5. Shoot out
Nothing about the day spelled disaster. The sun was shining and everything seemed to be well in place as I drove down the familiar streets.
The chapel was fully packed when we arrived. Almost everyone had come to pay their last respects.
I surveyed the place and was satisfied to see everything was in place. None of the others had been much help when it came to the burial preparation. I was the one that was left to shoulder the weight of everything.
I didn’t complain though. I took it as a chance for me to reciprocate what he’d done for me. After all, he had fed me, clothed me and put a room over my head.
The service was about to begin and most people were already seated. I decided to sit on the opposite side. It didn’t feel right sitting with the rest. It especially didn’t feel right sitting next to Emma.
“Mom, why are we sitting here…shouldn’t we sit next to grandma?” Noah asks, pointing at where the others were.
Of course we were getting weird looks but I didn’t care. After all, it wasn’t a secret that I wasn’t wholly accepted by the family after everything that happened.
“Most people are already seated. I don’t want us to cause a fracas” I lie.
He looks like he doesn’t believe me but choses to let it go. The father arrives and the sermon begins just as I feel someone sit next to me.
I tense. I would know his presence and cologne anywhere. I don’t know what he was doing seated here. He should be with his precious Emma. In fact I would prefer if he were there.
Damn I sound bitter. Which I was. Bitter, angry and hurt.
“Dad” Noah whisper yells, which causes a few people to turn and look at us.
I glower at them making them turn back around.
“Can I sit between the two of you?” Noah whispers to me.
I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank goodness for small miracles. I wouldn’t have to be near his suffocating presence.
Stealthy moving us, I’m able to switch seats with him. The moment we do, I feel the tension ease up a little.
“We all must leave this world one day, the question is how will you leave it? Will you have made a difference? Changed it and touched the lives of those that you met along the way? Or will you leave it with regrets?” the preacher possess the question.
I can’t help but think about it. If I were to die today, who will attend my burial? Will those around me even care? Whom am I kidding? They wouldn’t. They would probably hold a celebratory feast. The only one who will be affected by my death will be Noah. Just him and no one else.
It’s honestly sad. The life I have. I don’t have any friends mostly because I hold myself back. Living under the perfect shadow that was Emma nailed in the fact that I can never be good enough for anyone. I wasn’t as beautiful as she was. S**y as she was. Smart as she was. Loved as she was. I wasn’t perfect as Emma was. I was nothing compared to her.
Even now when we’re older, I’m still in her shadow. No one sees my pain or suffering. It’s all about Emma. Her pain is bigger than mine. Her happiness is a priority over mine. She always comes first in everyone’s mind while I’m left chasing after leftovers of their affection.
“Mommy” Noah’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts.
It’s then I realize that the service was over and everyone was leaving.
“Ava, you okay?” his deep voice always makes me shiver.
I don’t want to talk to him let alone look at him but I’ll have to because for the next ten years we’ll be sharing Noah’s custody.
Shrugging my shoulders I stand up, without looking at him. I know it seems rude but I just can’t look at him. Not when the memory of him staring lovingly at Emma is still fresh in my mind.
“Come on Noah, let’s go”
He jumps up and we walk towards the door. Once we’re outside we’re bombarded by a crowd of people wanting to give us their condolences. I spot some of my colleagues and wave at them.
We hadn’t buried father yet and I was already drained.
“So you’ve finally decided to show your face” Emma’s bitter voice says behind me.
I turn around to face her. Her face was blotchy and her eyes were red and puffy, but she still looked like a freaking goddess.
I sigh. I so didn’t want to face her right now.
“Not now Emma. Can we just bury father first?”
She smiles then leans in so that I’m the only one that can hear her.
“We will bury him alright but let me tell you that I am here to stay. You also took my family from me all those years ago but no more. I plan to take everything back, including the man that was meant to be mine” she then steps aside and leaves just as the preacher calls us to go to back where the cemetery is.
Noah looks between me and the departing back of my sister but doesn’t say anything. I’m left shocked at her words but not really surprised.
What she doesn’t understand is that she doesn’t have to take anything back because none of them were mine to begin with. The family she’s talking about worships the ground she walks one. And Rowan? Rowan was and still is her man.
Pushing down the pain that wanted to drown me, I lead Noah to the place that would be father’s final resting place.
I stand a little distance from mother, Emma and Travis. They’re huddled together. Looking at them and me you would think that I was a stranger just attending the burial instead of part of them.
“Dust to dust…” the preacher says as they lower father’s body to the ground.
They then begin to cover his coffin with soil until he is completely buried. Mother’s wails are the loudest as she begs for father to come back to her. Emma and Travis both have silent tears running down their faces as they hold her in their arms.
I comfort Noah. Hugging him as he cries beside me. Seeing him like this brings tears to my eyes. I hate seeing him in pain. I wipe my tears away. I need to be strong for him. He needs me now.
Once again people flood us to offer their condolences. I accept them mindlessly. It was like I was there but wasn’t at the same time. By the time I come out of it, most people were already dispersed.
“Mom, there is pa and ma” he drags me pointing to Rowan’s parents.
They were there with Rowan and his twin brother Gabriel.
I stand awkwardly as he greets them. They look at me in passing but don’t say anything. We both know that I wasn’t their choice for their son.
“Can I get snacks with them?” Noah asks and I nod.
He hasn’t eaten in hours so he was hungry. Once they leave, we are left standing awkwardly beside each other. Now that his focus wasn’t occupied by Noah, it was solely on Emma who was standing a few feet from us.
I was about to excuse myself when I hear a screeching of tires. Everything happened so fast. Men with guns opened fire. The minute they started shooting I saw Rowan dive for Emma.
I stood shocked as I watched him protect her with his body.
I can’t believe he abandoned me to protect her. Why was I even surprised? This just proved that I’ll never be his priority. Seeing him protect her with his life completely broke something inside me.
“Watch out!” A man with a bullet proof jacket shouted at me.
He pushed me out of the way, but it was already too late. Something pierced my skin and I fell from the impact of the hit. My breath knocked out of me.
“Someone call an ambulance” he knelt down next to me and put pressure on the wound.
I was confused, dizzy and in pain. I went to tell him I was okay but then I saw blood soaking my dress and his hands. I hated the sight blood.
“Oh god…Noah” I whispered.
He was my last thought right before everything faded into darkness.