Saturday, June 28, 2014

CHAPTER 26

Chapter 26

*Saket Bikmal*
I’ve been watching all of the drama unfold without saying a word. I doubt if anyone has even noticed me up to this point.
As Suchet backs away from Leo and tears out of Town Hall, I steal a glance at Sophie. Even with the weight of Dean’s departure on her shoulders, she still looks as beautiful and strong as always. Not even death would put out the fire in her eyes.
So far, Sophie hasn’t even looked at me once. I know that I have to give her some time to heal from the recent tragedy, but at the same time I yearn to be with her. Of course, she would never accept my comfort, much less my love. It is too soon after her boyfriend’s death for her to find someone new.
But she would learn to move on eventually, right? I have a chance... don’t I?
I turn these questions over in my head repeatedly, puzzling over possible answers. However, before I can ponder this further, Leo interrupts my thoughts. “Now that he’s out of the way, we should get down to business.”
To everyone’s surprise, Ramya -- of all people, quiet, timid Ramya -- rises to defend Suchet. “It wasn’t his fault that people got hurt, Leo. He was just doing what he thought was right.”
“Well, Suchet must have some pretty messed up morals if he thinks letting people die is ‘right,’” Leo says, scowling.
“It’s not his fault,” Ramya insists.
Leo ignores her.
Looking frustrated, Ramya scoots her chair back with a thump and stands up. “You aren’t being fair to him, you know,” she says, and proceeds to march out of Town Hall.
An expression of confusion and puzzlement flits across Leo’s features. He opens his mouth to respond, then closes it.
“You know what? Screw this,” Chris adds. “Let’s go, Sara.” He grabs Sara’s arm and drags her out with him, their footsteps echoing in the otherwise silent hall.
Leo looks even more obfuscated. “Wh-- what’s going on? Why are you all leaving?”
“These meetings are so pointless. It’s just you and Suchet arguing all the time,” Jack says, standing up and taking Courtney’s hand. The two of them start making their way to the doors as well.
“Wait, but Suchet’s not even here anymore!” Leo protests at their retreating backs.
“He’s our leader, you know,” Jack calls over his shoulder. “No matter what he’s done, you can’t just kick him out like that without letting him explain himself!”
Burying his face in his hands, Leo lets out a muffled whimper.
“Are you okay, Leo?” I say.
“No,” Leo mumbles. “I’ll never be okay. Can’t you see that?”
I don’t know what to say, so I stay silent.
“Come on, let’s go,” Gene says quietly to Sophia. “Don’t take it personally,” he adds to Leo on his way out. Sophia follows him.
At this point, there are only six people left in Town Hall: Leo, Sophie, Alex, Nidhi, Alisha, and me. “Everything’s falling apart,” Leo murmurs. “Because of me.” He stands up abruptly and sprints out of Town Hall, shaking his head and muttering to himself.
Sophie and I exchange looks, a look of worry creasing her forehead.
“I guess we should go,” Alex says, speaking for the first time.
He glances around at us as if he’s just noticed the sullen looks on our faces. “I think we need to organize something that will distract people. Something to take our minds off of this fight so we can start over later.”
“A funeral,” Sophie says.
We all turn to stare at her.
Alex blinks, surprised. “Say what?”
“A funeral for Dean and Debbie,” she repeats.
“Uh... why?” Alex stammers.
“Well, you wanted a distraction, right?” Sophie snaps, suddenly sounding angry. “Why not take away their anger and replace it with grief? You leaders don’t care about how we feel anyways. None of you do.”
With those curt words, she turns and storms out.

*Leo Qi*
We assemble ourselves around Debbie’s final resting place. I’d requested for her grave to be just below the tree where she liked to watch the sunset.
The hole they dug is too big for her. It makes her look so small, so insignificant, and I remember her telling me how tiny and useless we were when compared to the grand scheme of things.
I stare down at her body, surrounded by dark, damp dirt. They haven’t covered it yet. We’re all supposed to say something to her, then bury her together.
The sun is just beginning to set, casting red and orange beams on Debbie’s serene face. The sunset is especially beautiful tonight, scattering rays of every color across the cloudless sky. She would’ve wanted to see it.
“Leo?” Alex’s voice jolts me out of my thoughts. “Would you like to say a few words?”
A few words?
A few words?
Debbie is not a few words. Debbie is a world of words and more, a world of beauty and happiness and love.
Debbie was my life.
Not just a few words.
Now is my chance to tell everyone what Debbie is worth. About the world she meant to me. Means to me.
Will always mean to me.

I step forward and clear my throat.