Murmurs ripple through the crowd.
How is she?…Does she need anything?…Is she going back to work?…What about the children?…
I surf the room, nodding my head as I try to just pass through. Inevitably I am stopped and return to accepting the hugs, the shoulder squeezes, the kisses, the looks. The looks are the worst part.
At last I reach the door, a glass paneled door that rattles in the wind and sticks in the summer. It pushes open easily in the crisp November chill, leading to the nearly vacant backyard. Vacant, but for my sister. She sits alone on the old swing, toeing the ground to keep it propelled in a slow back-and-forth motion.
I pull my sweater more tightly around me, out of habit rather than an actual sense of chill. Life without Robert has left me numb to the changing season and its cooler temperatures. Georgia glances my way as I settle onto the worn wood.
“Too much,” she asks.
“Definitely,” I nod.
She passes me a steaming mug. “It’ll burn, but it’ll take some of the edge off, if you want.”
I accept the drink and lean back. “What I really want is some room to breathe.”
She smiles as I grimace at the taste of the whiskey-laced coffee, then pass her the mug. “Give it a week or so,” she says quietly. “All these people will go back to their regular lives and they’ll start to look past you. You’re part of a special club now, one that most hope they never have to join, but inevitably will.”
“I call it the “W” club,” she says wryly. “That way it fits for both genders.”
I turn to look my sister in the eye. “I’m sorry if I looked past you after Willow died.”
She nods. “I know. I’m sorry we have this to share now, too.”
I lean my head on her shoulder and take the mug back for another drink. We sit, staring at the empty backyard, at the scattered leaves and dead grass, until the mug is drained and our fingers are like ice.
Welcome to the club.