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Twenty Four - Final Resting Place

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She holds my hand throughout the funeral procession, her warm skin against mine the only source of comfort in this time of anguish. Something about her presence beside mine just makes the moment bearable.

My vision clouds over when they begin to lower my mom's coffin into the grave, and my knees tremble, threatening to give out from underneath me. I'm so weak right now, I hate it.

The sky seems so dull, and perhaps it's just me, but everything around me is quiet. The birds that I usually love to listen to, are no longer singing. The wind has stopped whistling. The earth has stopped rotating. There is no color left in the world, no magic left in the universe that was always such a masterpiece to me.

'You are my magic, Xav,' my mom's voice echoes in my head. 'You make all the pain worth it.'

My voice catches in my throat, and I close my eyes and swallow back the sobs. My mom's laughing face flashes before my eyes, from when I was younger and when my dad was still with us. After his death, I never saw mom laugh. She still smiled, though. A ghostly, haunted smile that didn't reach her eyes.

To think I'll never even see that smile again.

'I'm sorry I'm such a bad mom to you, baby.'

She had sobbed the last time I had seen her. She had been partially intoxicated, but still recognized me at least. She had touched my face with her thin fingers and smiled through the tears.

'You're an angel in disguise, Xavier,' she had said. 'You deserve so much more.'

I had shaken my head and returned her sad smile with a reassuring one of my own.

'I love you, mum,' had been my response, as I had planted a kiss on her forehead while tucking her into bed.

'You'll be happier when I die,' she had mumbled to herself, and I had pretended not to hear it.

I wish I had told her how wrong she was.

For I am not happy. I am nowhere near happy.

"Xavier ..." Haley's hair tickles my neck and I open my eyes to find her head resting on my shoulder. Her soft fingers wound tighter through my calloused ones, and I hesitate in reciprocating her tender touch.

The graveyard is almost deserted now, and the few neighbors who had been considerate enough to drop by in my hour of need are slowly drifting away towards the exit. I'm grateful for their black attire and their somber expressions, with lowered gazes and hands knotted in front of them. At least they came.

"Come on, let's go, Xavier," Haley speaks softly to me, her gentle voice sounding almost like a lullaby. 

I don't look down at her, not wanting her to see the tears in my eyes. I'm sure she's not one to judge, but the societal stereotype of men prevents me from falling to my knees and sobbing like the broken little boy that I actually feel like right now.

Haley's father comes into my view, his brown hair standing up in the wind. The expression on his face is one of sympathy, but more than that, there is an affection there that I didn't see on any other face today. Something about this man just makes everything seem much nicer.

"Come with us," he says to me, a silent message in his eyes.

I can almost hear what he's really trying to say. 'You're not a homeless orphan, Xavier. Come with us. You'll always have a place to go.'

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