How We All Got There (Was a Mystery)
In defiance of Lucrecia's expectations, the funeral was heavily attended.
Lucrecia recognised the registrar, four uneasy scientists, seven gathered General U students, and near fifty once-refugees, marked as such by the mix of style and tradition in the cut of their clothes and hair. They gathered in the lane between the chapel's seats. The riot of colour and fabric appeared homogenous in such a confused proximity, as though all colours, when mixed, could only ever generate a grey blur of indistinction.
Grimoire had not been poor. He had brought Shinra such miracles of existence, his continued poverty would have been an insult to the President himself. His funeral may not have been a company affair, nor even a matter of state, but his chapel was atop the plate, located in the same sunny suburb as his apartment had been. Lucrecia had not considered that Grimoire's associates might not have been bound by Midgar's geography of class.
Only honest citizens of Midgar could travel the plate's vertical boundary. Everyone present here would have to be certified, no refugees, no troublemakers, none of the political incendiaries who insisted corporate policy could not rule a nation. The knowledge of her safety did little to comfort one whose upbringing had been as cloistered as her years of study. The gathering used Midgar's tongue as a common ground, but a common ground inverted, the familiar strange. The babble sounded foreign and repetitive, rising and falling, a superstitious relic of a ritual muttered against or for the spirit of a man taken beyond terrestrial concerns.
Lucrecia believed not at all in an afterlife, but Grimoire had. She respected him too much to turn away, though she longed to do so. She felt as though he had betrayed her.
She had thought her respect was something unique in the man's life. He had responded with a self-conscious effort of repaying all her small respects with ones of his own, as though unaccustomed to people treating with him so honourably. The presence of so many at his funeral made it apparent that Grimoire Valentine had been an important man to others as well, a community minded man; the veritable champion of the rights of all of Midgar's citizens. Lucrecia should not have been so surprised. Grimoire had always struggled against injustice. Grimoire believed in people. In Midgar's cramped space, there could be no such thing as a private universe, and she recognized her own foolishness to have felt so moved by the man. What she had with Grimoire was not at all special.
Lucrecia placed one palm on the doorframe and swayed, for she had yet to enter. She did not know which crowd to join, and her solitude was suspect. Lucrecia was neither a student nor a scientist, nor a common acquaintance. Her relationship with Grimoire made her feel unacceptably like a woman. She could see no dense cluster of young women, only the wives and matrons of other men, and she could not see herself talking to those. In general conversation Lucrecia held her silence at times when another woman would have offered candor.
The sudden unified motion of the crowd to be seated spared Lucrecia her decision.
Lucrecia said nothing as the registrar spoke his words of constructed sorrow. Many of the crowd were crying, though she did not. The comfort given was much as Midgar itself: hot, sweaty, and always the same. Grimoire had been a great man, a generous man. Honour him. Never forget him.
Without a body, the funeral held only words and a certificate of honour from President Shinra himself. An orderly queue formed in order that the respects of all could be paid, the kisses of men and women pressed to Grimoire's stenciled name. Waves of shame wracked Lucrecia, leaving her cold, clammy and immobile. She wondered if the crowd would turn against her if they knew what she knew about Grimoire's death. She suspected they would not. She expected there would come only pity, boundless, endless stares so laden with pity, pats on her head, words of futile comfort. Wide-eyed Lucrecia, fair and uncertain, hourglass curves and inappropriate tongue; she could not possibly be a murderer. She was nothing more than what she was, and was to be pitied for her inability to accept this.
She neglected a cab, and walked back to her apartment.
Distantly, she could hear the sirens sound sub-plate to signal the shift change. It was a sound as unremarkable as the train whistles and the sirens of Midgar's frequent patrols; she noted the shift-change only when she realised she had heard not the expected one, but two sirens.
It was nightfall, and she had not reached her apartment. She had not stopped walking.
She had come to one of the Sector stairs.
It was as her memory told her it should be: a cage of iron, black against the sky but red where it met this false earth. Inevitably, rust crept upwards from the humidity trapped below the plate.
Lucrecia did not want to go below.
She had not been below since the last time she had seen her parents, the day of her graduation, the end of her scholarship funds, and the commencement of her adult autonomy. Thought of her parents struck Lucrecia with the force of realisation. Her footsteps had been to the pace of rehearsed words yet unspoken.
Grimoire's son had not attended the funeral.
She had never seen him. She had only been informed of his existence casually, a chance mention of my son, but she felt sure she would have known him.
She had intended to apologise. Grimoire's son would not have forgiven her, of course not, but surely she could have been awarded some relief? Some understanding? Both she and he now shared their orphanhood.
The guard at the Sector stair ignored Lucrecia, even when her knees folded. They were atop the plate. It was not illegal to sit on the grass and stare at nothing, even at this hour.
Continue to Chapter 5 →
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