Even Camille’s there, back from saving the world, crying delicate tears into a hanky Lix gives her half way through the service. There’s only her, Marnie and the crew of the Hour there, barely touching the sides of the pews in the church. Lord and Lady Elms responded to the invitation saying they’d pay their respects independently, and now Freddie’s mother and father are both gone, he doesn’t have much in the way of mourners. For someone who positively crackled his way through life, his funeral is incongruously low-key.
She and Camille share a strange, tragic dual casting as Freddie’s widow, as though no one can quite decide which one of them is more deserving or worthy of the role. Camille, for her part, takes this on as gracefully as she does anything, grasping the well-wishers in Bel’s technical crew by the hand and thanking them most sincerely for their kind words. Bel hardly hears them.
Lix lets go of her arm when they’re leaving the church.
Bel lets herself lose the small crowd of black, away and out of earshot of the reverend offering dry platitudes about heaven and death and mortality that Bel’s not sure she ever believed anyway—even less so now. Lix looks around and eyes her warily when she realises Bel’s not by the graveside with everyone but looks back to the reverend when she accepts that Bel doesn’t want to be there, not just yet.
Times passes like the pulsing of blood behind a bruise. Bel stares at the service in front of her, watches the reverend’s lips form words, watches the box full of dirt get passed to Hector, then Marnie, then Lix and Randall and Camille. Everyone is outlined by the greyness of the sky. It’s been drizzling all day, and if Bel had decided to become an author rather than a journalist she might have put it down, oh-so-poetically, to the world being in mourning for a fiery rarity of a human being like Freddie. Even if she could convince her rational mind of something so pathetically fallacious as the world paying its respects through the weather, she knows it cannot be because of how alone she feels. The world is not behind her in her mourning.
The graveside tableau ends, and the black-suited sea walk back to the church. Physically alone now, Bel walks to the grave—or rather, the hole in the ground. The ground is sodden enough now from the light rain and moisture in the air that her black heels sink a little, it’s a struggle even making it there.
The skin around her fingers has become red and cracked from impulsive picking, but the habit she’s developed recently is even worse now she’s here, standing by Freddie’s grave with nothing to say; no words of comfort for herself or the apparition of her loved one—nothing for that strange social convention of talking to a grave as though it were listening.
“We need to stop talking, we talk too much, instead we have to do something.”
Good advice, then and now. Her fingers fumble with the catch on her bag, pulling the thick envelope out. Until now, she was unsure of what she was going to do with it. She’s had it with her constantly since the night he died. The nurses informed her gravely it was time (by then, she had long accepted his fate) and she read it to him while he was slipping away, tears dripping down her face and onto the page. She isn’t sure what he heard, if anything, in his state, but she wanted to be sure the last words he heard were ones of love. The last full measure of devotion she could ever offer him, after so many missed chances and lost opportunities
Bel lets her letter, written so painfully long ago now, fall from her hand onto his coffin.
The drizzle turns to rain, and Bel walks away.