Jeannette didn't find it strange to be so alone, now that Brody was dead.
She stood at the foot of the casket, alone, straight sentinel in the hush of the plush gray and lavender parlor of Kopewell & Sons Funeral Chapel. She wore the new heathery-gray shirt-dress Brody made her buy even though it wasn't on sale. He said it went so well with her copper hair and gray eyes. He never let her wear black. She didn't wear black today because Brody wouldn't approve.
To one side of the long room, Mrs. Evans and her crowd of sycophants stood in stoic reserve, nearly everyone dressed in black and gray, with veils, hats and gloves and long, hound dog mournful faces. Faces that didn't look any more cheerful outside the funeral home. Black suited Mrs. Evans. Everybody in her family was cut from the same cloth; thick black brows and coarse black hair; square chins and thick lips and wide shoulders. Brody was the changeling in the brood of four sons, a natural athlete, a Greek demi-god, slim with grace and laughter.
On the other side of the room, talking in whispers and with tentative smiles, wearing whatever they had worn to work, were Brody's friends. And Jeannette the only one by the casket.
But not really, totally alone.
No, she had God and she had Brody's baby. Jeannette felt her lips curve up infinitesimally as her hand slid over her still-flat stomach. Less than two months along.
Rev. Collinwood and his wife approached now, murmuring their condolences. Jeannette didn't have to glance to the right to see the murderous glances her mother-in-law and her devoted followers gave the man and her, because the minister spoke to her first. She could feel the daggers and flames. She knew exactly what they were thinking. She had heard the same complaints, the same condescending and judgmental comments in similar occasions. She knew what many of them were saying right this moment, down to the exact words:
Honestly, the dear reverend is obviously too old for his pulpit if he forgets the grieving mother has precedence over the grief-stricken widow, a bride of less than a year.
Jeannette knew she would pay for that gaff when the dear, graying old minister finally left. It didn't matter to anyone that he spent twenty minutes saying good-bye to Mrs. Evans, and only five minutes with Jeannette.
Fifteen minutes remained for tonight's viewing, and then she could go home to the tiny cottage and decide what she would do. Jeannette knew she didn't dare leave Glenwood and 'deprive' Mrs. Evans of her grandchild's growing years. It didn't matter what she and Brody had planned to do just a few days ago. All those plans changed because they had focused on Brody. What use did Jeannette have for moving to the seminary, when she didn't plan on attending?
But she couldn't bear to stay there, either. Glenwood held nothing for her now that Brody was gone. Brody had made it home. Brody had been her shield, her sunshine, her music.