It had been a bright Sunday afternoon, but despite the happy mood the rest of their town, it'd been the complete opposite in the cemetery. It was eerily silent as always, but there were quiet murmurs echoing from the centre of the barren land, littered with tombstones and patches of uneven dug-out dirt. There, in the centre of it all, were a crowd of men and women, all wearing black, sitting down as they waited for the funeral service to start. Before the crowd was a single wooden podium and beside it, a coffin made out of ebony, elaborately decorated with a bouquet of lilies sitting on top.
A priest, wearing a white robe and sash, calmly made his way to the podium, adjusted the microphone, and spoke with a quiet voice, addressing the deceased loved one of the anxious and sorrowful crowd, but his words seemed to be nothing more than gibberish—at least, it seemed that way for Isaac Reynolds.
Agitated, he adjusted his glasses but kept his head down, staring at the grass beneath him instead of the priest, much less the coffin. He knew that his chest would start aching again if he did, possibly sending him to the verge of tears, even. He didn't want to clench his white shirt if it did, either, knowing that his mother would chastise him if he did, for ruining the perfect-looking tuxedo she forced him to wear for the funeral, for she viewed appearance to be far more important than even expressing simple emotions.
In fact, she didn't want to be here at all, even. Glancing up, he saw her attention solely focused on the tiny screen of her cellphone, as was his father, both too absorbed to their work to even care about their son's misery. The only time his mother did pay attention to anything other than work was when Isaac's little sister Isabelle, who was only five years old, started chattering out loud, disturbing the other mourning guests, which made their mother angry and snap at the poor little girl, who unwillingly began to quiet down and sink back into her chair obediently.
Isaac scoffed silently in his head, wondering while also relieved that his parents had allowed him to even attend the funeral. It was only because they were business partners with Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth. He remembered them speaking something about merging their two companies, Reynolds and Co. and Hollingsworth Industries, together. It made sense that they at least had the decency to attend the funeral of their beloved daughter, Penelope Hollingsworth.
Ah, Penny. Just thinking of her name made his eyes start to water all over again as he furiously tried to blink away the tears that threatened to fall. He remembered when he first met her in the Video-Gaming Club of their school, a unique club that allowed its members to play any video games available in their clubroom as long as they kept up their grades. This discouraged many from joining but encourage the nerds and geeks like Isaac himself to keep up with the club's standards in order to play games that they weren't allowed to play back at home.
Of course, all of the club's members were boys, especially since the female population of their school were too conceited and self-centered to even lower their standards to playing video games, and would rather gossip and braid each other's hairs instead. Everything in that club changed, however, when on one Monday afternoon, the door to the club opened only slightly as a girl—yes, an actual girl—peeked inside and scanned across the room quickly. Everybody in that room, whether they were playing on PCs, consoles or handhelds, instantly froze upon the sight of her, including Isaac. Their club leader Dylan approached her and asked what was she doing there, assuming that she was from the Journalism Club and was assigned on interviewing their club or something like that.
Instead, she asked if she could join them.
Isaac didn't know all the details regarding their hushed conversation in a secluded corner of the room, but before he knew it, Dylan formally addressed the entire club and introduced her as their newest member. She was beaming despite the confused and angered glares of his fellow video-gamers, and while everyone else quickly returned to their rudely-interrupted game, Isaac was the first one to stand up from his Amnesia playthrough, walked over to where Dylan and Penny was standing, offered his hand up to her and tried to introduce himself in the friendliest manner possible.
Well, keyword being 'tried', for he stuttered all the way before even saying his name, but instead of making fun of him like the other students would, she giggled and accepted his hand, shaking it and introduced herself to him as well.
Isaac couldn't help but smiled at his fondness of the memory, for it was the beginning of a seemingly-unlikely friendship between the two. One of the first games they played together was Until Dawn, which had the interesting concept of 'The Butterfly Effect' that affected the entire storyline throughout their playthrough. They endured every single jumpscare together, thankful that the club had a curtained area specifically made for those who dared to play terrifying, nightmare-inducing horror games, and made every single crucial decision together.
It was halfway through the game when Penny mentioned that she kept a secret butterfly collection in her house, hidden away from her parents who were repulsed at the mere thought of collecting living creatures, whether they were still alive or used to be alive. Isaac, curious of her collection, asked her if he could visit her house sometime to see it himself with his own eyes, but what he didn't expect was when she brought a scrapbook containing every single butterfly she had collected to school the next club session, proudly showing it to him as he viewed each and every single picture of the butterfly and their specifics with great detail.
"One of my favorite ones is this black-and-blue gradient one," she was saying to him, pointing at one of the pictures of the butterflies at the top of the page, with blue iridescent markings and white spots framing its wings. "It's called the limenitis arthemis astyanax, also known as the red-spotted purple butterfly. Ironic, but beautiful, isn't it?"
He'd initially nodded back then, but staring deep into her bright blue eyes that were so intrigued by the butterflies, he couldn't help but muttered out loud, "Not as beautiful as you, though."
He had felt like punching his own gut the instant he said those words, regretting for even thinking of them at all. But then, she looked up, a surprised look in her eyes before she blushed, turning her cheeks into a shade of red as bright as a ripe tomato. She had dismissed his comment immediately afterwards, returning to their game in a rather awkward manner, and judging by how she continuously snuck short glances at him the next day in class, she clearly never forgotten his accidentally-voiced thought of her.
A chorus of forced and quiet applause broke Isaac's train of thought as he reluctantly followed suit, realizing that the priest had finally finished his speech for Penny and was now asking a few people who were special to Penny to read their eulogies and final words for her. The first one called to the podium was, of course, her older brother Peter, whom he knew of and was in good terms with as well. As he walked to the front of the crowd, he shot a quick glance at Isaac and nodded politely at him, which Isaac returned silently. The Hollingsworths weren't a particularly welcoming family either, but they tolerated Isaac more than his own family tolerated Penny. They only neglected their children nowadays because their business came crashing down on them, but the Reynolds neglected theirs because they were too busy making more money for themselves while leaving their children in the care of their countless nannies and babysitters.
Isaac's comment on
Penny was not forgotten. It changed something between the two, although neither of them knew what and how. Eventually, the Valentine's Day
Dance came around, and while nerds and geeks such as himself would normally
avoid such school events, Isaac found enough courage to buy
two tickets to the dance anyway, with much difficulty for his stuttering only
made the ticket-seller even more confused as to whether he was trying to buy
tickets or trying to ask her out to the dance itself. He kept the tickets
hidden in his jacket's pocket, and later that afternoon in the Video-Gaming
Club, just as they finished the last stretch of the game and the credits were
rolling, he slipped the tickets into her clammy palms that were still holding
the controller. She looked down, saw the tickets and looked back up, only to
bring herself closer to him and kissed him on the cheek.
© Ruby Iodine, 2019. All rights reserved.