by Jake Christie

CONDOLENCES.
a story.

“I was just trying to lighten the mood,” said Dale. He yanked at his tie with two fingers until it was hanging loose around his neck, then untucked his shirt and went to work on the buttons.

“It was a funeral,” said Amy. She sat on the hotel bed, legs crossed, and removed her earrings. “Nobody expects a light mood at a funeral.”

“It was just so sad,” said Dale.

Amy smoothed her dress on her lap and dug her fingertips into her legs, lest they get the better of her and find their way to Dale's neck. “Yes, Dale,” she said. “Exactly.”

Dale kicked off his shoes and sat next to her. She swung her legs around and scooted to the opposite side of the bed. She crossed her arms, which Dale couldn't see, and he rolled his eyes, which she couldn't see. Somehow, though, they each sensed both.

“Are you seriously still mad at me?” said Dale.

“I've never been asked to leave a funeral before,” said Amy. “I've never had a boyfriend who tampered with a coffin. How long am I supposed to be mad?”

“In my experience?” he joked. She didn't laugh.

Dale laid back on the bed and bounced once before his head landed next to Amy's lap. She didn't look down at him. “I'm sorry, okay?” he said. “You told me all these great stories about how funny and weird your aunt was when she was alive, and then to see her there all dressed up and frowning and still, and you all sad...” he trailed off and closed his eyes. “I'm sorry.”

Amy looked down at Dale. He rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, trying to squeeze his feelings back in or the right words out. She placed her hand on his chest.

“I wanted my family to like you,” she said. “They really do have good senses of humor.”

“I'll do better tomorrow,” he said. He opened his eyes.

“Where are we going to get another 'Do Not Disturb' sign?” she asked.


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