And finally, after almost two months, I’m posting the revised version of Cerulean Sundown. I’ve had it written for quite some time (since the end of April, actually), but due to some issues with wordpress and my own obnoxiously busy life, I’ve slacked and delayed posting it—and yes, it is, like Folds of Ruby, vastly different from the original. Now, after far too long, it is up for your enjoyment. I sincerely hope it was worth the delay…
The mood at the reception was as expected: subdued, with hints of normality hidden just below the surface. Most of the people were just glad to be done with the funeral, but couldn’t quite work up the nerve to be openly relieved. In a way, Mat appreciated that; mostly, though, he found it beyond irritating.
He wandered among the tables, hardly registering the half-hearted sympathies that the guests sent his way. His glass of dark red merlot rested, forgotten, in his right hand. His left was clenched around Jordan’s hand while she walked next to him, tears falling silently from her eyes. He knew that those tears weren’t totally for Andy, but he had no desire to confront that yet.
They completed their circuit of the room without making eye contact with anyone. Mat was glad for this, as he was tired of protracted and painful conversations about sickness striking someone so young. He didn’t need or want reminding of the shock that came when Andy told them that he had lung cancer at age thirty-one.
Something in Jordan’s grip changed, and Mat understood that she wanted to leave the room. He let himself be led by the hand as she shouldered open the side door and walked into the courtyard of the reception hall. It was warm outside, but evening was coming on quickly.
Jordan finally stopped and turned to face him. She let go of his hand.
Mat felt his heart slow. Now? She’s going to do this now?
“Look, Mat, I really need to talk. Things just—well, they haven’t been the same.”
He stared at her as a breeze ruffled through the courtyard and whipped his black dress jacket open. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Jordan wrapped her arms around herself and fresh tears traced melancholy lines down her cheeks. He put the glass of wine on a nearby bench and reached for her, intending to comfort her with a hug as he had so often done. She jerked back with such vehemence that Mat himself took a step back.
“Why now?” he asked. “Why? We should be here for each other through a time like this.”
Jordan shook her head and turned away to hide her face. “It’s not the same. Not without him.”
Mat rubbed his eyes with his hands, half afraid that he might start crying in a moment, too. The sky was darkening overhead, and that might hide it, but he still wanted to avoid that embarrassment.
“Listen, I know things haven’t been the best lately. That’s to be expected,” he said. “And I have no idea why you’re bringing this up, today of all days.”
For a moment, only sniffling answered him. “It just feels like the right time, Mat. There would be too many reminders of him if I kept seeing you.”
Mat slammed his fist on the bench next to him, displacing the glass of wine and sending it splashing over the grey concrete like a bloodstain on their suddenly-tenuous relationship.
“We can help each other get through this. He was my best friend, too, Jordan.” Mat was surprised at how level his voice was. His fist was still clenched at his side, and it was starting to hurt.
“I’m sorry, Mat.” She started sobbing. “I’m so, so sorry. I have to do this by myself.”
She fled back toward the doors, but Mat shouted, “Stop! Wait!”
She slowed down, but for one heart-seizing second he thought she wouldn’t stop. She grabbed the door handle, clear intent written in the flexing muscles of her forearm and the tendons standing out on the back of her hand.
Then her grip slackened and she slumped. “What?” she asked without turning around.
“Do this if you have to. I’ll let you go. But don’t disappear out of my life. We can still be there for each other.”
She tilted her head to the side so that her straight brown hair fell away from her face, and Mat saw a brief, watery smile on her lips before she nodded and hurried back inside.
All the emotion drained out of him, and his fist sprung open. Mat took two shaky steps toward the bench and sat down, uncaring about the wine that was sure to stain his pants. He let his head fall backward in his sudden lethargy and stared straight up at the deep blue sky of early twilight.