By boobookitty16

“The funeral is on Thursday.” Lenny said to his fiance Sabrina, also known as the waitress he was trying to impress that night when he sang with Laverne.
And it had worked because they'd been together for two years now. And his friend wouldn't be there to watch him getting married. “Will you be there?”
they were sitting on the sofa in her apartment and he wiped his tears.
Sabrina wrapped his arm around his shoulder, “Of course, I'll be there.”
Everyone was gonna be there. Even Squiggy was inconsolable. Although Laverne had rarely been nice to him through the years, she had been his friend.
And he was also there that day, watching her die. And she died for what? For nothing. She was sent to death row by mistake. Of course none of the judges would listen to Laverne's friends.
No matter how many hours they spent trying to get her out of there, it didn't matter. To them, she was Jones. There had been no mistake. End of story. But if it was hard for him or Lenny,
Squiggy couldn't imagine what Carmine was going through. Because Carmine had been the one Laverne chose to spend the last minutes of her life with. He was the very last person she talked to.
And if that wasn't enough, he was also the one who bought the casket. Imagine having to buy your best friend's casket?! Actually, he didn't buy it alone. Rhonda had to help him because he broke down crying in the funeral home and one of the employees
working there had to call her to come get him. Four people watched her die. Carmine and Rhonda, Lenny and Squiggy. Frank died a couple of months ago in a car accident. That had been the most awful year they had ever known.
Laverne was finally getting better after weeks of grieving over her father's death and when she was slowly getting her life back, she met that Sheba girl. And if she chose Carmine over the three others,
that was because he had been the one there for her when her pop passed away. He was the one who spent the nights at her place because she was scared of being alone at night. And he was there not only during the night, but whenever she'd call him and he'd drop everything he was doing to be with her.
He was also the one who got her the job at the Aerospace company. All this time spent together made them realize they kind of had feelings for each other. And days before she got arrested, they were even discussing the possibility of being more than just friends.
But he'll never know if it would have worked out. He was left to wonder for the rest of his life. Not a single minute passed by without him reliving their last moment together in his head.
When he entered her jail cell, they were both sobbing and the first thing they did was to hug for two long minutes without letting go. He had wiped her tears with the back of his hands and caressed her hair, “Can you promise me something?” she had asked him.
“Anything you want.”
“Promise me you're gonna find a role in an amazing musical somewhere and make your dream come true. Can you do that for me?” he would have done anything for his best friend. He had wished he was the one they were gonna execute. He would have taken her place without any hesitation if it had been possible.
He nodded, “I promise.” he's never cried this hard in his entire life, “I can't live without you.”
“You'll be okay.”
“No, I won't be.”
“You will be.” her hands were shaking because she was terrified, “Can you promise me something else?” she was the one wiping his tears this time. “Promise me you won't stay alone. I want you to find somebody and be happy.”
“I found you.”
“It's time.” one of the officers said stepping into the cell interrupting the most important and last conversation of their lives.
“No, no, no..please. Just give us more time.” Carmine had begged, refusing to let go of his friend.
“We don't have any more time. Everything's ready. Come on.” the officer grabbed her arm,
“It's gonna be okay, Carmine.” she had smiled sadly, “I love you.”
He had managed to hold her back, shaking the officer's hand off, and kissed her. But really kissed her. The kind of kiss only read in novels or seen in movies.
The two officers interrupted the kiss, removing her from the cell. “I love you too!” he had shouted while watching her leave. And he knew she heard him because she smiled one last time.

And there he was today, three days later, with all of them, standing in front of her now, closed casket. At least one hundred people came.
People from Milwaukee, like Terry Buttafucco or Alvinia T. Plout. Some family members from New York and even Italy. And Shirley came too with Walter and the baby. Telling her hadn't been easy, especially on the phone, but Lenny had managed to do it.
Yes, Lenny, because Carmine wasn't even able to dial the number. And although she and Laverne hadn't seen each other in months, she took the first flight back to L.A the minute she learned the news. They had been best friends for more than twenty two years. Of course she was gonna attend the funeral.
Carmine had been the one writing the eulogy but not having the strength to read it, Shirley did. And she realized he was in love with Laverne by the way he wrote it. It was so beautiful, it had been a miracle for her to read it all the way through the end and when it was over, the ink was literally smudged by her tears.
The service was over and they were all going to gather in Laverne's apartment for a little while. “Are you coming?” Shirley asked.
He shook his head, “No. I'm going to stay for a while. But go ahead.”
She wanted to stay too but Walter and her daughter were already in the car and she knew Carmine needed to be alone. She nodded through her tears, “I'll see you there then.” as she was starting to leave, she turned around. “Carmine?” He turned around, “It was beautiful.”
“What was?”
She almost smiled,“What you wrote. She'd have loved it.”
“Do you think so?”
“I know so.”
“Thank you for reading it.”
She nodded turning around one last time. And now there he was, finally alone with her. He didn't have a lot of time before they'd start burying the coffin so he needed to hurry.
“Here we are, alone, at last.” he chuckled wiping his tears, “So, did I do a good job?” actually he had done everything. From buying the casket to the flowers. To writing the eulogy and picking the clothes she was wearing. “You see, I even picked your favorite flowers. You told me what they were once years ago, and I managed to remember.”
he didn't know what her favorite outfit had been though, so what she was wearing was his favorite one. She had only worn the dress a couple of times but he remembered it perfectly. He even complimented her on it once. Although Shirley had been around at the time, and that compliment had turned into some major jealousy argument between them.
He didn't remember the fight, but he sure remembered the smile on Laverne's face when he told her she looked pretty and that was all that mattered. He somehow lost himself in the memories and the people were already there to bury her.
“Sir?” one of them patted his shoulder and Carmine came back to reality.
“You're gonna have to move.”
Carmine nodded stepping back, it started raining but he didn't care. He wasn't gonna leave now. He was gonna stay and watch them bury his friend. So he grabbed one of the chairs and sat down. And he watched them, crying the entire time.
When they were finished, he rose to his feet, and placed one last rose on her grave before walking away.

* * * * * * *

Twenty years later.

He parked the car in front of the cemetery. Amy begged her father to let her come with him to California. Imagine how fun it would be to be the very first person in her group of friends to travel all the way across the country?
Every year almost on the same day, for as long as she could remember, her father always traveled to California and this year, after hours of begging, he finally agreed to take her along with him. Today was Laverne's birthday and he had always tried, for the past eighteen years ever since he moved to New York, to visit her on this special day.
“Why are we stopping here? It's creepy.” she whined, “I thought you said we were here to visit a friend of yours.”
“We are.”
“But it's a cemetery!”
He chuckled, “I know.”
“My God, you mean....?” they stepped out of the car and he was carrying the bunch of roses. The place gave Amy the creeps especially since it was raining so she remained silent the whole time. They finally reached Laverne's grave. Carmine took a deep breath, remembering the months he spent visiting her almost every day the first two years.
They all used to come visit her. Lenny, Squiggy and even Rhonda came at least twice a week. Shirley, however, only visited twice in the past decade as she lived overseas and she rarely came back to the U.S. After a while though, the others sort of moved on with their lives. And instead of visiting Laverne once or twice a week, it became once or twice a month.
And one day, they stopped coming altogether. Except him. Carmine had never stopped coming. It took him two years to move on. But then, one morning he woke up, and he remembered what she had asked him before she died. She wanted him to make his dream come true and he couldn't make that happen if he stayed here. Honestly, moving across the country had been the hardest decision of his life because he wouldn't be near her.
Or that was what he thought, until someone made him realize that it didn't matter where in the world he was, Laverne would still be with him wherever he'd go. And that someone was his wife, Laura.
“Hi.” he said smiling, “First of all, happy birthday.” he put the flowers on her grave.
“Amy chose the roses. I hope you like them.” he made a sign for his daughter to approach, “Don't worry if you don't recognize her, the last time she was here, she was only a baby. She's sixteen now.” the girl looked exactly like her mom. Blond hair, blue eyes, but in personality she was like her father; And she could sing just like him too.
“Hi.” Amy felt super awkward.
“You have to forgive her, she's a little shy.” or more like creeped out. “She wanted to come with me this year so you get to see her. It's insane how kids grow up, huh?” he chuckled, “Anyway,” he cleared his throat, “I hope you're having a good time today and I hope you know I'm thinking of you. I don't know if the others still come visit you. But I have news about them. Well, about most of them.
Except Shirley, I still haven't gotten any news from her apart from that letter she sent me three years ago, but I've already told you about it. Otherwise uh, Lenny's getting remarried in the Fall. Can you believe it? His third marriage. Hopefully this one will be his last one.” he laughed now. “Oh, and last I heard, Rhonda had another child. Her fourth one. She still lives in California, you know. But not in Burbank anymore.
And then Squiggy uh, the last time I got a postcard from him was four months ago and it was from somewhere in Arkansas. And me well, it's still the same old thing, nothing new here. We still live in the same house and uh, I still give dance and singing lessons for a living.” he did keep his promise though, when he first came to New York he was always auditioning for roles. And he did so for the next two years but then Laura got pregnant
and he wanted to be more financially stable so he opted for a teaching job. “I have great news though,” he was actually happy about it, “I'm gonna be in town for Christmas this year. Laura will be here too so we'll visit you then. I can't wait.”
“Dad, I'm freezing. Can we go now?” Amy interrupted him.
He handed her the car keys, “You can go back to the car. I'll be there in a few minutes.”
Oh yeah, and leave her walk back all alone in the cemetery while it was almost dark outside and pouring rain? No way. “Uh-uh, I ain't going back alone.”
Carmine chuckled sadly, he wanted to stay he had so many things to tell his best friend, but their flight back was early tomorrow morning and they needed to get back to their hotel rooms.
“We have to leave now. I wish I could stay longer and I promise next time I will.” he always felt bad he couldn't visit her more often, he promised himself he wouldn't cry this time but like every year, he failed miserably. “I can't believe it's already been twenty years. I hope you continue to watch over us wherever you are, okay? I miss you...” he wiped his tears.
Amy rarely saw her father cry and she felt even more uncomfortable. But at least now she understood why he always looked sad before and after his trips to California. And it always took him a few days to get back to his normal self after them. “I love you, okay? Don't you ever forget that.”
Carmine wiped his tears again and he and Amy turned around, walking away from her grave.
“Hey, dad?”
“She was more than just your friend, wasn't she?”
He smiled not answering the question.
“Was she pretty?”
“She was very pretty.”
“Do you think she knows we're here?”
He nodded, “I'm pretty sure she knows, yeah.”
“Because look, “ they looked up, “It stopped raining.”


[The End]