Charlotte stares at her reflection in the full length mirror just outside of her walk-in closet. She’s thinner, tired. Her navy, lace body contouring dress hits just below her knee, paired with a matching blazer. Her curled hair, falling just past her shoulders, could use a dye job. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a church.” She mumbles, sighing softly.
“Well, you look beautiful.” Kait stands next to her, black designer pantsuit and heels. “Though I feel like I should wear something blue to match you.”
“No, you look great.” Char shakes her head, her mind preoccupied with everything else occurring, “I just...I don’t want to wear black. Dad’s favorite color was blue, so I’ll wear blue.” She swallows, “nude pumps. Uh...I should check on the boys, see if they need help with their ties...and Lavinia-”
“You’re getting side tracked. Only Cole and Lane are going with us and you bought them new suits and ties especially for this. Gwen, Evie, and Greta are taking care of the little ones and Owen.” Kait points out, “relax. The car will be round in a bit, but it can wait. No rush.”
“Who got a car?” Char’s brow furrows, confusion painting her face.
“I did. For you and Cam with Sian. Well, there’s a few cars, but the three of you should ride together...at least to the church.” Kait shrugs, being all too familiar with funeral pomp and circumstance, “I realized no one else ordered for them, so I thought I would.” She nods, “also, it’s raining out. Might want to ditch the blazer and just go for that trench coat that matches with that.”
“I was planning to. I can hear it against the window.” Charlotte smiles toward her partner, carefully removing the navy blazer from her shoulders, “thanks, Kaitie.”
Kait winks to her girlfriend before taking her leave to the hall, hearing a sniffling coming from one of the bedrooms. She follows it, knocking gently before pushing open the cracked door, “Laney, do you need some help?” When he doesn’t answer, she steps in more, closing the door behind herself as she takes in the sight in front of her, “Hey.”
Lane stares in front of himself, not toward anything in particular, eyes pooling with tears, “I don’t want to go...but I need to go so that Grandad knows that I loved him.” The loss of his grandfather has been monumental for Lane in particular. He was the only one to phone his Grandad regularly even when the man was living in Italy for treatment. Granted, no one really knew his reason for being in the country at the time.
“Not true.” Kait takes a seat next to the pre-teen on the bed, “it’s okay if you think it’s going to be too much. You can stay with Gwen and Evie and everyone.” She folds her hands in her lap, “and your grandfather knew you loved him. Think about Vinnie’s birthday, how excited he was to see everything you were into. Even the garden you were helping your Gran with. Remember?”
Giving a weak nod, Lane’s chin trembles, “why did he have to die so soon after Dad?” He swallows, “and why wouldn’t Mum let us see him before he died?”
“Because he got to be really, really sick. If any one of you had a cold, it would have meant he went quicker.” It wasn’t completely a lie, Kait sighs, “also, he didn’t even look like himself at the end. Looked like some other bloke entirely. I’m sure your Mum would rather you remember your Grandad when he was healthier...and looking like himself.”
“Doesn’t make it easier.”
“Not going to. Death isn’t easy, man. In fact, they’re always hard to deal with, except for your own.” Kait exhales with a tender smile, noticing his amused smirk. “Now, if you don’t want to go, no one is going to be angry with you. At all. Especially your Grandad because he’s already dead and doesn’t really know or care who shows up to church.” When the boy leans against her, she wraps an instinctive arm around his back after a moment of consideration, “I can have the car pick you up for the brunch after, if you’d like.”
Lane licks his lips, “and Mum won’t be cross?”
“Hell no. I don’t want to go either, no one wants to go to a funeral, but I’m going just to keep an eye on your Mum...you know how wild she can get at church.” It elicits another laugh from the boy, “just promise you’ll wear this fantastic suit when you come to brunch.”
Nodding, Lane smiles to himself, his anxiety beginning to subside, “I’ll paint my nails blue since that was Grandad’s favorite color.”
“I’m sure he’d have loved that.” Kait nods, feeling him sit up again, “I’ll go and let your Mum know after I check in on Cole-”
“He went to the Grands last night. Auntie Sian is staying there too.”
“Oh.” Kait shrugs, “easier for me then.” She offers him a smile as she stands, “I’ll go let your Mum know, but you need to keep your mobile on you, okay?” Seeing his nod, Kait takes her leave, returning to her girlfriend, who had moved to the first floor since their parting. She explains the situation, “he’s a mature twelve-year-old. He’ll be fine.”
Charlotte sighs, carefully putting on her nude pumps, “Not if he falls or-”
“It’s just for a couple hours, tops. Then he’ll attend brunch.” Kait offers, noticing her girlfriend’s hesitation, “I’ll even go with the car to retrieve him.”
“While I go with Sian and Cam to the gravesite?”
“Or after. I’d prefer after.” Kait watches Charlotte, not wanting to leave her side during the more depressing aspects of the day.
Turning her head when she hears her son’s tapping of his cane as he slowly makes his way down the stairs, Charlotte glances up to him, offering a smile, “hey, did you change your mind?”
Lane shakes his head, “I don’t want to go.” He carries his small case of nail varnish down the stairs, “Grandad isn’t alive anymore and I didn’t see him for a long time before that.”
“A few weeks.” Char watches him.
“I told him that I loved him when I saw him last. I can cry about him being gone from here at home.” Lane answers nonchalantly, reaching the bottom of the stairs, “going to church isn’t going to bring him back. Just like looking at Dad’s ashes doesn’t bring him back. It doesn’t make either of them any less dead.”
Charlotte swallows, watching as he takes a seat on the sofa in the lounge. “That’s...a tad harsh, don’t you think?”
Lane falls silent for a moment as he fingers through his nail varnish collection, “you look really nice, Mum. I’m glad you didn’t choose black.” He pauses, “it’s overrated for funerals.” Lane reaches an arm over when Alfie climbs onto the sofa, plopping his head on the boy’s lap. “That’s why I chose gray and violet.”
“You look great too.” Char nods, just watching him a moment before speaking again, “if you need me, don’t hesitate to phone.”
“You’re going to be late.” Lane mumbles to no one in particular, gently stroking Alfie’s head, keeping himself calm, “Love you, Mum.”
“Ditto, darling.” Letting Kait help her with her lightweight navy trench, Charlotte takes the woman’s hand after.
Kait gently guides her girlfriend from the house, closing the door behind them. Making their way to the home next door, belonging to her girlfriend’s parents. She opens the door, seeing that her girlfriend gets inside. She looks empty , Kait thinks. “Charlie, how about you take a seat in the lounge and I’ll get you a glass of water.”
“No, I’m fine.” Char shakes her head, “Mum?” She calls out.
“In the kitchen.” Bernie calls out, hearing her daughter moving closer. “I made coffee.”
“I’m fine, thanks.” Charlotte nods, “Kaitie got us a fleet of cars apparently.” She notices her son sitting at the kitchen table, eating toast while typing something on his laptop. “Morning, sweet boy. Sleep well?”
Cole shrugs a little, “Gran and I bunked together while Nan and Auntie Sian bunked together.” He nods, smirking, “Gran was talking about the time she and Grandad had taken you and Uncle Cam to a Fun-Fair when you were small and you argued that you wanted to go on a big dipper even though you were like...four.”
“Aren’t there pictures of that?” Char starts to smile, knowing it’s one of her mother’s favorite stories, “your Grandad wasn’t a fan of heights or speed, so Gran had to take me on and I sat on her lap. Safety restrictions weren’t what they are now, that’s for certain.” She laughs to herself, “Grandad was so cross with worry and, of course, I wouldn’t shut up about it.”
“Do you truly remember?” Bernie takes a sip of her tea.
“Of course. I remember every time...you came home.” Char clears her throat, looking away and finally speaking after a moment of silence, “Laney isn’t coming.”
“He wouldn’t be able to handle it.” Cole replies quietly, knowing his brother well, “I don’t know how Auntie Sian is going to handle it either.” He licks his lips, leaning back in the chair as his eyes continue to focus on the laptop in front of him, “she and Nan had a lot of wine...and she cried a lot, but they laughed a lot too.”
Char tilts her head up, furring her brow with interest, “Were you spying on them?”
“I prefer to call it recognizance.” Cole leans forward again, typing a few other things before closing the lid. He flashes his Gran a smile when the woman gives him an amused glance.
“Cars are here.” Kait calls out for everyone within, watching through the window of the lounge. She steps into the vestibule, her heeled boots tapping against the hardwood floor. She glances up when she sees Serena and Sian descending the staircase, “Good morning.”
“What’s so good about it?” Sian mumbles from behind Serena, heavily hungover from the night previous, “let’s just get this over with, please.”
Serena widens her eyes to her stepdaugher’s girlfriend, indicating that it’s definitely going to be a long day.