Выбрать главу

The service began punctually at eleven o'clock. Faith and Allison had chosen the music the day before, and the casket stood a few feet from them, under a large spray of white flowers. Faith had used her own florist for the flowers in the church, and offered to pay for it, and Allison was relieved. The service was a simple one, he had been Presbyterian, although Faith's mother was Catholic, and they had been married in the Catholic Church. But neither of them had been staunch about their faith, although Faith was, and Jack had been as well. They had often gone to mass together right up until the time he died.

The sermon was brief and impersonal, as seemed appropriate. Charles wasn't the kind of man about whom one would wax poetic or tell anecdotes. The minister listed his accomplishments, talked about his West Point background, his military career, and referred to Allison and Faith. He got confused, and assumed they were both Charles's daughters, but Allison didn't seem to mind. Everyone sang “Amazing Grace” at the end, and as they did, Faith felt tears begin to slide down her cheeks. For some reason, she had just had a vision of Charles when he was young, one time when they were children and he had taken them to a lake, and was trying to teach Jack to fish. Jack had had big bright eyes, and had looked lovingly at Charles for one of the rare times he did, when Charles wasn't berating them, and all she could see in her mind's eye, was Charles standing over Jack, showing him how to hold the pole, and Jack grinning from ear to ear…. It made her miss Jack far more than Charles, as she closed her eyes, and could almost feel the August sunshine from that day on her face. It made her heart ache thinking back to that time. It was all gone now, part of a lifetime of memories.

She couldn't stop the tears as they continued to slide down her face, and a sob caught in her throat, as the pallbearers from the funeral home slowly rolled the casket away, just as they had Jack's three years before. His friends had been his pallbearers, and he'd had so many of them. There had been hundreds of people at his funeral, and for Faith, the memory was only a vague blur. She had been so distraught that day that she could hardly remember it, which was merciful. But as she watched Charles's casket roll slowly down the aisle, it brought back agonizing memories for her, particularly as she followed Allison and Bertrand down the aisle. They stopped in the vestibule as the pallbearers took the casket to the hearse, and Charles's three surviving relatives waited to shake hands with friends.

They were halfway through the hundred or so mourners who had come, when Faith heard a voice behind her that was so familiar, all she could do was stare. She had been shaking the hand of a woman who had been one of her mother's friends, and before she could turn, he said a single word.

“Fred.” It brought a smile to her face in spite of the circumstances, and she was beaming as she turned. There was only one person in the world who had called her that, other than Jack. In fact, he had created it, and Jack had adopted it. It had been her nickname for all of her growing-up years. He had always said Faith was a stupid name for a girl, so he had called her Fred.

Faith turned with a broad smile and looked at him, unable to believe that he was there. He hadn't changed a bit in years, although he was the same age as Jack, and two years older than she. At forty-nine, Brad Patterson still looked like a kid when he grinned. He had green eyes the same color as hers, a long lanky body that had always been too thin, but seemed more reasonably so now. She had always told him he had legs like a spider when they were kids. He had a smile that stretched across his face irresistibly, a cleft chin, and a shock of dark hair that had not yet begun to go gray. Brad had been her brother's very best friend from the time he was ten. Faith had been eight the first time she had laid eyes on him, and he had painted her blond hair green for St. Patrick's Day. She, Jack, and Brad had thought it a terrific idea, although her mother had been considerably less amused.

Brad had come up with a million plots and pranks over the years, he and Jack had gotten into everything, and been inseparable for a dozen years. They had gone to Penn State together, and only separated finally when they both went off to law school. Brad had gone to Boalt at Berkeley, and Jack to Duke. Brad had fallen in love with a girl out there, and eventually stayed on the West Coast, and then somehow real life intervened. He married and had kids, he had twin sons roughly the same age as Eloise. And as time went by, Jack flew out to see him once every couple of years. But Brad stopped coming east. It had been years since Faith had seen him when he came to her brother's funeral. They had both been devastated and spent hours talking to each other about him, as though by telling everything they remembered about Jack they could bring him back to them. Brad had come back to the house with her, and met Zoe and Eloise. The girls had been fifteen and twenty-one then. Alex hadn't been terribly impressed by him, he thought him too West Coast, as he put it, and was dismissive of him, mostly because he was Jack's friend. But Faith didn't care, all she wanted to do was cling to him. She and Brad had exchanged letters for a year, and lost touch again finally. His own life seemed to devour him. She hadn't seen him since Jack's funeral, and hadn't heard from him in nearly two years. She was stunned to see him standing there, at Charles's memorial, and couldn't imagine how he had come to be there.

“What are you doing here?” The smile they exchanged could have lit up the entire church.

“I was in town for a conference, and saw the obituary in the paper yesterday. I thought it would be a decent thing to come.” He smiled at her just as he had nearly forty years before. He still looked like a boy to her, and in her heart he always would be, no matter how old he got. Their youth was all she saw. He was one of the three musketeers she and Jack had formed with him. And she smiled up at him, grateful that he had come. It made it easier for her suddenly, and made her feel as though Jack was also in their midst. “And I knew I'd see you here. You look great, Fred.”

He had teased her mercilessly as a kid, and she had had a crush on him when she was about thirteen. But by the time he left for college three years later, she had gotten over it, and was dating boys her own age. But he had remained one of her best friends. It saddened her that they had lost contact finally, but it was hard to maintain their friendship over distance and time. All they had was history, and the enormous affection she still felt for him. They both treasured endless memories of the years they had shared growing up.

She invited him to the hotel afterward, and he nodded, his eyes seeming to drink her in. He looked as moved to see her as she was to see him.

“I'll be there,” he said reassuringly. He had seen her crying as she sang “Amazing Grace,” as he had as well. He couldn't hear the hymn anymore without thinking of Jack's funeral three years before. It had been one of the darkest days of his life.

“It was nice of you to come,” she said, smiling up at him, as people on the receiving line moved around them to shake hands with Allison and Bertrand.

“Charlie was a nice old guy,” Brad said benevolently. He had some fond memories of him, fonder than Faith's. But he and Jack had done things with him Faith had never had the chance to do, like deer hunting, and fishing at the lake. He had been good about things like that, and it would never have dawned on him to include Faith. “Besides,” Brad added, “I wanted to see you. How are your girls?” he asked, and she smiled again.