Excerpt 001 from TWK

Rating: M, for some language.

The funeral was cold and merciless. Strangers stood around the room and talked among themselves. She stood, solitary, by his ashes, staring at the countdown. She couldn’t bear to lift her gaze to the sky bursting with light from thousands of stars; all it made her think of was loss, of the distance now between herself and all of her family. Soon, her father would be just another flicker of light out there in the great expanse of space, and she wasn’t ready.

A shadow appeared in her periphery, followed within seconds by a voice. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

It doesn’t matter,” Aspen answered, her voice gravel-thick and cold.

Yes, it does,” he said, “and I’m sorry.” Fingers grazed hers but she brushed his hand away.

Really,” she said, “It doesn’t.”

He was quiet for a moment; she could hear him adjust his suit coat, anxious that she had shrugged off his attempt at making up. “Don’t you want to know where I was?”

She finally looked at him, mostly in shock, as if she couldn’t fathom how he could be so dumb. “For the last week? Do you think I care where you were?” Inwardly, she reminded herself not to become a spectacle. No need to cause a scene in front of a bunch of business executives and old friends of her father. No need to be that daughter. Whether she was in mourning or not would hardly be taken into consideration.

I know I was supposed to pick you up from the airport, Aspen, but I was stuck at the office.” He crossed his arms over his chest in the way that told her he was not going to be wrong, here. His blond hair fell into his face, barely breaking up the orchid-leaf green of his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

You’re sorry for an awful lot of things, Nash, but this is the first time I’ve seen or heard from you since before I landed back in the States. I’m starting to think I was better off with radio silence.”

What’s that supposed to mean, Aspen? C’mon,” he stepped toward her and she fought the urge to back away. She couldn’t leave her father’s ashes; it was troublesome enough that now Nash stood between she and the urn.

Instead, she stepped forward. “You can go crawl back under whatever rock you’ve been hiding, Nash,” she stepped again, this time to the side, turning herself back to face the room. “You’re capable of letting yourself out, aren’t you?”

Is this really how you’re going to break up with me? At your dad’s funeral?”

If what you call breaking up is you showing up uninvited to my father’s funeral after an entire week of complete silence, and being asked to leave, then yes. I’m breaking up with you. Now get out,” she snarled, low, under her breath, “before I have you escorted out.”

You’re a fucking –“

Bitch,” she said, for him. “I know. Get out.”

The countdown tinged and she turned, as fast as she could, to rest her hand on the urn one last time. It moved, her fingertips dragging over it, lifted up into the shoot, and was launched. Through the domed glass ceiling, she could watch it cut through the sky. A tiny streak of silver, and then, nothing.

She cried all of that night, again, and went to sleep sometime in the early dawn with fitful dreams.

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