She waits patiently for the Reverend to wrap up the choir. Her stomach tied into knots at the thought of her name to be called to speak next.
When the Reverend calls her name, she takes her time climbing the steps to the pulpit, laboring deep breaths as she gathered herself to remember the words that she had been given to say of the dearly departed. It’s the middle of October, so she tried to dress accommodating to a cold morning and a warmer afternoon. She chose to wear black, a mid-length body-con dress with sleeves that came to her elbows, nude stockings, and a strap heel no taller than two inches. She didn’t imagine her hair and makeup.
When the girl reached the podium, she had an overhead view of a crowd of endless shades of black in the pews.
Ebony for Ebony.
The most unsettling thing is that everyone that has ever liked or loved Ebony is in this church right now. The entire cheer squad and coaches sat in the middle. Some teachers and students came wearing black iron-on t-shirts they’ve made of her with a picture of her in her black and blue Briar High School cheer uniform and a grand span of wings behind her. The same picture that is on an easel around a frame of white roses beside her closed casket. Her birth date and death date written underneath as ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’. Of course, her family took up the front of the pews and the entire left side of the church.
Alicia didn’t get a t-shirt because no one knew that she and Ebony were even friends. Let alone a speaker in the program.
Alicia E. Hanes- Family Friend.
Even in death, Ebony had the last laugh.
And now they were watching her sweat her nerves out on the podium.
Alicia tried to drown her anxiety with deep breaths in the silence that filled the room. It was instantly disrupted by Ebony’s real bestfriend, Kiely Adams and the ‘clack-clack! clack-clack! clack-clack!’ of her long acrylic nails hitting against the screen of her phone. Another friend had told Alicia that Kiely is streaming the funeral online for everyone that wished to say goodbye to their ‘classroom hero’ on Facebook.
Now someone is coughing violently from the middle row. A girl can’t catch a break.
Alicia closed her eyes, counted to three, and as she opened her eyes to see the black sea again, she forgot every single word she worked hard to remember the night before.
Just say the words that are on your heart Alicia, she thought. Just be honest.
Everyone is growing restless before her. The silence is filling with warping sounds of paper programs being used as fans, the one attendee who’s still violently coughing, even a baby is cooing somewhere in the back of the church. There’s a lot of shifting in the pews and Alicia can hear the grunts and sighs of the seats as people move around. But they are respectful and letting her take her time. Which helped her in her case appear as someone at a loss for words as they passionately grieve for a lost friend. Not someone being a nervous wreck because Ebony’s mother found a ‘hate journal’ with Alicia Hanes name written inside multiple times and mistakes it as a list of people that meant so much to her daughter.
Her poor mother and the lack of things she knew about Ebony.
Just tell the truth.
Alicia smiled to the crowd. “Hello,” she begins, “My name is Alicia Hanes.”
“Ebony Renee Freeman had no intention of being my friend, but I had absolutely every intention of being hers when I met her. I had believed she was nice because everyone told me so. The Captain of the Cheer Squad and Student Body President that was kind to everyone.
I didn’t meet that Ebony. She was mean to me everyday. She had no remorse for anything that came out of her ugly mouth.
She told me the day she met me that my personality was stale.
She also said things like my hair was too nappy. My eyes were too big. And she really had no right to call me these names and analyze my features. Personally, she looked like a catfish to me. Now Ebony is just a dead ugly catfish. A bloated bruised catfish.
Why did everybody like her so much?
I’m not going to miss her.
I’m not going to shed any tears over someone that bullied me from the moment I met her. Ebony Freeman did exactly what I wanted her to do: choke.
And we’re better off without her -
“Alicia.” The dream broke away at the sound of her mother’s voice.
The church is gone. The sea of mourners is gone. It is only Alicia and her mother, sitting across from one another in their living room.
“Alicia? You’ve been staring out in space for five minutes.”Alicia blinked hard to make sure she was not in another dream.
“Do you wanna go over what you wrote before tomorrow?”
“Yea, I guess.”
Alicia’s mother reached out to hand her the typed-out speech. She pitied Alicia a smile and said to her, “I know you get nervous about speeches, and you tend to say things you don’t mean. Just take it from the top, and we’ll take it slow.. We have all day.”
Alicia nodded. She clears her throat, closed her eyes, and counted to three before she begins:
“Ebony Renee Freeman had every intention of making everyone she encountered laugh or smile. The Captain of the Cheer Squad and Student Body President that was kind to everyone.
And as my new friend, she made sure that I was as comfortable as possible at school …