On the morning of his cousin’s wedding, Daryl Bough stood at the long row of tombstones. There were four more here since the last time he’d set foot on the property. Though he and his twin brother, Irving, grew up right across the street, and Irving practically lived at Cradle Rock, Daryl had not been back since that traumatic day in his childhood when he’d yelled at Grim while Grim was relaxing with a little TV after reaping the soul of Daryl’s grandmother, Linda.
Some events stay with a person forever.
Daryl hadn’t wanted to come, but Irving talked him into it. “She’s your cousin!” Irving insisted. “And she’s like your only friend, right? You’ve GOT to come. It’s a family thing.”
So Daryl was there. But he didn’t have to enjoy it. And he certainly didn’t have to have a good feeling about it. Which he didn’t. He had a very, very bad feeling about it.
But everybody else felt great!
Especially the bride and groom.
Once Daryl was able to pull himself away from the long line of tombstones, he felt a little better. And when his cousin Sugar dared him to a strutting contest, he even forgot, just for a moment, all of his trepidation.
Cousin Irving, dancing to his own beat while the bride and groom stole a kiss, felt nothing but jubilation. Weddings are occasions to celebrate, not to mourn!
“Cousin!” said Irving as he wrapped Sugar in a big hug. “It’s such a happy day!”
Sugar’s friend Quinn looked on glumly. Seems every wedding has at least one also-ran, and Quinn, who had never been bold enough to express his wishes with anything more than loving glances, filled the role at this wedding.
Chandler, who holds the Master of the Real position at the art studio, felt it was important for his wife to have a nice ring. After all, she’s a materialist, and he can afford it, so if it brings joy, let’s wear it!
Everyone looked away as the couple embraced. Some moments are meant to be private, even if the whole village has come to witness.
When the ceremony ended and the guests filed into the kitchen to see what the chef had whipped up, Chandler remained alone at the alter.
Great happiness, he’d found, brings with it a depth of feeling that is close to sadness. With his heart so open, it was easy to reflect that one day, there’d be partings. Even that day, he would be moving out of his own home that he shared with his mom and sister. Great responsibility waited for him, too, and aside from his career as an artist, which he’d somehow managed to wrangle without having completed even a single painting or earning a single painting skill point, he had never really assumed much responsibility for anything in his whole life.
Salix knew she was ready. She stole a moment to share with the two women closest to her, her sister Sugar and Sugar’s best friend Miracle.
“It won’t really change anything,” Salix said.
“Of course it will,” said Sugar. “It already has. But don’t worry. I like this change.”
Chandler’s sister, Khloe, joined them. Chandler’s adopted. His mom and sister are black. It’s never really bothered him that he doesn’t know who his birth parents are, for he knows who he is, and his family–his real family–are the mom and big sister who raised him.
Khloe’s always been one of Salix’s favorite people. Whenever she sees her, she rolls a wish to share a joke or friendly interaction with her. They went to high school together, and they never really became the close friends that Sal hoped they would. Now that Khloe was her sister-in-law, the aunt to the children that she and Chan would have, Salix felt hopeful that they’d become as close as she’d always wanted them to be.
While Salix talked with her new sister, Chandler and Sugar made their way inside to join the others at the big table.
At every birthday party, this same group had gathered at this same long table. They’d become close friends through the years.
Chandler’s reflections were interrupted by that music we know so well, Grim’s dirge. Who now?
Huy was glowing–Huy is an alien? And through his “Very Focused” glow, Huy stood up and looked towards the sky. Was that home calling him?
The family and guests formed a circle around him. Poor Irving and Ms. Beck took it hardest. Irving wept like he was losing his best friend. And maybe he was. He and Huy had certainly spent countless hours here together at Cradle Rock, and who knows how much time they spent together on their own?
I quickly checked all the household members’ relationship panels to see who had the highest relationship with Huy, so I’d know whom to send to plead with Grim. Sal’s relationship was highest. We waited for Grim to appear.
But Grim didn’t show.
Huy’s remains were encased in an alien tombstone. The circle mourned.
Daryl Bough, who’d had that deep foreboding before the wedding, was conspicuously missing. He’d made a quick exit right after the ceremony and was by now safely back home in the mansion across the street.
While Irving and Ms Beck wept and wept, Sal and Shug sat across from each other. They said not a word, but they each knew what the other was thinking. We’ve seen a lot of these. And, looking at the gray hair of their good friends, they know they’ll see a lot more.
Can you have joy without sorrow? Is there a type of happiness that doesn’t fall on the binary pole?
Salix thought so. Miracle did, too.
The heart’s big. You can have a corner that’s heavy in pain, and you can have a half that’s lit up with joy. The two can exist side by side, and one needn’t crowd out the other.
Or maybe, Sal thought, it’s possible to simply open up, accept, and move straight through to joy. Wasn’t that what she felt now, even here in the midst of all this sorrow?
The circle of mourners wailed and moaned until it was time for them all to go home.
“Maladay,” Salix said softly, and they shuffled out the door in one long line.
“Wow,” said Miracle. “That was really something.”
“I know,” said Sal.
“You know,” said Miracle, “it feels like it was fitting somehow.”
“I think I know what you mean.”
“And at any rate,” continued Miracle, “he didn’t have to go alone. What do you make of that? That’s something, huh? For him to be so far from home, and yet to depart surrounded by a circle of friends and those who loved him. It’s a special gift, don’t you think?”
In a long line, the guests headed off, each on their own way, each very much wrapped in his or her own thoughts.
And the game, as the game does, had its own idea of irony.
In the quiet of the evening, with the desert crickets chirping, Chandler joined his wife and Miracle at the kitchen table.
“So, this is life,” Chandler said. “I always wanted to experience the full range of emotions. I just never thought I’d be experiencing them all simultaneously!”
And somehow, to Miracle and Salix, that seemed to be the funniest thing that anyone could ever say.