Last Goodbye

By KeerRaSee

I've always loved snow.

At least I did. I'm not sure if I can anymore. Love anything, that is. I stretch out my hand, trying to catch a snowflake, to see the delicate perfection of its beauty in the second before it melts away. But I feel nothing, and no snow settles on my skin.

I look around at the dark figures huddled in groups under their coats and hats and black umbrellas. All eyes are on the box. Elegantly carved, dark brown, almost red, wood, it is beautiful in a way. But I know that those who look upon it today will not see the beauty. For in reality they do not see the coffin, their eyes search inside, for the cold white body that they have gathered to remember.

The size of the crowd surprises me. Family I haven't seen in years now surround me, people from school that I can't recall ever talking to are in tears as the priest reads the solemn prayers, before beginning his eulogy. I turn to look at him as he speaks.

"Cassandra Jacobs was a wonderful person. She was kind, helpful, and always able to make anyone smile. She had a sharp wit and wonderful sense of humour. She brought joy to everyone around her, and was a loving and very much loved part of her family and community…"

What? I frown, and then a small smile creeps onto my lips. I think that that was the first time I've ever been called 'helpful' in my entire… existence. I've always like to think that I was funny, but at the same time my wit could be used to cut people to shreds. Yes, there were people that I loved, but there were also those that I hated. My name wasn't even Cassandra. It was Cassie. Just Cassie.

"An excellent student, Cassandra always put her all into her schoolwork, and was a dedicated member of her school community…"

Me? Dedicated? Yes, I was probably above average in my class, but only just. I could have done a lot better, if I truly had 'put my all' into my homework and assignments. And the only reason I joined the netball team was because my friends had. Who was this girl the priest was talking about?

"Her friends were loyal and many, and she was obviously a very popular, bubbly, lovable character…"

Popular, bubbly, lovable… yes I had friends, but not that many. 'Bubbly' was not exactly the word I would have used to describe myself. And lovable? To some, maybe, but to those who called me 'weird' and told everyone I was a 'freak', not so much.

"To her parents, she was a spark of light, a joy in the harsh world that we live in. Why the Lord chose to take her at this time, we cannot know, but we must trust that He has taken her to be with him in Paradise…"

I can't take this. Who is this Cassandra they are talking about? Who is this helpful, popular, lovable girl? Because it most definitely isn't me. They aren't talking about the important things. I don't want people to remember me as this girl, this golden, perfect girl. They need to remember who I really was, not try to cover my lesser features.

I approach my parents, huddled together under the expanse of a black umbrella. My father's face is drawn and he looks ten years older than I remember him. His right arm is wrapped around my mother's shoulders, the other is at his side, his hand clenched into a fist and trembling. My mother's face is ashen, and tears are trickling down her face. I stand in front of them, but their eyes do not leave the coffin. First, I talk to my father.

"Dad," I say, struggling to get the words out, as a lump appears in my throat, "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you. I'm sorry I shouted at you so many times, and I'm sorry for the times I snuck out when you said I shouldn't. I love you dad. I love you so much, and thank you so much for always being there for, for helping me through bad times and looking after me no matter what. I'll always be your little princess, dad," I kiss his forehead and wrap my arms around him. For a moment, he starts, and I think he is going to put his arms around me, and that suddenly everything is going to be okay. But then his arm goes loose again at his side, and I pull away.

Then I moved on to my mother. "Mum," I whispered, "I love you. I know you only ever wanted the best for me, and I'm sorry that I didn't see that. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you how much I love you. Because I do. I love you, Mum. I always have. And you were always my role model, no matter what I told you. Don't cry, Mum. I'm here," I hug her, and stay like that, with my eyes closed, pretending she can feel me too. Then I draw back, and kiss her forehead. Her hand moves towards it, as if she had felt something. I turn away, fighting back tears.

I look each person in the eye as I pass by them, but none of them return my gaze. I want to scream, stop looking at the coffin! I'm here, in front of you! Open your eyes!

I reach the people from my school. I've never even talked to some of them, and yet here they are, teary-eyed and solemn. They don't look at me either, some of the girls are holding each other, some burying their faces in the shoulders of the hard-faced boys who accompanied them. I walk pass them, memorizing each face, glad to see some, surprised to see others. But I can't tarry. I don't have forever, and I need to see those who are most important to me. I make my way over to a group of four girls, and my heart aches as I turn to them.

My friends, the group of girls who have always stood by me, the people who I saw as my sisters in place of my non-existent siblings. I can hardly look at them, but I force myself to. Huddled together, white snow gleaming on their black outfits and in their hair, they are sobbing outright. One by one, I wrap my arms around them and whisper, "I love you" in their ears. Then I come to Jess.

Memories flash through my mind. Me and Jess, as toddlers, playing together in the park. Lying up on my battered old sofa watching movies and eating chocolate and laughing. On the first day of high school, sticking to each other's sides like glue through the nerves and excitement. Confiding our secrets, our hopes, dreams, who we thought was cute and who we couldn't stand. We knew everything about each other, secrets from when we were six remain untold, the bonds of trust and friendship never broken.

For a moment I can't find the words. Then I simply whisper, "You're my best friend, Jess. You always will be. I love you." And I hug her, whilst tears trickle down my face. She bursts into tears, and Sarah, Leah and Kayla wrap their arms around us, and for a moment it is just like it has always been. Then I realise that their arms go right through me, and I pull away.

It's almost time to go.

There is only one person I have yet to say goodbye to. As I walk towards him, the ache of regret is almost too much to bear. I try to suppress it as I gaze upon the face I have dreamt of touching so often. Dark brown eyes stare out from a tan face, and his ink black hair is flecked with white. His expression is hard, his eyes shining with unshed tears. Perhaps there is a chance. Maybe, just maybe, he felt the same way about me.

But now, I guess I'll never know. I stand in front of him for a moment, just looking at him. Then I lean up, and gently press my lips to his. I pull them back, and whisper into his ear, "I love you, Jacob. I only wish I had said it before." As I step back, his eyes flicker away from the coffin. I can almost swear that, if only for a second, his eyes meet mine. I smile through my tears, as a solitary drop rolls down his face.

But I can't stay.

I turn away from him, away from everyone. I look across the graveyard, coated with a thin layer of snow. I look up at the sky, at the flakes falling softly from the ground. The thud of heavy earth on wood comes from behind me, and I allow myself one last, deep, shuddering breath.

Then I turn to the figure beside me. "I am ready."

The glowing being takes my hand, and leads me away from the funeral. A bright light engulfs us, and the cold fades away as this world disappears behind me.