02-21 Funeral Without a Corpse

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Taïga is finally back in Bayou Oaks mansion in Fairview Heights after spending the whole flight home curled up on her seat with her headphones firmly plugged in, playing Unbreakable over and over again. She has tried not to give in to her grief but to think objectively about the accident, coming to the conclusion that she would have felt it if Derek was dead. He surely would have visited her as a ghost – like her mom finally did…

She refuses rather rudely to have lunch, instead she dumps her things on her bed before stalking upstairs to the study where she slumps on a chair, staring at the palantìr with a mixture of fear and something else she cannot name. Her mind keeps telling her Derek’s gone, but her heart refuses to admit the facts.

Granny enters hesitantly, ‘I thought you might need some company?’

Taïga nods, ‘Please.’

Granny sits down facing Taïga. She poses gently her hands on her lap and nods encouragingly at her granddaughter, ‘Don’t be afraid…’

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But the crystal ball reveals nothing.

‘But why Granny? Why is it just “foggy”?’ She spits out the words, ‘Why does it hide it’s answers in smoke?’

Granny looks benevolently at her granddaughter, ‘Probably because there’s nothing to be seen.’ She lets the implication of “nothing” hang in the air.

‘I saw Mrs. Brown.’ Taïga adds stubbornly. ‘And Mom.’ She frowns. ‘Dead. Both of them dead. And I saw their ghosts. They even talked to me.’ She looks questioningly at her grandmother, ‘So why can’t I see Derek?’

Granny can’t explain how come Taïga can see the dead, no Grey witch has yet had that ability… And she doesn’t want to hurt Taïga by saying the wrong thing. Carefully she suggests, ‘The hereafter is hard to understand. Maybe he hasn’t realized himself he’s not among us anymore…’ Granny wrings her hands in her lap, ‘Dear child, you have to come to terms with…’

‘I don’t have to come to terms with anything!’ Taïga throws back her chair, angry tears streaming down her face. ‘Derek’s NOT dead!’

She runs out of the room, hurling the door open by sheer will craft. Rowan regrets having tried to listen in as he’s thrown backwards by the heavy door…

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She doesn’t even glance at him but runs up the stairs to the attic where she lets herself fall into an armchair, ignoring the IF’s putting away some old toys.

‘Hey! You’re back!’ Bud exclaims, then he turns towards Rowan who enters the room, clutching his nose. ‘What happened?’

‘I think she fucking broke my nose!’

Peaches lets the doll’s furniture she were placing fall to the floor and runs to him with a Kleenex, ‘Here. Let me see.’

Irritated, he brushes away her hand. ‘It’s nothing.’ He glances at Taïga who just sits there, staring into space.

‘I heard you downstairs.’ No reaction. ‘What you said to Granny.’ Still no reaction. ‘There must be something we can do.’

Taïga turns her head towards him and nods enthusiastically. Encouraged, Rowan continues, ‘Why don’t you come with me to Monte Vista this summer.’

‘What? Monte Vista?’

‘Yes. If we want to find out what happened to mom, we should start where she disappeared, shouldn’t we?’

Taïga swallows, her deception clear on her face, ‘Of course you’re talking about mom. Nobody cares about Derek!’

Rowan looks contrite, ‘It’s just that Monte Vista is not out of reach. And they’ve not even found the wreck yet…’

Taïga silences him with an angry look.

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He smiles consolingly at her and dries her tears with his thumb, making Peaches flinch behind them.

‘Here.’ He hands her the Kleenex Peaches just gave him. ‘Clean up a little. Please.’ She looks at his outstretched hand. ‘It’s a Kleenex. Just wipe your face with it.’

Taïga mutters something under her breath, but takes the tissue.

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‘What about us? I suppose we’re not part of your plans?’ Buddy leans against the bookshelf and looks Taïga up.

She snivels and blows her nose, ashamed of her behavior, ‘Rowan told me you’re kind of hiding up here.’

Peaches nods and claps her hands, ‘Yes! In a secret room Rowan found. It’s just behind that bookshelf! Isn’t it clever?’

Bud snorts, ‘Yeah. We have to find somewhere else though. I’m supposed to be around 18 so I guess I’ll join the army this summer…’

Taïga nods to herself. ‘And what about you, Peaches?’ Peaches starts to answer, but Taïga interrupts her. ‘Isn’t that my T-shirt? What have you done to it? Cut it off?’

Peaches looks slyly at Taïga, tugging on the hem of the short garment, ‘I thought it looked more… interesting like this. And Rowan prefers me like this. Don’t you Rowan?’

Rowan throws up both hands, ‘Hey! Don’t bring me into this…’

He’s seen the look on Taïga’s face and knows what will come. But Taïga just shudders, ‘You should have asked me first, you can’t just go around cutting up peoples things on a whim!’ She dismisses the subject with a hand gesture, ‘Just keep it. Whatever.’

‘Taïga! TAÏGA!’ Missy’s shrill voice interrupts them, calling from downstairs.

Taïga rises from her chair and walks out onto the landing. ‘Yes, Missy?’

‘Linn just called. She’s impatient to see you. I can drop you off at her place, I’ve got business in town.’

‘Great!’ Taïga’s face lights up, ‘Thanks.’

Rowan looks at her with a frown of concern, ‘Will you be OK? I can come too.’

‘No, I’ll be fine. We’ll talk about mom when I come back. We’ll ask the palantír together tonight!’

She hurries downstairs, grabbing a sweater on the way, knowing that it will get chilly in the open car…

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Taïga is just happy to ride in silence, listening to Missy happily talking about the upcoming marriage and humming along with the occasional oldie on the radio…

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Linn almost drags her out of the car, ‘I can’t believe you’re finally back for good! I have to tell you about Prom, Loki was sooo handsome, and you know what? I have a secret to tell you!’ Linn hugs her again and ushers her into the living room, ‘Look who’s here!’

‘Hi!’ Taïga waves and smiles to Viktor and Jesper, Linn’s two dads.

‘Hi, Taïga! Finally back?’

‘Yes, M. Sandstrom. For good I hope!’

‘Can we take some sodas outside, Jesper?’

‘Sure.’ He makes a vague gesture towards the kitchen and changes the channel on the TV, ‘C’mon, Viktor, it’s starting!’

The girls grab some sodas and walk outside onto the sun deck.

‘What are they watching?’

‘Just some boring documentary on Aurora Skies where they come from.’

‘But you’re also from there!’

‘I know. But I like to consider me a Twin Towner.’ She giggles.

‘Now tell me everything! What about that secret of yours?’

‘You first!’

Taïga looks away, she doesn’t know where to start, ‘Let’s sit down first…’

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‘It’s not true! It can’t be! He’s been texting me, look!’ Linn fishes out her cell from her pocket.

Taïga shakes her head. ‘Linn… I’m sorry, but… That’s not Derek texting.’

Linn blows her nose. ‘You’re just jealous because he prefers me!’ She stares defiantly at Taïga, who unblinkingly stares back. Linn backs down, ‘If it’s not Derek, then who is it?’

Taïga breaks the gaze, ‘Teddy. It’s been his brother Teddy the whole time.’

Linn breaks down in tears again. Taïga waits for her sobs to calm down before continuing. ‘Derek left right after Easter on family business. He asked Teddy to take care of his cell and answer important messages. And that’s what Teddy did. He was maybe a bit overly zealous…’

‘Zealous? Zealous? He came on to me and that’s what you call zealous!?!’

‘I’m sorry, Linn. I didn’t mean to… to… Teddy is devastated about the whole thing.’

Linn snivels and reaches for Taïga’s hand. ‘I was so happy… He was so charming… Talking to him was like… like talking to a soulmate… And it was all a scam…’

‘It wasn’t. I think Teddy likes you. A lot.’

‘Do you?’ For a moment Linn looks happy, but then the reality dawns on her. ‘But Derek!?! Oh my God! What will he think of me when he finds out what I said to him? No. To Teddy. But I thought it was Derek. I mean, the texting got rather hot…’

Taïga reaches out and touches Linn’s shoulder, ‘I don’t know how to say this, but Derek… Well, he was on Flight 853.’ She stops and lets the information sink in.

Linn stares at her, ‘Flight 853? That vanished yesterday? Over Africa somewhere?’ Taiga nods. ‘But what did Derek do on a plane from Africa?’ Linn looks bewildered at her best friend. ‘Oh my God! He’s dead? Oh my God! And I’m worried about what he’ll think of me when he’s… he’s dead! Oh my God, how selfish of me,’ she wails.

Taïga squeezes Linn’s shoulder, ‘Listen, Linn. I don’t think Derek is…’ It’s so difficult to say the words, ‘… dead.’ Linn looks up and meets Taïga’s feverish stare, encouraging her to continue, ‘I would have felt it if he was!’

‘Oh.’ Linn looks bewildered. ‘You love him! That’s why you can’t give him up! But that soulmate-bond-thing only exists in books-’

‘Linn, listen to me.’ Taïga leans forward. ‘Derek left me a voicemail on prom night to tell me he was on his way home, and then his flight vanished over Africa somewhere – you saw that on the news. But they haven’t found the wreck yet, and no bodies! Until they do, until they can prove me wrong, I’ll believe he’s alive…’

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The documentary Jesper and Viktor are watching, is suddenly cut off by the news;

“The following is a Sim’s News Network special report. Good afternoon, I’m Ann Dole, with the latest breaking news about Sim Air Flight 853 which vanished over Africa yesterday.

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It is now confirmed a civil passenger plane was shot down Saturday by a missile fired from Ziwa Bonde territory. There’s no doubt we’re talking about Flight 853 heading to Falls Harbor over Ndjamena…

Ziwa Bonde denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists. The Ziwa Bonde Defense Ministry couldn’t be reached for comment about Sim Air Flight 853 and Ziwa Bonde’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ziwa Bonde officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to reach Saturday’s plane at the altitude at which it was flying. Aviation experts, however, have questioned whether the stricken passenger plane was flying at the altitude Ziwaen officials has claimed.

President John Trainer Jr spoke briefly in congress, saying the United Simlish Nation “will offer any assistance we can to determine what happened and why. Looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we’re working to determine whether there were Simlish citizens on board, that is our first priority.”

The country is still in “enormous shock” and emotional tributes will be paid to the victims of last week’s plane crash at memorial services all over the country, next Sunday.”

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Jesper comes out onto the terrace. ‘We just watched the news, honey. You remember the plane crash yesterday? They’ve found the wreck! It’s all over SNN. The plane crashed over Ziwa Bonde, and there are no survivors according to the Ziwaen government…’

Linn starts to cry hysterically again, but Taïga just sits there. Staring. Feeling utterly empty. It can’t be true… I would have known if he was dead…

‘Viktor! We’ve got a situation here!’

Viktor comes running and falls on his knees in front of his daughter. ‘Honey, don’t cry…’

‘… I know it’s awful, but please don’t cry…’

They both try to soothe Linn. ‘There will be memorials in all towns who had a citizen on the flight…’

Jesper and Victor’s bewildered eyes meet over Linn’s head. ‘… we can go to the one here in Falls Harbor if it would make you feel better?’

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Hearing what they say makes Taïga snap to attention. She quickly calls Granny.

‘I’ve heard they found the lost flight, Granny… Yes… That’s exactly what I wanted to ask you! … And I’d like to bring Linn… Uh-huh… Uh-huh… Yes, I’ll be home for dinner…’

She hangs up and looks at Linn and her dads. ‘I’m going to the memorial in Moonlight Falls with Granny, as one of my childhood friends was on the plane. We’ll visit his brother and stay over the week end. Is it OK to bring Linn?’ She looks from Jesper to Linn. ‘If you want to come, of course?’

The two dads look at each other, ‘If it could help her feel better…’

‘Yes… I trust Granny completely.’

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Linn just nods and throws herself in Taïga’s arms. Absentmindedly Taïga strokes her friend’s hair, her mind racing. If Derek’s rally dead, I surely would have felt it? I would have seen him in a dream, like I did with mom last Christmas… Maybe I’ll feel something in Derek’s room. Surrounded by his things, I’d know… She knows she’s clutching on straws, but she refuses to give up hope…

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They arrive at the Crumpelbottom witches’ cove late the following Saturday, cold rain beating down since they left Fairview Heights.

Belinda is happy to see her mom’s old friend. ‘Hi Tara! It’s such a pleasure to see you, even if the circumstances are… Well, unfortunate.’ She hugs Granny and looks Taïga over. ‘And this must be Taïga? I’ve heard so much about you… Last time I saw you, you were just a kid racing around on that broom–’

‘Gosh it’s wet out here! And cold.’ Granny wills Belinda to be quiet by a stern look. ‘Let me introduce a friend of my grandchild – Linn Sandstrom.’

Belinda gets the hint, ‘Oh. Well. Nice to meet you, Linn.’ She shakes Linn’s hand and ushers them in. ‘Come on in! Supper’s ready, and my sisters are eager to meet you!’

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Bianca and Beatrice don’t seem that keen on meeting them. Beatrice draws on her cigarette and drawls, ‘So you’re Taïga… The child prodigy…’

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The next morning comes with sunshine and the girls hurry through breakfast and immediately set off to see Teddy. The Crumpelbottom’s bikes are old and rackety but the two girls squeal with laughter when they drive through puddles on the road, holding their feet up high so not to get wet.

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It’s been so long since Taïga last visited the Vargas house, but when she stands on the porch in the warm sun, it feels like time has stopped and she’s 10 again. She can see the large driveway used by the firetrucks, that was also the Vargas’ brothers and her special place to swim and fish. She imagines Derek running towards the water, always winning…

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Linn is unusually quiet, plucking at the hem of her shorts and rearranging her hair every two minutes. ‘You don’t think I’m wearing too much make-up, do you? He doesn’t like make-up…’ She fumbles in her bag for a mirror. ‘Why are you smiling?’

Because you’re nervous to meet Teddy! But instead she answers, ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if Teddy opened the door in his favorite dinosaur costume with a roar.’

‘Oh, c’mon!’

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But the door opens on a slim, disheveled, red eyed young man. Teddy blushes when he recognizes Linn, who just stands there staring.

‘Are you Teddy?’

‘Er… Yes… Er…’

Taïga hugs Teddy, who tries to hold back his tears. ‘Thanks for coming…’

She breaks the embrace. ‘We need to talk, Teddy. I have a gut feeling about Derek that just won’t go away…’

Teddy lights up a little, ‘But I saw a satellite picture of the wreck on the news…’ He lets the sentence hang in the air.

Taïga squeezes his hand before letting go, ‘I’ll explain everything, but first, can I use the bathroom?’

‘Yeah, sure. It’s right down the hall.’

‘I know.’ Taiga squeezes past him.

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She rushes straight to Derek’s room, quietly closing the door behind her. She looks around at the familiar bits and pieces from her childhood mixed with new stuff she’s never seen before. God… Where to start? She walks around the room slowly, picking up random objects. Nothing.

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‘So…’ He turns back to Linn. ‘So you’re Linn? You’re much prettier than on the pictures!’

Linn blushes when he shakes her hand. ‘Thank you.’

Teddy suddenly lets go of her hand, realizing he was still frantically shaking it, ‘Er… Why don’t you come in?’

He steps aside and follows her into the living room. ‘I’m sorry for the mess…’ He quickly lifts up a pile of newspapers from the couch and discreetly shuffles a stack of maps under the couch with his foot before inviting Linn to sit with a gesture, ‘If I had known you were coming…’

‘It’s OK.’ Nervously Linn sits back and watches Teddy. ‘I mean you live here alone and everything.’ She stares wide eyed at Teddy, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… I mean, of course you’re alone… Oh my God…’ She slaps her hand in front of her mouth.

Teddy smiles a lopsided grin that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. ‘It’s OK. I see what you mean… But if Derek was here it would have been even worse – he’s… was…’ he swallows and reaches for the pack of cigarettes on the table, ‘… never good with housework.’

He offers one to Linn who takes it. ‘Thank you.’

Teddy lights the cigarette for Linn who draws in smoke and almost chokes. She hands the cigarette back to Teddy, ‘I don’t smoke actually,’ she says between coughs.

He smiles at her and she feels her stomach tingle, ‘It figures. You should never start.’

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Teddy puts out his own cigarette and sits down next to her, drying his hands on his pants, ‘Er… It’s time for the news… They’ll probably talk about the crash… Would you mind if we watch?’

‘Of course not.’

Teddy fishes up the remote from behind a cushion and turns up the sound, but he has trouble listening to what the newsreader is saying, he’s too aware of Linn’s presence next to him. So close, but so out of reach…

“Earlier this week, it was confirmed a civil passenger plane was shot down Saturday by a missile fired from Ziwa Bonde territory.

It is now established that some 92 Simlish citizens were on board the aircraft when it went down, along with 50 Egyptians and other passengers from around the world. Egyptian Planning Minister, Sheik Hakim Al’Hafed Bin Hakim was also aboard, bound for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Falls Harbor.

Ziwaen investigators are still trying to formally identify all of the victims, whose remains were recovered from the crash site in the jungle near the Kijani River in the heart of Africa. Due to the hostilities of the Ziwa Bonde government, the bodies will not be restituted…”

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Taïga can hear the faint sound of the television as she admires one of Derek’s many sports trophies. She has to lean closer to read the inscription, but the tears threatening to burst forward makes it impossible.

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A discarded text book on the floor draws her attention. She can easily imagine Derek struggling with his English exercises, passing his hands through his unruly dark hair, frowning… She swallows hard. But the big lump in her throat that threatens to make her gag won’t go away.

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Mechanically Taïga picks up the book to replace it on the shelf when suddenly there it is! An image flashes briefly in her head, but the vision of Derek lying bloody on the ground next to a crashed airplane, his leg twisted unnaturally beneath him is forever burnt onto her retina…

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She not even aware of herself screaming before Teddy and Linn rush to her side.

‘What happened?’

Shivering Taïga hugs herself. ‘I saw… Derek. And I believe he’s… he’s…’ she’s afraid to continue, as if pronouncing the frightful words will make them true. Forever. Her eyes burn and her head is threatening to explode.

Teddy shakes her. ‘What? What did you see? Taïga! Tell me!‘

She wills her mouth to speak, but her lips are numb. She avoids looking at Teddy and stares at the floor, fighting the nausea that threatens to overcome her. The floor is moving like waves, and Teddy shaking her makes her feel like a leaf floating, bobbing…

‘Taïga!’ She forces to concentrate on Teddy’s eyes – big, green, worried.

Soundlessly her lips form the words, a scream stuck in her throat making the release of the words impossible. She’s not aware of herself whispering, ‘Derek… He’s dead.’

It feels like she can’t breathe anymore, there’s no air… She welcomes the blackness that surrounds her, sinking, sinking…

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Taïga didn’t stay unconscious for long, but the journey home and the afternoon remains in a haze. Belinda Crumpelbottom made her drink her special tea, and Taïga gratefully drifted off into a welcomed dreamless sleep.

But she knows she has to get through with the memorial service today, even though she’d rather stay in bed, shutting out everything and everyone. Teddy asked her for a favor yesterday, and against her better judgment she said yes. She promised him to do a eulogy – oh, how she hates that word!

Since dawn she’s struggling with what to say… There are so many memories flooding through her brain but her thoughts always comes back to the last months at APYR. The conflicting feelings that submerged her when Derek touched her… She remembers how desperately she’d wanted him to kiss her, and how afraid she’d been of what would happen if he did…

She toys with her pen, gazing out the window at the impossibly blue sky, the same color as his eyes… She sighs, thinking about how his eyes used to darken when he looked at her. Broody Derek. What wouldn’t I give to have him saunter over to the desk, eyeing me with that undefinable look in his eyes, lips twitching into that trademark sexy smirk of his… With a groan she hides her head in her arms.

God. If only I could turn back the hands of time… How angry he was with me when Loki came visiting… She smiles a little to herself, Gosh, was he jealous? But thinking about that day automatically brings back the image of him and Mrs. Darnell. Angrily she screws the paper into a ball.

The last months at APYR are way too private to share, better reminisce about our childhood…

Linn keeps her company, silently playing with the Crumpelbottom’s cat, worriedly eying Taïga from time to time. When Bianca comes to tell them it’s time to leave, Taïga’s finally scribbled down some notes recalling the fun they’d had as children in Moonlight Falls…


Enya – May It Be (The Lord of the Rings)


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When they arrive at the Hallowed Grounds Cemetery, a light but cold rain has started – again.

Teddy is waiting outside the small chapel wearing a dark costume that enhances his pale complexion and the dark circles under his eyes. He quickly puts out the cigarette he’s nervously been drawing on and hurries towards Taïga and Linn. Taïga tries to keep her composure, but when Teddy draws her into his arms, sobbing into her hair, she can’t hold back her own tears anymore. They hang on to each other, getting comfort in sharing their grief before Taiga finally withdraws.

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‘Who’s that?’ Linn watches an elegant couple coming out of a sleek VFN Kompensator which has just slowed down to a halt right in front of the entrance.

The police officers doesn’t pay attention, being distracted by Bianca strutting by after parking the Crumpelbottom’s car, wearing a miniskirt definitely not suited for a memorial service…

Taïga and Teddy stares at the couple. ‘Just friends of the family’, Taïga blurts out and steers Linn towards the MacDuff’s, letting Teddy follow the couple behind the little chapel.

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The tiny churchyard gets quickly crowded. All Taïga’s childhood friends, who she haven’t seen since she moved, are there with their parents and more people are still coming. Taïga puts up a brave face; introducing Linn and nodding to questions, but it’s as if she’s watching the world through an aquarium…

Suddenly it feels like the ground is swaying beneath her feet and Linn puts a supporting arm around her shoulder and guides her to a bench – the same bench where Derek accidentally kissed her…*

*Part I – Chapter 14

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‘Mom!?! Dad!?!’ Teddy can hardly believe his eyes.

‘Shhht… The cops mustn’t recognize us. You know we’re not supposed to be here.’

The church bells start tolling as Don peeks around the corner to see where the police officers are. ‘The coast is clear, they’re both busy checking the people going inside.’

Teddy falls into his mother’s arms.

‘Honey, we can’t stay long, but we’ve arranged for you to come back to Egypt with us …’

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‘C’mon, Taïga. Everyone’s inside already. The ceremony will start without us.’

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The first row is reserved for the family, but Teddy’s parents have to take a seat in the back to avoid attention. Seeing Teddy sitting alone, Linn scoots over and takes his hand.

Father Madigan stands on the small podium and stretches out his arms wide, embracing the audience. ‘We face not only sadness and pain, but also the horror of the human soul as we are gathered today in memory of the victims of Flight 853. Among the 366 passengers killed was Derek Vargas, a member of our community…’

Father Madigan talks about shock and grief and how to find peace in the loving mercy of Jesus Christ, but his words echoes empty and with no sense to Taïga. Words words words… After the congregation’s said a prayer and sung a short psalm, it’s time for the speeches. Teddy takes place on the podium and shuffles with his notes.

He clears his throat, ‘Derek was my brother. We grew up here, in Moonlight Falls, but many of our happiest family times were down at the coast…’

There’s a high school picture of Derek at the altar where the coffin would normally be placed and Taïga can’t take her eyes of it. Without really wanting to, she tunes out Teddy’s voice and contemplates the picture in front of her. Derek looks at something or someone behind the camera, and she can easily imagine him rolling his eyes, impatient for the photographer to get it over with. She smiles to herself, sniveling a little.

‘My dear brother, this world is a lesser place without you.’ Teddy swallows, and his voice breaks, ‘Derek, we will love you always and forever.’

Teddy steps down and puts a hand on Taïga’s shoulder, squeezing a little. She puts her hand over his and smiles up at him, before standing up and smoothing out her skirt. The way up to the podium seems endless as she has everyone’s eyes on her.

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The church is silent except from the occasional scraping of feet and sniveling. Taïga looks out over the familiar faces and is seized by panic. I can’t do this!

Father Madigan nods encouragingly at her and she clears her throat, trying to overcome the assault of emotions, gripping the culprit for support.

‘My name is Taïga Grey and Derek is…’ she hesitates and closes her eyes a brief moment, ‘… was a very close friend…’

The words are coming out raspy and hesitant. She loosens her grip on the culprit, reaching for the glass of water Father Madigan hands her. She takes a deep breath and gulps down some water, collecting her emotions so she can continue with her speech, ‘I remember… I remember when I first moved to Moonlight Falls, and he…‘ With great effort to keep the tears at bay, she shares some of their childhood memories, sometimes making the audience laugh. But she keeps the most cherished moments to herself, embedded in her heart and out of reach for anyone…

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‘… and I’d like to read a poem…’ She shuffles with her notes to gain time to recompose herself, but as she starts reading her eyes finally overflow and she can’t see the text through the haze… Painstakingly, she almost whispers;

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Funeral blues by W.H. Auden”

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They troop out of the chapel to the final chords of Junuh Sees the Field (Rachel Portman), pausing to sign a book to record who attended. After the release of white balloons, bearing the names of all the victims of the plane crash, they put down flowers at a small altar in the church yard.

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They are the last to leave, ushered on by the police officers…

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Saying goodbye is difficult. Teddy doesn’t want to leave Linn right after getting to know her, but he knows that following his parents is for the best. They don’t have time to linger as the police officers are throwing rather insistent glances their way.

‘Oh no.’

One of the police officers is approaching, ‘Can I have a word with you, Sir?’

Don blemishes under his tan. ‘Of course. How can I help you?’

The young police officer scratches his head and holds out his notebook with a pen, ‘My wife’s a big fan.’

Don doesn’t know what to make of it. ‘A fan?’

‘Yeah. She says “Fifty shades of Sim” is the best book she’s ever read…’

‘What? Fifty shades?’

The police officer nods, ‘Her name’s Hannah. Just write “With love to Hannah from Ernest”, that’ll make her day, all right.’

Don takes the pen and scribbles on the notepad. ‘Here you are. And I hope she’ll enjoy my next book as much!’

He winks to the police officer who blushes, ‘I’m sure she will! Thank you, Sir!’ He holds the gate to let them out.

Mrs. Vargas taps her husband’s arm, ‘You didn’t have to overdo it!’

Don chuckles and follows his wife and son into the sleek car.

‘Can you believe that?’ Linn is flabbergasted, ‘He thought Mr. Vargas was Loki’s dad!’

Taïga waves after the vanishing car. ‘Yeah. Good for him…’

‘Do you think he’ll come back? Teddy I mean.’

‘I don’t know. Maybe…’ Taïga feels sorry for Linn, but her emotions are drained and she can’t muster the energy to get involved in Linn’s problems…

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As soon as they’re back at their new house in Al Simhara, Don hurries into the bathroom where he lays out his shaving gear. I’ll just have to shave this off! I don’t care if someone recognizes me – or if I look like some darn author, this damn beard scratches too much…

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Teddy surprises his parents on the terrace and seeing them together makes Teddy start crying, again. If they’re happy, it’s thanks to Derek… Discreetly he backs away before they notice his presence. Too late.

‘There you are! Let’s go downstairs and have something cool to drink. Your dad and I have something important to share with you…’

Teddy follows his parents downstairs, thoughts running through his head. Maybe she’s pregnant! He tries to muster a happy face if it’s the case, even though in his mind, it would feel like they’re trying to replace his brother…

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But his mom isn’t pregnant. The news are far worse.

‘… so he’s not your brother, Ted. He’s not… my son, not our child at all.’ Ted stares at his parents. ‘We found him in the woods when we were trekking in Hidden Springs on our honey moon. He was so tiny, we couldn’t just leave him there, to be eaten by the wolves…’

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Teddy listens to their story without really taking it in, ‘Does he…’ Teddy swallows hard and starts over again, ‘Did he know he wasn’t… that I’m not… we’re not…’ He can’t finish his sentence.

His mom reaches out and lays her hand on his. ‘Yes. He knew…’

‘He saw it on the computer, on the register when you hacked into Dementé Insanatorium.’

Teddy doesn’t say anything. Why didn’t he tell me?

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Back in the Bayou after the memorial service, Taïga takes Valkyria for a walk. Silently they trek through the dense forest. On and on they walk, the shadows growing longer as the sun sets and the wind starts to blow, rustling the leaves and making the branches of the old trees creak overhead.

Valkyria stops, she’s worried and wants to turn back home. But as her mistress continues, she runs after her and falls into pace at her side, searching Taïga’s hand with her muzzle.

Upon reaching the beach, the wind settles suddenly, replaced by an eerie silence, only broken by the sound of the waves lazily rolling in over the sand. Suddenly there’s a flash of lightning, immediately followed by thunder. A few seconds later the sky opens and rain starts pouring down. Taïga hesitates and lifts her gaze towards the sky. The rain washes over her face, flowing over her cheeks, hiding her tears.

Silently she strips out of her clothes and naked strides into the chilly water. She hesitates as the cold ocean seizes her feet and legs and she welcomes the pain as she slowly submerges into the dark waves. Valkyria runs whimpering on the beach, barking at her mistress who swims farther and farther out into the black sea, desperately trying to wash her feelings away.

Part II – End of Chapter 21

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