First Week

Cezarija Abartis

Andrea, sitting beside Alan, rubbed her fingertips against the smooth wool of her black suit. She stood up as people came to offer their condolences. “Thank you,” she said and turned to the long table with its plain white cloth. “Please help yourself to refreshments.” Last week their son had told her a joke. This was before he rode his bicycle into a car. This was before he hit his head on the concrete. This was before he died. Andrea had been arguing with her mother that morning–about whether the rich also had pain. Her mother had said that even the children of celebrities got hooked on drugs, while Andrea’s position was that they could afford counseling and spas. Stupid conversation. Stupid. There was enough pain to go around for everyone. Now she put a hand to her chest. The lapel felt wrinkled, wrong.

At the memorial service, someone praised Jamie’s sense of humor. She held Cassie’s hand so tight that Cassie turned to her with wet eyes. Everybody’s eyes were wet. The room could have drowned in tears. People had brought cards and flowers to that street corner–bouquets in jars, vases, and someone left a tire painted sky-blue, in the center of which was set a clay pot filled with daisies. Jamie hadn’t enjoyed gardening with her, didn’t like his fingers in the dirt.

His friends and teachers came; her friends came. The little kids put on hollow  expressions, trying to imitate the uncomprehending adults. They signed the guest book. Somebody had dropped a flower. A white rosebud on the hardwood floor, with the pale April light drifting through the square windows of the hall in St. Mary’s Elementary School. She bent to pick up the flower. The petals were soft as skin.


Cezarija Abartis’ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Per Contra, Pure Slush, and New York Tyrant, among others. She participates on, and Her flash, “The Writer,” was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf’s Top 50 online Fictions of 2012. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her website is

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