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“I don’t need someone hovering over me. I’ll be all right. People get around with broken arms and slight concussions.”

“Especially Heaven-stones,” I said, and he nodded.

He looked at me. “Glad you had your hair fixed,” he said, “and you’re wearing your own clothes.”

“I’m sorry, Daddy. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He nodded. When we entered the house, he insisted on going to his office instead of up to his bedroom.

“I can rest there as well, and there are things we just have to get done,” he told Ethan.

We accompanied him to the office. He sat behind his desk and for a moment just stared ahead. He reminded me of the African American lady in the emergency room, stunned by her sadness and fear.

“You’re sure you don’t want to lie down for a while, Daddy?”

“I’m okay. I’ll lie down in a little while.” He picked up the phone and began to make his calls.

Ethan looked at me and gestured for us to leave.

“I’ll look in on him in a moment or so,” he told me as we left the office. “It’s better for him to keep busy.” He paused. “You’re right. I like this new hairstyle on you.”

“Thank you.”

“Let’s get some lunch,” he suggested.

Again, Gerad was more than happy to accommodate us, as were both De Stagens. Ethan told them to bring my father something to eat.

“This funeral is going to seem as big as their wedding,” Ethan told me.

He had to give Lucille one last compliment, one that I might very well have sincerely given her myself.

“Fortunately for your father, we discovered she had thought out and planned for everything,” he told me. “I guess it’s logical that someone who was so in control of her life would be sure to be in control of her death. It’s like some road map all laid out to follow. There’s nothing for us to do but bear witness and comfort your father.”

I didn’t need Cassie beside me to whisper the right thing to say.

“I’ve done that before,” I said.

He nodded and reached for my hand.

We sat there listening to the sound of silence that had seized Heaven-stone and held us hypnotized.

Epilogue

ETHAN WAS RIGHT about Lucille’s funeral. It ran like a Swiss clock, and the number of people who wanted to attend was so great that

he, with Daddy overseeing him, had to create a preferred guest list. There were actually people at the church door checking off names. They set up speakers for the crowd that gathered outside the church, and of course, anyone who wanted to could attend at the cemetery.

It was the cemetery decision more than anything else Lucille had done that won my respect. She had not changed her desire to be buried alongside her first husband. Daddy would lie next to Mother. I was sure that set some tongues wagging, but I could just imagine Lucille staring them down with that condescending expression that said, “How dare you question one of my decisions?”

There was a seemingly endless parade of sympathetic mourners at Heaven-stone during the days that followed. Gerad and the De Stagens worked harder than ever. Ethan was right alongside Daddy and Uncle Perry, greeting people and thanking them for their condolences. I wasn’t as out front as they were, but there was no hiding. In an ironic way, Lucille’s funeral and the aftermath did more to bring me out in public than anything she had tried. Daddy actually complimented me, telling me he was proud of the way I was conducting myself. Both Ethan and Uncle Perry followed up with their compliments as well. In the end, there were the four of us, sitting quietly together, all feeling as if we had just been through a great battle.

Daddy proudly rattled off some of the messages he had received from high government officials and important businesspeople, as well as journalists and television personalities from our area. After we had heard most of it, Uncle Perry said Lucille had impressed many people and was highly respected.

“Maybe there’s just a curse on Heaven-stone wives,” Daddy said. “Our grandmother died at an early age.”

“I won’t have that problem,” Uncle Perry muttered. It was just a thought that had come to him, but after he said it, he looked up at us as if he had blurted out something terrible. It was the first time Daddy had laughed for days.

“You will if they legalize gay marriage,” Daddy quipped, and Uncle Perry’s face turned into a ripe apple. Ethan smiled, and I thought to myself that Cassie would have enjoyed this.

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