Celia had been sitting there since 10:00 that morning, on the bench outside the door. The air was still and warm, and even in the shade of the porch, the undersides of her elbows and knees were slick with sweat. The screen door opened and closed at intervals. She heard it, the creak and then the suspended slam, and felt its wake against her face, but rarely looked up at its openers. When she did look, she caught various reactions— smiles, eyes withdrawn, stares pretending to aim at the bouquets of white lilies on the table beside her. White lilies. They hadn’t really known him that well, she thought. He would have chosen something orange. He liked heat. He was heat to her, or he had been.
The guests from the funeral were clearing out now, so she decided to go inside. White lilies washed over her when she walked into the house, on tables and in stands by a staircase. Aaron had told her that his house was beautiful, but he had never seen it like this, in white bloom.
“The family is on the back porch, honey,” said an older lady who was on her way out. “It’s through the kitchen there.”
Only two guests were left mingling with Aaron’s parents, so Celia waited by the porch door in the shadow of a fichus plant, listening to the conversation.
“Well, we just want you to know that we are here for you both.”
“Thank you, Helen.”
“Anything you need. You have our number?”
They just want you to leave, Celia thought. Then she realized that when these guests left, she would be the one keeping Aaron’s parents from their sadness, holding their heads up against their will. They were leaving now, though, and her turn came. She moved away from the plant. His parents saw her, so she smiled, wondering if that was appropriate, and said, “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Conrad. We’ve never met before, but Aaron told me a lot about you.”