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Season Two 

Episode 1: "The Mourning After"
Part One

Lana's Place, El Patio Apartments

Lana Whitmire splashed cold water on her face and rubbed her eyes with the damp washcloth. This marked the second time she had to wash her face, blotchy with runny mascara. It seemed that every time she finished applying the mascara, she would see the despondent expression on her own face in the mirror and burst into tears once more.

Just three days before, Lana's cousin, Oliver Banks, was murdered in the parking lot of Palm Terrace Plaza. The police investigation, which concluded after heavy viewing of parking lot camera surveillance, failed to name any suspects in Oliver's murder. This further contributed to Lana's frustrations as she struggled to cope with the loss of her beloved cousin.

Lana stood in front of her full length mirror, dressed in a white sundress. Please, get a hold of yourself. Have strength. She thought to herself, trying to will away the melancholy that engaged her heart. She figured that Oliver would have wanted her to keep her chin up, her eyes dry. Besides, she told herself, you don't want Jake to see you this way.

At the thought of Jake Herrington, Lana felt a slight relapse in her self-comfort. During the past few weeks, she had stood back to watch her dreams fade before her eyes as Jake found his way closer to Kendra Blake. Even her profound disapproval of Kendra could not sway Jake's determination to make him hers and it took his near-death experience to finally catch her attention. Lana felt that she couldn't compete with Kendra's sophistication, wealth, or even beauty. Her hopes of winning Jake's heart had diminished, leaving Lana's spirits more vulnerable to the everlasting pain of heartbreak.

The doorbell rang, jolting Lana with unexpected surprise. Out of habit, she grabbed her hairbrush and ran it through her hair quickly. Mid-stroke, she stopped to think, what the hell am I doing? He won't notice. She tossed the hairbrush on her vanity and hurried for the door.

Lana opened the front door. As always, Jake stood before her, so handsome that he took her breath away in a simple black three-piece suit. Jake gave her a quick once-over and stared back in her in surprise. "Is THAT what you're going to wear?"

Lana looked down at the white sundress then back at him. "Yes," she replied matter of factly. She stood aside to let him in the apartment.

Jake could only stare back in amazement. "Lana, this is a funeral..."

"Yes, I know...and your point is?"

"Uh, Lana, are you sure that's appropriate?"

Lana narrowed her eyes at Jake's question. "I can't believe you have the nerve to question my attire." She turned on her heel and march back to her bedroom. Jake sighed with frustration and followed her, shutting the door behind him. He leaned in the doorway to her bedroom and watched her brush her hair.

"Lana, I'm sorry. I just find it hard to understand why you're acting this way." His bright blue eyes glowed with a warmed concern.

"What way?" Lana answered flatly, avoiding his glance. She set down the brush and pulled back her hair with her fingers. She twisted the tail and pinned her hair in place with bobby pins.

At first, Jake was mesmerized by Lana's primping ritual. He shook off his brief trance and focused on explaining his frustration. "Lana, I know that things have been different between us since my accident. And this, losing Oliver, I know that you really have a lot on your mind. I just want you to know that I'm here for you, as I always have been, and always will."

Jake's promise could not shake Lana's stony stance. Letting him in, she told herself, will only set up up for more disappointment when his sympathy fades. Instead, she finally looked back at him sharply. "You want to know why I'm wearing a white dress? I'm surprised that you aren't dressed in one as well. If you knew my cousin as well as I did, you would know that Oliver wouldn't have wanted everyone to wear black. He wouldn't have wanted us to cry. Instead, he would want us to chalk this up to a learning experience, inspiration to never take life for granted. Enjoy it, cherish it, and best of all, celebrate it. You don't wear black on a sad occasion, you don't wear entire black attire in a celebration of life. And that's why I'm wearing this white dress. Because today, at Oliver's funeral, I'm not going to cry. Oliver loved life, and I'm going to celebrate his."

Part Two

Bayview Condos, St. Marquis

"I'm coming!" Mae Jernigan yelled out after she heard the doorbell rang. Her yell rang from one side of her mouth as she held a bobby pin on the other. She was busily pinning her soft, auburn colored hair on the crown of her head, hoping the stylish do was sufficient enough to wear for Oliver Banks's funeral. After she slipped the final pin in place, she gave herself one last look in the mirror. Gosh, Penelope is earlier than usual, she said to herself, giving her hair a spritz of hairspray. Finally, she made her way to the door.

"Penny, I still have ten...." Mae trailed off when she saw not her best friend Penelope Grayson but Simon Pratt standing on her doorstep. "What the hell are you doing here?!" she demanded to know.

"Hey, Mae, are you ready to go?" Simon asked in a friendly manner, giving her the once over. "You look great."

Mae's jaw dropped. "Ready to go?" She repeated in disbelief. "Ready to go? What, ready to go with you? What makes you think that I'm going to Oliver's funeral with you?"

"Please, Mae, let's not fight. This is a time of togetherness, I thought that we could go to the service together..."

"What, you think that we can go together like everything's ok, and we're fine, like nothing ever happened? Just three days after you shamelessly take a shit on the heart that I selflessly offered to you?"

Mae's emotional outburst caught Simon off guard and he struggled to reason with her. He knew that she was referring to his not giving a relationship with her a chance, and for basically using her to pleasure himself with no intention of going further with her. "Mae, I don't really think this is the time to talk about this..."

"And why not, Simon? What better time than now when we're both actually listening to each other? Look, I just can't believe that you can just dust off what happened between us like it's mud on your shoe. But to me, it wasn't mud. It was something more. I knew it and my heart knew it too. And what did you do? You tore it to pieces."

Simon couldn't meet her eyes. "Mae...I said I was sorry..."

"So no, I'm not going with you, Simon. Besides all that, I already have a ride." Simon looked up at Mae and saw that she was looking over his shoulder. He turned around and saw himself staring into the beautiful eyes of an unfamiliar woman. He turned back to Mae, nodded his head in comprehension and left the apartment.

Mae watched him leave then turned her attention to the woman on her doorstep. She forced a cheerful smile and said "Hey, Penelope, I just finished. I'm ready to go."

Part Three

Lana spoke few words during Oliver's memorial service. Besides the brief eulogy she gave, during which she had Oliver's favorite local band perform three of his favorite songs, Lana only stared ahead with stony poise. She paid little attention to the hundred or so attendees, who collectively wept during the final song "Bridge Over Troubled Water." When Jake put his arm around her shoulder during the priest's prayer, Lana bowed her head and sat rigidly, as if she barely felt Jake's touch.

Lana still struggled to deal with her sadness. While Jake gave her his undivided attention, she knew in his heart he wished his arm was around Kendra. Her last hope of ever winning his heart dwindled, contributing to the deepening sorrow that wore out her subdued spirit that was already drowning in agony over the loss of her beloved cousin. She wanted to deny Jake's comfort, for she felt that it wasn't purely wholehearted. Instead, she longed for Oliver. He had provided her inner strength and she had always admired his headstrong attitude, his ability to see straight to her heart, and his wisdom beyond his years. She wanted to weep thousands of tears for him but felt that those tears weren't enough to mourn losing him. She wanted to hunt down the vermin who murdered him, but had no leads to follow.

But Lana felt powerless and devoid of every choice except the containment of her emotions, masked under unwavering resilience. She instead stared at her shoes as she followed Oliver's parents up the aisle to the exit of the church. Her Aunt Margaret and Uncle Otis succeeded the eight pallbearers that included Jake, Adam, Simon, and Lana's brother Landon. When she stepped into the blinding sunlight outside of the church, she shaded her eyes and looked up to catch the sight of the pallbearers placing Oliver's casket in the hearse. She stood still and continued to stare even after the door of the hearse closed. The gathering for the service broke for their cars. Jake took hold of Lana's hand, led her to his truck, and helped her inside.

Lana's eyes focused straight through the passenger door window as the funeral procession slowly made its way down the streets of Palm Terrace. Lana closed out the sounds of the sirens from the police escort and Jake's soothing voice which hummed a dull drone in Lana's ears. Tuning out the world was her last line of defense in her struggle to keep from losing control of all her emotions. But the world continued to beg for her forgiveness, for taking away her beloved Oliver, as Jake was more tender than ever, and complete strangers paid their respects that day. Lana only had to look to the side of the road as cars had pulled off to the side to allow the procession to pass freely.

Moments later, in Pickens Garden Cemetery, Oliver's loved ones and friends gathered around for his burial. Lana stood with her hands folded in front of her. Jake took his place by her side and put his arm around her waist, hoping his demonstration of support would comfort her. Lana stiffened from his touch and looked away from him. She caught sight of the priest who stood by the head of Oliver's casket to give his final blessings. Her eyes moved away from him and settled on Mae. She was a ghastly sight, having finally surrendered to her sadness. She sobbed uncontrollably into Stacia's shoulder, paying no attention to the looks she attracted from all in attendance. Lana wished she could comfort her as well when she saw Adam standing next to Stacia, looking sorrowful and lonely after allowing for his girlfriend some space to console her friend. 

She turned her head in the opposite direction, where her gaze fell on none other than Kendra Blake, who was standing with Nina Parkherst. Her eyes narrowed. What is SHE doing here? She never spoke to Oliver... To avoid further pain for her heart, she quickly looked ahead of her to the other side of Oliver's casket. Simon stood with his head bowed and his eyes closed. The sun caught sight of the glinting tears he tried to hide from the world.

Lana's eyes finally drifted to Simon's left, where Simon's cousin Bryce stood, staring straight back at her. She was caught off guard by his penetrating gaze but surprisingly, she softened to welcome it. The sunlight brightened Bryce's dark green eyes and briefly, Lana marveled in the power of their captivation. Momentarily, she felt comforted and secure, as if she believed Bryce's unexpected gaze held all the consolation she needed. Here he was, barely a few months familiar with her or her cousin, supporting her with his presence. She tried not to read into his stare too deeply, but couldn't help but succumb to their mesmerizing glance.

Suddenly, the casket began to lower into the ground. Lana snapped out of her trance and motioned for it to stop. The casket paused briefly as she stepped forward and withdrew a single long-stemmed red rose from her coat pocket. She approached the casket, stopping to run her hand lovingly along the smooth mahogany finish. She whispered words of remorse, regretting that she never had the chance to say good-bye to him. She whispered wishes of happiness in heaven and hopes that she would see him again some day. She whispered promises to visit his resting place often and conveyed all of her love and respect for him before placing the rose on top of the casket. With her head still bowed, she stepped back into the crowed and continued to stare at her shoes.

At first, no one spoke. The silence confused Lana, forcing her to finally look up into the faces around her. The moments that followed nearly broke down the emotional dam around her heart.

Simon was the first to step forward. He pulled one long-stemmed rose from his coat, approached Oliver's casket, and kissed the soft rose petals before placing it on top of Oliver's casket. He stepped back before Bryce came forth to offer another rose. In turn, Adam approached the casket and placed a rose beside the three roses. Mae wiped her tears on the sleeve of her dress before breaking away from Stacia. She closed her eyes, whispered a few parting words into the petals of the single rose she carried, kissed it tenderly, and set it on the casket. More tears followed as she backed away, biting her lip to keep from sobbing loudly. Stacia followed suit, softly kissing the scarlet rose bud before placing it among the others. When she turned her back to the casket, Stacia looked at her best friend, casting a sympathetic look. Lana nodded to acknowledge Stacia's silent comfort.

Suddenly, Lana felt Jake brush past her arm. Slowly, he stepped toward the casket. Just as Lana had done, Jake smoothed the top of the casket with one hand while clutching the long stemmed rose in the other. He lifted the rose to his lips, closed his eyes, and kissed the petals before resting it on the other roses. He bowed his head respectfully and returned to Lana's side. Lana's eyes watching his every move, wide with amazement and shiny with tears provoked by the moving gesture given to Oliver by her closest friends.

The casket finally began it's slow descent into the ground and the crowd dwindled, making way for their cars. A few of the bystanders stopped by to see how Lana was and she quickly pacified their concern by assuring them she was all right. Jake was about to take Lana's hand and escort her to his truck when Lana pulled her hand away. She had hoped to stay a while longer.

Lana wasn't quite ready to let go of Oliver, just yet.

 

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Copyright 2004  Valencia M.Brady.