Hester’s Mom expected only a scattering of the dead girl’s relatives in an empty church, so by the time she found parking at the library, hurried up the hill and the stone steps in her wobbly stilettos, and claimed a spot among the late-comers crowded at the back, her daughter was already at the podium, laying a spiral notebook on the open bible.
“When I think of Jasmine—” the girl’s voice caught. Marking her spot with her finger, she looked past the bereaved family, at the pews overflowing with well-dressed high school students. “Two empty seats and you’d have our lunch table in reverse.”
Hester’s mom stiffened as her daughter went off-script.
“I guess you’re here to support Jasmine’s family, like royalty visiting a collapsed mine, but your proportions are off. Royalty is a table of two. These are the proportions of a mob at a public hanging.”
The mourners shifted. Hester continued.
“Jasmine understood; her poems were all about what a bunch of assholes you are. We didn’t want you at our table. Jasmine wouldn’t be caught dead with you. But you’re here.” Hester’s throat tightened, pinching her words. “You caught her.”
Hester grabbed her notebook—tearing a page of onion skin—and bolted down the aisle.
Principal Anderson tried to follow, but Hester’s mom blocked her.
“What about Jasmine’s parents?” Ms. Anderson demanded. “How did that make them feel?”
Hester and her mom kept silent all the way to Warwick. At the Moonbeam Café, Hester’s mom ordered two large sundaes. At a wooden table in the back corner, Hester’s mother said, “I shouldn’t have let you go.”
“To my best friend’s funeral?” Hester asked.
Hester’s mother took another spoonful of ice cream and didn’t move her jaw, just let it melt.
Hester said, “They’re getting off on her death. I hate them.”
“Even Monica? Sitting right up front, she had to be so early.”
“To find a seat with stained glass in the background.” Hester spelled it out. “For Instagram.”
They left the sundaes and walked to their favorite antique store on Main Street. Hester blew dust off a glass beaker decorated like a bird. Hester’s mom started explaining how it worked. Hester interrupted, “Can you home school me?”
“But, you’re getting a good education. That was quite a speech.”
“They hate me.”
Hate: once a forbidden word, but Hester’s mom answered, “I doubt they even think about you.” She picked up a tiny corkscrew. “Is this for hulling berries?”
“It’s for Alcoholic Barbie.”
Hester’s mom dropped the corkscrew and studied a set of colored teacups. “The purple one’s cracked.” Hester’s mom held the purple cup to the light, squinted at the hairline fracture, and handed it to her daughter. “I’m going to buy these.”
“Stressed. It’ll be fine if we’re careful.”
“Do you know what they’ll do to me when I go back to school?”
“What you asked them to do: pay attention.”
Hester spread her fingers and let the cup smash to the floor.
The store the owner stood up from his workbench and shouted, “Hey!”
Hester’s mom shot the man a glance and bent over to pile the shards into the palm of her hand. “That was childish,” she snapped, angry because she wanted to be supportive.
Balancing on her funeral heels, Hester’s mom picked her way through the clutter, dropped a twenty on the unmanned register, and slid the broken pieces into a small hand-stamped paper bag.
Outside, Hester’s mom dropped the bag in a wire trash can. The porcelain split the brown paper like a husk. Afternoon sun lit the violet shards.
Hester’s Mom reached into the garbage and plucked out a thin purple crescent, slipped it in her coat pocket, and dug the porcelain point under her thumbnail. Across the street, her daughter bent over her phone, smiling at something her mother would never see.