THE BOX

If there was one thing Veronica always knew, it was that she had very bad luck. So, when she was standing in the pews of her dead friend's coffin for the second time, she wasn't surprised. Heartbroken. Anguished. In more pain than you could imagine. But definitely not surprised.

She sort of knew that Meg would never fully recover from her coma; that the world would not let her have that back. She did most of her grieving months ago, so she wasn't sure why it still ached like this.

With Lilly, Veronica never would have seen it coming. She was sweet and naive then, but her wild best friend's side. She didn't understand how wild that really was; what that could lead them to. The sight of Lilly's bashed in skull was a shock, unlike the quiet grace of Meg unnaturally still in her box.

Duncan's hand was so tight in hers, she thought he might have been going to cut off her circulation. It was uncomfortable, but she couldn't open her mouth to tell him to stop. From the expression on his face, she could tell he was barely comprehending the situation, like he could just float away any second and was terrified of it. She let herself be his tether. It had been like this at Lilly's funeral too. Duncan had been broken and numb, and barely fixed to the ground. They had been broken up at the time, but it didn't even matter because he needed her at that moment. She held his hand as she cried; cried like she's crying now.

The burial had all the perfect Christian trappings, as the Mannings would insist. Veronica filled with the self-righteous anger she found so familiar. When Meg had woke up, begged her not to let anything happen to the baby, she had just broken Veronica's heart with the weight of the deeply crap life she lived. Veronica, for all her PI skills, had never noticed what was wrong with one of her best friends until it was almost too late.

The Mannings are standing at the front, listening to the Preacher's message of loss and love. Mr. Manning had given this beautiful eulogy about the perfect girl his daughter had been; like he believed a word of it. Everybody knew about Meg and Duncan's baby by now, but Stewart Manning tread around it with perfect elephant in the room style.

Duncan grasped her hand harder – was that even possible? – and she knew he felt guilty. If he hadn't been with Meg, broken up with her, left her with the baby – used her, even – then she wouldn't have wanted to avoid him. Would never have been on that bus.

Veronica felt guilty too. She was being unfair on herself and she knew it. But she couldn't help it; Meg wanted to avoid her too. Veronica was the reason Duncan dumped her.

Ten to one that bus crash was meant for Veronica anyway.

Grace just stared at the coffin with wide, tear-stained eyes, as if she didn't understand what was happening. She was buried in Lizzie's arms, whose whole body was shaking with the force of her sob. Veronica thought she had looked like that at Lilly's funeral; she couldn't remember all that well. Veronica just felt so overwhelmingly sorry for the remaining Manning daughters; drowning in her own sympathy. Poor Grace; terrified in the closet doors, such synthetically neat handwriting. Poor Lizzie, rebellious and wild – reputation that seemed so much different, knowing what she lived with.

It broke her heart; made her want to kill Rose and Stewart Manning. They were the monsters; they had destroyed so many things for their poor daughters. Part of Veronica said it was their fault; that they had made Meg need Duncan; or need to defy them, apparently through sex, meaning the pregnancy and the real reason she was so bitter. The real reason she couldn't get in the damn limo.

Veronica tried to make that fit with what she knew. She tried and tried and tried.

The undertakers were holding the coffin now, as music played – Amazing Grace, how fitting – and it all seemed so final. Hopeless. Meg was dead and that was that.

But Meg was dead, and that was that.

Veronica wished she could have done more. Payed more attention to Meg before Lilly died; been more careful about the Duncan thing; somehow talked Meg off that bus with her. So many things she could have done, just to have a little bit more time. She was being self-centered about this; the life and death of Meg Manning should not have revolved around her.

The church hall was lined with people – people who barely even knew Meg; people Veronica knew from school. Mac and Wallace (his disappearance all but forgotten) were there near her, Logan trying to get lost in the middle, Jackie awkwardly standing at the sides (she and Meg never even met!) and she thought she saw the Casablancas brothers somewhere near the back – it was like this when Lilly died.

Veronica thought as Meg was shipped off in her box. At Lilly's funeral, she had felt so damn helpless. It was so sudden and so final; everyone ripped and torn to pieces like in a Lilly Kane-shaped shredder. She had cried and Logan had bawled, Duncan had been so lost and there was nothing they could do, because Lilly would never take another breath and nothing else mattered. And it had been that simple; she had no control over anything. The world would just rip Lilly away, and never think for a second what it would do to poor, sweet, innocent Veronica.

It was different now. Meg gave her something to do; the new Lilly – Faith, they said; Veronica knew it was Lilly – now lying in a crib, in a prison. Meg had made her promise to protect the baby, and she will.

She held Duncan's hand harder, and let herself plan. There would need to be somewhere to hide them, distractions, probably other people to help. She had always been clever, and it felt like she owed Meg this much. She was going to lose Duncan and she knew it, but he needed to do the right thing for his daughter. They both did. So she grasped him for the few moments she had left.

She watched as what had been Meg was carried out the grand doors, and she cried, head buried on Duncan's shoulder. She had to make Meg, and Lilly – both of them – proud.