffin was closed, and Tom sat down beside a familiar face he couldn't name. He watched the front of the chapel with blind eyes. Several people read speeches during the ceremony, sharing their treasured memories of the golden girl. Each a stabbing pain in his heart, reminding him only of what an infinitely precious thing he'd lost. She could never be replaced.
Tom was one of the few who didn't
take to the stage to commemorate Jenny. Words would simply fail to
portray his view of her. Thinking of her was painful enough; he
wouldn't have had the strength to voice his own memories. Dee did
the best out of all Jenny's friends, relaying across to the
mourning crowd gathered there how good Jenny had been. A heart of
gold, a ray of light. She didn't falter once in her speech, despite
the unyielding streams of tears running across her ebony
Summer barely got through her first sentence before breaking into tears and leaving the stage without another word.
A screen had been setup against the wall above the coffin. Photos of Jenny were displayed across the smooth white canvas. Tom barely heard the song playing during the display. Sarah something, he thought vaguely after a moment. In the arms of the angel.
On the proceedings of carrying the coffin to the funeral car outside, Jenny's little brother broke down, too weak and wrought with grief to keep a firm grip. The coffin momentarily slouched to an angle, a sudden jerking motion that caught everyone off guard. As those nearby recovered and prepared to jump to steady it, unseen hands straightened the coffin out in a split second. They continued down the aisle of the chapel carefully, leaving Joey behind to be seen to by his mother.
The sky was clear and the sun warm as the coffin was setup onto a contraption that would lower it to the dark grave below. One by one, grieving loved ones put scarlet roses on the coffin as a final goodbye. Tom kissed his own rose lightly before placing it on top of all the others. The priest read from the Bible as the coffin was finally lowered painfully slowly. People wept.
The small crowd of loved ones and friends dispersed when the grave was filled with rich dark soil. Tom stood by, watching, until the grave was filled and loose rolls of grass set above it. The grave was marked by a small white cross stuck in the soil, a board reading her name. Jennifer Thornton. Temporary, until the actual gravestone was complete and ready to be placed here.
Tom finally turned to walk toward his car when Summer and Dee beckoned to him. He paused in mid-stride, turned to look back at the grave one more time. He frowned and glanced around quickly, and wearily stepped back over to the grave. He stared at the flower lying on the green grass. It hadn't been there a second ago. A silver rose, he realized after several moments of debating whether it was a flower that had blown from someone else's grave.
He sighed heavily. Gave the rose another look. And walked back to his car. He started the engine as Dee slammed her own door shut and Summer put her seatbelt on in the back. He pulled away from the curb slowly and glanced one more time in the rear view mirror.
Sure enough, a lone figure clad in black stood by the new grave. Frost white hair glared sharply in the sun. Tom could tell the apparition was looking back at him, watching as he drove away. Then it turned to look down at the grave. He crouched down, and reached toward the surface with one hand – and blurred into shadow, and evaporated into thin air.
Tom realized vaguely that Julian's heroic death had been nothing but a farce, to allow Jenny to live her life without guilt or worry that Julian would come back for her. He'd been alive all this time, watching her but not meddling. Tom understood that it must have taken enormous self control for Julian to stay 'dead'. For Jenny's sake. Now that she was gone, the shadow man didn't have reason to watch anymore. Released from his obsession over something he could never have.
Tom didn't mention the apparition to
Summer or Dee. Instead, he found strange comfort in knowing that
someone else shared his heart ache and loss, someone else knew
exactly what he was going through.
He knew that Jenny was in a better place, asleep in heavenly bliss.
A/N: I've tried to kill Jenny a couple of times before. She was in a car crash one, but she didn't die…but she didn't get Julian either (Refreshed Innocence). Then there's one of my more recent fics where she actually commits suicide (Blue and Grey). This one… well, I wrote it a long time ago and updated bits and pieces of it before uploading it here.