The inside of the church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side was damp and smelled like scented candles and old leather. David stood in the back of the church; his gaze fixed on the mahogany casket at the top of the center aisle. Ribbons of incense floated above the flower draped casket as a group of about 40 mourners individually offered their final goodbyes. A hushed silence enveloped the space, broken only by occasional sobs and muffled whispers. The somber atmosphere encircled David as he struggled to feel sorry for the loss of his ex-friend, Peter Usher. Memories flooded his mind, reminding him of the times they had spent together and the unbreakable trust they had put in each other. However, rather than a heavy ache in his heart, David felt relieved, almost happy, that Peter was finally gone.
As the funeral service progressed, people began to gather in groups offering their personal condolences to Peter’s family. David hesitated for a moment, considering whether to approach the casket. That’s when he noticed Peter’s wife, Rachel, across the room with a small group of mourners. She looked good in black.
Rachel was David’s former lover and the person who had once occupied his heart. They had shared a passionate love that had burned brightly, but eventually the flames had flickered out, leaving them both scarred. It had been years since they last saw each other, and now, here they were reunited under the most unlikely circumstances.
Rachel spotted David and walked over to where he stood as murmurs grew among some of the other mourners in the church who knew David. Without hesitation, she said in an irritated tone, “What are you doing here, David?”
“Hello Rachel. Sorry for your loss. I’m here to pay my respects to Peter.”
“What are you talking about? You didn’t respect Peter. You haven’t spoken to him in years,” she said in a louder more defiant voice. More murmurs.
A mix of embarrassment and surprise flashed across his face before he answered. “You’re right. I really came here to see you.” His voice was filled with a bittersweet tone.
They stood there for a moment, surrounded by the echoes of their past. The air crackled with unspoken words and unresolved emotions. David searched for something meaningful to say, a bridge to reconnect the fragments of their shattered relationship.
“I heard about Peter’s sudden death from your friend Colleen McGuire,” he said. “That’s when I knew I had to come.”
Rachel nodded, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. She and David fell into an uncomfortable silence, with the weight of the situation bringing them closer together. Memories of their time together flooded their minds, both the beautiful and the painful. It was as if time had stood still, the present moment blurring the lines between past and present. Peter’s uninvited invasion into the emotional and physical space left open by David and Rachel’s breakup was viewed by David as a betrayal by a close friend. Rachel had viewed Peter’s actions differently.
Rachel took a deep breath, gathering her courage once more. “David, I… I’m sorry for how things ended between us,” she said, her voice quivering with vulnerability. “I often think about what could have been.”
David’s eyes softened, a hint of understanding in his gaze. “I think about it too,” he admitted, his voice barely a whisper as he took a moment to gather his thoughts, searching for the right words. “I think we got lost somewhere along the way,” he confessed. “We stopped communicating openly, and the distance between us grew. We let small disagreements turn into big issues, and it became harder to find common ground. But we can’t change the past.”
“No, we can’t,” Rachel agreed, her voice tinged with sadness. “I have my share of regrets too. I wish we had fought for what we had. Maybe we could have worked things out. But perhaps we can find some closure, some healing today.”
They stood there, two broken souls sharing their regrets, their hearts laid bare. The funeral proceedings continued in the background, a stark reminder of the fragility and brevity of life. In that moment, they tried to find solace in each other’s presence.
As they watched the others pay their final respects to Peter, a sense of closure washed over them. Their eyes met, conveying an unspoken understanding. Life had led them down different paths, but their love had left an indelible mark on their souls.
As the funeral ended, Rachel and David exchanged bittersweet smiles, acknowledging the shared journey they had been on. They also knew that although their love story had ended, their lives would forever be entwined by the memories they had created together. Rachel and David carried a newfound sense of peace within their hearts, knowing that sometimes, even in the midst of loss, there could be a glimmer of healing and closure.
As Rachel turned and began to walk back to the front of the church, David asked her in a quiet voice, “Can I see you tomorrow for dinner?”
Rachel stopped, turned around, walked back to David and whispered in his ear, “Pick me up at 7. Colleen has my address.”
James Nelli is a retired business executive and the author of the flash fiction story, The Timely Death of Peter Usher. He was born in Illinois and has learned that you never know how strong and creative you are until it's the only option. He attended the University of Illinois, where he received a degree in economics, and then to graduate school at Northwestern University, where he received his MBA in Finance and International Business. His travels have taken him to many areas of the world. These travels have served as a basis for many of his stories. Writing fiction has been a passion for him, and in recent years his writing has specialized in murder mystery novels and poignant short stories that elicit emotional and thoughtful responses. His short stories have been published in a variety of publications. He and his wife live in Southern California, along with a lifetime collection of books.