The day before the funeral
This is her home. She sat on her couch, in her living room, in her apartment. The place smelled like it always had. All the furniture was exactly where it's always been, unmoved, some even untouched. There was still a good amount of dust in the places she was used to seeing it.
Yet Tansy Silverweed wanted nothing more than to run away. She sat all alone on that couch, in that living room, while everyone else was in the kitchen. She hated the sound of their chatter. She hated the way they eyed her and laughed to each other. Even one of the people who wasn't from her father's family, a married woman called Esther, glared at her. Then again, she was glaring at everyone…
The one person who kept shooting her sympathetic glances, who was studying the photographs on the wall with fresh pain on her face, was Granny Zippy. Her mother's mother. She didn't have Rosie's vivid green eyes, and her brown fur was darker, but Tansy could see the resemblance. She wasn't all that old either, only just looking middle-aged.
Eventually Zippy came over and sat next to her, a picture in her hands. Her smile was warm. "Hello, dear. Tansy, is it not?"
Tansy felt herself nod, eyes flicking between Zippy's face and her own shoes. Zippy angled the picture so she could see it, and she realized with a speeding heart it was her with her parents, on the apartment steps. Her first day home. She was only ten years old.
"It is very nice," Zippy continued. "The three of you all look so happy."
She lowered the picture. "What did you feel that day, when you became their daughter?"
Tansy swallowed. What kind of question was that? But Zippy's eyes were soft and kind. There was no malice in them, or in her voice. So she swallowed again and spoke. She barely recognized the small, raspy voice.
"Happy. So happy. I thought I would be trapped forever in that horrible place, but they saved me. It was…it was like…bliss. The heavenly chorus."
Yes, she remembered the feel of her parents' arms around her. The soft leather seats of the car, its pleasant scent mingling with Mama's perfume and Papa's cologne. She remembered when they pulled up in front of the apartment, and the warm burst of joy she had felt when she fully realized that this would be her home. She remembered running around the apartment all day, memorizing every detail, touching everything, while her parents watched and laughed. Mama made roast chicken for supper that night, and it had been one of the most delicious meals Tansy had ever had.
Tansy didn't realize she was smiling until Zippy touched her knee.
"There," her grandmother purred. "That is what you must do. You must remember the good times you had with your parents, and how much you loved each other. The happiness from these memories will help you heal."
She raised her hand and took Tansy's in it. "When my husband Isaac died, it was like the world had ended for me. The man I loved was dead. I had four children to raise all by myself. But I would remember. I remembered Isaac's laugh, and his smile, and our wedding day, and a million other things. And it helped."
Tansy was silent. Her grandmother's hand was very warm and silky. Zippy smiled slightly, but the pain was still in her eyes. Tansy felt her eyes become wet and she looked away. "Thank you."
They stayed like that for the rest of the day.
The day of the funeral
Mordecai was only just barely aware of the world around him.
He could hear someone giving a speech, raindrops drizzled on his hat, and the cold bit into his skin.
All he could see were the two coffins in the ground. One was for Rosie.
He felt…strange. He had felt strange ever since receiving Zippy's letter. His heart was beating fast so constantly, and a weird sort of dread made his stomach wriggle. Sometimes he couldn't breathe. Other times there was a strange tickle in his throat, then a stinging wetness in his eyes. Once he regained control of himself, these odd feelings would go away, but…
And, ever since, Rosie hadn't left his mind. Once.
One second she was thirteen years old and hugging him and holding back tears right before he left for college. The next she was twenty and had her back to him, holding up her hair so he could put his wedding present—a string of pearls with a golden clasp—around her neck. Then she was five and pressing against him in his bed, eyes wide and full of tears, as she said she'd had another nightmare. Then she was eleven and was dumping a handful of fresh snow down his back, then squealing with delight as he chased after her screaming bloody murder. Then he was back at her wedding and dancing with her, making comments about her thick perfume that only made her laugh. And then came the very dim memory of when she was only a baby and Zippy was holding her out to him so he could give his new sister a kiss on the forehead.
Mordecai removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. What was wrong with him? Every memory only made his distress worse. It was uncomfortable, and of course annoying. He out his glasses back on and adjusted his cufflinks. The movement gave him a few precious seconds of freedom from his inexplicable condition. He swept his eyes over the small crowd that had gathered.
Zippy was beside him, tears streaking down her cheeks. She gripped a black shawl tightly around her shoulders, shivering from cold and grief. He then realized that only one hand clasped the shawl. Mordecai didn't realize what this meant until he saw the young girl on his mother's other side, embraced by Zippy's thin arm. A tiny thing, white with grey patches, her eyes a murky yellow. Her dark brown hair was so dull it was almost grey, too. She stared down at the coffins with pursed, trembling lips, her gaze intense.
Mordecai wondered who she was and just how he had never noticed her, until he finally recognized her. Tansy Silverweed. Rosie's daughter. His niece.
He remembered reading the letter where Rosie had gushed about her new daughter. She had sounded so incredibly happy. He could only just barely recall her words, but he could still hear that gentle, smooth voice, high and excited. The only other time he'd truly seen her that joyful was when she opened the box he handed her at her wedding and saw the shining pearls inside. He remembered going deaf for quite a few seconds.
Rosie was so strange, he said to himself.
"Was". The word caught him off guard. Rosie would never squeal like that again, or wear those pearls, or laugh as she made him twirl her around on the dance floor despite his protests, or smooth down his hair and kiss him on the cheek when they parted ways after the ceremony.
There would be a lot of things she'd never do again.
Why was he thinking of this things? He frowned. Why wouldn't Rosie leave him be? He came up here to keep Zippy company, since she'd asked. Nothing more.
He fought back a jolt as someone in the crowd suddenly moved, and Mordecai saw it was Tansy. She approached the graves, bent down and, instead of the shovel, picked up the spade. She scooped up the dirt and flung it over the coffins. She was wheezing as she returned to Zippy's arms.
Next came David's mother, Varley. Her twin sister followed, then her daughter, then her son-in-law. All seemed quite displeased.
Now it was the Hellers' turn. Zippy went first, shaking so hard she almost dropped the shovel. Then came Esther and her husband. Finally Mordecai came forward. He swung the shovel and stabbed it into the dirt, then heaved. With a grunt he cast it over the graves. He watched as the dirt fell with soft pattering onto Rosie's coffin; the top was already almost completely covered. He took another shovelful and flung it onto David's coffin.
David. Who was the one who decided to get into the car that day.
In his mind's eye, Mordecai could see the couple in the car, smiling and relaxed; then came the dawning horror on their faces when the car swerved out of control, and they couldn't stop, and Rosie probably screamed, just as she did when Hannah—
Mordecai stopped himself and flung the shovel down for the next person. He suddenly felt sick. It made him want to scream.
Had he eaten something bad recently? Was he getting enough sleep? Was the Marigold gang finally getting to him? He just didn't understand it.
Several minutes later, it was all over. He let Zippy lead him to her car—he had only just arrived at the graveyard minutes before the funeral began. He saw Tansy was following, and realized she must have ridden with his mother. The girl studied him curiously but shyly, constantly averting her eyes.
And then he realized Varley was tottering after them as well. She was very old, hunched over, her eyes milky. She insisted on sitting up front, and Zippy insisted on driving. She had stopped crying for that sole purpose. "You don't know where the apartment is, anyway," she said.
So it was that Mordecai Heller and Tansy Silverweed sat next to each other in the back. He didn't talk to her. She didn't talk to him. A perfectly fine arrangement. He ignored the way she kept looking over at him, although he let his ears fall flat to express annoyance. Finally the girl cast her gaze out the window, gave an impressively big sigh, and went to sleep.
Thus began the seven days of mourning.
Mordecai Heller didn't know it, but when they ended, his world would be changed forever.