The sandwiches are cut into tiny triangles as if for children, but there are no children left. Little sausages nestle together on bone china plates. Pastries too beautiful to crush lie untouched. Mothers’ cheekbones hover under hollowed eyes, as we look anywhere but at each other. Loss burns under my ribs. I smooth out a napkin and lay a sharp knife to rest within it before burying it in my handbag.
Our torsos are encased in black. Necks glimmer with heavy gold to weigh us down, to stop us floating right through the open window, up and up to join our little ones. In the far corner of the school hall, rows of photographs fill a table of purple velvet. Their rigid faces match our own. My eyes retreat from the obscenity of colour in the bouquets.
This numbness is worse than their pain at being trapped under hot broken metal. I hear the screams of flesh on fire. I see flames lick the coach door, pushing our babies back to the hungry smoke. I pull at my necklace and gasp at air as thick as soup. Reaching into my hair, I dig sharp nails into my scalp to return to now. To a body and heartbeat that I don’t deserve. I grip the arm of a chair.
One mother rubs a palm over her full womb in never-ending circles. Her lips remember how to smile. Blood pulses morse code messages into my ears from my empty insides. I snatch up fistfuls of food and thrust them into my mouth, leaving no room to shout out. Then I wrap my fingers around the knife handle in my bag and squeeze until my fist tremors.