I shuffled forward and accidentally bumped against the bag of the woman in front of me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, in response to her glare, and stepped back a little.
It had been years since I’d seen Andrew, but the invitation had been clear. I’d always been part of the family, it said, and even though years had passed, I still was. It had actually taken me a minute for the penny to drop, but as soon as I realised – Andy! – I booked a cheap hotel and a budget flight and here I was.
My savings took a hit, but I was keen to see Andy all grown up and married. After all the mischief we’d gotten up to, it was funny to think of him as just any regular middle-aged guy. His little twerp brother in a suit, his hippy mum crying, a congregation of colleagues and friends who were a mystery to me.
The maps of our lives had been so similar – I’d assumed they always would be. We’d started in the same place, we did all the same dumb shit, so why wouldn’t we end in the same place too? But it hadn’t worked out that way. Andy became Andrew, started getting good grades, dating nice girls, until he just disappeared from my life.
Me, I had my own cross to bear – drugs, alcohol, divorce, violence – I couldn’t stay away from dumb shit until jail finally caught up with me and sorted me out. Or at least it slowed me down.
I wondered what Andy’s mum looked like now. I’d always been keen on Joanna, schoolboy stuff, harmless. She’d be in her 50s. And the grown-up Andrew, what kind of friends did he have? How were his in-laws? What did his life look like?
Andy, Andrew – I could easily imagine him. His ginger floppy hair receding a little, a knowing smile on his freckled face. Guys like that don’t change much, in my experience. He’d have filled out but not gotten fat. I suddenly realised I’d never seen him in a suit before and I smiled – funny kind of first.
We shuffled forward again. The woman in front of me was next but one. And then it was her turn. And then it was mine. There was Joanna and the little twerp brother, all grown-up too, of course, and a woman I took to be the wife.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said to each of them. And then I turned to face the casket.
“You were supposed to be the lucky one,” I said. And Andrew smiled up at me knowingly, as if to say – we all have the same destination in the end, mate.
This Friday Flash Fiction was based on the #FuriousFiction criteria from the Australian Writers’ Centre. Each month, they host a fast fiction competition which is completely free – and offers a decent cash prize.
Check out Furious Fiction for yourself.