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Glasgow, Scotland – by Natalie McKay

Avis watched the casket with the remains of her mother’s body slowly decline into the cold, hard earth below with the mumblings of the priest filling the air. The air was crisp and cold, as many who surrounded the grave site snuggled into their coats. There were more than two dozen people there, though none Avis really knew. She felt a wave of emotional disconnect to the scene around her, the priest, the attenders, it was as if she was in some terrible dream, waiting for the casket to break open and her mother to come out, that she wasn’t really dead, that none of this was really happening, that it was all a mistake.

Stephanie Carson talked to her in the car on the way over about this, about how youth and kids have difficulties accepting traumatic events. Avis had wanted to flip her off, but her spirit was damaged, she had no energy to fight back at the moment; it was taking all the strength she had not to break down and run away. She had only been discharged from the hospital that morning, Stephanie had been there, feeling more and more like some personal guard then a Children’s Aide worker. Her hands and head were still bandaged up, the burns not fully healed, but Stephanie Carson had made sure her outfit would hide most of the bandages. There was a simple long-sleeved black dress, a matching hat and gloves. Had Avis been in her right mind, she would have torn the dress in two, but she did nothing, allowed her and the nurses to dress her up like some china doll. She was hollow inside, empty of any feeling. She didn’t even cry as the casket dipped under the surface of the ground.

The priest began to pray, and those around the grave dipped their heads. Avis couldn’t help but smile, thinking of how neither she nor her mother was religious. Of course there was no way that Avis could get away with an Airgryd funeral ceremony, if she knew what that was. Her mother never was clear on that point of their heritage.

The priest ended the prayer with an, “Amen”, which was echoed around the attendees.

“The body is broken, the Spirit is free. Good journey to you in the next life, may the Goddess Guide thee.” Avis said in a whisper barely audible over the others. With the casket settled in the grave, people began to move, dropping flowers or dirt onto the lid.  Stephanie tapped Avis on the shoulder and ushered her forward. She had forgotten the rose in her hand and stood and walked towards the edge of the grave. She raised her hand and slowly let go of the rose as it fell downwards into the dark hole. If the rose was to signify some sort of closure, Avis did not feel it.

The burial was over, the funeral ended as the crowd began to disperse. The priest came over, and laid a hand on Avis’s shoulder before walking away with the rest of the attendees as they got into their cars, all heading to some pub for refreshments, drinks and to gossip about her mother’s departure. There were enough rumors going surrounding her mother’s murder, Avis did not want to sit through listening to any more.

“Those were poetic words, where did you learn them?” Stephanie asked, taking Avis by the arm and lead her towards the black sedan the children’s aid rep drove.

“Just a story my mother used to tell me.” Avis responded dryly.

“There is a reception at McGibbons Pub,” Stephanie added. “I can take you there, or I can drop you off at the hotel?

“Hotel?” Avis asked, part of her thought that she would be dropped off at some half way house or foster care, a hotel seemed out of budget for the government agency.

“Your father arranged a hotel for you to stay in until you’re flight tomorrow.”

“Just take me to the hotel then.” Avis said sinking into the seat. She had already was tired of the constant words of sympathy and remorse.  “Did you see Mr. Wright?” Avis asked as the car moved through the traffic.

“Your mother’s lawyer? No, I didn’t.” Stephanie said, gazing to look at Avis for a second. “Where you expecting him?”

“He said there were some things I had to sign… and articles of my mother’s to collect.”

“I’m sure he’ll get them to you before you leave.”

Avis nodded and held her tongue, the lawyer had said he’d be at the funeral, but wasn’t. The sudden fear of something happening to him, a complete stranger, yet a connection to her mother grew within her. It was illogical, absurd even… her mind kept telling her that she was just being paranoid but she couldn’t get the images of those beasts out of her mind. They were still out there, maybe they would come back after her? Would she be safe in a hotel room? or even in America?

“It’s alright to cry you know.” The Children’s Rep said. “It’s part of being human, it’s good for you too, letting those emotions out.”

“I’m fine.” Avis whispered, lying through her teeth. How could she cry when fear still gripped her?

Twenty minutes later, the car pulled up at the hotel entrance, Stephanie checked Avis in, took her to the room and went through their schedule for the next day, when Stephanie would pick her up to take her to the airport. She stuck around to make sure Avis had all that she need, showing her the clothes her father paid for, the stocked fridge full of food for her to snack on and making sure Avis had all the phone numbers she needed incase  she needed to contact someone. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she rolled her eyes as Stephanie moved around, pointing out several safety features that Avis knew already.

“I guess you don’t allow many kids get to stay in a hotel alone.” Avis noted.

“No, we don’t. It’s against rules, but your father’s people pulled strings.” Stephanie said. “That’s it, you should have all you need. I will ask that you stay here.” she added.

Avis nodded her absently, glad to see Stephanie Carson finally leave the room.

***

Avis woke to the sound of her hotel room’s phone ringing, for how long, she had no idea. The moment Stephanie left the room, Avis had curled up into the bed and cried herself into an exhausted sleep. Groggy, Avis moved to a sitting position on the bed and began to pat around in the darkened room for the annoying phone to somehow shut it off so that she could go back to her dream world. Hitting the receiver with her hand, she lifted it to her ears and mumbled something that sounded like a ‘hello’ to the person on the other end.

“Ms. Rison?” The deep masculine voice asked over the phone.

“Yeah?” Avis responded, still dazed looking around her to find a clock. Ten-fifty four.

“It’s Mr. Wright, your mother’s Lawyer. Do you remember me?”

“Yes… you said you were going to be at the funeral.” Avis said, her mind waking up more now. “Are you alright?” She asked quickly.

“Fine. I have your mother’s articles in my possession.”

“Did you want to drop them off, I can give you the hotel…”

“No. No names, address. Meet me at your mother’s grave at midnight.” With that the line went dead and Avis stared into the darkened room before her.

Something wasn’t right. A secret meeting at midnight, in a cemetery. Avis wasn’t that big of an idiot. Yet, how could she refuse? Mr. Wright had the only remains of her mother, she couldn’t leave them behind.

Finding a light switch, the dark-haired teenager tore around the bedroom for clothes, she found a pair of jeans and long sleeve shirt as well as a jacket. She also found her messenger bag from the fire, burnt and torn in places, it was still usable. The articles inside were not as lucky, her macbook was bent and warped, the screen cracked and wouldn’t turn on. her iPhone was burned, the glass broken, and again wouldn’t turn on. The rest of the bag contained some clothing that was barely recognizable and her wallet, that at least gave her some ID but little cash. Her debit card was fried, same with the credit card her mother had given her for emergencies. Leaving her penniless.

With a depressing sigh she turned to the clock by the bed and noticed it was now past eleven. She had less than an hour to get to the cemetery. It was a good thing she knew her shortcuts. Flying out the door with her bag in hand, Avis took the stairwell and found a back door used by Employees and left the hotel. Instead of heading towards the cemetery, Avis took the opposite route. There was one stop she had to make first.

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