This was not about them
20 December 2015
The sky was grey. Jenna hated when the sky was grey. It felt like it would fall on her head as the clouds hung low and foreboding. She felt she could almost touch their dark rim. She sighed and put on her black leather coat to match her black tights. She would have to take a taxi to St James as none of her relatives would pick her up. She paused in front of the kitchen ledge in front of a large old parcel. Her hands reached out slowly but she forced them back in her pockets. Somehow, she found they had made their way back to the parcel, caressing distractedly its faded paper flowers. She picked up the parcel almost against her will and rushed out as the taxi honked again angrily. She must have been daydreaming because the neighbour yelled at her that the driver had honked at least five times and the rest got lost as she grimaced a smile towards her neighbour’s scowling face and ran leaving her grumpy neighbor’s words to trail away behind her.
The taxi dropped her right in front of St James. At least one advantage for not driving to the place she thought to herself. She entered and saw them all lined up in a small row. For such a celebrity there were much less people than she would have imagined. In fact there seemed to be only the closest family. Looking at them from far she imagined them to be some consortium of crows cawing at each other, the queen crow, her aunt, throwing her wings about in an absurd way. She moved closer and felt more than she saw her aunt stiffen, all drama wiped out from her frame. Hello Aunt Estelle, said Jenna. Nobody answered even as she turned towards her cousins greeting them. Cold looks met her attempt at friendliness. Jenna’s hands fell to her sides. She heard one of her cousins whisper to another that she should not be here after showing such ingratitude towards their dad. She squared her shoulders and moved forward. This was not about them. It was her right to be there.
Another cousin, the daughter of another aunt whispered that it was all Jenna’s fault that people even gave credit to those awful stories that came up and that had spurred the investigation that caused her uncle’s heart attack. Jenna gritted her teeth. She had heard about the young piano student’s mother complaining. It was certainly not her fault. She had only flung a box of chocolates at her aunt and uncle screaming that she hated her uncle and had disappeared so many years ago. People had thought she was being extremely ungrateful towards this couple who had taken her in at 10 when her mother was first ill. People had blamed her for the way in which she left. Jenna straightened her posture and stared ahead. It was not her fault that it happened to be a box of chocolates that the little girl gave her mother saying that Uncle Elliott, the piano teacher, had given them to her to be a very good girl. It was not her fault either that Uncle Elliott did not actually know what was the true meaning of a good girl and that the girl’s mother did not agree to his notion of it. It was not her fault that the police did not share either Uncle Elliott’s ideas on what a good girl was.
Jenna stared at all her cousins in a row, at the various aunts and uncles who simply looked away when she looked at them, trying to establish eye contact and make them understand that she did not mind anymore. This was not about them anyway, she told herself again. She remembered Ralph’s suggestion on letting go and moved forward quietly. The casket had a glass portion at the top and she could see her uncle smiling back at her. Her hands felt damp and chilly as they clutched her pants and the edges of her leather jacket. She reached slowly into the large bag on her shoulder and drew the parcel out. As she fumbled, her hands too sweaty, the old paper tore and all her cousins, aunts and uncles gasped as one by one more than a dozen small chocolate boxes fell from the parcel, the chocolates falling out from the boxes and spraying the coffin brown and white. Jenna stared at the messy coffin which looked like someone had vomited all over it and looked back at her cousins who had now closed in on the coffin looking aghast at her and at the coffin. She looked back calmly, not feeling any sweat anymore on her palms. It was as if the parcel and its contents had dried off all the sweat forever when they fell from her hands onto the coffin. Her aunt Estelle raised a hand as if she meant to embrace her but Jenna backed away from her. She broke through the row of her cousins and walked, never looking back. This was not about them.
This post was inspired by a prompt from the Ronovan writes series with this week’s prompt being about a family gathering.
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