My hands were fisted, so ready to break his jaw. “I’m not like you. I don’t pick on people more pathetic than me.”
He laughed. “Oh, Gavin. You act like you were some great son.”
I had to walk away from this. Had to. “I’d appreciate it if you would leave,” I said, and headed back toward the chapel.
“You’re just a chip off the old block,” he called after me. “No sense denying it.”
I kept walking.
When I entered the room, Corabelle looked up from the coffin. “He’s in the wrong pajamas!”
“It’s okay, baby,” her mother said. “The duck ones are just as lovely.”
I didn’t really want to approach the box that held Finn, the lid open and a spray of purple hyacinths covering the lower half.
But I did. He looked nothing like he had in the hospital. His cheeks were colored pink, his mouth stitched closed. They had rearranged his lips to sit more naturally together, even though they had been formed to the tube when we held him that last time.
The pajamas were slightly too big, tucked beneath him. I was sure if I could see his legs, the footed part would dangle off the end. But I said none of this. “I think there are more ducks than frogs in the ocean.”
Corabelle laid her head on my shoulder, and I relaxed. This was just a ritual. A bit of time to pass. Maybe when it was behind us, she would be better. Maybe I would figure out something to say.
The minister came in with his black suit and white collar, a pale face topped with scant wisps of blond hair. “Lovely boy,” he said, gazing down at the coffin, and I wondered how many babies he had seen in boxes.
“Thank you for coming,” Mrs. Rotheford said.
“Of course. I understand the other grandparents are here?” He looked around.
“Not if I have anything to do about it.” My voice was a growl, and Corabelle lifted her head to gaze at me.
“Family is the most important part at times like these,” the minister said.
“There’s Alaina and sweet June,” Mrs. Rotheford said, turning to the back of the room.
My sister ran forward and crashed into Corabelle’s mother. “Daddy says I’m not an auntie anymore.”
This seemed to make Corabelle waver, and I steadied her as her body swayed.
“Of course you’re an auntie,” Mrs. Rotheford said, looking at my mother questioningly.
Mom waved her handkerchief. “You know Robert.”
“Can you see Finn?” Mrs. Rotheford asked June. “Do you want to?”
June shook her head, still buried in the folds of the dress.
Mrs. Rotheford patted her back. “That’s okay.” She looked past me, then tensed. I knew before I turned around what she was seeing.
“Robert,” she said. “Good to see you.”
He didn’t answer, stopping at the end of the rows of chairs. If he said something nasty about Finn, he would be dead. I would kill him. I would not spare a single blow.
“Don’t you have a jacket, boy?” he said. “You’re running around such a solemn occasion looking like a bum.”
“Robert,” Mom said. “Don’t start.”
He took off his own jacket and tossed it at me. I would have let it hit the floor, but Corabelle watched with such wounded eyes that I caught it in one hand.
“Well, put it on,” he said.
I looked to Corabelle for what to do. She just stared up at me, worried, I knew, about my father’s explosive moods.
“It’ll be nice, Gavin,” Mrs. Rotheford said, her hand still on my sister’s dark head.
I shoved an arm into one of the sleeves, repulsed by the smell of my father’s cologne on the collar. He smirked at me as I shrugged it on. “Looks like you need to grow into it, son.”
The shoulders were too wide, making me look like a kid playing dress-up.
“Now, now,” the minister said. “Let’s go over the parts of the service.”
He droned on, but I didn’t pay the least bit of attention. Corabelle focused on his every word, concentrating, I knew, because it was easier than thinking.
The room had no windows, just partitions between sections to make the chapel bigger or smaller to match the crowd. We didn’t expect many people to be here for Finn, just a few neighbors and classmates maybe.
The minister closed his book with a snap. “And that’s when we’ll do the slide show,” he said. “The soundman will play the song you picked out, and the parents and grandparents will leave first.”
My father sat on one of the chairs, popping his knuckles.
“Let’s go find a cookie,” Mom said, tugging June along. “Robert, you could probably use something to drink.”
“I’ll say,” he said, jumping up out of the chair.
Mom flashed him a look that said, “Don’t start.”
At least he never knocked her or June around. If he did, I would have buried him before I was twelve or died trying. Mom always accepted his explanations for my discipline, as he called it. She preferred patching me up to trying to get in his way.
When they were gone, I sank onto one of the seats, not sure I was up for comforting anyone, deep in my own hole.
Mrs. Rotheford tried to lead Corabelle away from the casket, but she refused, saying, “When they close the lid, I will never see him again!”
The minister patted her back. Mr. Rotheford stepped forward from his spot by the podium and pulled his wife close. I knew I should go up there, do something, be there for her, but the familiar buzz was coursing through me, anger simmering, trying to spew out.
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