A ghost at a funeral
“Did she suffer?”
The doctor looked at the twenty year old who was sitting by the dead woman’s bed. A year of sickness and the eventual death of Linda Gray had taken their toll on her grandson, the older man could definitely tell. His black hair was a greasy mess falling around his pale face and his yellowish green eyes were surrounded by black circles, courtesy of spending three sleepless nights by the woman’s side in the hospital, hopelessly waiting for a miracle to save her from the Reaper’s greedy embrace. But said miracle never happened. Cancer was far too dangerous an illness and Linda was too old and tired to fight it back. After eighty five years of painful and difficult life, the once headstrong and energetic woman had finally been put to rest.
The boy repeated the question, hoping for the doctor to answer in a way that would ease his overwhelming grief. The old man couldn’t keep ignoring him so he chose his words carefully before answering.
“Well, it wasn’t a pleasant time for her…But at least, it was fast.”
The boy nodded and took the dead hand of the woman into his own. If he could give her half his years he wouldn’t hesitate at all, but Anton knew better than hopping he could rule his life in such a way. All hope had disappeared with Linda’s last breath; the woman was gone and nothing would bring her back. Anton brought the dead hand close to his face and started to cry silently.
The doctor sighed and left the room of the dead woman behind. The death of a woman her age was something he would witness every day because of his job, and even if he’d try, he couldn’t feel all that shocked about it. But he knew that no matter how old she was the loss was still a loss to her loved ones and it would take time for Anton to move on.
Suddenly, a tapping on his back made him turn around and come face to face with three newcomers who were standing in the middle of the corridor. He hadn’t noticed them as he was walking out of the room, mostly because he was lost in his own thoughts. They were a boy, a girl and an older man around his sixties, all of them looking tremendously concerned. The man parted his lips and asked:
“We’re here for Linda Gray, Anton called us a few minutes ago…Is she…dead?”
“I’m afraid so…” he replied. “Are you her relatives?”
The man sighed.
“We are close family friends…In fact, I am Anton’s godfather. Is he still in there?”
“Yes…Sir, it seems like the boy’s condition is not the best…I think you must support him, he has taken the matter badly…He won’t be able to pull through this all by himself. I guess it’s time for you to call his parents, after all they will have to attend Ms Gray’s funeral.”
“His parents.” the newcomer chuckled. “Anton’s father left his mother fifteen years ago and we haven’t heard of him ever since. As for his mother, she’s currently living in Munich with her fiancé and she has made clear the fact that she can’t come to London just for a funeral…We haven’t seen her since Anton was eight.”
That explains a lot, the doctor thought. That’s why I have never seen any of Linda’s relatives apart from her grandson. In that case, Anton would need more time to overcome his grandmother’s death, since she was actually the only one that he had.
“Anton needs some mental support. You might be able to help him at this point Mr.…”
“…Westwood. Jake Westwood.”
The doctor raised his eyebrow in surprise.
“The music producer…and ex lead singer of Atom Hollow Heart?” Jake nodded in response. If it wasn’t for his sadness to have dominated him for good, he would have felt surprised that a man his age and professional status knew who he actually was. “I used to be a fan of yours when I was a teenager…Wait. Does this mean that Anton Gray is somehow related to Noah Gray?”
“Yes, that’s true. Noah Gray was his mother’s brother. Anton switched into his grandmother’s last name after he turned eighteen.”
“Blimey…Mr. Westwood, I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about Linda Gray. But you have to stand by her grandson’s side no matter what. He needs somebody to cheer him up and you are the only family he has left.”
Jake agreed and thanked the doctor for all he had done for Linda and Anton. He opened the door of Linda’s room and approached a still sobbing Anton, closely followed by the young man and woman he had come to the hospital with. The ex vocalist pulled the crying youth in his arms and Anton rested his head against the older man’s shoulder, still not letting go of his dead grandmother’s hand.
The doctor sighed and closed the door before he left.
Collin Westwood cleared his throat trying to draw his friend’s attention but it was no use. Anton was too lost in his own thoughts to notice the concern of any person around him. In fact, he seemed to be unable to realize what was going on at all; ever since the final shovelful of soil had fallen over Linda’s casket and the last tears were shed, Anton had retreated in his shell and it was quite obvious that he wouldn’t break out of it anytime soon. After three more fruitless efforts to make the raven haired notice him, Collin turned to Moira for some extra help. But the brunette wasn’t able to help him out either; she had spent the entire ceremony by her mourning friend’s side, yet she hadn’t heard a word out of his tense lips. She made one last effort by laying her hand on Anton’s but she was gently shoved away. After that, the girl gave up completely and turned to Collin with an apologetic look on her face. Collin shook his head in understanding; Moira was the last person he could ever blame for Anton’s current apathetic situation.
The driver parked the car in the garage of the Westwoods’ house and before he could open the door of the backseat, Collin had already jumped out of the vehicle. The only son of Jake Westwood was constantly in a state of hyperactivity, even under the weirdest and most excruciating situations. He would always be full of energy, to a point where he would sometimes surprise or even shock his mother, making her worry tremendously that her son had inherited more of Jake’s characteristics than he should have had for his own good. Indeed, Collin had many things in common with his father’s younger self, other than the vocal talent, the slender frame and the grayish eyes they were both sharing. Precisely, he was just like the ex rockstar used to be like nearly four decades ago; a somewhat flighty young man, who loved to go against the world just for the sake of it, who could get into a fight just because he was bored and who loved loud parties and pretty girls. Samantha Westwood could bitch for hours over the fact that the only thing she and her son had in common was their reddish blond hair which Collin had the immensely insulting idea to dye blue.
In any case, the young Westwood was the perfect counterpart for stoic and gathered Anton. The two of them had been friends ever since they were toddlers and the fact that they were exact opposites of each other hadn’t ruined their friendship to the slightest bit. On the contrary; it had been a major bonding factor which had helped in Collin becoming a little more mature and calm over the years and Anton relaxing a bit about everything around him. The two of them had been inseparable all along and when in junior high they met with Moira Hartsfield, they became good friends with her as well. Ever since, the three of them became a formidable team that stayed together through the odd years of their adolescence.
But now, for one time in so many years, the three friends were unable to support each other. Anton had been so tragically damaged by the loss of his sole parental figure that Moira and Collin were unable to help; the boy was refusing to let them pull him out of his misery. With one last sad glance to the silent sufferer, Moira promised to meet them the next day and left for her house which was only around the corner, hoping that Colin would somehow find a way to cheer Anton up. Collin gathered his courage and with the power provided by his everlasting energy took one last chance on his friend.
“Anton, mate? You comin’ in?”
The raven haired nodded and followed his friend in the house. Collin went straight to the bar and filled a glass with brandy for his friend. At the sight of the drink, Anton shook his head in refusal but the other simply put it in his hand with a determined look on his face.
“Drink up. It’ll make you feel all better.” After a few sips, he finally decided that it was time for one more talk.
“Listen, Andy. I know you loved Linda a whole lot, I mean, she was the only real family you had, but you don’t need to feel all that sad about it. You might think you are alone, but hell, that’s not true. You’ve got us, you’ve always had us and we will be standing by you no matter what. You mustn’t let your grandma’s death get in your way. Linda would never want this. Am I making myself clear?”
Anton nodded in response. He knew that his friend was right; his godfather’s family had always been like a second set of parents and the brother he never had to him but yet again, it felt too hard to think positive at a time like this. He forced a smile just to reassure Collin that he was alright and thanked him for the support in a hoarse voice. His friend’s gray eyes followed him up the stairs leading to the guest room, full of concern and sympathy that were far less than sufficient to reach at his numb heart.
Anton woke up at 2:00 AM, soaked in sweat. His heart was beating fast and his throat felt sore as he was gasping for air. He hid his face in his hands and suddenly realised it was ice cold.
The boy lied back in bed trying to forget about the horrible dream that had stolen his sleep, but this was a rather unlikely thing to happen. The sight of his dead grandmother was still fresh in his mind and not only that; the nightmare had also triggered a flashback of memories Anton thought he had long forgotten. Pictures of his parents fighting were alternating with pictures of his godfather taking him out with Collin for a walk and his mother leaving for the airport, never to come back again. All of this confusing brain activity was driving Anton over the edge; he definitely needed an aspirin to ease the throbbing pain in his head.
Anton got out of his messy bed and started fumbling in a pocket of his still full suitcase. His baggage was lying all around the floor; he hadn’t bothered to put them in place. Samantha had insisted in Anton moving permanently with them but the boy had politely refused; he would stay only until everything considering his grandmother’s death was settled. He loved his godparents but he didn’t want to become a burden to them, especially after all they had done for him.
The boy swallowed the pill with a gulp of water from the glass he had on his bedside table. He slowly returned to his bed and lied against the mattress pulling the sheets over his head; he really needed some sleep…
“I told you to leave!”
Anton’s eyes opened widely at the sound of his godfather’s voice. The angry cry had echoed in the mansion in such a way that made it impossible for him not to notice.
“Listen to me, you punk! It’s time for everyone to know the truth! I won’t allow her memory to be stained anymore; it’s time for the convicts to be brought to justice!”
The boy jumped out of his bed and within seconds, he had run down the stairs leading to the living room. He had just heard the voice of another male and he was not quite certain about the guest’s friendly intentions. With no second thought he dashed down the stairs and came face to face with the last sight he wanted to see at a time like this.
In the living room were two men Anton had never seen before. They seemed to be slightly older than Jake. The one of them was holding the other by the shoulders, who was most likely drunk and was obviously trying attack the ex rockstar. Jake himself was not in a much serener state; if it wasn’t for Samantha to hold him with her full strength, he would have definitely grabbed the other man by the neck.
Anton felt a hand on his shoulder. Collin had also woken up from the noise and was standing next to his friend half asleep. Anton beckoned him to keep quiet and focused his attention on the fight downstairs.
“I told you to leave! Get out of my house! What were you thinking of, coming all the way here from the other side of the world just to harass us during Linda’s funeral? I think I told you to leave us alone back then, I won’t tolerate any more of this!”
The drunken man laughed hoarsely.
“How dare you threaten me? I am the one who should be threatening you! You sick bastard, you son of a bitch, you murderer! You’re nothing but a pack of murderers!”
The drunken man broke free of the other’s grip with a violent move and he raised his hand against Jake. Samantha gave a cry of fear at the same time when Anton and Collin emerged in the living room, ready to defend the assaulted star.
Within a few seconds, the two young men had grabbed the man’s hand and had forced him still. Collin grabbed him by the front of his shirt and shook him violently, ignoring his mother’s worried pleas.
“You bastard…” the blue haired boy grunted as he was shaking the man “lay a hand on my father and I’ll make you pay with your life! Get it?”
But despite the fact that Collin’s voice was dripping with intimidating hatred, the man didn’t seem to notice this at all. In fact, he wasn’t even looking at him. His blue eyes were fixed on Anton, as he starring at him with so much disgust that he made the boy feel shivers running down his spine. After a few awkward moments of silence, in which only rasp breaths could be heard, the stranger pushed Collin away and took a few steps towards the raven haired boy. The man stood there for a few seconds, with an expression of surprise and hatred depicted on his sweaty face.
“Murderer…You murderer! How can you be still alive?”
Anton understood nothing of the desperate cry that echoed through the room, but the stranger didn’t seem to bother.
“You’re alive…You’re still alive, and she is dead! How could you kill her…How could you do this to us?”
Anton was so taken aback by the whole scene that he couldn’t even dodge the hit of a drunken man. The blow knocked him off his feet and he missed the next few seconds. When he regained full consciousness again, he was lying on the floor with a worried Samantha by his side. He could hear the screaming of the stranger as he and his friend were being kicked out by Collin and Jake. His nose was bleeding and his lips were torn.
Father and son closed the mansion door and run to his side. With a sign of his hand Anton assured them that he was alright and tried to get up, but the dizziness forced him to sit back on the floor. Samantha brought a washcloth and pressed it against his bloody lips.
“What was that…Who were these guys?”
Jake and Samantha exchanged a grim look. The woman sighed and turned to her godson, avoiding looking him in the eye.
“He was an old friend if your grandmother’s. He felt offended that we didn’t tell him about the funeral.”
Jake nodded in agreement staring at his feet. It was Anton’s and Collin’s turn to exchange a worried look. There was something wrong with the whole situation but Anton was far too exhausted to think about it any further. His heart was still aching from the loss of his only close relative and his mind was too confused to cope. He retreated to his room with Collin’s help and collapsed on his bed, soon to be drawn in a nightmarish and uncomfortable sleep.