Words. There were so many different words, different phrases in the world, yet I couldn’t develop one.

She puffed a chilled breath. “Exactly.”

“Hailey…when Gabby died—” I started.

“No!” she hissed, holding her hand up to me. “Today isn’t about Ashlyn’s guilt. Today isn’t about Gabrielle. Ryan is dead! You promised!” she cried, choking on air, on her own misery. “You promised to watch after him and now he’s dead!” Her sobs made her words half broken, mere mutters. “Y-you hurt everyone who y-you c-c-come near,” she stuttered. Her gaze fell to the ground. She didn’t mean her words. I knew she didn’t.

If there was anything I remembered from Gabby’s funeral, it was that sometimes it was easier to be mad than to be hurt.

“Who am I supposed to eat lunch with?” her voice whispered. She wrapped her hands over her mouth as a pained cry of sadness left her lips. She continued to sob, her body shuddering. “I’m sorry, Ashlyn. I didn’t mean what I said.”

My arms wrapped around her and I shook my head back and forth. “We don’t do apologies here,” I said, quoting her from the first time I sat at their lunch table. “Because we know harm is never the intent.”

“Theo’s not here,” she cried into my shoulder. “It’s the worst day of my life and he didn’t show up. He said it was against his belief system. Bullcrap if you ask me.” She wiped her eyes and pulled away from me. “The sad thing is, I don’t believe in this, ya know? In coming to a church to mourn in this way. I know Theo isn’t really a Buddhist…but I’m starting to understand the study. I actually love it. And this”—she gestured back to the church—“this doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I can help.” A deep voice was heard, and we turned to see Randy walking toward us. He’d shown up to make sure Daniel didn’t have to be alone after losing someone else in his life. He approached us slowly, not wanting to interrupt. “I know how it is, how painfully unnecessary death can seem. It just feels like you want to get revenge on the world for taking away the things you love.” His head fell and he rubbed his temple. “I’ve studied Buddhism for many years. And if you are interested, we can say a prayer together.”

Hailey’s eyes welled up with tears. Her shoulders dropped. She was on the verge of breaking down again. “I don’t know any prayers. I didn’t study that far into it.”

Randy rushed over to Hailey and kept her from falling, placing his hands on her shoulders. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He wiped away her fallen tears. “I’ll walk us through it.”

I stepped to the side, watching the two try to find comfort.

He took her hands and his dark-cave eyes looked into her blues. “This will be from The Dedication Chapter from Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara.”

Hailey snickered softly, sniffling. “I have no clue what you just said.”

“It’s okay. Just close your eyes. I’ll walk you through it.”

And he did. I watched two complete strangers find comfort with one another in the worst moment known. They didn’t shutdown from the unknown. They welcomed it together. Hailey’s harsh breaths began to relax as she held on to Randy’s hands.

My favorite blessing that Randy brought up was, “May all beings have immeasurable life spans. May they always live happily, and may even the word ‘death’ disappear.”

Sounded good to me.

Everyone headed out of the church to go over to the cemetery. Daniel approached me, not looking to be a lover in front of everyone but just a concerned individual. Yet in my heart I knew he was a concerned lover, and that’s all that mattered.

“How are you?” he whispered. I shrugged. Daniel’s lips turned down, probably seeing my distressed look. “I wish I could hold you and take away all of your hurt.”

I smiled at him and a few tears fell. He moved to wipe them away. “Don’t.” I wiped my own eyes. “Henry,” I muttered.

Daniel frowned and nodded. “I’ll see you later.” He headed for his car.

Turning in the direction to Henry’s truck, I paused when I saw Jace around the side of the church building. He paused, staring at me before he turned and started walking in the opposite direction. I chased after him, calling his name.

“Listen, I get it,” he huffed, turning to face me, “Call the cops. Get me locked up. But I swear to God I didn’t do this! I didn’t give that kid those drugs” He paced back and forth, his forehead spitting out sweat in the cold, cold air. “I didn’t kill that kid!” he screamed in a whisper. I didn’t say anything. I stood staring at him, his blue eyes filled with emotion. His hands ran over his low-cut hair and he bent his knees, lowering himself to the ground. “Oh my God. Did I kill that kid?”

“You have the same eyes,” I said. He looked up, confused. “As Daniel. You both have the same eyes.”

He wiped his hands under his nose and sniffled. “We get them from our dad.” Pulling himself to a standing position, he paused. “Why aren’t you calling the cops?”

“You’re not a child, Jace. If you think you did something wrong, then it should be your responsibility to turn yourself in.” I slightly smirked. “Plus, I’m having a really crappy day, so…”

He laughed and nodded. “I’m sorry. About all of this.” His blue eyes filled with tears. “I’m so f**king sorry.”