This is the prologue to my contemporary romance novel. Please note the novel (including this piece) is still in the “beginning stages” (meaning it still needs pretty heavy editing!).
The story is about Jeremy Bryant, a man who seems to have everything together, and his sister’s best friend, Emily Pond, the girl who just can’t seem to catch a break. They have known each other since childhood and though they once were close an incident more than ten years ago has made things awkward between them. Still, after determinedly avoiding each other for a decade, the death of Emily’s fiancé brings them back into each other’s company.
The first chapter will take place a year after the prologue.
Who had ever heard of needing a date to a funeral? Jeremy Bryant thought as he stood awkwardly beside his younger sister, Amy. He was uncomfortable on the hot day, sweat trickling down his back in the too hot church. His suit, while stylishly somber, was certainly not breathable. It was agony and the situation was made all the more uncomfortable by the fact that he didn’t even know the man.
Michael Adams, aged thirty two, taken far too soon by cancer.
It was sad. Of course it was sad. But Jeremy and Michael had never met and he had no idea what to say to any of the people in their grief. His default was to tell a joke but judging by the number of times Amy’s elbow had hit his ribs he guessed that wasn’t the most appropriate response in this situation.
His first funeral and it was already more awkward than he ever could have imagined.
Still, Amy had practically begged him to attend and he didn’t have a good reason not to. Amy had always found it difficult to be around grief and the prospect of a room full of sad people terrified her. She claimed she needed him there for moral support so moral support he would be.
After all, it wasn’t as if she could skip it.
Jeremy might not have known Michael but his sister certainly had. Michael had been engaged to Amy’s best friend, Emily Pond. Widowed before she’d even got to walk down the aisle. (Was it still widowed if you’d only been engaged?)
Jeremy shook his head slightly, trying to curb his train of thought and focus on the priest. It had been years since he had been inside a church.
He let his eyes stray to Emily, standing at the front of the church holding the hand of a sobbing woman, likely Michael’s mother. Even from where he stood he could see the slight tremor in Emily’s shoulders as she cried.
Jeremy had gotten to know Emily well over the years. As Amy’s best friend they’d played together as children and got into mischief as they grew. But when high school came they’d spent less time together. Jeremy was three years older and suddenly it became less cool to hang out with his younger sister. It didn’t help matters that Amy and Emily had been very academic, involved in all the clubs and even going on to attend the same university together.
Jeremy was still close to his sister and he couldn’t imagine a better friend but he had lost touch with Emily over the years. This made being here at her dead fiancé’s funeral all the more uncomfortable.
Their first meeting in close to eight years and he had no idea how to even greet her.
Emily had always been such a kind person, quiet and lovely, and Jeremy truly felt sorry for her loss. Here was a girl who deserved the good things in life and at twenty eight she’d already lost both her mother and her fiancé.
The procession started down the church, the priest leading followed by the family with the pews emptying behind. Jeremy watched Emily as she walked down the aisle, now practically holding up her almost mother in law as sobs wracked the older woman’s body. She walked with perfect posture, holding herself as rigidly as possible as if to take control of the emotions.
Emily’s face shone with tears and her green eyes which stared straight ahead at the ground in front of her were bright with them, their mossy colour so vivid in her sadness. She was thinner than he remembered and Jeremy thought back to the updates Amy had given him as Michael went through treatment. He knew things had been hard on her, every moment filled with Michael and his needs as they struggled together.
Jeremy let Amy take his arm as they followed slowly behind the crowd towards the hall for the funeral reception. His sister sighed behind him, tears in her eyes and her discomfort visible only to those who knew her well. Jeremy reached up with his other hand to slightly loosen his tie, his discomfort far more noticeable than his sister’s.
Beyond her discomfort, Amy too was sad, having been quite close with Michael over the last few years. But she was keeping things together, ready to be strong for Emily.
Once in the hall Jeremy took a seat at a table off in the corner as his sister went to comfort Emily.
Emily had managed to seat Michael’s mother, Donna Adams, down at a table surrounded by family and head off by herself for a moment. She felt a stab of relief which was instantly squashed by guilt. It was hard enough to deal with the constant ache she felt at the loss of Michael without having to comfort his mother. Still, she did the best she could, loving Donna as much as she did.
“Em,” she turned around at the sound of her name, a small, sad smile crossing her face as her best friend Amy reached out and hugged her. Emily hugged back, holding on tightly without saying a word.
As best friends for more than twenty years they didn’t have to say much to understand what the other was thinking. Amy knew Emily was grateful for her presence, Emily knew Amy was uncomfortable as all hell. She almost laughed.
“How are you holding up?” Amy asked as they separated from their hug.
Emily tried to smile again but failed. Before she could answer Amy interrupted. “God, what a stupid question, I’m sorry.”
“No,” Emily said slightly shaking her head “It’s ok. I’m barely holding it together, but it will be ok.”
The friends fell into a comfortable silence. Emily’s eyes scanned the room and landed on Jeremy. He was sitting awkwardly in the corner of a table filled with Michael’s coworkers looking like he was awaiting his own trial, his arms crossed and his face closed off. She almost smiled again.
For such an attractive pair of siblings with their lean athletic bodies, their near perfect faces, and their thick brown hair, Amy and Jeremy were two of the most awkward people Emily had ever met. Their natural grace somehow didn’t translate into most social situations though this was also a huge part of their charm.
Had the brother and sister been as socially adept as they were beautiful it would have been unbearable.
“You brought Jeremy?” Emily asked, sure that Amy had coerced him into coming. Jeremy never had been able to say no to his sister.
Amy smiled and looked over at her brother fondly. “Of course, he’s my buffer.” Amy paused. “Besides, he’s always liked you. There was no way he wouldn’t have been here.”
Emily didn’t have anything to say to that so she just nodded. Jeremy being here was a surprise to Emily, no matter what Amy thought.
She scanned the room, mentally preparing herself for the conversations ahead. It was going to be a long day and she couldn’t begin to think past it. Thoughts of Michael crowded her mind at once comforting and overwhelmingly sad. He had always been the one to handle stressful situations, a natural leader with a go with the flow attitude. While he had been in the hospital and they had been planning for his death he had jokingly told her that he would make notes for how she should handle his funeral.
If only he’d actually done it, Emily thought ruefully.
Even with all of the preparations they had made it hadn’t been enough. Of course it hadn’t been enough. There is no such thing as “enough time” when the man you love, a man who had only just turned 32, was dying.
Emily clenched her fists and dug her nails into her hands to stave off another wave of tears. Just a few more hours and then she would be at home, she could cry then. It wasn’t helpful for her to breakdown right now, even if everyone seemed to be expecting it of her.
Just a few more hours.
People were starting to head in their direction ready to pay their respects. Emily looked sideways at Amy, darling Amy who was obviously desperate to be anywhere but where she was. Emily had never been as grateful for her best friend as she was at that moment. She reached out and took Amy’s hand, taking comfort in friendship and knowing that even without Michael she wasn’t alone in this world.
Just a few more hours, she reminded herself.