That wasn't my grandmother. Not my Busha.
Skin that looked like paper stretched over the skeleton. The wrinkles in the face were painstakingly etched, one by one, to make it all look so lifelike. Hands resting on the chest, clutching a rosary, the fingers like sticks. Immobile, empty.
No, not my Busha.
I couldn't bring myself to approach the casket, even though I was sitting in the front row in the viewing room. But I was required to. People would wonder if I didn't pay my condolences to the woman who raised me, the woman who guided my young life, and the one who I couldn't bear to leave even after I completed grad school.
But it simply wasn't her. Just a wax figure that looked like her. An empty husk that had no personality, one that was absent of the vitality I came to expect from the woman I loved.
No amount of undertaker's makeup could make her look like Busha again.
I turned my eyes from the mannequin in a coffin and pawed through my purse. Looking for something. Hell, I'm not exactly sure what, but anything that didn't require me to look at what was at the front of the room. The purse was pretty bare, though--money, credit cards, phone. Not like I used the thing much, but it was another thing expected of me on such an occasion.
People milled about the room, talking in whispers, catching up. They'd all already offered their condolences to me, and now they waited for my eulogy. Until then, they kept their distance, perhaps sensing I'd rather not talk to anyone. Or they could just think me strange for having not displayed the usual teariness expected of a person in mourning.
Screw them all. That wasn't Busha. How could I cry over a wax figure that looked like it should have cobwebs in its eyes? How was I supposed to offer a heartfelt eulogy for such a thing?
I poked around in my purse again.
Someone slipped into the seat behind me.
"Mira," a voice I didn't recognize said. His breath was damp on my neck, like the promise of rain hanging in the air. "I'm sorry to bother you on such a day, but I need your help."
I didn't turn around, didn't want to face whoever this anonymous mourner was. Busha had many friends and acquaintances. She had lived her life to the fullest, and after today I realized I only truly knew a handful of all the lives she'd touched.
He probably wanted a statement for some article, or perhaps a piece of something my grandmother had left behind.
"What do you want?" I closed my purse and clutched it like he was a thief ready to rip it out of my hands.
He didn't respond right away, probably trying to figure out how to address the coldness in my voice. I didn't like reporters, people who wanted to write flourishing praises about my grandmother, or vultures who wanted something they claimed she had promised them. Only I knew my Busha in truth, none of these people. I knew her heart. And her heart wouldn't want me to have to deal with this shit after she was gone.
"Again, I'm sorry." He placed a hand on my shoulder. It was warm like the clouds from a summer storm wrapping themselves around me. Comforting. I always did love a good storm.
I turned to him, yanking my shoulder from his grasp, about to tell him off for his presumption, but started when I met his face.
He looked to be in his twenties, like me. His short dark brown hair was a bit disarrayed--the tousled by the wind look. But his eyes were what made me jump. They were a whirling mix of blue and gray. And I could have sworn I saw lightning flash in their depths when I first met his gaze.
"I need your help, Mira. I need your magic."
Call me startled twice in the span of seconds. In a world where magic surrounds me--fairies, elves, witches, and warlocks--I had no magical leanings. Though Busha would always tell me differently. She claimed I was a unicorn. A unicorn stuck in the sprawling urbanity of Milwaukee.
Who ever heard of a unicorn? Let alone one without magic.
Excerpt from Downward Spiral, Chapter 1
NEXT UP: Excerpt #2!