I found myself glad I was at a funeral, because no one would comment on the tears slowly falling down my cheeks. That had been the last time I'd seen Johnny. I'd finished packing that night and made my father drive me to New Haven the next day. Johnny tried writing, tried calling, but I wouldn't talk to him. It was better that way. Mai came to visit me from time to time, but I didn't go back to New York. Now because I hadn't been there to convince her not to try driving back from the mountains in the snowstorm, she was dead.
The funeral must have finished while I was recalling what led up to this, because when I looked up people were slowly filing past the coffin that held my best friend and offering kind words to the Phans. I hung back, not wanting to have this particular reunion in front of a lot of people. As the crowd cleared, I finally made my way forward. When I stood beside the coffin, my eyes refused to believe what they saw. That was not my best friend lying in that box looking so small. May seemed only to be asleep, the wonders of mortuary makeup. If I stood there much longer, I was going to cry harder.
I turned and saw May's family, and wondered which was worse, staring at my best friend's corpse or facing her family. Knowing I couldn't put it off any longer, I walked over and gave Mrs. Phan a hug. She held onto me and began crying again. "Ah, Trista, I'm glad you're here."
Not knowing what else to do, I let her hug me and said, "I'm sorry I wasn't there, Mrs. Phan."
"Oh, little one, there was nothing you could have done except die with her, and I couldn't have stood that." She let go of me and gave me a weak smile. "Will you come back to our house for dinner?"
"No, sorry, I can't. I have to be back in New Haven for an early exam tomorrow."
She sighed and fussed with my sleeve. "You work too hard, little one. At least let Johnny walk you out to your car; the sidewalk is slick."
I opened my mouth to protest, but the look on Mrs. Phan's face was enough to silence me. Johnny slipped out from behind his mother and dutifully took my arm after I had pulled on my coat. We walked outside into the cold, bleak January evening, silently trying to ignore each other. I was regretting parking so far away. It was Johnny who spoke first. "Trista, can I ask you a question?"
I stared at my feet. "I wish you wouldn't."
He put a finger under my chin and lifted so that I was looking into his eyes. The pain that still filled them made my heart break all over again. "Why did you leave? Where you afraid they'd come after you next?"
I began to cry in earnest now. "No, Johnny, no. I was afraid that if I didn't leave, they'd find you again and finish the job. I wouldn't have left you for anything else. I love you." I stopped myself and repeated. "I mean, I loved you." God, he wasn't making this any easier.
Now the way he looked at me was softer, and he ran a finger along my jaw gently. "Trista, you broke my heart when you left with nothing but that letter as explanation. I still love you, and I think you still love me. Things are different now. Do you think maybe we could try again?"
I stared at him, mouth agape, trying to formulate the words to tell him no and leave again. But I couldn't. He was right. I did love him, and love goes farther than skin deep. I nodded, stepping a little closer to him.
He smiled as he wrapped his arms around me. "I'm glad." He leaned in and kissed me, and I happily kissed him back.