God its cold! Even with my new shawl wrapped tightly, the wind cuts right through. All the mourners look like they’re cold too. Poor Mum is clinging to Dad. She spent ages this morning trying to decide which gloves to wear, like it makes a difference. Dad’s numbly stoical, fortified by his best dark suit. The last time he wore that suit was for Grandpa’s funeral. Maybe it’s only for funerals; how depressing. He should burn it. No more funerals, except Uncle Henry’s; his would be good.
Uncle Henry, the town’s honorary mayor, and go-to guy. Dad says we owe him everything, including our house, and Dad’s job. Mum doesn’t know where we’d be without Uncle Henry. I know where I’d be. Uncle Henry’s been helping the family through the past few days; such a hero. Wait ‘til they find out he’s the father of my unborn baby. I’m under age. Dad will kill him. Oh, wait; maybe Dad should keep the suit.
I’m not standing with Mum and Dad; Uncle Henry is there. Everyone else loves good old Uncle Henry. He’s smooth, suave, and rich. He likes watching girls sport, taking the teams out to lunch, sponsoring our schooling; nice Uncle Henry. I hate him. No, hate isn’t a strong enough word. Imagine a word which is infinity times stronger than hate; that’s what I feel. I want to hurt him so bad for what he did to me. Cutting off his what’s-it would be too good for him. My revenge should be long, slow and public.
Dad’s not like Uncle Henry. Not good-looking or smooth, and usually broke. Dad believes in family. I love his laugh. He hasn’t been doing any of that lately. Laughing is off the menu. Poor Dad. He doesn’t deserve all the grief that life chucks at him. He doesn’t deserve to live beholden to Uncle Henry.
At least my brother is okay. Standing next to Mum, he looks pretty cool in his new blue suit, bought specially for today. I’m proud of my little brother. He’s going to be a fantastic chef when he grows up. I slipped a note into his favourite book the other day. We have this game where we leave each other notes. It’s not cool to like little brothers, but he’s okay, you know? He hasn’t found the note yet. He left one for me yesterday, under my cover. His words made me cry. It’s not every day that your brother tells you he loves you. That was unexpected.
Grandma is beside Dad, dressed in her favourite colour; black. It suits her nature. She’s in a wheelchair, ‘cos she’s sick. I heard she’s coming to see me real soon; can’t wait for that lecture. She thinks I’m selfish. I heard her telling Uncle Henry that I think only of myself. He didn’t say anything in my defence; scumbag.
There’s a much bigger crowd for the funeral than I expected, including heaps of kids and teachers from school. Thank God I’ll be too busy later to talk to them. None of them would understand, and I don’t want their sympathy. If I haven’t been able to talk to them before, it sure isn’t going to change now.
There are masses of people here that I don’t know. Gawkers and ghouls, including relatives I’ve never even heard of before. They’ll get together after, eating all Mum’s food, drinking Dad’s precious whisky, whilst having a good old gossip. Sometimes it seems like funerals are just a party in disguise. Maybe there should be a rule; say three things you know about the dearly departed, or no entry.
What would I say? She wanted to be happy. She dreamt of being a doctor. She loved Cher, thought Donald Trump was a jerk, liked butterflies and climbing mountains, and was terrified. She couldn’t face what dear Uncle Henry had done to her. After it happened, she stood in the shower, scrubbing until her skin was bleeding. She cleaned and cleaned, but still felt dirty. She hacked her hair short so it didn’t look pretty anymore. She burnt the clothes she’d been wearing, threw away her makeup, trashed her jewellery, but the dirt stayed, encrusted in her skin forever. She wanted to cut off all the bits his hands had groped. She felt so ashamed, guilty, and dirty. She started wearing the ugliest baggy clothes she could find. Skipped school, and life.
The day she saw the pink positive line on the pregnancy kit that she’d nicked from the store, she hid in the old tree-house in her back yard and cried for hours. She hated the thing inside her that was growing like a cancer. She was ashamed of her body, of ‘it’, of herself, of her secret. The words to tell Mum wouldn’t come. She knew how many people it would hurt. Pregnant, rape, abuse; dirty ugly words. Uncle Henry had traded her virginity for despair. Whoa! That’s way more than three things.
Who else is here? There’s that silly Mrs Berenio from across our street. She’s wearing a cool hat. It must have cost a bomb. Mrs Berenio positively simpers at Uncle Henry, like he’s a movie star. She doesn’t know yet that Uncle Henry’s been grooming her daughter.
The coffin looks pretty neat. I like the colour they chose. It would have been my first choice, but I had no say. The flowers are beautiful; roses and lilies, in salmon and cream. I don’t like it when the coffin goes into the ground; it feels kind of final. Then all that dirt gets piled on top, like a trap. It gives me the creeps. I can’t watch that bit. I heard that the headstone will be awesome, in the shape of a butterfly, with a photo on one wing and words on the other. I hope I can get back to see it sometime.
The Minister taking the service seems nice, though a bit nervous. Maybe she hasn’t done a funeral like this before. Earlier I saw Uncle Henry put an arm over her shoulder, in that way he does. I don’t know what she said to him, but he pulled away quickly. He hasn’t even looked at her since. I wish I’d had whatever super power she’s got. I’d tried to push him away but nice Uncle Henry wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Oh, oh! A police car has just arrived. The officers look really serious and businesslike. They are working through the crowd, looking for someone. How exciting; apparently it’s Uncle Henry they’re after. I’ve got to hear this. I sidle through the group quietly, unnoticed. They’re arresting Uncle Henry, in front of everyone. Real cool. Hopefully it’s about the letter I posted to them, the same day I left the note for my brother. I wrote lots of notes that day. Mrs Berenio will get hers anytime soon. Uncle Henry is going to pay, and pay, and pay, though it won’t ever be enough to fix our family. Wow! They’ve handcuffed him; serves him right. He looks really angry. Why isn’t he looking ashamed?
People are drifting away. The Minister reminds them to go to Mum and Dad’s for afternoon tea. She’s having trouble getting heard ‘cos there’s so much chatter about the arrest. Trust Uncle Henry to be the centre of attention at someone else’s funeral. I hope they lock him up for life; a long, long life. Throw away the key, or better yet, leave it hanging just out of reach, like my future.
A gentle voice startles me from my thoughts.
‘Time to go, Janey.’ My angel puts an arm around my shoulder. His warmth evaporates the cold breeze. I look at my parents and brother who are huddled together, staring heart-brokenly at my grave.
‘I didn’t mean to hurt them’ I cry.
‘Suicide always hurts those left behind’ he responds softly.
With deep overwhelming sadness I whisper my final goodbyes, but they do not hear me; I am gone.