Anthony held back his tears as he walked toward the coffin she was held in. Why did that happen to her? Marissa was young, still a child, more intelligent than most scholars he knew, and innocent. She had so much potential. She had survived so much. It wasn't fair. He looked at her corpse in the open coffin and tears fell like rain down his cheeks. Her white dress covered the bullet hole in her chest, but he knew it was there. Why her? It was not her time to go. There was so much she could have done. So much she could have accomplished. She could have been the next president. She could have been the next great author. She could have been the next actress or singer. She could have been the next political activist. She could have led a revolution. There was so much she could have done. He looked at the people in the room. He saw her family standing there in black and was outraged. Her sister was leaning on a wall, texting, while her brothers fought over Marissa's laptop. Her mother was was talking on her cell phone and her father…He frustrated Anthony the most.
"Was she really stupid enough to end up with a round in her chest? Good riddance. I never liked her anyway. Now I can focus on my three good children. Can you believe her? It's good she's dead. Now I don't have to waste my money to feed and clothe her." Anthony walked over to her father, wiping away his tears.
"Sir, don't talk about Marissa that way. She was a great girl and did what she had to. She had no other option. She was anything but stupid."
"So, how many times did she sleep with you? Nobody liked her, so you must have a reason like that. Hey, aren't you that teacher she liked so much? I never liked you."
"Our relationship was strictly professional. She kept herself pure. She had high moral standards and was a woman of integrity." Her father threw a punch at Anthony, who dodged and walked into the sanctuary of the church. He sank into the front pew and put his head in his hands. How could Marissa live with that? She couldn't. That was why he was there at the church. She couldn't live with it.
"Anthony, don't cry." He heard a voice next to him. He looked up and saw Marissa. But it couldn't be Marissa. She was sitting in a coffin in the lobby. He had seen her. He looked at her and noticed that she was perfect. She was wearing her black and white striped sweater and jeans that she had died in, but there was no bullet hole or blood. Her auburn hair flowed and fell perfectly around her face and her gray eyes sparkled. She took his hand and smiled at him.
"Marissa, why not? What do I have to be happy about?"
"Anthony, I'm in heaven now. I should be crying for you, not you for me."
"Your father…I'm sorry about him. I never knew your family was like that."
"You helped me through that. You always trusted me and cared about me."
"I wish I had known."
"It doesn't matter now. I'm dead."
"I always loved you."
"I loved you too. I'll always love you."
"I wish I would have known. We could have done so much. We could have been so happy."
"What we never did is done. Anthony, don't forget me."
"How could I? I never will."
"If you have an opportunity, take it."
"What if it requires moving on?"
"Live in the moment. Start a new chapter in your life."
"Marissa! Don't leave!"
"Have no regrets. I regret too much. Let your pride down for a while and look around. I never did, and I regret that. There is more to life than rules and reputations. Remember that, Anthony. Appreciate the little things. Climb a mountain. Teach your heart out. Fly a plane. Read Les Miserables. I know you always wanted to, but were always too busy. Take some time out of your schedule. Take some photographs of a sunset and think of me. Whatever you do, don't give up." She faded away and he was left pondering what she had said. He wiped his tears away and left the church. He had a 1500 page French book to read and some risks to take. He did not have time to waste mourning. Marissa wanted him to spend every moment he had. He pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of the church. The first step of the journey was documented.
Marissa leaned on the railing of the balcony separating Heaven and Earth. She watched as Anthony took a picture of the church and smiled. He was starting a new journey. She would help him from Heaven and wait until he could join her. Then they could spend eternity together and never be separated by anything.
He got in his car and drove away. He stopped at an orphanage on his way, handed a child some money, and snapped a photo. Anthony looked at the sky and smiled. He could just feel that his beloved was smiling back at him. Separation was not everlasting. They would be together soon.