We’d had no idea how hard it could all fall apart.
I found the package of nursing pads and pulled out a pair, judged their thickness, and took two more. The milk refusing to dry up was another insult.
When I got back to the bedroom, Corabelle was curled on the bed in her underwear, the black dress on the floor. I sat next to her. “We have to get ready, baby. We’re supposed to meet your parents in twenty minutes.”
“The dress doesn’t fit,” she said.
“Is it an old dress?”
“I wore it to Uncle Ben’s funeral last year.”
“You’ve had a baby since then.”
She rolled on her belly, her face pressed into the pillow.
“Corabelle, you’re perfect.”
Her voice was muffled. “I’m pathetic, leaky, fat, and I have no baby.”
I tried touching her shoulder, but she jerked like I had burned her. “Can I go buy you something else to wear?”
“In twenty minutes?”
“Let me see it on you.” I pulled her back to sitting and retrieved the dress. She stuck the pads in her bra, this terrible dead look in her eyes, as I figured out which end was which and dropped it over her head.
She was right, though. The front was tight on her swollen chest. “Maybe a jacket could cover it?” I asked.
She flung herself back on the bed. “Make this day be over.”
“We’ll get through it.”
“I don’t want to go through it.”
Her phone buzzed but she ignored it. I picked it up. “Your parents are asking if we’ve left.”
“Corabelle, come on.”
My tone must have set something off in her as she jumped up, tugging the dress down. “I don’t want to come on! I don’t want to go! I want him to be fine! I don’t want to see him in that horrible blue coffin!”
Sobs overtook her then, and I did my best to hold on to her even as she stiffened when I pulled her in. I had no idea what I was doing. I needed a rule book, something to tell me what to do and when to do it.
“We’re going to make it through this,” I said.
I led her into the living room, hoping to get her out the door. She didn’t have shoes. “Hold on,” I said and raced back to the closet. She seemed to have forgotten the tightness of the dress, and I hoped I could at least get her to her parents. They were doing a better job of helping her than I was.
I found a pair of black pumps and took them out to her. I didn’t think I could get her in them at that moment, so I just led her out to the Camaro barefoot. We could put them on when we got there.
In a town as small as Deming, we didn’t have far to go. I felt conspicuous, driving along the streets, feeling like every passerby was staring at us, the parents of the dead baby.
They were judging us. They wondered what we had done to deserve this. I could feel them backing away, wanting to avoid the bad luck in case it was catching.
Corabelle’s parents were waiting in front of the doors of the funeral home. I was sick of that place, its brick walls and white columns, the smell of rotting flowers, and the employees’ fake sympathy. I imagined my car crashing through the front doors, glass shattering, walls splintering. I tamped down the rage and parked.
Mrs. Rotheford rushed to the car and opened the door. She leaned down to put the shoes on Corabelle’s feet. “Come on now, baby, let’s get inside.” She pulled her daughter from the car.
Her father stepped up to help, and Corabelle was flanked by her parents, leaving no room for me. I felt like I was the cause of all the misery but no part of the solution.
When we entered the foyer, my own parents stood up from the sofa. My mother dabbed her eyes with a tissue. My father looked positively jovial, like we were celebrating a holiday.
“I just saw Finn,” Mom said. “He looks so sweet in his little duck pajamas.”
Corabelle’s head snapped up. “It’s supposed to be the frog ones!” She shot out of the room and toward the chapel, her parents hurrying after her.
My father rolled his eyes. “Not like it matters, frogs or ducks.” He rocked back on his heels. “At least you don’t have to be stuck with her now.”
I took three steps toward him with the absolute intention of knocking him flat. I didn’t have anything to lose. Everything that mattered was already gone.
But my sister ran around the corner, a bunch of daisies in her hands, and I stopped. She still had to live with them.
“Gavin, Gavin!” she cried and crashed into me. “I’m not an auntie anymore. Daddy said so.”
I pressed her face into my belly, scowling at my father. “You’ll always be an aunt,” I said.
“But Daddy said—”
“Daddy’s a big fat asshole.”
She looked up at me with big wide eyes. My mother came forward and grasped her by the shoulders. “We’re going to look around,” she said.
My father tugged on the sleeves of his charcoal jacket, a size too small. “Lookit who’s deciding to be an asshole at his own kid’s funeral.”
“I don’t want you here.”
“You don’t get to pick your family.”
“I sure as hell wouldn’t pick you.” My face threatened to explode from the pressure.
My father glared at me. “You want to take a potshot at me?” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Go ahead. I’ll give you a freebie.”
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