This scene was becoming all too familiar Ryker wearily recompensed as he sat inside the dimly lit chapel. This was the third funeral in the last three months. What the hell was going on? Why were members of his family, seemingly healthy, dropping like flies?
The soft sniffle, reminiscent of a kitten mewing, broke his thought as he put his arm around Sienna without contemplation. This certainly wasn’t the way to start their engagement. Ryker sighed silently recalling the festive evening less than six weeks ago. His entire family in attendance, Sienna’s parents and two siblings, also present, he popped the question.
She managed the yes through tears and joyful laughter, making him the happiest man alive that night. Today that night seemed years in the past. Organ music began, somewhat startling Ryker as he never saw the organist enter the room. Turning to his right, he noted the rest of his family, ever-dwindling, slowly making their way to the pews he and Sienna occupied.
Today they were burying his uncle Raymond, his father’s oldest brother. Last month it was his aunt Rebecca, and the month before that his aunt Rachel. With his grandfather Raymond Sr. preceding everyone in death, only his paternal grandmother, Adalynn, and his father, Ryker Sr. remained. Smelling the familiar fragrance, Ryker smiled as the hand touches his own. Her touch soothed him today just as it had all his life whenever something upset him. Iris Baldwyn, his mother, his rock.
Movement another time caught his eye. This time he took note of the slow, regal, steps of the family matriarch as she made her way to the closed coffin of her eldest son. Placing one of her frail, withered, hands-on the shiny slate gray surface, Ryker noted the lingering sadness.
Stingily, two malnourished tears trailed the wrinkled face, her quickly dabbing them with the ivy embroidered handkerchief. His father escorted his grandmother, carefully guiding her to the empty front pew, helping her take the seat reserved. He swiftly sat next to her, no one else intruding on the remaining space allotted.
The chapel continued to fill as the minister walked over to Adalynn and Sr., offering them his condolences. Lifting his head, he gave a general nod of acknowledgment to the rest of the family and friends gathered.
Noting the subtle change in the man’s demeanor, Ryker slyly repositioned his head, his eyes falling on the now-familiar figure. Frowning marginally, he made a mental note to approach them this time.
The minister’s voice ended the contemplation, as everyone turned their attention fully to the man behind the small pulpit, wanting desperately to get through another somber, rainy, grief-filled day.
Familiar to her now, Nep continued taking the atmosphere, occasion, and people, in stride. She caught the curious glances, the gawking stares. She heard the questioning whispers from the tightened lips of those in attendance. Still, none of them had worked up the courage to say hello or posed the question she knew most pressing on their minds.
The minister another time drew Nep’s attention. She smirked noting his reaction to her presence. Play nice. The voice in her head only broadened the original facial gesture, causing her to drop her head. Nep ran a manicured nail down the obituary she held, admiring the sparkling black polish.
Her favorite color, she alternated between it and its cousin, blood red. Flipping open the folded paper, Nep’s eyes took in the words printed.
Accolades, awards, lineage. A lifetime of breaths drawn dwindled to three succinct paragraphs. Wasteful. Craning her neck marginally to her right, she took in the Baldwyn family. A long, rich, lineage, all represented in some form here today. Nep inhaled deeply. Despair.
The aroma entrancing, intoxicating. Mmm, what is that delightful undertone? Fear. The two together made for an irresistible cocktail, one which Nep felt her soul quicken to devour.
The music stopped; the minister’s voice impeded her unholy desires. Smiling ever so stingily, her head lifted toward the voice, eyes meeting the speaker. Latching into his carnal thoughts, rendered him nearly speechless. Allowing the connection to be severed, Nep turned her mind to other pursuits as he droned on.
Watching she saw the sweat bead on the furrowed brow, spilling down the temple, rolling under the chin, settling the jowl. Nep supposed him to have been an attractive man at some point, at present one would be hard-pressed to prove it.
The piercing wail brought Nep’s stare to rest on one yet undiscovered. The woman held a lone seat in the back of the chapel. Renting her clothing, the tearing sounds bringing discomfort to those in residence, the woman released her grief without impediment, care, or embarrassment.
Head cocked another time toward the front pew, she saw the thin lips pressed tightly together, the anger in the furiously pumping jugular vein. The minister, having gathered himself, continued his presentation. Nep smiled another time deliberately cutting her finger on the program, enjoying the salty, coppery, blood that flowed as she closed her eyes, task recalled.
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