Last Rites

by Diablo Priest

Part 4

After the funeral, food was served in the basement of the church where long folding tables with the accompanying steel chairs were set up. Needy hadn't seen Jennifer since the wake, and hadn't spoken with her since sitting on the steps, when suddenly Jennifer slipped into the folding chair beside her.

The ebony-haired little beauty was underdressed for a formal occasion, in jeans and a purple sports jersey emblazoned with a golden "5"; and this was not like her. Jennifer always enjoyed dressing up. She was just as passionate about her outfits as she was about the clothes of the Barbie dolls that she played with. And she spent enormous amounts of time meticulously dressing Barbie for innumerable imaginary events, careers, and dates.

"This macaroni and cheese is great!" Jennifer exclaimed as she set her tray on the table in front of a bright beam of light streaming in one of the rectangular windows above their heads. And she sat down in a seat marked with the number 318 on the backrest.

"Yeah," Needy said, looking up from her untouched food.

Simultaneously, each took a bite and washed it down with some soda.

"You know, Jennifer," said Needy sheepishly, "I could never really hate you."

"I know."

"You were so beautiful at the wake that no one could ever hate you."

"At the wake?"

"Yeah."

"My mom didn't take me to the wake or the funeral," Jennifer said. "She told me that it was no place for little kids."

"Really?"

"I swear. She left me with a babysitter."

"But I saw you!"

"I screamed and cried," Jennifer explained. "But my mom wouldn't change her mind, and the sitter sent me to my room. I kept crying, but it was no use—I fell asleep. And, you know what? I dreamed I was carrying a white lily."

"I saw you! With the flower!"

"How?" Jennifer asked. "I was in my room. I really wanted to be with you, Needy; really I did; but I was at home. You know that I would do anything for you!"

Needy nodded emphatically, causing some her blonde hair to fall in her face; she brushed it away.

"I cried and yelled," Jennifer continued, "but Mommy wouldn't let me be with you. I knew you'd be sad at your Great Ma's funeral, so I colored you a picture from my new coloring book."

Needy paused for a moment. She knew what Jennifer had done. In her mind, she could see the picture on Jennifer's table.

"You colored me a picture of two dolphins jumpin' out of the water," Needy said. "And on top of it, you wrote in red crayon 'To Needy Love Jennifer,' and in the bottom right corner, '99.'"

"That's right!" Jennifer said in amazement. "How did you know?"

And from under her tray, Jennifer produced the very picture that Needy had described without having seen it with her eyes.

Ω

[The End]

Special thanks to Famaniel, Nomnom, and jennifer'sbody3 for comments and listings!

At the risk of being corny, I'd like to dedicate this to all my loved ones wherever they may be.