It was the first time I’d ever realized that life ended. You’d have thought the revelation would be shocking for a kid, but I was able to accept it; maybe because none of it felt real. The body in the box had her shape, but to me it looked like plastic, like it was a dummy.
Mr. Drew’s funeral was exactly the same. It wasn’t that he had passed; he was just somewhere else, and he was fine, even if he’d never come back. The emptiness was there, but I don’t know; it didn’t feel as final as it should.
Tanya and I went together, as had half of the senior class. It turns out Mr. Drew didn’t have much family to speak of, but he had a lot of friends, colleagues, and former students who cared enough to pay their respects.
My fists balled in my lap; I wished I had some kind of cherished memory to hold onto. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like such an imposter.
“Are you okay?” Tanya asked for like the millionth time.
“Yeah,” I lied. “Just need to get this out and we can go.” No sense in sticking around for the service; that was for the people that mattered to him.
Nobody talked to us, save for the funeral director who was handing out leaflets. The picture they’d chosen was recent, with both Mr. Drew and his partner smiling on the deck of a yacht. Funny, it took coming to this place for me to see him so alive.
“How did you know them?” the director asked.
I froze. What was I supposed to say?
Tanya picked up the slack. “We were Mr. Drew’s students,” she answered. “Kaira was in his science class, and he was my home room teacher in sophomore year.”
They chatted back and forth, forcing smiles, while I scanned the crowd. All the faces were like driftwood in the ocean, floating until it was over. If it hadn’t struck before then it did at that moment; the calculated act of cruelty that had brought us all together, and how I was a part of it.
“Is there any chance I can see him?” I murmured.
“Of course,” the director smiled, then ushering me to the door. “They’re both in the next room. The family have asked that the caskets remain closed. I’m sure you understand.”
Unfortunately for us, we did.
I followed her lead to the next room and entered alone. The twin doors closed behind me, and I was facing two wooden boxes, finely polished, and propped up on steel legs shrouded with a veil. A picture inside a wreath showed me which coffin belonged to Mr. Drew, and I shuffled closer.
“Hey,” I said, as though he could talk back. Funny, I could still imagine him lifting his head and arching a brow, same as he would when I botched an answer in class.
“So, I’ve got some things I needed to tell you,” I continued. “Gods, I don’t… I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t even know if you can hear me or not. I want to believe in an afterlife, but… you know. What am I talking about? You’re a scientist; you probably do know.”
Mr. Drew gestured for me to get to the point, or at least he would have.
“What happened was… terrible, and you didn’t deserve that, and I’m really sorry. I mean, nobody does, and I know that’s really obvious, but…”
Okay, this was not going how I’d planned.
I collected my breath and pressed on.
“If you can hear me, I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame myself for what happened,” I blurted. “Maybe I should feel guilty, and maybe I should have saved you, but I didn’t know. Teddy was a lunatic, and neither of us knew how far he would go, but it’s his fault this happened. Is that wrong of me? It feels selfish, but I know you wouldn’t blame me, and I thought you should know. I hope that helps you rest easy.”
You ever notice how sometimes words sound different once they’ve come out of your mouth? I was getting that feeling all of a sudden.
I stepped closer and ran my fingers along the pine. It was smooth and pale; hopefully it was just as cushy inside, for all that was worth.
My teeth bit my lower lip, and I steeled myself. “I’ve got all this power now, but it won’t bring you back. I guess all I can do is make the most of it, right? If I go out and be Glimmer Girl, I think maybe on some level this will have been worth it. Maybe if I do that I can live with myself, and who knows? Maybe I really will save the world. Stranger things have happened, right?”
He said nothing, but I could tell he was smiling.
“Take care, Mr. Drew,” I said and shuffled back for the door. In minutes I’d be out of my black dress and back in gold, soaring through the air like a shooting star.
After all I had a mission, and now a promise to keep.