The funeral finally over, the teens and their parents go to the reception. Chase refuses to eat, until Jordan and his Aunt Cynthia gang up on him with Marissa.
“You too? Fine!” He grabbed a handful of grapes and stuffed them in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed. “Happy now?”
“Not even remotely,” Marissa said, scooting a plate closer to him. “When you’ve eaten all that. And this,” she moved a second plate next to him.
“And this,” Cynthia said, taking the plate from Jordan.
“Then we’ll be happy,” Marissa said. She, Cynthia and Jordan surrounded him, arms crossed, frowns in place, as they waited for him to eat.
“I can’t eat with y’all watchin’ me like a flock of angry buzzards,” he declared.
“I believe the correct term is wake,” Jordan said.
“Only you would know a thing like that,” Chase said snidely.
“And I’m proud of it,” Jordan said, holding a bite of cake up to his lips.
Chase snatched it off the fork, stuffing it in his mouth. He took the fork from her and ate the rest of the slice. When they were happy that he was eating well, they went to the bathroom.
“I can’t believe you guys let them gank me,” he muttered to his friends. “Sellouts.”
Brian chuckled. “Strangely, I’m okay with that appellation. Guys?”
They all agreed with him.
“Cause see,” Andre leaned in, speaking quietly. “When you’re nice to ’em, listen to what they have to say, all that stuff, they get real grateful. And even the most reluctant woman will eventually be less so, if you stay on her good side. So, my friend, if you ever, in this lifetime, wanna get laid before you’re thirty, you’ll shut up and eat the damn food.” He clapped Chase on the shoulder before straightening his tie. “Now, if you will excuse me, my lady love needs my attention.” He strolled over to Louisa, putting his arm around her shoulders as he gave her a kiss.
The younger men watched him with awe.
“I will never been that smooth,” Sweet complained.
“Not in a million years,” Brian agreed. “I will be, but not you.” He winked at Sweet.
The scrawny young man punched him. “You’d need a whole can of premium oil to be half that slick,” he replied.
“You’d need a case,” Chase countered.
Sweet laughed quietly. “Yeah. But the good news is, Ginnifer thinks my completely inept behavior is oddly endearing. So, while y’all sit here admiring that,” he pointed to Andre. “I’m still getting laid and you’re not. Aha—burn.” He got up and left.
“Sometimes,” Chase said. “I wanna hate that guy.”
“I want to all the time,” Brian replied. “But he’s just so sweet!” He batted his eyes and gave a girlish giggle.
Dwight chose that moment to arrive. Quirky grin on his face, he sat next to them. “Ooh-kay.”
Brian’s face hit the table as Dwight chuckled at him. “You have to realize that I’m a complete inept,” he spoke to the table. “Who, until last year, was a social pariah. And I liked it that way.”
Their new friend chuckled. “We all have our moments, Brian. Just wanted to mention, Dad’s found something and he wants us all to congregate in the cemetery as we’re able. Provided we’re able to—now.”
“What about Chase?” Brian asked, nodding to his friend.
“This concerns him even more than the rest. We shouldn’t all leave at once, but a couple at a time can slip out. I’ve already told the girls. This many people, you lot won’t be missed.”
“What about our folks?”
He shook his head. “Cliff was their dear friend. Let them have this time to grieve.”
Nodding, they rose and wandered past the buffet tables as if they were on the way to the restroom. When they got to the hallway, they turned left instead of right, hurrying outside. Bright sunlight nearly blinded them. It was quite a change from the dower weather earlier. Following Dwight, they walked downhill to the oldest part of the cemetery. Dr. Meru stood beside a mausoleum.
Obviously old, it was made of white marble. Ivy grew over it, neatly obscuring it from view. Roughly ten feet square, it was low with steps going down below ground level. An inscription danced around the arched doorway.
“Those are alchemical symbols,” Chase said. “I recognize those from books my dad had. What is this place?”
“This is the mausoleum where the good people of Miracle were buried after the witch battle,” Dr. Meru said. “Interestingly, there are several names here which are familiar.” He pointed to a weathered metal plaque on the wall.
Protected by the ivy, it had survived the past 300 years well. Jordan squinted at it, mouth dropping. “Elijah Sweet, Henrietta Finley, Camille Beauchamps! Oh, my God, this reads like a family tree. We each have a relative here.”
“Look closer,” Dr. Meru said.
“Virtuous Meru? You had family here?”
“Apparently, though I never knew it. A many greats something, though I’d have to do extensive research to find out.”
“Do you think there’s a connection between your relative being here when the Peddler appeared and later having him appear in your home town?” Brian asked.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes