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Fiction Romance Speculative

What do you call a funeral when referring to having to attend, an event, a function, or possibly ceremony? It never occurred to Maddie to care until she was faced with explaining her absence from work without actually revealing to anyone, her father had died. She didn’t favor a blatant lie either, and settled on “family function” when requesting the week off. Funerals, as oddly ritualistic as they are, provide closure to loved ones and friends of the deceased, and although Maddie and her father had been estranged for years, she couldn’t deny the more than obligatory need to participate in the observance. 


Maddie drove the one hundred and sixty miles from Long Island to South Jersey unnecessarily concerned with her wardrobe choice. Aware of the frivolity of her thoughts, Maddie found herself questioning the lace on her dress and the adornments she chose, especially the gold drop earrings she borrowed from her roommate, Fiona. Should she have chosen more conservatively, what would the other mourners conclude about the daughter no one knew existed? Realizing her irrelevant misgivings, Maddie was relieved to hear the disembodied voice from her phone alert her to her arrival; “You have reached your destination.”


Maddie parked in one of the few empty spaces nearest the door to the funeral home. She took a deep breath and made her way to the heavy wooden doors. She pulled at the ornate brass handles and confidently strode through the empty foyer in search of the correct viewing room. A tiny plaque with interchangeable letters sat on a small round table just outside the room to the right, read “Marvin Stowe”. Maddie signed the guest book and entered the room. There were more people than she had anticipated which suited her well. Maddie discretely melded into the crowd near the back and searched for an empty chair, of which there were none. Maddie stood for a moment surveying the room, contemplating the identities of her two half-sisters and stepmother. Should she pursue the objective of finding out and introducing herself, or remain in the corner, discrete and imperceptible? Maddie chose the latter, but her attempt to remain indiscernible was soon thwarted by a strange man in a cheap brown suit. 


“Hello,” he began politely.


Maddie flashed an obligatory smile and returned the salutation, “Hello.”


“Pardon my bold introduction, but I noticed you when you first walked in and I cannot seem to take my eyes off of you. My name is Roger, and I manage this Funeral Home, and you are?” he asked, reaching for a reaction. 


“I’m Madeline Stowe.” she answered without the slightest ounce of interest. 


Roger leaned in closer. His breath reeked of cigarette smoke and his clothing of dime store cologne. “Well Madeline Stowe, I have to say, you’re the most beautiful woman in the room. I would love nothing more than to buy you dinner when this viewing is finally over. I know a nice Italian place not far from my apartment.”


Maddie quickly scanned the immediate area, hoping to catch the attention of someone who possibly recognized her. She needed a moment to contemplate the best way to give Roger the brush off without seeming entirely pretentious. The room was crowded with many mourners still standing in the aisles and near the walls; Maddie saw no one she knew. Just as her eyes swept to the right for the second time, desperate to find an ally, she caught the gaze of another young man near her own age, who happened to be walking by. Maddie involuntarily widened her eyes and the young man responded to her subtle distress signal with an endearing smile. Maddie misread his actions to be requisite and felt disheartened, knowing she was destined to fend off the unwanted advances from Roger, alone. She raised her eyes once again and caught his stare. This time he was a mere two feet to her left. Maddie breathed a sigh of relief. 


“There you are.” he whispered as he ran his hand from Maddie’s shoulder down her arm, ever so softly, sending an unexpected sensation throughout Maddie’s entire body. “Wow.” she thought to herself.


Roger scowled, “And who might you be?” he spat as if his mouth were in fact filled with venom.


The young man extended his hand, “I’m Chase Matthews, the boyfriend.” He informed, sliding his arm around Maddie’s waist. She leaned in ever so slightly, wary of his intentions as well. Chase’s eyes met Maddie’s for the third time in the last minute, but now she could see the sincerity and honesty, despite his ability to lie to Roger’s face so effectively. She trusted the stranger who swooped in to save her. “Where was his cape and tights?”


Roger held up his hand, “You certainly could have said something before I made a fool of myself.” 


Maddie searched again for words this buffoon would understand, however Chase took the liberty of speaking on her behalf. “It seems to me, you didn’t exactly give her the opportunity to explain anything. Your immediate dinner invitation was overly presumptuous, don’t you agree?” Roger’s face reddened while Chase continued. “Now, might I suggest you offer compensation for your brash behavior and find a chair for my girlfriend.” 


An enraged Roger skulked off to grant Chase’s request, mumbling to himself, something in regard to Maddie being a tease. 


“How does that man keep his job?” Maddie asked rhetorically. 


Chase laughed and formally introduced himself. “I’m Chase and you are?”


“Maddie Stowe.” 


“I am terribly sorry for your loss. How are you related to Marvin?” he inquired with polite sincerity.


Maddie rolled her eyes and cleared her throat. “I’m his daughter. Well, estranged, but his daughter, nevertheless. Did you know my father?” 


“No, I work for your uncle. He’s been very good to me, and I felt he deserved my respect. He was more upset over not knowing much about his own brother than anything. I figured extra support would be appreciated. There are a few of us here from the company.”


“That’s very kind of you. I’m sure my uncle is grateful to have you all here. If it weren’t for Uncle Brad calling, I would have never known of my father’s passing. His wife and daughter’s want nothing to do with me. I’m sure they prefer I didn’t exist at all. But my uncle, aunt and cousins have always included me in their family, so I agree, respect is well deserved.”


“Well, it was very nice meeting you, Maddie. I believe my work here is done.” Chase leaned in and kissed Maddie’s cheek, ever so lightly. Her entire body reacted again, much to her surprise. 


“Thank you.” she responded shyly. Maddie wanted nothing more than to ask Chase to stay with her. Although they had just met, he made her feel safe and gave her a sense of belonging she hadn’t anticipated. 


As Chase made his graceful exit, Maddie’s uncle approached. “Sweetheart, I’m so glad you made it.” 


Maddie hugged her father’s only brother. “I’m here for you and your family Uncle Brad. I won’t stay long.”


Roger pushed his way through the crowd of people trying to pay their respects, carrying a folding chair intended for Maddie. He interrupted, “Your chair, Miss. Oh, and I don’t see your boyfriend, now where did he get to?” Roger’s demeanor was naturally off-putting, and Uncle Brad found him to be offensive and inappropriate. 


“Sir, we appreciate the chair, however your attitude toward my niece is less than appreciated. Her personal business is not up for inquiry, especially not today.” Brad waved Roger away rather rudely and turned his attention back to Maddie. “Boyfriend?” 


Maddie giggled and began to explain what had transpired between Roger, herself and Chase. “He was a true superhero, swooping in and saving the day.” she told her uncle.


“Chase is a great guy, Maddie. I’ve known him since he was sixteen when he started as a part time messenger with my company. He’s kind, dependable and single. Did you happen to exchange numbers?”


“No, nothing like that. I’m grateful for the save, but he was quick to return to his friends. I’m assuming there was no real interest, just a chivalrous gesture.” 


Uncle Brad patted Maddie’s arm, “Ok, if you say so. Please, Maddie, consider coming toward the front and sitting with us for a while before you leave. Aunt Dee and your cousins will be so glad to see you.” 


Maddie stood, “Lead the way. I’d love to see them as well. Uncle Brad, if we could try and avoid Dad’s family, I’d very much appreciate it. I’m not in the right frame of mind to dodge Cinderella themed insults.”


Brad agreed and led Maddie toward the front of the viewing room, to the chairs nearest the altar and casket by way of the aisle on the far wall. Moments before reaching their destination, Maddie heard a familiar voice. She turned to see Chase speaking with two people she assumed were also from Brad’s company. A smile crept over her lips at the thought of Chase’s gentle kiss before taking his leave. She followed Brad closely, taking care not to inadvertently step in the path of her father’s family. Maddie turned in Chase’s direction only to find him looking back at her. They locked eyes; Maddie fought the impulse to run into his arms. Silently, she wished for Chase to leave his friends and sit with her, or at the very least speak to her one more time. “Please don’t go without saying something, anything.” she secretly pleaded.


Maddie was greeted warmly by her aunt and cousins, each expressing their condolences. “How ironic” Maddie thought as she was only in attendance to pay her respects to them. They made small talk, as people do at a funeral, but Maddie couldn’t stop herself from glancing in Chase’s direction every few seconds. The impulse was growing stronger, and Maddie fixed her stare on Chase. He was returning the attention, catching her eye over and again. 


Chase took advantage of a break in his conversation and sidled across the aisle to Maddie and her family. He stood for a moment or two, silent, staring, smiling. Finally, he spoke, softly and only to Maddie, never taking his eyes off of her. “Meeting like this at your father’s funeral will be a great story to tell our children someday.”


Maddie whispered, “Let’s start with dinner.”


May 21, 2023 22:09

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4 comments

John Siddham
03:43 May 28, 2023

Maddie must be quite stunning for guys to fall over in that short space. Chase is smart and elegant, and that clever line to entice her “Meeting like this at your father’s funeral will be a great story to tell our children someday.” Great finish, well done Myranda.

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Myranda Marie
17:49 May 28, 2023

I suppose I tend to live vicariously through some of my characters. How lovely it would be to catch the attention of two men just by entering a funeral home. Fiction is a beautiful thing... haha. Thank you for reading !

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Nikki Mcgroarty
23:45 May 22, 2023

So good

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Myranda Marie
23:49 May 22, 2023

Thank you so much !!!

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