~I wrote this short story for my fiction writing class and felt like it was pretty good. Hope whoever reads this enjoys the story.~
We Regret To Inform You
It never was supposed to be like this. With the paper program clenched in my fist, I walked up to the open casket to look at Chris before they closed and lowered it into the depths of the cemetery. The warm oranges and reds that used to coat his complexion were now replaced with dull pale yellows and blues. His eyes rested shut as if in deep sleep. A subtle frown now permanently resided across his lips, so unbeknownst to the face. It served as such a contrast to the photographs displayed right next to him. One picture showcased him on a family trip to Panama City. He was drowned in a big orange life jacket, face flushed with embarrassment, looking away, with his hands failing to shield the rest of his face from the camera. I slightly smiled. He would have hated that they used that picture of him. Another one was of him grinning ear to ear in a suit and tie, outside the front door, right about to leave for prom. It was still hard for me to grasp that that version of Chris was gone now, forever imprisoned in a resin-coated film and black plastic frames. All I had now was a corpse. I decided that I didn’t want to continue to look at pictures, so I went back to observing the current Chris, dead Chris. After a while, I felt a soft hand touch my back.
“Janet are you okay?”
I must have been looking at her dead son for quite a while because when I looked back, I saw Chris’ mother’s sweet but concerned gaze on me. Her eyes were slightly swollen and red from days of crying, but they still had that same firmness and strength that I always associated with her. The look I always admired and the look that Chris couldn’t stand.
“Yeah, I’m fine Mrs. Hayfield, just taking everything in I guess” I replied as I shrugged.
“He would have been glad that you were here.”
I smiled, “That is nice to hear Mrs. Hayfield, sorry for your loss.”
“You cared about him just as much as me, this is your loss as well sweetie.”
She smiled back and began walking towards another group of people I would only assume were some of Christopher’s relatives. Once I heard the clicks of her heels get quieter and quieter, I unfixed my lips and returned them to their natural resting position. I’m probably the last person Christopher Hayfield wants at his funeral. I glanced one last time at my unalive friend before gradually making my way back to my seat. As I sat down, my mother gripped my hand and squeezed it to show her support, it hurt. Everyone took their seats in accordance with the funeral program and Mrs. Hayfield took the stand to say some final words.
“Christopher Wyatt Hayfield my beloved son…”
She paused and then continued.
“I am grateful for the 18 years that you have blessed me and your father with. You filled our lives with such joy and exhilaration. I always remember when you—"
As she spoke, I gradually phased Mrs. Hayfield’s voice out as my thoughts began to lead me to the same painful destination it had led me numerous times in the recent past. Last week Tuesday, February 9th, the day of Christopher Hayfield’s death.
Acceptance letters from Bordwell University had come out that day. Riding my bike eagerly back from school, my Motorola buzzed in my back pocket as worried relatives, intrigued neighbors, and nosy classmates alike wanted to be the first to know the news. As one of the only two students in the town to apply to the prestigious university, I had been turned into a popular topic of discussion in my small town, Camdalle. Ignoring the calls and messages, I continued to pedal.
By the time I got home, the bottoms of my jeans were uncomfortably soaked with dirty street snow, and I was out of breath, but those were the last things on my mind. I quickly tossed my bike and bag on the lawn. Reaching for my Motorola, I turned it off and tossed it with the rest of my belongings on the wet ground. I knew my mother would yell at me later, but that was later, and this was now. I ran to the mailbox, swiftly opened it, and reached inside to feel for letters. Feeling a couple in there, I yanked them out and searched thoroughly. Flip by Flip, my fingers went diligently through to find my envelope, carefully reading the address and titling of each encased letter. My Bordwell decision envelope wasn’t there. I went through the process again, but to no avail, I still couldn’t find my letter. After my second search, the majority of the envelopes were starting to dampen and deteriorate due to the tampering of my slightly snow covered gloves. “Maybe mom had been through the mail and took it inside” I rationalized within my head. There was no need to be worried, everything would be fine. I wiped up my runny nose with my gloves and then proceeded to return the now soggy envelopes back to their station.
“That is so fucking gross.”
I looked up. Blocking my field of vision was Christopher Hayfield, the second of the only two students to apply to Bordwell in our town and my longtime childhood friend. Sporting his infamous grin, he waved something I could only assume was my envelope, high in the air. Falling for the bait, I leaped up to snatch it back from him, only for him to timely raise it slightly out of my grasps lowering it again once my feet touched the ground. This game of cat and mouse continued for a while until both of us were tired, laying on the driveway, faces now blushed and out of breath. I inhaled some of the bitter chilled air, collected myself, and turned to face him.
“You know going through people’s mail is a federal crime?”
He shrugged and smiled.
“Guess that makes me a criminal.”
“Yeah, whatever just give me back my letter, so I can open it okay. This is serious.”
The flow of our conversation halted. I rose from the ground slightly annoyed. “What do you mean no?” He stayed laying down and mockingly shook his head in disbelief. “Don’t tell me you forgot” I paused for a second to think. Chris spoke on. “The promise we made in 5th grade”. Right as he finished speaking, I instantly recollected the moment of us at the ravine deep into the forest on the outskirts of town. Swinging our little feet at the edge of the vegetation covered ravine while staring at clouds, trapping frogs, lizards and other creatures that came across our path, catching fish in the ravine river with makeshifts fishing poles of wood, rope, and Chris’ fathers stolen hooks; it was our secret hideout. It was there that we decided to apply for Bordwell in the first place and pledged to open our acceptance letters together once we were old enough to apply.
“Now do you remember?”
“That was 8 years ago.”
“I know right so long ago.”
“This is Bordwell we’re talking about here,”
“Well, I guess Bordwell can wait until the Ravine.”
“Your such an ass.”
He smiled. “Meet ya there at 7 Jan”. Chris tossed me my letter and strolled towards the bike he parked near my garage. “You know I’m just going to open it once you leave right” I shouted. He pretended not to hear me, waving with the back of his hand goodbye as he biked out of my driveway onto the street and eventually out of my neighborhood. I sighed and looked down at the envelope from Bordwell.
7:00pm arrived soon enough and I found myself at the top of the Ravine to meet Chris, like we had promised. The sun was starting to set. I smacked at mosquitoes and itched my skin as I stood waiting for him. I checked my watch again “7:23”, just where was he. Suddenly a harsh light flashed directly in my face.
“Oh, my bad, I forgot how bright this thing was.”
Chris came out from the forest, wiping the sweat from his forehead. He took out his own addressed envelope from his pocket. I removed mine from my bag.
“Give me a second” I replied. I closed my eyes and sniffed the envelope, ignoring the looks of amusement from Chris.
I opened my eyes. “Okay, now I’m ready” I whispered. I slowly picked at the wax from the seal and removed the adhesive. Chris ripped the envelope open. Both removing the paper inside, we read the letters at the same time. We looked up and stared at each other. Chris was grinning. I was not. He saw that and quickly developed a somber expression.
“Janet, I am so sorry.”
I didn’t say anything. He slowly made his way towards me and reached for my hand. I didn’t move away. He gazed at me softly, but I couldn’t face him so instead I looked down. His thumb rubbed the fabric on my glove as we stood in silence. Chris and I both knew what this meant. He would go to Bordwell, meet wonderful people, and do wonderful things. Christopher Hayfield would become somebody important. I on the other hand would fade into the obscurity of Camdalle. It wasn’t fair. If anything, it was infuriating. My eyes began to water, and my nose started to run. Chris didn’t make a comment, he only moved closer to hug me. The mucus and tears gathered at the bottom of my chin and began to drip. My letter as well as Chris’ scarf became wet. Chris began to speak, interrupting the silence.
“I know how badly you wanted to get into Bordwell University…"
“I don’t even know how I got in, honestly.”
“I won’t go if it’ll make you feel better.”
“Would you just shut up. Okay I get it!”
In a sudden fit of unjustified rage, I pushed him off me causing him to fall. Slipping on the snow, he stumbled backwards and disappeared behind the edge of the ravine and just like that he was gone. His eyes wide as he called out my name in shock.
I raised my head and looked up. It was my mother, “It’s time for the burial”. We watched the grave get filled. Piles of dirt, one after the other until the ground was leveled. Farewells and hugs were given as people started to slowly make their way out of the town cemetery. I told my mom to let me stay behind to say my final goodbye. Once I was one of the few people left, I walked to his grave and read his tombstone.
In Loving Memory of
Christopher Wyatt Hayfield
January 13, 1990- February 15, 2008
Beloved son of Latrice and John Hayfield.
He will always be in our hearts,
May he rest in peace.
An unknown man stood beside me and crouched to read the tombstone as well. “What an unforeseen tragedy and he was such a young boy too.” He remarked sorrowfully. I nodded my head in agreement and turned to face the man. He had a relatively stocky figure and a full face decorated with a thick mustache and round glasses too small for his visage. He was dressed in typical business attire with a brown coat, he looked very out of place. He must have been from out of town. I introduced myself.
“I’m Janet Johnson, I was friends with Christopher Hayfield before he passed” I said wistfully.
He smiled sympathetically back at me.
“My condolences Janet, I’m Detective William McCroy and I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Would you care to talk about it?”