"After Life"

Mary Anne got up from the couch and moved over to the door after hearing a knock from the other side. "Who is it?"

"It's Larry."

Balki's girlfriend opened the door and immediately noticed Larry's expression, which seemed somewhat somber. "Hi, Larry," she greeted softly, letting her friend in. "Is everything alright?"

"I think it will be," he nodded without much emotion in his voice.

Mary Anne called out, "Jennifer, Larry's here!" She then placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him into the living area.

Jennifer came out from the bedroom with a smile on her face. "Hi, Larry," she moved over and hugged him, then immediately noticed his expression. "Are you ok?"

"Yes. I just came up to tell you that we don't have to watch Balki be happy tonight." He paused. "He's downstairs saying goodbye to Yaya Biki right now."

"Saying goodbye?" Mary Anne questioned.

Larry nodded. "I think we all know he's been hiding his sorrow. It turns out that Yaya Biki had told him that when she passed away he should carry on, and that's what he's been doing. At least, that's what he's been trying to do. But now he's realized he has to say goodbye."

Jennifer guided Larry to sit on the couch then sat next to him. "Poor Balki," she said as Larry took her hand in his, and as Mary Anne took a seat in the chair across from them. "Is he ok?"

"He will be. But this is the best thing for him right now. He needs to mourn for her."

"I wish I could have met her," Mary Anne said with a little enthusiasm. "She sounded like fun."

"And so wise," Jennifer added.

"Balki was so excited at the thought of seeing her again. He really wanted to show her how his life has turned out. I know she would have been proud."

"So what made him finally decide to say goodbye to Yaya Biki?"

Larry took a deep breath. He'd told Balki about how an uncle of his wrote a letter to his recently deceased wife to tell her everything he wished he could have said to her. Larry didn't feel he deserved any credit for helping Balki reach his decision. He felt Balki knew what to do all along, but just needed to see it. "It was just time."

"Death scares me," Mary Anne said quietly. "I've never lost anyone close to me, so I can only imagine how Balki's feeling."

"I lost my grandmother, on my mother's side," Jennifer began. "I was so close to her. She's the one who taught me how to be myself and not what anyone else thought I should be. She taught me how to cook, how to drive," she chuckled, "…..and even how to kiss boys!"

Larry smiled and said gently, "She did a wonderful job."

Jennifer grinned and gave Larry a gentle kiss on the cheek. She took a moment, then said, "I miss her so much. She was so vibrant, so giving. It's been nearly five years and I still don't think I'm over it."

"I don't think we ever get over losing someone special," Larry offered. "We move on, but we still keep their memories alive."

"I hope Balki's ok," Mary Anne said in a quaky voice.

"I'm sure he will be, Mary Anne," Jennifer replied. "We just have to be there for him."

A couple of minutes later, there was a soft knock at the door. Jennifer and Larry turned towards the sound as Mary Anne darted out of her seat to open the door.

"Balki," Mary Anne greeted as she lovingly wrapped her arms around him. She then led him into the apartment and closed the door.

"I just came up to tell you that I'm sad now," Balki announced despondently. Jennifer moved over and gave him a hug. "Thank you, Jennifer."

"Are you going to be alright?" Larry asked as he joined his friends.

Balki nodded. "Yaya Biki wouldn't have it any other way."

"Is there anything we can do?" Jennifer offered as Mary Anne clung to Balki.

Balki looked to each of his friends and swallowed. Slight tears welled up in his eyes. "You are my best friends and I love each of you very much." He hugged Mary Anne, then Jennifer, then Larry. "Thank you for everything." He turned to his roommate. "Thank you, Cousin Larry, for telling me about your uncle."

"You're welcome."

"Yaya Biki would have been very happy to know all of you, and to know that Balki has such wonderful friends."

"I'm sure she knows," Mary Anne said softly.

Balki nodded. "I know she does."

Mary Anne, Jennifer and Larry moved to Balki and gave him a hug in unison.